Gaspard Ulliel, Star of French Cinema, Dies in Skiing Accident
LONDON — Gaspard Ulliel, a star of French cinema best known outside his native country for portraying the young Hannibal Lecter in “Hannibal Rising” and the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in “Saint Laurent,” died on Wednesday, the day after a skiing accident in France. He was 37.
Mr. Ulliel’s family confirmed his death in a statement to Agence France-Presse, the French news service.
Roselyne Bachelot, France’s culture minister, was among the many French political and cultural figures to pay tribute to him. “His sensitivity and the intensity of his acting made Gaspard Ulliel an exceptional actor,” Ms. Bachelot said on Twitter. “Cinema today loses an immense talent.”
His death, from a head injury according to the French press, comes just weeks before Mr. Ulliel is set to appear in Marvel’s “Moon Knight” series for Disney+, scheduled to debut March 30.
Mr. Ulliel was born in a suburb of Paris on Nov. 25, 1984 and while still a teenager, appeared in numerous French TV shows and movies. He studied cinema at a university in Paris, but told The New York Times’s T Magazine in a 2010 interview that he had to drop out because his acting career took off. A return to directing was “still in my mind,” he said. In the same interview he talked of his love for skiing, saying “Half my family comes from the French Alps. As a child, I almost skied before I walked.”
His rise globally came with his first leading movie role in 2003’s “Strayed,” a film set in wartime France, where he played an itinerant teenager helping a woman fleeing Nazi-occupied Paris. Karen Durbin, writing in The New York Times, said he was the “scene stealer” of the film. “He seems fully arrived, showing us the facets of a complex and mercurial character like a blackjack dealer shuffling a deck of cards,” she wrote.
For the performance, he was nominated for a César award, France’s version of the Oscars.
Mr. Ulliel became more known to audiences in the United States in 2007 when he took the lead in “Hannibal Rising,” the prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” playing Hannibal Lecter as an oddly sympathetic, if still horribly murderous, character. The film received mixed reviews. Jeannette Catsoulis, writing in The New York Times, said Mr. Ulliel “never hardens into a genuine horror.”
But he won more unanimous praise for later films such as “Saint Laurent” and “To The Ends of The World,” a war film set in Vietnam. A.O. Scott, reviewing “Saint Laurent” in The New York Times, said that Mr. Ulliel portrayed the designer Yves Saint Laurent as never experiencing a moment of doubt throughout his career, “conveying a haunting, quietly charismatic mixture of sensitivity and coldness,” Mr. Scott wrote.
Mr. Ulliel was nominated for the “best actor” award at the Césars for his performance in “Saint Laurent,” an award he won in 2016 for his performance in Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only the End of the World,” in which he played a prizewinning writer who comes home to tell his family he is dying.
Suitably for someone who portrayed one of fashion’s biggest icons, Mr. Ulliel also moved in the fashion world, having appeared on the cover of French Vogue and fronting a campaign for the scent Bleu de Chanel.
No immediate details were available on Mr. Ulliel’s survivors.