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Guillaume Gallienne was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. At the age of 18, Gallienne decided to study theatre and history simultaneously. After training in drama at the Cours Florent, he was accepted to the National Academy of Dramatic Arts of the Paris Conservatory. When he was an intern at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in 1996, Daniel Mesguich entrusted him with the role of Arcas in Racine’s Mithridate. Claude Mathieu was playing Queen Monime in the same play and inspired him to join the House of Molière. Gallienne replaced an injured actor while working as an understudy in Shakespeare’s The Tempest directed by Mesguich at the Comédie-Française. That same evening in July 1998, he was named pensionnaire in order to play in Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children under the direction of Jorge Lavelli.
In 2005, Gallienne became the 513th sociétaire of the Comédie-Française. As part of the company, he has performed in a number of plays including Molière’s Les Femmes savants directed by Simon Eine; Feydeau’s Un fil à la patte under the direction of Jérôme Deschamps (for which he won the Molière Award for best supporting role); Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Goldoni’s La Trilogie de la villégiature staged by Alain Françon; Gontcharov’s Oblomov directed by Volodia Serre, which he subsequently adapted for Arte Television in 2017; Musset’s Fantasio directed by Denis Podalydès who later entrusted Gallienne with the title role in Hugo’s Lucrezia Borgia; and Visconti’s The Damned staged by Ivo van Hove.
As part of his activities outside the theatre company, Gallienne staged Sartre’s Behind Closed Doors (Huis-Clos) at the Tessenkai Noh Theatre in Tokyo. He collaborated on the synopsis and wrote the dramaturgy for Caligula, a ballet by Nicolas Le Riche for the Opéra national de Paris. He also wrote the scenario for Alexei Ratmansky’s Lost Illusions, based on the novel by Honoré de Balzac, which received its premiere in 2011 at the Bolshoi Ballet. In 2017, he directed Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Opéra national de Paris as his first lyrical piece. From 2008–2010, his sketch comedy series parodying the cinema industry, Les Bonus de Guillaume, enjoyed great popularity on the small screen. Since September 2009, he has hosted Ça peut pas faire de mal, a weekly show on France Inter Radio where he reads great literary texts. In 2018–2019, he taught theater for one semester at Princeton University as Council in the Humanities Belknap Long-Term Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in French and Italian.
Gallienne developed an autobiographical play entitled Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table!, directed by Claude Mathieu in 2008 (for which he won the Molière Award for best male newcomer in 2010). The 2013 film version garnered an audience of three million and earned five César Awards, including Best Actor and Best Film awards. Gallienne has also played in a number of feature films, such as Fabien Oteniente’s Jet Set; Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette; Danièle Thompson’s Fauteuils d’orchestre and Cézanne et moi; Niels Arestrup’s Le Candidat, Diane Kury’s Sagan; Pascal Thoma’s Ensemble, nous allons vivre une très grande histoire d’amour; Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint-Laurent; and Pierre Godeau’s Eperdument. Maryline, the second film written and directed by Gallienne, premiered in November 2017.
Gallienne holds the honors of Chevalier of the National Order of Merit and Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.