Despite a hard exterior1 reminiscent2 of a recent parolee3—tightly-wound4 and on the verge of5 hurting anyone who looks at him the wrong way—French actor Vincent Cassel has amassed6 in his career an impressive and varied list of on-screen roles. The son of actor Jean-Pierre Cassel, who made his career in romantic comedies, Cassel was warned by his parents to stay away from the profession. At first he agreed, but later found himself pulled into7 a world that has led the versatile8 actor to pursue9 roles not for fame or money, but for art.
Born in Paris in November of 1966, Cassel spent his youth watching his dad be successful at the very thing he was advised to avoid. At 17, Cassel joined circus school, and after clowning around for a few years, he got serious and started acting. His first role came in 1991—a small part in Philippe de Broca’s romantic comedy, “Les Cles du Paradis”. Two years later, Cassel made the first of several collaborations10 with actor-director Mathieu Kassovitz in “Matisse” (a.k.a.11 “Cafe au Lait”, 1993). In this little-seen romantic comedy, Cassel played Max, brother to Felix (Kassovitz), a Jewish messenger boy competing with the son of African diplomats for the love of a beautiful Caribbean girl carrying a child fathered by one of the two—but she won’t say who. Cassel was then seen in the United States as Camille Desmoulins in the historical drama, “Jefferson in Paris” (1995), starring Nick Nolte as the Founding Father. A small role in a large cast, the part did nothing to expose12 him to American audiences—and neither did the film’s limited release.
Cassel made a deep impression with his performance as Vinz, a young Jewish punk who turns to violence after stealing a policeman’s gun following an arrest in the brutally realistic “La Haine” (“Hate”, 1995). His second film with Kassovitz, “La Haine” so impressed actress-producer Jodie Foster at Cannes that she arranged for American distribution through her production company, Egg Pictures. Cassel then starred in a string of films in 1995-96: “Femmes”, “L’Eleve”, “Come Mi Vuoi”, and the acclaimed13 “L’Apartement”, winner of the 1997 BAFTA14 Award for Best Non-English Film, an honor bestowed15 by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Also significant for Cassel was working with Italian actress Monica Bellucci, whom he married a couple years later.
As Duc d’Anjou, Cassel was a potential suitor16 to the Virgin Queen in the Oscar-nominated “Elizabeth” (1998), starring Cate Blanchett as the storied Queen of England. In another historical drama—one not as loved by critics—Cassel played Gilles de Rais in “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” (1999), starring Milla Jovovich as the martyred17 teenager who led a victorious army against the British at Orleans. Returning to French cinema, Cassel starred alongside fellow countryman Jean Reno in “The Crimson Rivers” (2001), a crime thriller about two diametrically opposed cops investigating a pair of murders that might be linked. In perhaps his most recognized role to date, Cassel played Jean-Francois de Morangias, a one-armed huntsman who joins a team dispatched18 by the King of France to find and kill the fabled19 Beast of Gevaudan. After providing the voice of Monsieur Hood in the animated hit, “Shrek” (2001), Cassel once again appeared with his friend Mathieu Kassovitz in “Birthday Girl” (2002), starring Nicole Kidman.
In 2002, Cassel starred in what could be his most controversial film once all is said and done. Cassel played Marcus to Bellucci’s Alex in this harsh revenge20 thriller. After a fight at a party, Alex storms21 out for home, but never makes it—she’s brutally raped22 in a dark tunnel. An enraged23 Marcus takes justice into his own hands and hunts down the rapist. Directed by Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noe, the film sparked24 outrage in Catholic Europe and was nearly banned in England after censors25 thought long and hard about its release. So brutal and realistic was the rape scene that Cassel’s brother stood up during the Cannes screening and threatened to “get” the director. Meanwhile, Cassel appeared as the sleek26, but fiendish27 Lord de Guise in “The Reckoning” (2004), a medieval murder mystery starring Willem DaFoe and a tormented28 Paul Bettany. Cassel then surfaced as the Night Fox, France’s most successful thief, in “Ocean’s 12" (2004). Night Fox challenges George Clooney’s Danny Ocean to see who is the better thief. Though not as much fun as its predecessor29, the sequel proved to be as successful at the box office and helped cement the charismatic Cassel in moviegoers’ minds.
Cassel returned to foreign-funded features with the Spanish western, “Blueberry” (2004), playing a marshal in Palmito who tries to unite the natives who raised him with the people he belongs to. In “Agents Secrets” (2004), he was a member of a crack team of French secret agents whose mission to thwart30 an arms dealer31 is compromised after the discovery of a mole in their midst. Then in the American-made noir thriller “Derailed” (2005), Cassel played a sadistic robber who blackmails32 a Chicago ad executive (Clive Owen) into a series of violent and dangerous crimes after breaking into a hotel room and discovering him with his mistress (Jennifer Aniston).
1 hard exterior – зд. резкие черты лица
2 reminiscent –напоминающий; вызывающий воспоминания
3 parolee - условно-досрочно освобождённый
4 tightly–wound – зд. «крутой»
5 on the verge of – на грани чего-либо
6 amass - собирать; копить, накапливать
7 pulled into - втянуть
8 versatile - многосторонний, многогранный, разносторонний
9 pursue - добиваться
10 collaboration - сотрудничество; участие; совместная работа
11 a.k.a. - also known as - иначе называемый
12 expose - знакомить
13 acclaimed - признанный; известный
14 BAFTA - British Academy of Film and Television Arts - Британская академия кино и телевидения
15 bestow - давать, даровать, награждать
16 suitor - почитатель, поклонник
17 martyred - преданный мученической смерти
18 dispatch - посылать; отсылать
19 fabled - сказочный
20 harsh revenge – жестокая месть
21 storm out – мчаться, стремиться
22 rape - насиловать, изнасиловать
23 enrage - бесить, приводить в ярость, бешенство, разъярять
24 spark outrage - оскорблять, вызывать возмущение
25 censor - цензор
26 sleek - холёный, ухоженный
27 fiendish - злодейский, дьявольский, жестокий
28 torment - мучить; причинять боль
29 predecessor - предшественник
30 thwart - мешать; расстраивать, разрушать (планы и т. п.)
31 arms dealer - торговец оружием
32 blackmail - шантажировать; вымогать деньги
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