Born in Neuily-sur-Seine into a family of writers, Francis Veber was always attracted to the pen. After discharge from the army and an initial desire to study medicine, he undertook a degree in reportage, beginning as a radio and print journalist before dedicating himself to comedy—initially sketches, then stories and drama. L'Enlevement (The Kidnapping) was his first play to garner success, enjoying an eight-month run in the volatile Paris of 1968. As a result of its positive reception, Veber wrote Le Contrat (The Contract) which in turn led to an offer to write his first short screenplay in 1970.
Veber began his screen-writing career proper with 1971’s Il Etait une Fois un Flic (There Once Was a Cop), but it was his second feature screenplay which won him attention: 1972’s Le Grand Blond avec une Chaussure Noire (The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe), starring the Gene Wilder-esque Pierre Richard as the hapless François. Indeed, in 1976, Richard starred as François—Veber’s preferred name for his ‘fool’— in Veber’s directorial debut, Le Jouet.
Internationally, Veber’s unique brand of French farce was first noticed for his hilarious 1978 screenplay, La Cage aux Folles—a worldwide success, it saw Veber nominated for an Oscar® for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Moving to directing, Veber paired Richard’s fool François with the young actor Gérard Depardieu as straight man in 1981’s La Chèvre, thereby creating the French comedy sensation of the 1980s. So successful were his films that Veber was invited to direct the American remake of Les Fugitifs (1986), while actors as varied as Tom Hanks, Danny Glover and Robin Williams starred in the Hollywood remakes of virtually all Veber’s back catalogue—The Man with One Red Shoe (1985) was The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe, Pure Luck (1991) was La Chèvre, Fathers’ Day (1997) was Les Compères (1983), The Birdcage (1996) was La Cage Aux Folles. One of his scripts even made it to Australia—Dead Letter Office (1998) starring Miranda Otto.
Living between Paris and LA, Veber made a string of hugely successful French language comedies around the turn of the century: The Dinner Game (1998) returning him to favour with a fool, as in most his films, named François Pignon, followed by The Closet (2001), Tais Toi (2003) and The Valet (2006).