Michel Robin, Longtime French Character Actor, Dies at 90
This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Michel Robin, an award-winning French actor who became a familiar face from his roles in more than a hundred movies and television shows, died on Nov. 18. He was 90.
The cause was Covid-19, according to a statement from the Comédie-Française, the prestigious theater company in Paris where he was a longtime member. The company did not specify where he died.
“The French didn’t always know his name, but they recognized his face, which illuminated stages and screens,” the office of the French president said.
Michel Robin was born on Nov. 13, 1930, in Reims, in eastern France. After studying law in Bordeaux, he decided to try his luck as an actor and took drama lessons in Paris when he was 26.
From 1958 to 1964, Mr. Robin was part of a theater company near Lyon led by the playwright Roger Planchon before moving on to the Renaud-Barrault company in Paris. His career in theater spanned over 50 years, and he distinguished himself in classics by authors like Molière, Chekhov and Brecht.
Mr. Robin was especially fond of Samuel Beckett, and played Lucky in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in 1970 and, 10 years later, Clov in his “Endgame.”
“It might seem pretentious, but with Beckett, I feel at home,” Mr. Robin told the newspaper Le Monde in a 2003 interview. “It’s so funny and so awful at the same time.”
He joined the Comédie-Française in 1994 and became a staple of its productions for 15 years, often playing the classic supporting role of elderly servants.
“Michel always played the old, very early in his career,” Éric Ruf, the general administrator of the Comédie-Française, said in a statement about Mr. Robin’s death. “He recently admitted that he was finally old enough for those roles, and that it annoyed him.”
Starting in the late 1960s, Mr. Robin also appeared in movies by a number of directors, including Costa-Gavras, Claude Chabrol, and Alain Resnais. In “Amélie,” the 2001 movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, he played the father of Mr. Collignon, an irritable grocer. On television, he appeared in shows including the French version of “Fraggle Rock” in the 1980s and “Boulevard du Palais,” a police drama, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In 1979, Mr. Robin won a prize at the Locarno Film Festival for his role as an old farmer in the Swiss comedy “Les Petites Fugues” (“Small Escapes”). In 1990, he won a Molière — France’s most prestigious theater award — for best supporting actor, for his role in “La Traversée de l’Hiver” (“Winter Crossing”), a play by Yasmina Reza about a group of six vacationers on a melancholic mountain retreat.
He is survived by a daughter, Amélie, and a grandson, Gaspard.