'Cyrano' and 'Tin Drum' screenwriter Carriere dies at 89

·3-min read
French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere in 2014

Legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, who penned some of the most memorable movies of the last half century including "The Tin Drum" and "Cyrano de Bergerac", has died at the age of 89, his daughter told AFP.

Carriere, best known for his work with Luis Bunuel and Milos Forman, died in his sleep late Monday at his home in Paris, said Kiara Carriere.

A prolific writer whose career spanned six decades, Carriere created a range of memorable and provocative scenes, including tying a fresh-faced Catherine Deneuve naked to a tree.

"Belle de Jour" was one of the fruits of his 19-year collaboration with subversive Spanish enfant terrible Luis Bunuel, famous for shocking audiences.

Carriere and Bunuel won an Oscar in 1972 for "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise", adding to Carriere's best short film Oscar in 1963.

His work ranged across cultures, religions and historical periods, from "Cyrano de Bergerac" (1990), for which Gerard Depardieu gave one of the performances of his career, to the adaptation of Milan Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988) with Daniel Day-Lewis.

Carriere's 1979 adaption of Gunter Grass's novel "The Tin Drum", directed by Volker Schloendorff, won another Oscar as well as the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

He was also nominated for another Oscar for his "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" screenplay together with director Philip Kaufman and won a French Cesar in 1983 for best original screenplay for "The Return of Martin Guerre", starring Depardieu.

- 'The boss' -

In 2014 Carriere was awarded an honorary Oscar for his life's work of around 80 screenplays but also essays, fiction, translations and interviews.

And one of his final films, "At Eternity's Gate" about the artist Vincent Van Gogh's final months, was nominated for another, with Carriere determined to prove that the painter did not kill himself.

He also enjoyed frequent appearances in front of the camera, with roles opposite Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau.

The Cannes film festival's former president Gilles Jacob led the tributes, saying that Carriere was France's finest screenwriter ever.

"You were the boss," he added.

Born on September 17, 1931 into a family of winegrowers, his parents moved near Paris in 1945 to open a cafe.

A star pupil, Carriere went on to study at one of France's elite Grandes Ecoles. By 26, he had written his first novel.

He said he enjoyed being at the service of a director and slipping into their way of thinking.

"I have no ego," he once said.

"Meetings, friendships and life teachers" marked his life, from the Dalai Lama to the great surrealist Bunuel.

One key encounter was with acclaimed British director Peter Brook with whom he adapted the Sanskrit Hindu epic the "Mahabharata" for the stage and screen.

When its play version was performed at the Avignon festival in 1985, it ran for nine hours to an astonished crowd.

"Watching it, forgetting I was the one who wrote it, was one of the great joys in my life," Carriere said.

Despite the coronavirus restrictions, a tribute will be held for him in Paris, his daughter said, and he will be buried in his native village in Colombieres-sur-Orb in southern France.