Film producer and director, whose long career in the film industry branched off into environmental documentaries starting in the 1990s.
He earned his first acting roles under film director Valerio Zurlini alongside Claudia Cardinale in The Girl with a Suitcase (1961) and Marcello Mastroianni in Family Diary (1962). He then worked with Mauro Bolognini, Florestano Vancini, Pierre Schoendoerffer, Jacques Demy, and Claude Chabrol and received the best actor award at the 1966 Venice Film Festival for his role in Vittorio De Seta’s Almost a Man.
He founded his own production company through which he produced and appeared in Costa Graves’ Z, which won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1969. During the 1970s he continued to produce films in which he appeared as the main character (The Desert of the Tartars, 1976, directed by Zurlini and adapted from Dino Buzzati’s novel of the same name). Following a decade in TV productions, he returned to the big screen with Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988) and Luigi Magni’s In Nome del Popolo Sovrano (1990). In 1989 he produced his first nature documentary, Gérard Vienne’s Le Peuple Singe, followed by Claude Nuridasanuy and Marie Pérennou’s Microcosmos (1996) in which he was the narrator, and Eric Valli’s Himalaya (1999). He then produced and co-directed Winged Migration (2001) with Jacques Cluzard. Oceans (2009) won him a César for best documentary, which was followed by the TV documentary series Kingdom of the Oceans (2012). Earlier, he co-directed with Eric Deroo L’Empire du Milieu du Sud (2002) and appeared in several popular films, Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) and Christophe Barratier’s The Chorus (2004) and Faubourg 36 (2008), which he also produced. His most recent title is Les Saisons (2016), which he co-directed with Cluzard.