Famous French Actors You Should Know

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The Stars of French Cinema

What do you know about French cinema? You might be surprised at the talented French actors that are not only shaping that country's film scene but bringing their talents to the international audience as well. 

These names include the established old guard like Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil as well as young and sexy stars like Gaspard Ulliel and Benoit Magimel. Let's take a look at the biggest names among French actors.

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Mathieu Amalric

Mathieu Almaric arrives at the premiere of 'The Diving Bell And The Butterfly' at the Ziegfeld Theater on November 14, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

French actor Mathieu Amalric rose to international fame with a moving performance in 2007's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Since then, he has appeared in hits like "Quantum of Solace" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Born in 1965, Amalric has over 100 acting credits, most of which are French films He also has a number of directing credits -- primarily shorts and documentaries -- and wrote the screenplay for "The Blue Room," which he also directed.

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Daniel Auteuil

Daniel Auteuil attends the screening of 'Peindre Ou Faire L'Amour' at the Palais during the 58th International Cannes Film Festival. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Daniel Auteuil is one of France's most distinguished actors. Born in Algiers in 1950, Auteuil kicked off his acting career in 1974 with the TV series, "Les Fargeot." Since then, he has appeared in nearly 100 roles with 2005's "Cache" and 2004's "36th Precinct" among his best-known work.

Many say that Auteuil is strikingly similar to Robert De Niro. Just like his American counterpart. Auteuil has a few writing and directing credits to his name as well.

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Francois Cluzet

Francois Cluzet attends the 'Selon Charlie' premiere at Cannes. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

Francois Cluzet is another longtime French actor with 100 roles dating back to the late 70s. Cluzet was the star in Guillaume Canet’s 2006 thriller "Tell No One"  as well as the film "The Intouchables" from 2011.

A Paris native, Cluzet was born in 1955 and is one of the best-known faces in French cinema. He even had a puppet on the 80s French show "Les guignols de l'info" who looked like him.

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Romain Duris

Romain Duris poses at the 'Paris' premiere February 11, 2008 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

Romain Duris has starred in numerous acclaimed French films including "L'Auberge Espagnole," "Dans Paris," and "The Beat My Heart Skipped." He even provided the French voice of Flynn Ryder in 2010's "Tangled."

Born in Paris in 1974, Duris is one of those actors who was discovered by chance. He caught director Cédric Klapisch's eye while sitting outside his Paris high school. His first role as Tomasi in "Le péril jeune" has led to a successful career.

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Gerard Depardieu

French Film Star Gerard Depardieu Enjoys A Moment On The Film Set Of 'Dina,' On The Remote Peninsula Of Kjerringoey In Northern Norway. (Photo By All Over Press/Getty Images)

Gérard Depardieu is one of France's most brilliant actors. Born in 1948, Depardieu got into acting with the "Cafe de la Gare" traveling theater. Years after declaring himself "retired," Depardieu continues to appear in films. 

A writer and director as well, Depardieu has appeared in over 200 films and TV series during his career. American audiences know him as well, thanks to roles in 1998's "​The Man in the Iron Mask" and "Life of Pi."

He is not done, either. Among other projects in the works, Depardieu plays the title character in the upcoming film "Bach."

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Benoit Magimel

Benoit Magimel arrives at the French NRJ Music Awards ceremony. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

French actor Benoit Magimel has starred in numerous acclaimed films including Claude Chabrol's "The Flower of Evil" and "The Girl Cut in Two." Born in 1974, this Paris native has been acting since the age of 12 and went full-time at just 16.

Among his many acting credits, Magimel is known for his role in 2001's "The Piano Teacher" and the 2005's "Duplicity." One of his most recent parts is that of Lucas Barres in the Netflix original series "Marseille," playing opposite Gerard Depardieu.

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Guillaume Canet

Guillaume Canet attends the premiere for the film 'Chacun Son Cinema.'. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Guillaume Canet is both a French actor and filmmaker. His directing credits include the 2006 film, "Tell No One" and 2011's "Little White Lies," both starring Francois Cluzet.

Canet was born in 1973 and his first acting credit came in 1993 with the TV series, "​Premiers baisers." It was not until 2015 that he received well-deserved acclaim with a Cesar Award nomination for portraying a serial killer in "La Prochaine Fois Je Viserai Le Coeur" ("Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart").

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Laurent Lucas

Laurent Lucas at the 58th International Cannes Film Festival. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Laurent Lucas rose to fame with the role of a tormented young father who in Dominik's Moll's terrific 2000 thriller "With A Friend Like Harry." In 2003, Lucas appeared in three films presented at Cannes International Film Festival: "Tiresia,","Who Killed Bambi?," and  "Va, petite!".

Lucas teamed up with Moll again 2005 for "Lemming", a thriller in which he starred opposite Charlotte Rampling and Charlotte Gainsbourg. 

He first appeared on the screen in 1996 in "J'ai horreur de l'amour" in which he delivered a riveting performance of a man who is HIV positive. Lucas appeared in Leos Carax's "Leos Carax" in 1999. That same year, he made two films with director Karin Viard: "Nouvelle Ève, La" and "Haut les coeurs!," for which he received a Cesar nomination for Best Aspiring Actor.

Born in Paris in 1965, Lucas is considered one of France's most promising actors

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Olivier Martinez

Olivier Martinez arrives at the premiere of Miramax Films' 'No Country For Old Men'. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Olivier Martinez became an international sex symbol after seducing Diane Lane in ​"Unfaithful." He had many roles, primarily in French cinema, before that 2002 film, but this one really set his career in motion.

Born in 1966 in Paris, Martinez actually hit the American scene in 1995 with his role in "The Horseman on the Roof." Playing opposite Juliette Binoche, he was billed as "the French Brad Pitt."

Martinez's familiar face can be seen in a number of television and movie productions, including 2003's "S.W.A.T." He also starred alongside Halle Berry in the 2012 thriller, "Dark Tide."

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Gaspard Ulliel

Gaspard Ulliel attends the premiere for 'Spiderman 3' in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

French actor Gaspard Ulliel was born in 1984 and is another successful example of a French actor who started very young. His first role at 12 was in 1997 in the TV movie, "Une femme en blanc" and he stayed in television and shorts for a few years.

In 2002, director Michel Blanc offered Ulliel a small part in the 2002 comedy-romance, "Summer Things." His career took off from there. In 2003, Ulliel starred in "Strayed," and is noted for his role as Manech in the Oscar-nominated, "A Very Long Engagement."

It was in 2007 when Ulliel made his English film debut, playing a memorable and young Hannibal Lecter in "Hannibal Rising." Yet, one of his best roles was playing Yves Saint Laurent in the 2014 film "Saint Laurent." It's a role he may have been destined for considering his father was a fashion designer.