Ion Caramitru’s ancestors were Aromanians from the Pindus Mountains in Greece, who settled in Romania. Born in Bucharest, he attended the Ion Luca Caragiale Institute of Theatrical and Cinematic Arts, graduating in 1964. From his very début as an actor, he had a dazzling career, appearing in productions by the country’s leading directors, including Liviu Ciulei, Moni Ghelerter, Andrei Şerban, Silviu Purcărete, Sanda Manu, Cătălina Buzoianu, Alexandru Tocilescu, and Sică Alexandrescu. In addition to rôles in classic and contemporary Romanian theatre, he was cast in productions of Georg Büchner’s Danton’s Death, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Sophocles’ Antigone, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, Carlo Goldoni’s The Liar, and numerous plays by Shakespeare. As a director, he staged productions of My Fair Lady, Benjamin Britten’s The Little Sweep, and The Merchant of Venice, among many others. His productions of Bizet’s Carmen and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin were staged at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.
Caramitru appeared in more than forty feature films over the course of a long and varied career. His first part was a secondary rôle in The Forest of the Hanged (1964), an adaptation of the classic Liviu Rebreanu novel directed by Liviu Ciulei. One of his most famous rôles was that of painter Ştefan Luchian in Luchian (1981), directed by Nicolae Mărgineanu, for which he was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the National Film Festival in 1984. His outstanding talent was noticed by producers abroad, leading to him being cast in international productions that included Kafka (1991), directed by Stevan Soderbergh, in which he appeared alongside Jeremy Irons and Theresa Russell; Mission: Impossible (1996), directed by Brian de Palma; and Amen (2002), directed by Costa Gavras.
In 1995, in recognition of his work to strengthen cultural ties between Britain and Romania, Caramitru was made an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1997 he was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. In 2017 he received The Order of the Rising Sun, during a reception organized by the Embassy of Japan on the occasion of the National Day.
He was director general of the Lucia Sturdza Bulandra Theatre, Bucharest, from 1990 to 1993 and Minister of Culture from 1996 to 2000. From 2005 to his death at the age of seventy-nine in 2021, he was director general of the National Theatre, Bucharest.
Ion Caramitru reads poetry by: