Karyo commenced his career by enrolling himself at the National Theatre of Strasbourg. Therein, he played several classic and contemporary roles and characters. It was during this time that his acting talent was polished and refined.
In 1982, he launched himself into the world of French cinema with the movie, ‘The Return of Martin Guerra’ and later ‘La Balance’. The initial couple of projects had him don the role of a character actor. It was only later that he was given lead roles.
In 1988, he played the role of one of the hunters in the film, ‘The Bear’. Despite having a multi-star cast, his acting skills did not go unnoticed. In fact, he was lauded for giving depth to the character of Tom.
Year 1990 witnessed the release of his three films, ‘Isabelle Eberhardt’, ‘Nikita’ and ‘Vincent and Me’. In director’s Lu Besson’s ‘Nikita’, he played the role of the heroine’s spy mentor which earned much appreciation and adoration.
From 1991 to 1994, he did about two movies per year. Interestingly, he did not limit himself to a single particular genre but essayed roles in drama, comedy, tragedy, adventure, erotic films etc. He starred as a knife master in the movie ‘A Grande Arte’, which marked the revival of Brazilian film industry. Additionally, he starred in the American television film docudrama, ‘And the Band Played On’.
Year 1995 was a productive year in terms of his career as six of his movies were released, namely ‘Colpo di luna’, ‘Crying Freeman’, ‘Habitat’, ‘Bad Boys’, ‘GoldenEye’ and ‘Foreign Land’
While Karyo’s acting skills were considerably acclaimed, it was his role play in films set during wartime that actually earned him much admiration and praise. He played the character of Jean de Dunois in ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ in 1999. Same year, two of his other films, ‘Wing Commander’ and ‘My Life So Far’ was released.
In 2000, he starred in the film, ‘The Patriot’. Set around the time of the American Revolutionary War, the film had him play the character of Major Jean Villeneuve, a vengeful French officer alongside Mel Gibson. His realistic acting garnered much praise and acclamation. For the DVD edition of the film, he overdubbed his own lines on the French-language track.
In 2001, he starred in the Chris Nahon directed French action thriller film, ‘Kiss of the Dragon’. He was next seen in the crime thriller, ‘The Good Thief’ directed by Jean Pierre Melville. The film states the story of a heroin addict and a retired thief who collaborate for the completion of one last job.
In 2004, he played the role of Captain Etienne Favourier in the multi-starrer French movie, ‘A Very Long Engagement’. It was a romantic war film, which showcased desperate search by a young woman for her fiancé who might have been killed during World War 1. The film was a huge hit and was nominated at Oscars.
From 2006 to 2010, he appeared on the big screen with movies such as, ‘The Gravedancers’, ‘Jacquou le Croquant’, ‘Boxes’, ‘La Masseria Delle Allodole’, ‘A Man and His Dog’ and ‘The Way’.
In 2011, he starred in the French war adventure movie, ‘Forces Speciales’, along with Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Benoît Magimel and Mehdi Nebbou. The film shows a group of elite French soldiers on a desperate hostage rescue mission in Afghanistan.He has also acted in quite a few television series. These include: ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ (1998), ‘Kaamelott’ (2009), ‘No Limit’ (2012) and The Missing’ (2014).
Other than donning the hat of an actor, he has also tried his hand at being a musician and songwriter. He is noted for his poetic lyrics. In 2006, he released the album, ‘Ce lien qui nous unit’, which was immensely lauded by the public. He followed this up with a second album released on his 60th birthday in 2013 named ‘Credo’.