Isaach de Bankolé

Isaach de Bankolé Biography

Isaach de Benkole

Isaach de Bankolé is an accomplished actor known for his versatile performances in films such as Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Casino Royale, and Black Panther.

He was born as Zachari Bankolé on August 12, 1957, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to Yoruba parents from Benin. His upbringing exposed him to a diverse cultural background, and he grew up speaking Yoruba and French.

Isaach de Bankolé moved to Paris in 1975 to complete his final year of lycée and later pursued a master’s degree in physics and mathematics. He also attended an aviation school and earned a private pilot license. However, a chance encounter with French director Gérard Vergez led him to enroll in the Cours Simon, a prestigious Parisian drama school.


Isaach de Bankolé has since appeared in over fifty films, working with prominent directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Lars von Trier, and Andrew Dosunmu. In Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991), de Bankolé played a taxi driver, and in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), he played a stoic hitman. He was cast for the role of Steven Obanno, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, and in Lars von Trier’s Manderlay (2005), he portrayed Timothy, a character that represents the African-American community.

He has also had roles in Calvary (2014), The Last Witch Hunter (2015), and Black Panther (2018), where he played a River Tribe Elder. In 2013, he starred as Ayodele Balogun in Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was the closing night selection for Maryland Film Festival 2013. He continues to work in the film industry and has recently starred in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) and The People We Hate at the Wedding (2022).

Aside from his acting career, Isaach de Bankolé was married to musician Cassandra Wilson from 2000 to 2003. He’s fluent in several languages, including Yoruba, Bambara, English, French, and German.