Perez made his film debut in a prominent supporting role in the beguiling comedy-drama, "Gardien de la nuit/Night Guardian" (1985). He spent a good deal of his time in 1987 and 1988 acting in the French theater, testing his range and prowess in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Heinrich von Kleist. Perez first played a romantic lead in films opposite Jacqueline Bisset in the rather routine "La Maison de jade/House of Jade" (1988). As would occur in several later roles, he was cast in romantic situations opposite older women, inviting the perhaps inevitable critical brickbat that he would be limited to moody "puppy dog" types who eventually reject attractive middle-aged women."Cyrano de Bergerac" (1990) gave its attention to Gerard Depardieu in the title role, but Perez did well as Christian, the callow youth for whom the unhandsome hero pens love letters. Perez had now appeared in a popular international film, and he began appearing in international co-productions with that year's "The Voyage of Captain Fracassa," playing the title role. "Indochine" (1992), set amid the turbulence between the French and the Vietnamese in 1930, gave him one of his best roles to date, as the love object torn between a French stepmother and her Asian daughter. The epic tragedy of the young couple's eventual fate in the film was amplified for Perez in a still larger role for the ascendant actor, as he dashingly portrayed the noble "La Mole" in the 16th century period drama "Queen Margot/La Reine Margot" (1994). Continuing in smaller productions along the way, Perez had caught the attention of Hollywood and 1996 marked the release of his first two American efforts: "Talk of Angels," a small scale period romance set in 1920s Spain; and his bigger-budget presentation to the mainstream US public via "The Crow: City of Angels," the inevitable sequel to the tragic Brandon Lee's hit film from two years earlier.