Nationality: French. Born: Neuilly-sur-Seine, 9 April 1933. Education: Attended Collège Pascal, Paris; National Conservatory of Dramatic Art, Paris. Family: Married Elodie (Belmondo), 1952 (divorced 1967), children: Patricia, Florence, and Paul. Career: 1949—short-lived attempt at boxing career; 1950—stage debut; c. 1956–57—founder, with Annie Girardot and Guy Bedos, of traveling stage company to play Parisian suburbs and the provinces; 1956–58—in comic and character roles on French stage and screen; 1959—international stardom for role of antihero in Godard's A bout de souffle; 1960—first starring role on French TV in production of The Three Musketeers; 1963–66—president of Syndicat Français des Acteurs; late 1960s—formed production company Cerito Films; 1990—acted title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, Paris. Awards: Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur; L'Ordre national du Mérite et des Arts et des Lettres; César for Best Actor, for L'Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté, 1987. Address: 9 rue des St. Peres, 75007 Paris, France.
Films as Actor:
Dimanche nous volerons
A pied, à cheval et en voiture (Delbez) (as Venin)
Sois belle et tais-toi (Blonde for Danger; Just Another PrettyFace) (Marc Allégret) (as Pierrot); Drôle de dimanche(Marc Allégret) (as Patrick); Les Tricheurs (Youthful Sinners; The Cheaters) (Carné) (as Lou); Charlotte et son Jules (Godard) (as Jean, the old boyfriend); Les Copains du dimanche (Aisner) (as Trebois)
Mademoiselle Ange (Ein Engel auf Erden; Angel on Earth)(von Radvanyi); A bout de souffle (Breathless) (Godard)(as Michel Poiccard); A double tour (Web of Passion; Leda;A Doppia mandata) (Chabrol) (as Laszlo Kovacs)
Classe tous risques (The Big Risk) (Sautet) (as Eric Stark);Les Distractions (Trapped by Fear) (Dupont) (as Paul);"L'Adultère" ("Adultery") ep. of La Française et l'amour(Love and the Frenchwoman) (Verneuil) (as Gil); Lettere di una novizia (Letter from a Novice; Rita) (Lattuada) (as Giuliano Verdi); Moderato cantabile (Seven Days . . . Seven Nights) (Brook) (as Chauvin)
La ciociara (Two Women) (de Sica) (as Michele); La viaccia(The Love Makers) (Bolognini) (as Amerigo Casamonti);Léon Morin, prêtre (Leon Morin, Priest; The Forgiven Sinner) (Melville); Une Femme est une femme (A Woman Is a Woman) (Godard) (as Alfred Lubitsch); "Lauzun" ep.of Amours célèbres (Boisrond); Un Nommé La Rocca(Jean Becker)
Cartouche (Swords of Blood) (de Broca) (title role); Un Singe en hiver (It's Hot in Hell; A Monkey in Winter) (Verneuil) (as Gabriel Fouquet); I Don Giovanni della Costa Azzurra(Sala); L'Aîné des Ferchaux (Magnet of Doom) (Melville)(as Michel Maudet); Un Couer gros comme ca (The Winner) (Reichenbach)
Le Doulos (The Fingerman; Doulos—The Fingerman) (Melville) (as Silien); Mare matto (Castellani); Il giorno piùcorto (The Shortest Day) (Corbucci); Dragées au poivre(Sweet and Sour) (Baratier) (as Raymond); Cent milledollars au soleil (Greed in the Sun) (Verneuil) (as Rocco)
Peau de banane (Banana Peel) (Marcel Ophüls) (as Michel);L'Homme de Rio (That Man from Rio) (de Broca) (as Adrien Dufourquet); Enchappement libre (Backfire) (Jean Becker); La Chasse à l'homme (The Gentle Art of Seduction; Male Hunt; Scappamento Aperto) (Molinaro) (as Fernand); Weekend à Zuydcoote (Weekend at Dunkirk)(Verneuil) (as Sgt. Julien Maillat)
Par un beau matin d'été (Crime on a Summer Morning)(Deray); Les Tribulations d'un chinois en Chine (Up to His Ears; Chinese Adventures in China) (de Broca) (as Arthur Lempereur); Pierrot le fou (Peter the Crazy) (Godard) (as Ferdinand Griffon, "Pierrot")
Paris brûle-t-il (Is Paris Burning?) (Clément) (as Morandat);Tendre voyou (Tender Scoundrel) (Jean Becker) (as Tony Marechal)
Le Voleur (The Thief of Paris) (Malle) (as Georges Randal);La Bande à Bébel (Gérard); Casino Royale (Huston and others) (as French Legionnaire)
Ho! (Enrico) (title role)
Le Cerveau (The Brain) (Oury) (as Arthur); La Sirène du Mississippi (Mississippi Mermaid) (Truffaut) (as Louis Mahe); Un Homme qui me plait (Love Is a Funny Thing;Again a Love Story; Un Tipo chi mi place) (Lelouch) (as Henri); Dieu a choisi Paris (Prouteau and Arthuys)
Borsalino (Deray) (as François Capella)
Les Mariés de l'an II (The Scoundrel) (Rappeneau) (as Nicholas Philabert); Le Casse (The Burglars) (Verneuil) (as Asad)
Docteur Popaul (Scoundrel in White; High Heels) (Chabrol)(as Paul Simay); La Scoumoune (Giovanni) (as Borgo)
L'Héritier (The Inheritor) (Labro) (as Barthelemy Cordell)
Le Magnifique (How to Destroy the Reputation of the Greatest Secret Agent . . . . The Magnificent One) (de Broca) (as Bob Saint-Clair/François Merlin); Stavisky (Resnais) (title role)
Peur sur la ville (The Night Caller; Fear over the City)(Verneuil) (as Commissioner Jean Letellier); L'Incorrigible (The Incorrigible) (de Broca) (as Victor)
Le corps de mon ennemi (Verneuil) (as François Leclerc, + pr,co-sc); L'Alpagueur (Labro) (as Roger Pilard/l'Alpagueur)
L'Animal (The Animal; Stuntwoman) (Zidi) (as Mike Gaucher/Bruno Ferrari)
Flic ou voyou (Lautner) (as Commissioner Stanislas Borowitz/Angelo Crutti)
Le Guignolo (Lautner) (as Alain Dupre); I piccioni di Piazza San Marco; The Hunter (Will Get You) (Labro) (title role)
Le Professionnel (Lautner) (as Joss Baumont)
L'As des as (Ace of Aces; The Super Ace) (Oury) (as Joe Cavalier, + pr)
Les Morfalous (The Vultures) (Verneuil) (as Pierre Augagneur);Le Marginal (The Outsider) (Deray) (as Commissioner Philippe Jordan)
Joyeuses Pâques (Happy Easter) (Lautner) (as Stephane Margelle); The Swashbuckler (The Scarlet Buccaneer)(Rappeneau)
Hold-Up (Arcady) (as Grimm)
Le Solitaire (Deray) (as Commissioner Stan Jalard); L'Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté (Lelouch) (as Sam Lion)
Fleur de Rubis (Mocky)
L'Inconnu dans al Maison (Stranger in the House) (Lautner)(as Loursat, + pr)
Les Misérables (Lelouch) (as Jean Valjean/Roger Fortin/Henri Fortin); Les Cent et une nuits (A Hundred and One Nights) (Varda) (as Actor for a Day)
Desire (Murat) (title role)
Une chance sur deux (Half a Chance) (Leconte) (as Léo Brassac)
Peut-être (Klapisch) (as Ako)
Les Acteurs (Actors) (Blier) (as himself); Amazone (de Broca)(as Edouard)
By BELMONDO: book—
Trente ans et vingt-cinq films, Paris, 1963.
By BELMONDO: articles—
Interview with Joseph Barry, in New York Times, 21 June 1964.
Interview with Rex Reed, in Herald Tribune (New York), 17 October 1965.
Unifrance Film (Paris), no. 6, 1981.
On BELMONDO: books—
Chazal, Robert, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Paris, 1971.
Gúerif, François, and Stéphane Levy-Klein, Belmondo, Paris, 1976.
Turroni, Giuseppe, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Milan, 1979.
Zana, Jean-Claude, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Paris, 1981.
Durant, Philippe, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Paris, 1984.
Grenier, Alexandre, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Paris, 1985.
Durant, Philippe, Belmondo, Paris, 1993.
On BELMONDO: articles—
Baby, Yvonne, "Mon Film est un documentaire sur Jean Seberg et J.-P. Belmondo," in Le Monde (Paris), 18 March 1960.
"Two Actors," and "Jean-Paul Belmondo," in Films and Filming (London), October 1960.
Time (New York), 10 July 1964.
Shipman, David, "Belmondo," in Films and Filming (London), September 1964.
Current Biography 1965, New York, 1965.
Towne, Robert, "Bogart and Belmondo," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), December 1965.
Grenier, R., "Son of Bogie," in Esquire (New York), January 1966.
Barr, Charles, "A bout de souffle," in The Films of Jean-Luc Godard, edited by Ian Cameron, New York, 1970.
"Jean-Paul Belmondo," in Ecran (Paris), February 1978.
Articles in Ciné Revue (Paris), 2 October and 4 December 1980, 14 May and 23 July 1981, and 24 December 1982.
Sarris, Andrew, "Jean-Paul Belmondo," in The Movie Star, edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Unifrance Film (Paris), No. 10, 1982.
Film Français (Paris), 5 and 26 November 1982.
Privat, Pascal, "France's War of the Noses; Dueling Cyranos of Stage and Screen," in Newsweek (New York), 7 May 1990.
Monova, Penka, "Groznite me ostarjavat krasivo," in Kino (Sophia), April-May 1993.
Stars (Mariembourg), Winter 1993.
* * *
When Jean-Paul Belmondo entered films in the mid-1950s, his expressive face, with thick lips, the broken nose of a boxer, and the mocking gaze of a rascal, did not correspond to the conception of the traditional young film hero/lover. He received his first real on-screen opportunity only with the coming of the French New Wave, when he began playing defiant and discontented young men who instinctively rebelled against their environment and society's status quo. Such was his role in Chabrol's A double tour (in which he substituted for an ailing Jean-Claude Brialy), but this film did not receive a great deal of attention. However, it was his role in Godard's A bout de souffle, made in the same year—1959, a watershed for the French New Wave—which won him unexpected success from the public and the critics and made him famous all over the world. The hero of the film, Michel Poiccard, is a car thief, living from hand to mouth, who finally becomes a murderer and pays with his life for his recklessness and irresponsibility. The success of A bout de souffle even resulted in a wave of "Belmondism" in the hipper circles of Paris, manifesting itself in a particular style of behavior, clothing, and expression.
Previously, Godard had directed Belmondo in an interesting short-length study, Charlotte et son Jules, and they worked together again in Une Femme est une femme and, more importantly, Pierrot le fou. To express his anarchistic conception of modern life, Godard, rejecting everything conventional and static, had found in Belmondo the ideal screen hero. In several other films, the actor replayed this type of rough, isolated (and ultimately ill-fated) character. He had similarly motivated roles in Becker's Un Nommé La Rocca, while in Verneuil's Un Singe en hiver, where Belmondo partnered with Jean Gabin, the dramatic situations were alternated with comic elements. He gathered further experience in Italy where he made films under the direction of Lattuada (Lettere di una novizia), de Sica (La ciociara), and Bolognini (La viaccia). Almost as consequential to his work with Godard were the films he made with Jean-Pierre Melville, including Léon Morin, prêtre, Le Doulos, and L'Aîné des Ferchaux.
But thereafter, Belmondo began breaking off his connection to the authors of the New Wave. After the Louis Malle black comedy Le Voleur, and especially after the ambitious but unsuccessful attempt by Alain Resnais to revive in film the character of a famous speculator and crook from the 1930s—Stavisky—Belmondo began appearing almost exclusively in commercially oriented features. His films offered few artistic demands, but nevertheless were widely popular and filled the cinemas. Among these early commercial pictures were de Broca's L'Homme de Rio and Les Tribulations d'un chinois en Chine, films in which Belmondo proved not only his dramatic talent but also his physical dexterity. He followed up these successful works with roles as a dauntless secret agent in Le Magnifique and a brilliant crook in L'Incorrigible, also directed by de Broca.
Belmondo appeared in a series of eight films made with Verneuil, most of which were written with him in mind. The director's ambition was, above all, to entertain audiences, offering up a combination of spectacle and charismatic star performances. A typical Verneuil-Belmondo feature is the adventure story of truck drivers in the Sahara, Cent mille dollars au soleil, in which he plays the role of Rocco, a criminal who attempts to double-cross his colleagues. This picture won the Cannes Prize of Golden Ticket ex aequo, awarded for the first time by the Union of the French Cinema Owners. The film Weekend à Zuydcoote followed, adapted from the novel of Robert Merle, in which the tragic events near Dunkirk from the beginning of World War II are mirrored via the fate of several French soldiers. Belmondo played one of them, a fighter who is at once easygoing and resolute. He co-starred with Omar Sharif in the next film by Verneuil, Le Casse, as a member of a gang of jewel thieves. As a commissar-in-chief of the Paris police in Peur sur la ville, he again had the opportunity to give an athletic and acrobatic performance. Another noteworthy Belmondo-Verneuil collaboration is Les Morfalous, an adventure story of death and greed during the war in Tunisia.
Belmondo has also worked with other directors in recent years. In Lautner's Flic ou voyou, he appeared in the role of a nonconformist policeman who sets out to rid Nice of gangsterism and corruption. In this case, however, the dialogue and humor were more prominent than the action. He played a charming, aging adventurer in subsequent films by Lautner, Le Guignolo and Le Professionnel, and another police commissar in Deray's Le Marginal. After decades of appearing in such genre fare, Belmondo had his most challenging, highest-profile role since the 1960s in Lelouch's Les Misérables, a provocative drama inspired by the Victor Hugo classic. He played Henri Fortin, an uneducated ex-pugilist who befriends an intellectual Jewish family escaping the Nazis during World War II. Through them, he learns the story of Jean Valjean, with the film eventually becoming a meditation on the essence of Hugo's story. One only can ponder the course of Belmondo's career had he, earlier on, chosen to accept roles in films as ambitious as Les Misérables.
—Karel Tabery, updated by Rob Edelman