Lambert Wilson in 2008
Wilson is the son of Georges Wilson, who was an actor, theatrical manager and director of the Théâtre National Populaire. As a teenager, he had little interest for the French theatre and aimed to become an "American actor" and appear in Hollywood pictures. He studied acting at the Drama Centre London in order to learn English. He played his first movie role in the 1977 American film Julia, directed by Fred Zinneman. Five years later, he played his first starring role in another film by Zinneman, Five Days One Summer, opposite Sean Connery. But the film was not a commercial success, and neither was Sahara in which Wilson co-starred with Brooke Shields. Wilson ultimately found success in his home country : during the 1980s, he became popular with French audiences by appearing in successful films such as La Boum 2, The Public Woman and Rendez-vous. At the time, he was often cast either as tormented characters or in romantic parts, although he found himself more convincing in the former kind of roles.
Wilson screen tested for The Living Daylights (1987) for the role of James Bond, appearing in test footage opposite Maryam d'Abo (the Bond girl in The Living Daylights) as Tatiana Romanova, re-enacting scenes from From Russia with Love (1963). Wilson was featured in a series of Calvin Klein ads featuring Christy Turlington for Eternity in 1991, as well as a poster ad, years later in 1998.
First critical accolades
Wilson released Musicals on the EMI label in 1989 (re-issued in 2004), with John McGlinn conducting Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. It features him singing songs of the American Musical Theatre catalogue, those well-known ("Maria" from West Side Story, "There But For You Go I" from Lerner & Loewe's Brigadoon, "The Cafe Song" from Les Misérables, "Johanna" from Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd), rare ("Love Song" from Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner's Love Life, "It Must Be So" from Leonard Bernstein's Candide, and "Silly People", which was cut from Sondheim's A Little Night Music), and those in-between ("Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George, "You Do Something to Me" from Cole Porter's Fifty Million Frenchmen, "Never Will I Marry" from Frank Loesser's Greenwillow).
He has directed stage presentations of Alfred de Musset's Les Caprices de Marianne starring Laure Marsac at Paris' Bouffes du Nord as well as Jean Racine's Bérénice starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Didier Sandre at Avignon and then Chaillot.
In 1989, his performance as Abbé Pierre in the film Hiver 54, l'abbé Pierre, for which he received the Jean Gabin prize, won him critical accolades. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, his screen career suffered from a series of box office failures, such as The Possessed and El Dorado.
He later said that the French producers had come, at the time, to regard him as "box office poison". He eventually won back the favours of French audiences by appearing in the successful comedies Same Old Song (1997) and Jet Set (2000).
Wilson was cast in the role of The Merovingian in The Matrix Reloaded (2002) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), perhaps his best-known role in the American cinema. Being completely fluent in English, his strong French accent in the film is fabricated for the role. The role also popularised the Ediety tie knot, now commonly referred to as "The Merovingian".
In November 2012, he was selected as a member of the main competition jury at the 2012 International Film Festival of Marrakech. In April 2013, Wilson was invited by MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) to visit Haiti in the capacity of helping with various UN-backed environment and cultural programmes.
In February 2016, he released a tribute album called Wilson chante Montand to the singer Yves Montand to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of the artist. Among the 17 tracks on the album there is Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai ? which was composed by Henri Betti with the lyrics by Édith Piaf in 1947. The musical arrangements of the 17 songs were made by Bruno Fontaine. Also in 2016, he portrayed Jacques Cousteau in the biopic The Odyssey.
Wilson’s commitment to safeguarding the environment is manifest in his support of Greenpeace and Agir pour l'Environnement amongst others. He works on behalf of the Fondation Abbé-Pierre and the Mouvement Emmaüs in France to eradicate hunger and poverty. Wilson is an ambassador for Les Toiles Enchantées (an association that brings contemporary cinema to hospitals and hospices for children), and parrain (patron) for a proposed new cinema at the Institut Français in London.
Wilson is Chevalier and Officier des Arts et des Lettres and Chevalier and Officier de l'Ordre National du Mérite. He was raised to Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mérite by President Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
In January 2018 he engaged to assist the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in communications regarding work to eradicate world hunger and poverty ("Working for Zero Hunger"). The same year he starred in Volontaire by Hélène Fillières.
|1977||Julia||Walter Franz||Fred Zinnemann|
|1978||Gaston Phébus||Yvain||Bernard Borderie||TV mini-series|
|1979||The Gendarme and the Extra-Terrestrials||An alien||Jean Girault|
|New Generation||Jean-Charles||Jean-Pierre Lowf Legoff|
|Lady Oscar||Cocky soldier||Jacques Demy|
|From Hell to Victory||Umberto Lenzi|
|1980||Cinéma 16||Gilbert||Eric Le Hung|
|Au feu le préfet||Patrick Callaghan||Alain Boudet||TV movie|
|L'inconnue d'Arras||The grandfather||Raymond Rouleau||TV movie|
|1981||Quatre femmes, quatre vies: La maison bleue||Jean-Paul Taillandier||Robert Mazoyer||TV movie|
|La dernière nuit||The assistant executioner||Didier Decoin||TV movie|
|Chanel Solitaire||George Kaczender|
|Histoire contemporaine||Henri de Brèce||Michel Boisrond||TV mini-series|
|La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu||Paris||Raymond Rouleau||TV movie|
|1982||Five Days One Summer||Johann Biari||Fred Zinnemann|
|La Boum 2||Félix Maréchal||Claude Pinoteau|
|1983||Sahara||Jaffar||Andrew V. McLaglen|
|La caravane||Éric||Roger Gillioz||TV movie|
|1984||The Blood of Others||Paul||Claude Chabrol|
|The Public Woman||Milan Mliska||Andrzej Żuławski||Nominated: César Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1985||Rendez-vous||Quentin||André Téchiné||Nominated: César Award for Best Actor|
|L'Homme aux yeux d'argent||Villain||Pierre Granier-Deferre|
|Red Kiss||Stéphane||Véra Belmont|
|Abandons||Pierre-Jean de San Bartolomé||Short|
|1986||Bleu comme l'enfer||Ned||Yves Boisset|
|Corps et biens||Michel Sauvage||Benoît Jacquot|
|La Storia||Carlo Vivaldi / Davide Segre||Luigi Comencini||TV movie|
|La forêt noire||Béatrice Jalbert||Short|
|1987||The Belly of an Architect||Caspasian Speckler||Peter Greenaway|
|1988||The Possessed||Nikolaj Stavrogin||Andrzej Wajda|
|Chouans!||Tarquin||Philippe de Broca|
|El Dorado||Pedro de Ursúa||Carlos Saura|
|Margot et le voleur d'enfants||Michèle Reiser||Short|
|1989||La vouivre||Arsène Muselier||Georges Wilson|
|Suivez cet avion||Rémi Cerneaux||Patrice Ambard|
|Hiver 54, l'abbé Pierre||Abbé Pierre||Denis Amar||Nominated: César Award for Best Actor|
Won - Prix Jean Gabin
|1991||Un homme et deux femmes||Doctor Paul Baudoin||Valérie Stroh|
|Shuttlecock||John Prentis||Andrew Piddington|
|1992||Strangers||The Guy||Joan Tewkesbury||TV movie|
|Warsaw - Year 5703||Alek||Janusz Kijowski|
|Frankenstein||Clerval||David Wickes||TV movie|
|1993||L'instinct de l'ange||Henry||Richard Dembo|
|1994||Une qui promet||Ferdinand||Marianne Lamour||TV movie|
|Les caprices de Marianne||Octave||Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe||TV movie|
|Rage and Outrage: The Dreyfus Affair||Raoul Sangla||TV movie|
|1995||Jefferson in Paris||Marquis de Lafayette||James Ivory|
|Pour une vie ou deux||Noël Gregorio||Marc Angelo||TV movie|
|1996||Les caprices d'un fleuve||Monsieur de la Malène||Bernard Giraudeau|
|Le secret d'Iris||Pierrot||Élisabeth Rappeneau||TV movie|
|The Leading Man||Felix Webb||John Duigan|
|Same Old Song||Marc Duveyrier||Alain Resnais||Nominated: César Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Quand le chat sourit||Sabine Azéma||TV movie|
|1998||Too Much (Little) Love||Paul||Jacques Doillon|
|1999||The Last September||Hugo Montmorency||Deborah Warner|
|2000||Don Quixote||Duke||Peter Yates||TV movie|
|Jet Set||Arthus de Poulignac||Fabien Onteniente||Nominated: César Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Combat d'amour en songe||Sebatol||Raúl Ruiz|
|Les globulyss||Voice||TV series|
|2001||HS - hors service||Francis||Jean-Paul Lilienfeld|
|Far from China||Jean-Pierre||C. S. Leigh|
|Le divin enfant||Father Marc Aubray||Stéphane Clavier||TV movie|
|2002||Les tombales||Joseph||Christophe Barratier||Short|
|2003||It's Easier for a Camel...||Aurelio||Valeria Bruni Tedeschi|
|The Matrix Reloaded||The Merovingian||The Wachowskis|
|Enter the Matrix||The Merovingian (voice)||The Wachowskis||Video game|
|The Matrix Revolutions||The Merovingian||The Wachowskis|
|Timeline||Lord Arnaut||Richard Donner|
|Not on the Lips||Eric Thomson||Alain Resnais|
|2004||Colette, une femme libre||Henry de Jouvenel||Nadine Trintignant||TV mini-series|
|People||Brother Arthus||Fabien Onteniente|
|2005||The Matrix Online||The Merovingian (voice)||The Wachowskis
|Sahara||Yves Massarde||Breck Eisner|
|Mort à l'écran||Daniel Brullmann||Alexis Ferrebeuf||Short|
|Palais royal!||Prince Arnaud||Valérie Lemercier|
|2006||Private Fears in Public Places||Dan||Alain Resnais||Nominated: Lumières Award for Best Actor|
|Tous à l'Ouest: Une aventure de Lucky Luke||Lucky Luke (voice)||Olivier Jean-Marie|
|2008||Dante 01||Saint-Georges||Marc Caro|
|The Great Alibi||Pierre Collier||Pascal Bonitzer|
|Comme les autres||Emmanuel François Xavier Bernier||Vincent Garenq|
|Babylon A.D.||Dr. Arthur Darquandier||Mathieu Kassovitz|
|The Lazarus Project||Avery||John Glenn|
|2009||The Philanthropist||Yves Moehringer||Duane Clark||TV series (1 episode)|
|Victor||Jérôme Courcelle||Thomas Gilou|
|2010||Imogène McCarthery||Samuel Tyler||Alexandre Charlot
|The Princess of Montpensier||François de Chabannes||Bertrand Tavernier|
|Of Gods and Men||Christian||Xavier Beauvois||Nominated: César Award for Best Actor|
|2012||Blind Man||Narvik||Xavier Palud|
|HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami||General Pochero||Alain Chabat|
|You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet||Lambert Wilson||Alain Resnais|
|Ernest & Celestine||Ernest (voice)||Stéphane Aubier
|The Hollow Crown||Charles, King of France||Thea Sharrock||TV mini-series (1 Episode)|
|2013||Cycling with Moliere||Gauthier Valence||Philippe Le Guay|
|Manipulations||Franck Barrot||Laurent Herbiet||TV movie|
Nominated: Monte-Carlo Television Festival,
Best Performance by an Actor
|ReWined||The Professor||Ferdinando Vicentini Orgnani|
|2014||Barbecue||Antoine Chevalier||Éric Lavaine|
|5 to 7||Valery||Victor Levin|
|The Nostalgist||The Man||Giacomo Cimini||Short|
|Posthumous||Daniel S. Volpe||Lulu Wang|
|2015||Suite Française||Viscount de Montmort||Saul Dibb|
|Sins of a Father||Andrew Piddington|
|Rabid Dogs||The Father||Éric Hannezo|
|2016||The Odyssey||Jacques-Yves Cousteau||Jérôme Salle||Nominated: Globes de Cristal Award for Best Actor|
|La Vache||Philippe||Mohamed Hamidi|
|The Jungle Book||Baloo (voice)||Jon Favreau||French dub|
|Tout de suite maintenant||Barsac||Pascal Bonitzer|
|The Confessions||Roché's lover||Roberto Andò|
|2017||Baby Bump(S)||Marc||Noémie Saglio|
|The Royal Exchange||Philippe V||Marc Dugain|
|2018||Au bout des doigts (In Your Hands)||Pierre Geithner||Ludovic Bernard|
- Lambert Wilson profile, filmreference.com; accessed June 22, 2015.
- Worldly Actor Finds Method in a Monastery, The New York Times, 18 February 2011
- Lambert Wilson : “C’est douloureux d’accepter ses limites”, Télérama, 5 November 2010 (in French).
- "Supermodel privat: 5 Highlights aus den 90ern von Christy Turlington". 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- Lambert Wilson and Hervé Pons, Entretiens, Éditions du Rocher, 2009, pp. 102-106.
- Todd Plummer (2013-10-21). "How to Tie a Tie - The Merovingian". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "Le blog de Lambert Wilson (MINUSTAH)". Archived from the original on 2013-05-03.
- "World Premiere of Wild Bunch-Sold 'The Odyssey' Closes San Sebastian". Variety. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).