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French actor Claude Rich dies, aged 88

French actor Claude Rich in  2013
French actor Claude Rich in 2013 Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

French actor Claude Rich died on Friday at 88 after a long illness, his daughter Delphine Rich said.

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Claude Rich was born on 8 February, 1929 in Strasbourg, eastern France.

He played in at least fifty plays and around 80 films, among them Les Tontons flingueurs, the famous 1963 movie directed by Georges Lautner.

He was also known for Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre (2002), Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968) and La mariée était en noir (1968).

"I spent hours looking out of the window and I saw people who lazed in the sun. This is what gave me the desire to do theatre. I wanted to be a guy who could be smoking cigarettes at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a bench," he explained later in an interview.

As he worked in a bank in order to bring money home to help his mother who raised alone her four children, he enrolled in evening classes.

While working and studying, he decided to make a go of acting and  entered a competition for a scholarship to the prestigous Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art dramatique.

He won the scholarhsip and starting studying acting full-time. At the Conservatoire, he met and befriended many who woudl become equally well known French actors, among them Annie Girardot, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Bruno Crémer, Jean Rochefort, Jean-Pierre Marielle.

Over the course of his long career, he worked with some of the best known French directors in cinema, making films with Jean Renoir, Julien Duvivier, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Alain Resnais, Yves Robert, Georges Lautner, Edouard Molinaro.

In 1993, he received the Cesar for best actor withLe souper, in which he played Talleyrand.

Director Bertrand Tavernier said of Claude Rich: "He is like a jazz player -  each time he plays different variations, just for fun, to impress".

He married Catherine Rich on 26 June, 1959. They have two children.

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