Jean-Paul Belmondo (French: [ʒɑ̃pɔl bɛlmɔ̃do]; born 9 April 1933) is a French actor initially associated with the New Wave of the 1960s and one of the biggest French film stars of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. His best known credits include Breathless (1960) and That Man from Rio (1964).
Belmondo made his amateur boxing debut on 10 May 1949 in Paris when he knocked out Rene DesMarais in one round. Belmondo’s boxing career was undefeated, but brief. He won three straight first round knockout victories from 1949 to 1950.“I stopped when the face I saw in the mirror begin to change,” he later said.
Jean Luc Godard directed him in a short, Charlotte and Her Boyfriend (1958), where Belmondo’s voice was dubbed by Godard. He supported Bourvil and Arletty in Sunday Encounter (1958). Belmondo’s first lead role was in Les copains du dimanche (1958).
“The Tricolor, a snifter of cognac, a flaring hem, a tilted skylight – these have been demoted to secondary symbols of France,” wrote Time magazine in 1964. “The primary symbol is an image of a young man slouching in a café chair, his socks sagging over broken shoelaces, his shirt open to the waist, his arms dangling to the floor, where his knuckles drag. A Gauloise rests in his gibbon lips, and its smoke meanders from his attractively broken, Z-shaped nose. Out of the Left Bank by the New Wave, he is Jean-Paul Belmondo – the natural son of the Existentialist conception, standing for everything and nothing at 738 mph.”
Belmondo made his name in 1960, when Jean-Luc Godard cast him as Michel Poiccard, the hip ne’er-do-well anti-hero of the groundbreaking À bout de souffle. Modelling himself after Humphrey Bogart and the tough-talking protagonists of American B-movies, Poiccard was a new breed of hero in French cinema: cool, flip, directionless, arrogant. During the pre- and immediate postwar years, Jean Gabin ruled the French box office with his brand of brooding, everyman romanticism. Now the baton was passed on.
Belmondo became a favourite of directors of the French New Wave, working with Godard again on Une femme est une femme (1961) and Pierrot le fou (1965), with François Truffaut on 1969’s La Sirène du Mississipi, and with Alain Resnais on Stavisky… (1974), with Belmondo as the eponymous swindler in 1930s France. He worked twice with Jean-Pierre Melville, as a priest during the Occupation in Léon Morin, prêtre (1961) and, on more familiar ground, as the trench-coated gunman in Le Doulos (1962).
Nicknamed ‘Bébel’ by the French public, Belmondo has also taken his charismatic image beyond auteur-driven cinema to glossier, mainstream thrillers such as That Man from Rio(1964), Borsalino (1970) and Le Professionel (1981), playing an iconic stream of spies, crooks, gunmen and adventurers.
His productivity slowed in later years as he left the onscreen action to a new generation of stars, preferring to concentrate on his stage work. A seven-year silence on both stage and screen followed a stroke in 2001, but he returned in 2008 with Un homme et son chien.
He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Ordre national du Mérite, promoted Officier (Officer) in 1986 and promoted Commandeur (Commander) in 1994.
He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur, promoted Officier (Officer) in 1991 and promoted Commandeur (Commander) in 2007.
In 2010 the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards gave him a Career Achievement award. Belmondo attended the ceremony and made appearances in the Los Angeles area.
Obsessive & maniac