Alongside frequent collaborator Mathieu Kassovitz, Vincent Cassel emerged in the mid-1990s as one of France's most arresting and exciting new actors. Macho, hard-eyed, and appearing to be in constant preparation for a fight, Cassel embodied a kind of crude masculinity that recalled the likes of Jean-Paul Belmondo and served as a potent onscreen manifestation of the ever-tightening cultural tensions at work in late 20th century France. However, it is a testament to Cassel's talent that his onscreen persona has never verged into caricature, and thanks to his charisma and versatility, he has been able to work in films ranging from grim urban dramas to light romantic comedies.
The son of celebrated actor Jean-Pierre Cassel, who made a career out of playing seductive bourgeois men, Cassel was born in Paris' Montmartre district on November 23, 1966. At the age of 17 he went to circus school and spent the next few years generally avoiding the acting scene, due in part to the fact that both his parents (his mother is a journalist) didn't want him to go into the movie business. Cassel was eventually sucked into films in 1991, when he landed a small role in Philippe de Broca's Les Clés du paradis. Two years later he enjoyed his first collaboration with Kassovitz in Metisse, an urban romantic comedy that cast Cassel as Kassovitz's older brother, a tough Jewish boxer.