Screen Comment being not just a cinephile media but also a French-American publication, we would be twice remiss not to mention persons and events from across the pond, at least some of the time. The death of Michael Lonsdale, a formidable actor, himself bi-national (his French mother conceived him with the help of a British officer in 1930—Lonsdale was born in May of the following year), was reported yesterday in the news.
Lonsdale is what you would call a professional actor. They’re pretty rare these days. He was also a lifelong “cavalier seul,” at least insofar as affairs of the heart were concerned. Lonsdale was a confirmed bachelor, never having found someone, apparently, to settle down with. Or, he kept it incredibly secret.
Lonsdale has some 145 credits to his name. Acting credits—only acting credits. He never felt the itch to go behind the camera, like so many other actors who strangely feel the necessity to do so.
Lonsdale lived with his mother in Morocco a time, where he discovered American movies in the U.S. Army barracks, films by Howard Hawks, John Ford and George Cukor. Later, when the family moved to Paris, Lonsdale would absorb literature, gravitating towards theater schools, eventually signing up for classes. The pull of both the theater and the cinema would remain at the heart of his acting endeavors until the end, the tall, slightly distant, Lonsdale moving from doing theater performances to acting in movies, for the rest of his career.
Lonsdale has appeared in three films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: “Chariots of Fire” (1981), “The Remains of the Day” (1993) and “Munich” (2005). “Chariots of Fire” won in that category.
Saïdeh Pakravan, film critic and historian at this publication, had this to say about Michael Lonsdale: “Like the best character actors–think Allison Janney, Bryan Cranston or Mark Ruffalo–Michael Lonsdale took total possession of any scene he was in. Over a sixty-year career, be it in French films such as the sublime Xavier Beauvois 2010 “Des hommes et des dieux” or major international productions (“Moonraker” or “The Name of the Rose”) every other presence up there paled beside the big burly Anglo-French actor.”