French Director Patrice Chereau Dies at 68

Patrice Chereau P

The former Cannes jury president had a long career in film -- and was known for his highly influential operas.

CANNES – Groundbreaking French director Patrice Chereau, acclaimed for his work on both stage and screen, died Monday night after a battle with lung cancer. He was 68.

He is perhaps best known in the U.S. for the Oscar-nominated Queen Margot, starring Isabel Adjani and Daniel Auteuil, which took home the jury prize at Cannes and a handful of Cesar Awards in 1994. He made ten films over his long career, including the English-language Intimacy, which took the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001; Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, which earned him a best director Cesar in 1998; and A Wounded Man, a film about a young man struggling with homosexuality, which won him a best original screenplay Cesar in 1984.

"The cultural world is in mourning and France loses an artist...who is its pride across the world," said French president Francois Hollande in a statement.

Chereau was president of the Cannes Film Festival Jury in 2003, which awarded the Palme d'Or to Gus Van Sant's Elephant
Cannes president Gilles Jacob reacted to the "huge collective emotion" felt throughout the creative community in a series of tweets, writing: "A great director of theater, opera, cinema, a director of actors, an inventor of forms. Sadness and respect.... You are a master."

Born on Nov. 2, 1944, in western France, Chereau grew up in Paris. At just 19 he founded his own theater company and quickly became a key figure in the French art world. He was especially noted in theater and opera for innovative and sometimes provocative productions that became highly influential throughout the world. In 1976, his modern reinterpretation of the Wagner opera The Ring Cycle shifted the time period and added industrial stage elements. It was considered very controversial at the time but is now credited with changing the direction of modern stage productions.

He was director of the Theatre des Amandiers in Nanterre, France, in the 1990s, where he presented a modernized version of Hamlet, and this summer had presented a stripped-down, stark version of Elektra, which won accolades at the Aix-en-Provence festival.

He was working on a production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which was due to debut at Paris’ Odeon Theatre in March 2014.