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Gaspard Ulliel, French actor and 'Moon Knight' star, dies at 37
He gained fame as a young Hannibal Lecter and the designer Yves Saint Laurent. He died after a skiing accident weeks before he is to appear in a Disney+ series.

by Alex Marshall

NEW YORK, NY.- Gaspard Ulliel, a star of French cinema best known outside his native country for portraying the young Hannibal Lecter in “Hannibal Rising” and fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in “Saint Laurent,” died Wednesday, the day after a skiing accident in France. He was 37.

Ulliel’s family confirmed his death in a statement to Agence France-Presse, the French news service.

His death, from a head injury, according to the French press, came just weeks before Ulliel is to appear in Marvel’s “Moon Knight” series for Disney+, scheduled to debut March 30.

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,” she said on Twitter. “Cinema today loses an immense talent.”

Ulliel was born in a suburb of Paris on Nov. 25, 1984. He appeared in numerous French TV shows and movies while still a teenager and studied film at a university in Paris, hoping to be a director. But he had to drop out when his acting career took off, he told The New York Times’s T Magazine in 2010, though a return to directing was “still in my mind,” he said at the time.

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 to global prominence came in 2003 with his first leading movie role, in “Strayed.” He played an itinerant teenager helping a woman flee Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II. Karen Durbin, in a review in The 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, Ulliel was nominated for a César award, France’s version of the Oscars.

He became more known to audiences in the United States when he took the lead in “Hannibal Rising,” the 2007 prequel to the 1991 hit “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 Times, said Ulliel “never hardens into a genuine horror.”

But he won more unanimous praise for later films like “Saint Laurent” (2014) and “To the Ends of the World,” a 2018 war film set in Vietnam. A.O. Scott, reviewing “Saint Laurent” in The Times, said that Ulliel portrayed Yves Saint Laurent as having never experiencing a moment of doubt throughout his career, “conveying a haunting, quietly charismatic mixture of sensitivity and coldness.”

“Saint Laurent” brought Ulliel a nomination for the best actor award at the Césars, an honor 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 idols, Ulliel moved easily in the fashion world as well, having appeared on the cover of French Vogue and fronting a campaign for the scent Bleu de Chanel.

No details on his survivors were immediately available.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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