Jean Cocteau was one of the most multi-talented artists of the 20th century. In addition to being a director, he was a poet, novelist, painter, playwright, set designer, and actor. He began writing at 10 and was a published poet by age 16. He collaborated with the "Russian Ballet" company of Sergei Diaghilev, and was active in many art movements, but always remained a poet at heart. His films reflect this fact. Cocteau was also a homosexual, and made no attempt to hide it. His favorite actor was his close friend Jean Marais, who appeared in almost every one of his films. Cocteau made about twelve films in his career, all rich with symbolism and surreal imagery. He is now regarded as one of the most important avant-garde directors in cinema.