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).

The 317th Platoon, Pierre Schoendoerffer, 1965

The Young Girls of Rochefort, Jacques Demy, 1967

In addition to his work as an actor, and as head of the production company Reggane Films, he produced Z by Costa Gavras, which won two Oscars in 1969 for Best Foreign Picture and Best Film Editing.

In 1972, he produced the first feature film about the Algerian rebellion, The Algerian War, a documentary by Yves Courrière and Philippe Monnier. He was the producer of two other films directed by Costa Gavras, State of Siege (1972), with Yves Montand, followed by Special Section which won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976.

In 1976, he produced The Desert of the Tartars, based on Buzzati’s novel and entrusted the direction of the film to Valerio Zurlini. He also played the lead role alongside Vittorio Gassman, Giuliano Gemma, Philippe Noiret, Max Von Sydow, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Laurent Terzieff, Fernando Rey, Francisco Rabal, and Helmut Griem. The film won the Grand Prix du Cinéma Français and the Donatello Award in Italy.

The Desert of the Tartars, Valério Zurlini, 1976

The same year, he was the producer of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s first film, Black and White in Color, which won the Best Foreign Film Academy Award, his third Oscar.

In 1977, he was the lead actor in Crabe-Tambour (Drummer Crab), directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer. The two paired up again in 1982 for A Captain’s Honor. Jacques Perrin then starred in Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1989), with Philippe Noiret.

In addition to producing several fiction screenplay adaptations, he then chose Gérard Vienne to direct the first in a series of nature documentaries, The Monkey Folk in 1988, which was followed by Microcosmos, directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou. The documentary was awarded 5 César Awards, including Best Producer.

In September 1998, he began the production of Himalaya, the Rearing of a Chief, directed by Eric Valli. The film was very successful and went on to win two César and many international awards, along with an Oscar Nomination in 2000 for Best Foreign Film.

Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore, 1989

Between July 1998 and September 2001, Jacques Perrin dedicated his time to producing Winged Migration. Released in December 2001, the documentary was a huge success in France and other major markets such as the US, Japan, Germany, etc. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.

In 2002, Jacques Perrin put together an international team of 11 highly regarded directors to produce a collaborative film inspired by the events of September 11th, 2001: 11’09″01 September 11. Sean Penn, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Ken Loach, Amos Gitaï, Claude Lelouch, Shohei Imamura among others contributed to making this film, which received critical acclaim in many international film festivals.

During the summer of 2003, Jacques Perrin produced Christophe Barratier’s first film, The Chorus, starring Gérard Jugnot and François Berléand. The score was composed by Bruno Coulais. The film was very successful in France, selling 9 million tickets. It was also very well received abroad, receiving 2 Oscar Nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Original Song.

Jacques Perrin then produced several films in association with the French production company Pathé, including Paris 36 directed by Christophe Barratier and Pierre Marcel’s documentary Tabarly. Both films were released in 2008.

He next embarked on his biggest production yet, Oceans, which he also co-directed with Jacques Cluzaud, selling 2.9 million tickets in France, and 12 million globally. The film went on to win the 2011 Best Documentary César Award.

In 2016, Galatée Films released two films in theatres: Seasons directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, (the documentary also spawned a spin-off series) and The Outsider directed by Christophe Barratier and starring Arthur Dupont and François-Xavier Demaison.

Its last production, Mia and the white lion, shot over a three years-period, was released in December 2018.  It stands out as the most popular French film abroad in 2019.

Jacques Perrin is a reserve officer in the French Navy; his rank is Ship-of-the-line Captain. He was promoted to the rank of Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honor during the induction ceremony of March 25th 2016.

In 2015, he’s awarded the title of “peintre officiel de la Marine” (POM) and, in 2016, he’s elected as a member of the Academy of Fine Arts, section VII, Artistic creations in the cinema and audio-visual fields.

Drummer crab, Pierre Schoendoerffer, 1977