Along with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Louis Trintignant ranks among the most gifted French actors of the postwar era. An enigmatic talent noted for his thoughtful, economical performances, his presence has graced many of the most successful foreign productions of the past several decades. Born December 11, 1930, in Piolenc, France, Trintignant arrived in Paris in 1950 to study drama, and made his theatrical bow the following year in Jean Mogin's A Chacun Selon sa Faim. By 1953, he was touring in productions of Britannicus and Don Juan, and in 1954 he earned his first starring role in Robert Hossein's Responsabilite Limite. Trintignant's first film appearance was in Marcel Ichac's 1955 short Pechineff, followed by a supporting turn in 1956's Si Tous le Gars du Monde. His performance opposite seductress Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim's smash Et Dieu Crea la Femme brought Trintignant his first widespread notice, but after appearing in Club des Femmes, he was drafted into military service in Algiers, halting his film career for several years.
Upon returning from duty, Trintignant initially planned to quit acting, but he was then offered the chance to star as Hamlet in Paris. Strong critical response re-ignited his interest in his craft, and in 1959, he resurfaced in Vadim's Les Liaisons Dangereuses, followed by the Italian production L'Estate Violenta. Performances under Abel Gance (Austerlitz) and Georges Franju (Pleins Feux sur l'Assassin) followed, and in 1960 Trintigant co-starred in the Jacques Doniol-Valcroze romantic comedy hit Le Coeur Battant. A series of wide-ranging projects followed before he traveled back to Italy to co-star with Vittorio Gassman in 1962's Il Sorpasso, which became a tremendous smash. Trintignant and Gassman then reunited a year later to appear in a sequel, Il Successo. The features that followed were largely a mixed bag, however, but in 1966 he starred in three separate films shown at the Cannes Film Festival: La Longue Marche, Le Dix-Septieme Ciel, and Un Homme et une Femme. While the first two failed to garner much notice, Claude Lelouch's Un Homme et une Femme became the most successful French film ever screened in the foreign market, and overnight Trintignant became a star.