Born into a theatrical family, Jacques Simonet, known as Jacques Perrin, is the son of actress Marie Perrin (whose maiden name he will later go by as his stage name) and Alexandre Simonet, a stage manager at the Comédie-Française and later prompter at Jean Vilar’s Théâtre National Populaire (People’s National Theater).
Jacques Perrin was accepted into the National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Paris at the age of 17, together with his sister Eva. He attended Jan Yonnel’s class, but left shortly thereafter to start acting in plays.
In 1960, the Italian director Valerio Zurlini cast him to appear alongside Claudia Cardinale in Girl with a Suitcase. In 1962, Zurlini and Perrin were reunited in Cronaca Familiare (Family diary), starring Marcello Mastroianni. The film was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. He then starred in Pierre Schoendoerffer’s The 317th Platoon, followed by The Sleeping Car Murders, the first feature film directed by Costa Gavras.
In 1966, he was given the starring role in two films: Vittorio de Seta’s Almost a Man and a Spanish film, The Search, directed by Angelino Fons. Both films earned him the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival in 1967. He was also Catherine Deneuve’s co-star in two Jacques Demy films, The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) and Donkey skin (1970).