A prolific French leading man who received his first dose of widespread stateside exposure thanks to his turn as the villainous Merovingian in the final two installments of the Matrix franchise, lanky but handsome actor Lambert Wilson may have previously been noticed by eagle-eyed fans of international film in such art-house efforts as The Belly of an Architect (1987) and Jefferson in Paris (1995). The son of noted French actor Georges Wilson, Lambert was born in Neuilly-sue-Seine, France, in August of 1958. Soon after his graduation from London's prolific Drama Centre in 1977, Wilson took on his first leading role in director Fred Zinnemann's 1982 drama Five Days One Summer. He had previously appeared in numerous French television dramas and a handful of feature films, so his notable onscreen talent was already visible to many, and the burgeoning actor held his own opposite screen heavy Sean Connery. As the decade progressed, Lambert appeared in films by such notable directors as Claude Chabrol (Le Sang des Autres), Andrzej Wajda (Les Possédés), and Carlos Saura (El Dorado) -- all to notable effect.
Throughout the 1990s, Wilson became increasingly comfortable with leading-man status thanks to a strong series of featured performances in numerous French productions. Despite the fact that Wilson might not have been easily recognizable to American audiences, his small roles in numerous art-house hits continued to hint at the possibility of future international stardom. It was during this period that Wilson was also becoming increasingly prominent on-stage due to memorable and high-profile performances alongside such heavies as Maggie Smith (La Machine Infernale), Judi Dench (A Little Night Music), and his father (Eurydice). In 1994 Lambert directed himself in a production of Musset's Les Caprices de Marianne, which went on to tour throughout France after a successful run in Paris.