This suave, elegant character star was a ubiquitous presence in French cinema for nearly seven decades. His distinguished career extended to both stage and screen and his versatility was such that he could take on just about any persona (in his own words: "I do not put on an act... I slip away behind my characters"), from police inspectors to gangsters, from priests and academics to King Louis XVI and the Marquis de Sade. More than a few of his portrayals were of ordinary bourgeois caught up in difficult circumstances or undergoing mid-life crisis. However, Piccoli truly excelled in sardonic, cynical or morally ambiguous roles - playing smooth, quietly-spoken types harbouring dark passions or sinister secrets. His directors have included a veritable who's who of European film makers: Luis Buñuel (six times), Claude Sautet (five times), Alfred Hitchcock (who cast him as Jacques Granville, the principal antagonist in Topaz (1969)), Jean-Pierre Melville, Louis Malle, Alain Resnais, and Je

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