Jacques studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique and got his first major film roles from Italian director Valerio Zurlini, who cast him in the romantic drama La Ragazza con la valigia, (1960, with Claudia Cardinale) and Cronaca Familiare (1962, with Marcello Mastroianni).
He would appear in a hundred films but, as he told the Daily Telegraph in 2003, he “wanted to be more than a mirror. So I made documentaries with a friend who was Antonioni’s cameraman and I met Costa-Gavras.
The Greek-French director persuaded him to combine acting and production and together they made some of the most powerful pictures of the time – Special Section, State of Siege and Z (1969), about the assassination real of a Greek politician, who won an Oscar.
In it, Perrin played an opportunistic photojournalist who discovers his conscience and helps expose the perpetrators.
He worked as a producer on about forty films, not all of them successful. He produced and co-starred with Julie Christie in The Roaring Forties (1982) based on the true story of Donald Crowhurst, the British sailor who disappeared while attempting a solo circumnavigation of the globe in 1969. The film has did poorly at the box office and it took Perrin a decade to pay off the debt.
Later, he will have more luck, in France at least, with Les Choristes (2004), in which he appears as a famous conductor returning to the arrival in his draconian boarding school of a benevolent music teacher (Gérard Jugnot ) who faces down the principal killjoys (François Berléand) and transforms his class of orphans into a choir to be reckoned with.
Perrin seemed to completely change direction in the mid-1990s when he decided the natural world could tell stories as compelling as anything dreamed up by a screenwriter.