René Mathis serves as an Intelligence Operative for MI6. His character draws inspiration from a figure penned by Ian Fleming in his 1953 book, Casino Royale. Played by Italian actor, Giancarlo Giannini, the character makes his debut in the 2006 film adaptation of Casino Royale, and the role extends into the 2008 follow-up film, Quantum of Solace.
Casino Royale (2006)
René Mathis is stationed in Montenegro and he welcomes James Bond and Vesper Lynd when they head there to partake in a high stakes poker game. The organizer of the poker event, Le Chiffre, succeeds in bribing the local police chief, which prompts Mathis to arrange the police chief’s arrest on bribery charges, using fabricated evidence.
Later, Bond accuses Mathis of betraying him, which initially leads to Mathis’s arrest and subsequent interrogation by MI6. Soon after, however, Bond discovers that the true betrayer is the love of his life, Vesper. After the mission has finished, M tells Bond that Mathis is completely absolved from any blame.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
René Mathis, enjoying his retirement in Italy, obtains clearance from MI6 concerning his association with Le Chiffre, and in a gesture of apology, MI6 procures a villa for him.
Bond heads to see Mathis and persuades him to help him find Dominic Greene in Bolivia. However, Mathis faces betrayal from a former ‘associate’ of his, the Bolivian Police Department’s chief, who instructs his men to attack Mathis in La Paz and stash him in Bond’s trunk.
During Bond’s arrest by the corrupt police, they order Bond to reveal the trunk’s contents, unmasking a wounded Mathis. After noticing signs of life in Mathis, the officers open fire on him while in Bond’s arms.
Bond retaliates by killing the officers and holds René Mathis in his final moments. Mathis’s parting words are a plea for Bond to forgive both Vesper and himself. After collecting Mathis’ wallet, Bond discards Mathis body in a dumpster, rationalizing to Camille Montes that he wouldn’t mind.
Yet, before his ultimate confrontation with Greene at the ESO Desert Hotel, Bond seeks retribution for Mathis’s death by killing the corrupt Bolivian police chief, exclaiming.
Giancarlo Giannini is a renowned Italian actor and inventor. Growing up in Pitelli, he moved to Rome to study acting at Accademia Nazionale di Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico.
Giannini’s stage debut came at 18, and he gained recognition from Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Romeo and Juliet at The Old Vic in London. His film career began with I criminali della metropoli in 1965, but it was his leading role in Swept Away that brought him global recognition.
His performance in Love and Anarchy won the Best Actor Award at Cannes Film Festival in 1973, and he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for Seven Beauties in 1976. He delivered notable performances in other films like The Seduction of Mimi, A Night Full of Rain, and Francesca e Nunziata.
Giannini’s English fluency saw him cast in Hollywood productions like Hannibal and Man on Fire, as well as playing MI6 operative René Mathis in the James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
Apart from acting, Giannini invented gadgets, some of which featured in the 1992 film Toys. He co-authored a memoir, Sono ancora un bambino, published in 2014, and won the Premio Cesare Pavese in 2015.