One of his country's most popular and prolific funnymen, French actor, comedian, writer, and director Michel Blanc has made a career out of turning the mundane into the sublime. Short, bald, and bearing unremarkable features, Blanc derives his charisma from his presence as a performer who is equally adept at portraying the extremes of comic excess or psychological drama, the latter of which he demonstrated with particular aplomb in Monsieur Hire.
Born in Paris on June 16, 1952, Blanc did his secondary studies at the Pasteur school in Neuilly. It was there that he became acquainted with Josiane Balasko, Thierry Lhermitte, Christian Clavier, Gérard Jugnot, and Marie-Anne Chazel, with whom he would form the legendary comedy troupe Le Splendid. In addition to performing a number of shows, the group also collaborated onscreen, their most notable effort being the farce Les Bronzés (1978). The film and its sequel Les Bronzés Font du Ski (1979), proved to be hugely successful in France -- and were two of the country's most domestically profitable films to date.
Blanc broke into film in 1973 and had his first memorable role alongside fellow-Splendid Thierry Lhermitte in Bertrand Tavernier's 1975 period drama Que La Fête Commence.... He had film breakthrough in 1984 with his directorial debut, Marche a l'ombre, a light drama in which he starred as a man who is forced to deal with sudden unemployment. The film proved to be surprisingly popular in France, and Blanc's profile was further heightened two years later when director Bertrand Blier asked him to replace the recently deceased Patrick Dewaere to star opposite Gérard Depardieu in Tenue de Soirée. Blanc earned the Best Actor prize at Cannes for his portrayal of a nebbish husband who is seduced by a thuggish burglar (Depardieu).
The actor broke out of the comedy mold in 1989 when he was cast as the eponymous protagonist of Patrice Leconte's brilliant psychological drama Monsieur Hire. Blanc earned considerable praise for his portrayal of a lonely, withdrawn murder suspect, and he duly established himself as one of the relatively few comedic actors to make a successful transition to drama. After further work in a number of comedies, as well as collaborations with Claude Berri (Uranus, 1990), Peter Greenaway (Prospero's Books, 1991), and Blier (Merci, La Vie, 1991), Blanc returned to the director's chair in 1994 with Grosse Fatigue. A biting comedy about the French entertainment industry that also featured Blanc in the lead role of an emotionally exhausted actor, the film was a financial and critical success in France, and the actor-director earned a prize at that year's Cannes Festival for his original screenplay. As a director, he followed up Grosse Fatigue with a return to the arena of psychological drama with Mauvaise Passe (1999). The story concerned a down-on-his-luck expatriate Frenchman living in London -- who becomes caught up in the prostitution industry; it featured a strong cast that included Daniel Auteuil, Stuart Townsend, and Peter Mullan.