Memorable to fans of international cinema as the spy recruiter who schooled Nikita in the fine art of assassination, international actor Tchéky Karyo has been racking up memorable screen credits for over 20 years. Whether a fan of mainstream American action movies or obscure foreign arthouse fare, many viewers have likely seen the versatile Karyo and likely remember the characters he portrayed.
Born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1953 and raised in Paris, Karyo studied drama at the Cyrano Theater before moving on to essay numerous classical stage roles at the Daniel Sorano Company. Upon joining the National Theater of Strasbourg, Karyo refined his versatility by alternating between contemporary fare and such classical Shakespearian works as Macbeth and Othello. Soon becoming one of France's most popular actors, Karyo, with over 50 film and television credits to his name, found that his popularity wasn't limited by international borders through roles in such films as The Return of Martin Guerre (1982), The Bear (1988), and director Luc Besson's influential La Femme Nikita (1990). Fans of historical film may recognize Karyo from his roles as Vincent Van Gogh (Vincent and Me) and famed prophet Nostradamus (Nostradamus) in addition to roles in such historical films as 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) and The Patriot (2000).
Becoming a familiar face to American filmgoers in the 1990s, Karyo could play everything from low-key and comically philosophical (Addicted to Love ) to an over-the-top bad guy (Bad Boys ) to a Russian defense minister (GoldenEye ) with equal conviction no matter how large, small, or varied the role might be. After an audacious turn as a loose-hinged policeman in the hyperkinetically tasteless Dobermann (1997), Karyo appeared frequently in such English-language films as Wing Commander (1999), The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999, re-teaming the actor with Nikita helmer Besson), Saving Grace (2000), and Kiss of the Dragon (2001). In addition to his nomination for a César for his role in La Balance (1982), Karyo was the recipient of the Jean Gabin Prize in recognition of his talent in 1986.