French theatre legend Robert Hossein dies aged 93

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French actor and director Robert Hossein is seen in this file photo taken on February 1, 1971, in Paris.

French actor and director Robert Hossein, famous for his mega-productions of classics such as Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, died Thursday at the age of 93, his wife Candice Patou told AFP.

Hossein died in hospital after suffering a "respiratory problem", Patou said.

Born in December 30, 1927 to an Iranian Zoroastrian composer father and a Russian Orthodox mother Hossein began acting in his teens.

He made his name in the 1960s as the smouldering count of Peyrac in the "Angelique" series of baroque romances.

But he was also regularly cast by arthouse directors, including Roger Vadim, who picked him to play the suicidal love interest of Brigitte Bardot in Love on a Pillow in 1962.

In later years he threw his energy into huge stage productions aimed at luring the general public into theatres.

"Theatre like you've never seen in the cinema," was how he billed his lavish shows, which included an epic production of the gladiator tale Ben-Hur at the Stade de France stadium.

"He was the prince of theatre for the masses," the former president of the Cannes film festival, Gilles Jacob, wrote on Twitter.