Actor Jean Paul Belmondo of France, credited to be the face and star of French New Wave, passed away the age of 88.
The news was announced by Belmondo’s lawyer, Michael Godest, who told that the actor died at his Paris home on Monday. No cause of death was announced. Confirming the news of Jean Paul passing, Godest told the French news agency Agence France-Presse, “He had been very tired for some time. He died peacefully.”
Though there was no cause revealed, it is reported that Jean’s health was slowly deteriorating ever since he suffered a stroke almost a decade ago.
Born in 1933, Belmondo was popularly known for one of the first French movies of the new French wave, titled ‘Breathless.’ Following his role of a criminal named Michel in Breathless, Jean gained popularity with other movies during the New Wave such as “That Man from Rio” and “Pierrot le Fou.”
Belmondo was such a legendary name not only in the French cinema, but world-wide as well. In fact, Hollywood tried to persuade Paul and get him to work in the American cinema. However, Jean never got enticed and was always firmly presented his unwillingness to work for any other industry or English-language films, but French Cinema. The reason for his decision was not only his love for France, but because he found it stupid to learn a new language complicate his life, which might eventually end up being a disaster.
However, being such a legendary star and icon of France, Jean was often compared with the reputed celebrities and actors in Hollywood. Therefore, he also came to be known as, or rather referred to as referred to as the French James Dean, Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart.
Jean Paul Belmondo’s death is a great loss for France. He certainly was a treasure for the nation. Paying a tribute to Belmondo, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron wrote, “He will forever remain The Magnificent. Jean-Paul Belmondo was a national treasure, full of panache and bursts of laughter, with loud words and swift body, sublime hero and familiar figure, tireless daredevil and magician of words. In him we all found ourselves.”
On one hand, Jean was known for his tough and antisocial characters, at the same time, the iconic actor is also remembered for his craggy features, eye-catching and heart-winning winning smile and his usual cigarette.
The prominent film critic, Dan Callahan, remembered Jean from the 60’s on the day of his demise. Paying a homage to Jean, Callahan wrote, “The key to Belmondo’s success in the 1960s is that everyone desired him for one reason or another, and he had the air of a guy who was quickly sick of any demands but also willing to show his best self if you really needed it.”
Jean was born in Neuilly to the famous French sculptor, Paul Belmondo and his wife, Sarah Rainaud-Richard, who was a painter. Jean belongs to Italian descent as his father Paul Belmondo was a Pied-Noir sculptor who was born in Algeria of Italian descent.
Belmondo, who was always interested in acting since his childhood, was also a professional boxer. In a boxing ring, Jean was known to be undefeatable. However, he did not follow that career path for long. Making his debut in the amateur boxing in May 1949 in Paris, Jean won three straight first-round knockout victories from 1949 to 1950. However, with his love for acting, Belmondo decided to quit boxing as he realized one day that his face started to look different as he looked himself on the mirror.
After leaving boxing, Jean started spending his time at a private drama school throughout his teenage years. Eventually, he started getting work in the comedy sketches played around in the provinces. Subsequently, to enhance his acting skills and learn more about the art, Jean studied under Raymond Giraud. Later, at the age of 20, he attended and studied at the Conservatoire of Dramatic Arts for three years.
Finally, Jean entered the professional world of acting in 1953, when he did theatrical roles in Jean Anouilh’s drama called “Médée.” Other than that, Belmondo also worked in a drama called ‘Zamore,’ written by the famous French poet and dramatist Georges Neveux.
Stepping into the land of Cinema, Jean got his first movie alongside Jean-Pierre Cassel in the 1957 film ‘On Foot, on Horse, and on Wheels.’ Unfortunately, Jean’s part was cut off from the film. But then he was rewarded from the universe with a bigger and better role in a follow up film called ‘A Dog, a Mouse, and a Sputnik.’
Throughout the following years, Jean appeared in many films such as ‘Be Beautiful But Shut Up,’ ‘Young Sinners,’ ‘Sunday Encounters,’ ‘Charlotte and her Boyfriend,’ and so on.
Finally, the actor scored his first lead role in a 1958 film titled ‘Les Copains du dimanche.’
The following year, which was the 1960s, turned out to be the golden period not only for Belmondo, but for the French cinema. Jean eventually became the major figure in the French New Wave after he starred in films of the new wave like ‘Consider All Risks’ and ‘Breathless.’
Jean’s appearance in the lead role for Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film ‘Breathless’ is cited to be the reason behind the drastic yet positive change in the French cinema. The film was a major success not only in France, but in the entire world, inspiring the cinema industries of different countries. As a result, Belmondo became the face of France and also earned international recognition.
Clearly, with the success of ‘Breathless’ worldwide, Belmondo was highly demanded by the filmmakers and he received massive number of offers from Hollywood too. Though Jean did not want to work in Hollywood, he certainly worked in a few Italian films such as ‘Letter by a Novice,’ ‘Two Women,’ and ‘The Lovemakers.’
In French industry, Belmondo was and is a legendary name, popularly known for his brilliant performances in some of the best French films. The list includes ‘Trapped By fear,’ ‘Seven Days… Seven Nights,’ ‘Love and the Frenchwoman’, ‘A Woman is a Woman,’ ‘Léon Morin, Priest,’ ‘Cartouche,’ ‘Magnet of Doom,’ ‘That Man from Rio,’ ‘Is Paris Burning,’ ‘Casino Royal’ and so on.
Jean’s legendary and brilliant acting made him “the most impressive young French actor since the advent of the late Gérard Philipe,” by The New York Times.
In the later years, apart from being a prolific actor, Belmondo also became a big producer, which eventually resulted in less acting on part of Belmondo. Therefore, in the 1980s, Belmondo was rarely seen in films. Other than production work, Jean also preferred theater over films as he once said, it was hard to find a good role in the French industry.
After contributing most of his life to acting and French cinema, Belmondo appeared in his last film in 2009. His final project was A Man and His Dog, in which he played the character of a person who had difficulty in speaking and walking. Apparently, Jean himself was suffering from that disability at that time. Eventually, the actor got retired in 2011 as he had complications from the massive stroke that he had in 2001.
The legendary actor died at the age of 88 on Monday. Belmondo is survived by his children- Florence, Paul and Stella Eva Angelina.