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Jean-Paul Belmondo

Jean-Paul Belmondo

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: April 9, 1933 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: France Profession: actor, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

For generations of French filmgoers and lovers of international cinema, few actors defined the Gallic male on screen more succinctly than Jean-Paul Belmondo. Though rugged and unconventionally handsome, Belmondo⿿s innate charm and physicality captured the world⿿s attention with his turn as a doomed small-time crook in Jean-Luc Godard⿿s "Breathless" (1960), one of the vanguards of the French New Wave. The film⿿s global popularity minted him as an icon of cinematic cool, an image he would underscore for the next four decades in arthouse-minded projects like Godard⿿s "Pierrot le Fou" (1965) and Francois Truffaut⿿s "Mississippi Mermaid" (1969). At the same time, he proved himself as a capable and highly athletic action star, often providing his own daring stunts in "That Man from Rio" (1964), "Borsalino" (1970) and "The Professional" (1981). He returned to stage work and more sedate fare in the late 1980s and ⿿90s, earning a Cesar for "Itinéraire d⿿un enfant gâté" (1988) and high praise for a modern-day take on "Les Misérables" (1995) before suffering a paralyzing stroke. Though physically limited, he returned to features in 2008 for the melancholy "A Man and His Dog" (2008). Though...

For generations of French filmgoers and lovers of international cinema, few actors defined the Gallic male on screen more succinctly than Jean-Paul Belmondo. Though rugged and unconventionally handsome, Belmondo⿿s innate charm and physicality captured the world⿿s attention with his turn as a doomed small-time crook in Jean-Luc Godard⿿s "Breathless" (1960), one of the vanguards of the French New Wave. The film⿿s global popularity minted him as an icon of cinematic cool, an image he would underscore for the next four decades in arthouse-minded projects like Godard⿿s "Pierrot le Fou" (1965) and Francois Truffaut⿿s "Mississippi Mermaid" (1969). At the same time, he proved himself as a capable and highly athletic action star, often providing his own daring stunts in "That Man from Rio" (1964), "Borsalino" (1970) and "The Professional" (1981). He returned to stage work and more sedate fare in the late 1980s and ⿿90s, earning a Cesar for "Itinéraire d⿿un enfant gâté" (1988) and high praise for a modern-day take on "Les Misérables" (1995) before suffering a paralyzing stroke. Though physically limited, he returned to features in 2008 for the melancholy "A Man and His Dog" (2008). Though no longer the robust, roguish figure of his youth, Belmondo⿿s inherent strength and spirit remained intact, providing an inspiring reminder of why he remained a French national treasure for nearly half a century.

Born April 9, 1933 in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Jean-Paul Belmondo was the son of sculptor Paul Belmondo. A poor student, he channeled his energies into boxing and football, but by his twenties, decided that acting would be his true calling. He was reluctantly accepted at the Paris Conservatory, whose educators felt that his prospects as a professional actor were slim. Belmondo would spend much of the 1950s in theater before making his screen debut in the 1957 comedy "A pied, a cheval et en voiture" ("On Foot, On Horse and By Carriage"). He eventually worked his way up to starring roles with "Sois Belle et Tais-Toi" ("Be Beautiful But Shut Up") (1957), a crime picture co-starring another up-and-coming leading man, Alain Delon. Belmondo⿿s breakthrough coincided with the rise of the French New Wave cinema. His young, reckless but romantic thief in Jean-Luc Godard⿿s "A bout de soufflé" ("Breathless") (1960) epitomized the movement⿿s rejection of old standards of storytelling and characterization. The film⿿s popularity among young moviegoers on both sides of the Atlantic helped to make Belmondo an international star with the same cultural impact as James Dean or Marlon Brando, with young men adopting his casual slouch and rough-hewn charm.

Belmondo soon became the actor of choice for other New Wave directors, playing daring, forward-thinking young men who challenged the establishment in Vittorio De Sica⿿s "Two Women" (1960) and Jean-Pierre Melville⿿s "Léon Morin, Priest" (1961), which earned him a BAFTA nomination as a young priest who inspired both faith and emotion in Emmanuelle Riva⿿s disillusioned war widow. He would also reunite twice with Godard, first for the musical comedy tribute "A Woman is a Woman" (1961) and later, as the lead in his postmodern, genre-bending "Pierrot le Fou" (1965). At the same time, Belmondo was finding great success as the athletic hero of mainstream features like the period swashbuckler "Cartouche" (1962) with Claudia Cardinale and Philippe De Broca⿿s action-thriller "That Man from Rio" (1964). These films, along with the comedy-romance "La chasse à l⿿homme" ("Male Hunt") (1964) with sisters Catherine Deneueve and Francoise Dorleac, soon replaced arthouse fare as Belmondo⿿s projects of choice. Belmondo also served as president of the French actors⿿ union in 1963, the same year he published his autobiography, 30 Years and 25 Films.

Belmondo soon settled into a string of energetic action features like "Les tribulations dâ¿¿un Chinois en Chine" ("Up to His Ears") (1965), many of which were produced through his own company, Cerito. There were occasional forays into English-language filmmaking, like "Is Paris Burning?" (1966), in which he and other young lions of French cinema like Delon and Jean-Pierre Cassel played leaders of the French Resistance, and a cameo in the overblown "Casino Royale" (1967). But Belmondo remained resolutely faithful to French cinema, and continued to divide his time between popular entertainment like the caper film "The Brain" (1968) and "Borsalino" (1971) with Delon, and collaborations with New Wave mainstays like Louis Malle with "The Thief of Paris" (1967), Francois Truffaut with "Mississippi Mermaid" (1969) and Claude Chabrol with "Docteur Popaul" ("High Heels") (1972).

Alain Resnais⿿ "Stavisky" (1974) earned Belmondo some of the best reviews of his career as the real-life embezzler whose elaborate surety scheme unseated Prime Minister Camille Chautemps in the 1930s. But its failure at the box office seemed to sour the actor on arthouse projects, so he devoted himself to action and crime thrillers for much of the next two decades. He began a profitable collaboration with director Georges Lautner as the anti-hero of such action-packed films as "Flic ou Voyou" ("Cop or Hood") (1979) and "The Professional" (1981), which frequently featured Belmondo performing his own stunts. In the late ⿿80s, with his status as an action star on the wane due to age, Belmondo returned to the stage, and soon divided his time between popular tours in Cyrano de Bergerac, among other productions, and more arthouse-minded film projects. In 1988, he won the Cesar as a wealthy man who staged his own death in Claude Lelouch⿿s "Itinéraire d⿿un enfant gâté" (1988).

Belmondo continued to work well into the 1990s, most notably in Lelouch⿿s "Les Misérables" (1995) as the film⿿s modern-day Jean Valjean figure. He spent much the decade reaping national rewards for his body of work, including appointment as Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1991 and Commander of the National Order of Merit in 1994. In 2001, he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Belmondo spent the next seven years recuperating, but returned in 2008 for "A Man and His Dog" (2008), a semi-remake of De Sica⿿s "Umberto D." (1952) with Belmondo as an aging, debilitated pensioner who was cast out by his landlady lover after she decided to marry another man. The film generated controversy in the European press, with critics alternately praising Belmondo⿿s courageous performance or condemning the film for showing a national icon in such an unkind light.

By Paul Gaita

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Amazone (2000) Edouard
3.
 Les Acteurs (2000) Himself
4.
 Une Chance sur Deux (1998) Leo Brassac
5.
 Peut-etre (1998) Ako
6.
 Les Miserables (1995)
7.
 One Hundred and One Nights (1995) Actor For A Day
8.
 Desire (1995) Desire
9.
 Les Miserables (1995) Henry Fortin/Jean Valjean
10.
 Inconnu dans la Maison, L' (1992) Loursat
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Founded touring company with Annie Girardot and Guy Bedos
1955:
Short film acting debut in "Moliere"
1956:
Appeared on Paris stage in "L'Hotel du libre echange"
1957:
Feature debut in "A Pied, a cheval et en voiture"
1958:
First appearance in a Jean-Luc Godard film, the short "Charlotte et son Jules"; voice dubbed by Godard
1958:
First leading stage role, "Oscar"
1959:
Gained international attention starring as petty thief Michel Poiccard in Godard's "Breathless/A bout de souffle"
1962:
Appeared briefly (during a boxing match) in Francois Reichenbach's feature-length documentary "Un coeur gros comme ca"
1963:
Elected president of French actor's union
1963:
Published autobiography "30 Years and 25 Films"
1965:
Starred in Godard's "Pierrot le fou"
1966:
English-language debut, "Is Paris Burning?"
1982:
First feature as producer, "L'As des as/Ace of Aces"
1987:
Returned to the Paris stage in Robert Hossein's staging of Dumas' "Kean"
1990:
Starred in and produced "Cyrano de Bergerac" in Paris and on tour for two seasons
1991:
Purchased the Theatre des Varietes in Paris, reputedly the city's oldest playhouse built in 1807
1995:
Starred in Claude Lelouch's "Les Miserables"
1996:
Launched scathing attack on Hollywood distribution usurping home-grown product when his film, "Desire", was only booked on 20 French screens
2000:
Had first TV role in over forty years in the French miniseries "L'aine des Ferchaux", a remake of the film in which he starred in 1963
2001:
Acted in French TV adaptation of "Lion"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

College Pascal: -
Paris Conservatoire: - 1953 - 1956

Notes

Belmondo's name was in the headlines in Hollywood in April 1996, when he lashed out at the Hollywood studios and distributors. The actor was furious that his film "Desire" was on only 20 screen in France while American films, such as "Toy Story", were on 500. He claimed that French theatre chains were "on their knees before Hollywood. When I hear them talk about defending French cinema, I can only laugh." (The American market share of movie ticket sales in France was 54 percent at the time, compared to only 35 percent for French-made product.)

He reportedly suffered a stroke while on vacation in Corsica in August 2001.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Elodie Belmondo. Ballerina. Married in 1952; divorced in 1967.
companion:
Ursula Andress. Actor.
companion:
Laura Antonelli. Actor.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Paul Belmondo. Sculptor.
daughter:
Patricia Belmondo. Died in a fire in 1994.
daughter:
Florence Belmondo. Born 1960.
son:
Paul Belmondo. Grand Prix race car driver. Born c. 1963.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Trente ans et vingt-cinq films"

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