Matthias Schoenaerts

Matthias Schoenaerts

Matthias Schoenaerts in 2016
Born (1977-12-08) 8 December 1977
Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium
Other names Zenith
Occupation Actor, film producer, graffiti artist
Years active 1992–present
Parent(s) Julien Schoenaerts (father)
Dominique Wiche (mother)

Matthias Schoenaerts (Dutch: [ˈmɑtjɑs ˈsxunaːrts]; born 8 December 1977) is a Belgian actor, film producer and graffiti artist of Flemish origin.[1] He made his film debut at the age of 13 in Daens (1992), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. He is best known for his roles as Filip in Loft (2008), Jacky Vanmarsenille in the Oscar-nominated Bullhead (2011), Ali in the BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominee Rust and Bone (2012), for which he won the César Award for Most Promising Actor, Eric Deeds in The Drop (2014), Bruno von Falk in Suite Française (2015), Gabriel Oak in Far from the Madding Crowd (2015) and Hans Axgil in The Danish Girl (2015). Schoenaerts received critical acclaim for his portrayal of an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD in Disorder (2015).

In 2015, he was named Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in France.[2]

Early life

Schoenaerts was born in Antwerp, Flanders, the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) region of Belgium. He is the son of actor Julien Schoenaerts (1925–2006) and Dominique Wiche (1953–2016), a costume designer, translator and French teacher. He has an older half brother, Bruno Schoenaerts (born 1953),[3] who is a lawyer.[4]

Schoenaerts grew up bilingual[5] speaking Dutch and French. He is also fluent in English,[6] which he learned by watching American movies.[7]

In 1987, at nine years old, he appeared on a stage production of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince opposite his father, who was also the director.[8] His mother, Dominique, was the costume designer of the play.[9]

He started producing graffiti as a teenager under the pseudonym "Zenith",[10] even going to New York to collaborate with the Bronx group TATS CRU.[11] It is possible to watch some videos of Schoenaerts doing graffiti in Belgium on YouTube.[12]

Schoenaerts was close to becoming a professional soccer player and was on the books of Belgian team Beerschot AC, but gave up when he was 16 years old.[13][14] In 2013, Schoenaerts stated that he is a fan of Spanish football club FC Barcelona.[6]


Early work in Belgium and Netherlands (1992–2011)

At the age of 13, Schoenaerts made his film debut with a small role in the 1992 Belgian film Daens, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His father also starred in the film but they did not share any scenes together.

In 2003, Schoenaerts was named one of "Europe's Shooting Stars" by the European Film Promotion.[15]

After completing studies at The Academy of Dramatic Arts in Antwerp, he featured in several shorts and feature films. In 2002, he starred in Dorothée Van Den Berghe's Meisje (Girl);[16] Tom Barman's Any Way the Wind Blows in 2003; Rudolf Mestdagh's Ellektra[17] and Roel Mondelaers & Raf Reyntjens's sci-fi short film A Message from Outer Space,[18] which Schoenaerts also produced in 2004.

In 2006, Schoenaerts played Dennis in Hilde Van Mieghem's Love Belongs to Everyone (Dennis van Rita), and had a small role as a member of the Dutch resistance in Paul Verhoeven's Black Book.

In 2007, he starred in Ben van Lieshout's film De Muze[19] and in Erik Bruyn's Nadine.

In 2008, he played Bob in Pieter van Hees's horror film Left Bank (Linkeroever), and most notably played the role of Filip in Erik Van Looy's Loft, which became the most successful Flemish film at the Belgian box-office, earning over $7,075,161.[20][21] In the same year, Schoenaerts also starred in the mini-series The Emperor of Taste (De smaak van De Keyser), playing a Belgian soldier in World War II.[22]

In 2009, he starred in Dorothée Van Den Berghe's My Queen Karo, in which he played the hippie Raven in 1970's Amsterdam.[23]

In 2010, he played the lead role in Alex Stockman's Techno-thriller Pulsar, and had a cameo in Franck Richard's La Meute (The Pack).

In 2011, Schoenaerts starred in the Dutch films The Gang of Oss (De Bende van Oss)[24] and The President (De President).[25]

Breakthrough: Bullhead and Rust and Bone (2011–2013)

In 2011, Schoenaerts played the lead role in Bullhead, directed by Michaël R. Roskam, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. His performance in the film was well received and won him the FIPRESCI Award for best actor at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2012. The jury praised the actor's "superb portrayal of an innocent and sensitive man trapped in a truculent body."[26][27] He also won the Magritte Award for Best Actor.

Schoenaerts next to Marion Cotillard, Armand Verdure and Jacques Audiard during the premiere of Rust and Bone at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.

In 2012, he starred in Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os) alongside Marion Cotillard.[28][29] The film premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and was a critical and box office hit in France.[30][31] On 22 February 2013, Matthias won the César Award for Most Promising Actor for his role in Rust and Bone.[32][33]

Schoenaerts also produced and starred in the Belgian short film Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw),[34] directed by Tom Van Avermaet. On 10 January 2013, the short film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.[35][36]

The New York Times described Schoenaerts as ‘the most versatile beefcake actor of our time’ in 2012.[37]

In 2013, he narrated the Belgian Dutch version of the Disneynature documentary Chimpanzee.[38]

International career

In 2014, Schoenaerts appeared alongside Clive Owen, Billy Crudup and again Marion Cotillard in the thriller Blood Ties, in which he played Anthony Scarfo.[39][40] The film premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

He also played Eric Deeds in The Drop, his second film with Michael R. Roskam, starring opposite Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini.[41]

Schoenaerts was the face of Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2014.[42]

Schoenaerts holding his award at the 2013 César Awards ceremony.

In 2015, the actor appeared in 7 films: The Loft, the American remake of the Belgian film Loft, in which he played the same character and was also his first English-language film; in Saul Dibb's Suite Française, playing the German soldier Bruno von Falk opposite Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas;[43] in Thomas Vinterberg's Far from the Madding Crowd as Gabriel Oak,[44] one of Carey Mulligan's three love interests;[45][46] in Alan Rickman's period drama A Little Chaos, as French landscape architect André Le Nôtre, opposite Kate Winslet.[47]

Schoenaerts also starred in Alice Winocour's French thriller Disorder (Maryland), as an ex-soldier suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, for which his performance was highly praised.[48] He played Paul in Luca Guadagnino's erotic thriller A Bigger Splash, starring opposite Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson,[49][50] and also played the art-dealer Hans Axgil in Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl.[51][52] A Bigger Splash and The Danish Girl made their world premieres at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, both were screened in the official competition.[53][54]

On 28 July 2015, Schoenaerts was named a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in France. This distinction is awarded by the French Ministry of Culture to people "who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the artistic or literary field or the contribution they have made to the influence of the arts and literature in France and in the world".[2]

Directorial debut

His directorial debut, Franky, is a documentary about a one-legged childhood friend of his who became a MMA fighter, Franky van Hove.[55] The documentary is currently in post-production.[56]

Hakuna Casting

On 24 August 2015, it was reported that Schoenaerts became the co-owner of the Belgian casting agency Hakuna Casting,[57] which focuses on people of ethnic origin.

The agency has collaborated on the casting of films like Black by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, and Belgica by Felix Van Groeningen.[58]

Upcoming projects

Schoenaerts will play William Clark on HBO's miniseries Lewis and Clark, co-starring Casey Affleck as Meriwether Lewis. The six-hour miniseries is executive produced by Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, and Brad Pitt.[59]

Schoenaerts will reteam with Michaël R. Roskam in the Belgian film The Racer and the Jailbird (Le Fidèle), in which he'll play a gangster named Gigi. The film will be Roskam and Schoenaerts' first film in Belgium since 2011's Bullhead and will be released in 2017.[60]

He's also going to work again with director Thomas Vinterberg in Kursk,[61][62] a film about the Kursk submarine disaster that happened in 2000.[63]

In January 2016, it was announced that Schoenaerts will play a drummer who begins to lose his hearing in Darius Marder's The Sound of Metal.[64]

On September 9, 2016, it was reported that Schoenaerts will play Gene, Jane Fonda's son in Ritesh Batra's film Our Souls at Night, also starring Robert Redford.[65] The film will be released on Netflix in 2017.[66]



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Daens Wannes Scholliers
2002 De blauwe roos Minnaar Short
2002 Waternimf Short
2002 Meisje aka Girl Oskar
2003 Zien Man Short
2003 Any Way the Wind Blows Chouki
2004 Je veux quelque chose et je ne sais pas quoi Jaap Short
2004 A Message from Outer Space Frits Short
2004 Ellektra DJ Cosmonaut X
2004 Gender Short
2005 Another Day Man Short
2005 The End of the Ride aka Het einde van de rit Samuel Short
2005 Daughter aka Dochter Mattias Short
2005 Exit Anthony Short
2005 The One Thing to Do Edward Monskii Short
2006 Retour Maxime Short
2006 Love Belongs to Everyone aka Dennis van Rita Dennis
2006 Black Book Joop
2007 De Muze aka The Muse John
2007 Nadine Cornee
2008 Left Bank Bob
2008 Tunnelrat John Atkins Short
2008 Loft Filip Willems
2009 Afterday Jef Short
2009 My Queen Karo Raven
2010 The Pack Le Gothique en toc
2010 Pulsar Samuel Verbist
2010 Injury Time Van Dessel Short
2011 Bullhead Jacky Vanmarsenille
2011 De President aka The President Boyko
2011 The Gang of Oss aka De Bende van Oss Ties van Heesch
2012 Rust and Bone Ali
2012 Death of a Shadow Nathan Rijckx Short
2013 Chimpanzee Narrator (Belgian Dutch version) Documentary
2013 Blood Ties Anthony Scarfo
2014 The Drop Eric Deeds
2015 The Loft Philip Williams
2015 Suite Française Bruno von Falk
2015 A Little Chaos André Le Nôtre
2015 Far from the Madding Crowd Gabriel Oak
2015 Disorder aka Maryland Vincent
2015 A Bigger Splash Paul De Smedt
2015 The Danish Girl Hans Axgil
2017 The Racer and the Jailbird aka Le Fidèle Gigi Post-production
2017 Kursk Captain
2017 Our Souls at Night Gene Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2001 Flikken Jens Goossens Episode "Corrupt"
2002 Stille waters Rechercheur 1 Episode
2008 De Smaak van De Keyser aka The Emperor of Taste Alfred Lenaerts 8 Episodes
2009 Los zand Vincent Vandeweghe 13 Episodes
2010 Duts Himself Episode "De nieuwe buurman"
2015 De Biker Boys Himself Episode "De reconstructie"

Awards and nominations

César Awards, France

Year Group Award Film Result
2013 César Award Most Promising Actor Rust and Bone Won

Magritte Awards, Belgium

Year Group Award Film Result
2012 Magritte Award Best Actor BullheadWon
2013 Best Actor Rust and Bone Nominated

Flanders Film Awards, Belgium

Year Group Award Film Result
2011 Ensor[67] Best Actor Bullhead Won

Oostende Film Festival, Belgium

Year Group Award Result
2015 Ensor[68] Outstanding Achievement Won

Lumières Awards, France

Year Group Award Film Result
2013 Lumières Award Best Actor Rust and Bone Nominated

Globes de Cristal Awards, France

Year Group Award Film Result
2013 Globes de Cristal Award Best Actor Rust and Bone Nominated

Étoiles d'Or Awards, France

Year Group Award Film Result
2013 Étoiles d'Or Best Male Newcomer Rust and Bone Won

Prix Patrick Dewaere, France

Year Award Result
2013 Prix Patrick Dewaere Nominated
2016 Nominated

Film festivals

Year Group Award Film Result
2003 Berlin International Film Festival EFP Shooting Star Won
2009 Monte-Carlo TV Festival Golden Nymph for Outstanding Actor - Drama Series De smaak van De Keyser Nominated
2011 AFI Fest[69] New Auteurs Critic's Prize For Best Actor Bullhead Won
2011 Austin Fantastic Fest Next Wave Award for Best Actor Bullhead Won
2011 Les Arcs European Film Festival Best Actor Bullhead Won
2011 2-in-1 International Film Festival Heroes Award for Best Actor Bullhead Won
2011 Saint-Jean-de-Luz Young Filmmakers Festival Best Actor Bullhead Won
2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival[70] FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actor Bullhead Won
2012 Valladolid International Film Festival Best Actor Rust and Bone Won
2015 Capri-Hollywood International Film Festival[71][72] Revelation of the Year The Danish Girl Won

Critics awards

Year Group Award Film Result
2012 Dublin Film Critics' Circle Best Actor Rust and Bone Nominated
2013 CinEuphoria Awards Best International Actor Bullhead Won
2013 CinEuphoria Awards Best International Actor Rust and Bone Won
2013 Chlotrudis Award Best Actor Bullhead Nominated
2013 Chlotrudis Award Best Actor Rust and Bone Nominated
2013 Georgia Film Critics Association Best Actor Rust and Bone Nominated
2013 International Cinephile Society Awards Best Actor Bullhead Nominated


Year Group Award Result
2016 Elle Style Awards[73] Actor of the Year Won


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