French New Wave Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo Dead at 88
French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, known for films like Breathless and Two Women, has died at age 88. The actor, whose death was confirmed by his lawyer to AFP News Agency, died at his home in Paris. No cause of death has been given.
Belmondo, born in 1933 in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, got his start in acting in the 1950s, first working in theater before moving into film. He collaborated with French New Wave auteur Jean-Luc Godard in 1958 short Charlotte And Her Boyfriend, and went on to work with Godard several more times, including in 1960’s Breathless and 1961’s A Woman Is a Woman. He also starred in films by François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, among other well-known French directors.
The actor, nicknamed “Bébel” by French audiences, was one of the most well-known film stars in France in the 1960s and 1970s, and has been compared with Marlon Brando and James Dean. He often played gangsters and criminals, sometimes with a comedic bent, the original anti-hero. He appeared in spy spoof That Man from Rio in the mid-1960s, and said he liked that sort of whimsy. Belmondo told The New York Times in 1964, “I really prefer making adventure movies like Rio to the intellectual movies of Alain Resnais or Alain Robbe‐Grillet.”
The actor was beloved for his rugged looks and wide-mouthed grin, as well as his strong acting skills. “No actor since James Dean has inspired quite such intense identification,” The New York Times wrote in 1965. “Dean evoked the rebellious adolescent impulse, as fierce as it was gratuitous, a violent outgrowth of the frustrations of the modern world. Belmondo is a later manifestation of youthful rejection — and more disturbing. His disengagement from a society his parents made is total. He accepts corruption with a cynical smile, not even bothering to struggle. He is out entirely for himself, to get whatever he can, while he can. The Belmondo type is capable of anything.”
Beyond working in French cinema, Belmondo also appeared in several Italian films, most notably opposite Sophia Loren in 1961’s Two Women and in 1961’s The Lovemakers. The actor continued working through the 1970s and 1980s, becoming one of France’s biggest box office draws until the mid-’80s, according to Variety.
In 2001, Belmondo was hospitalized with a stroke and put a pause on his acting career. He returned to the silver screen in 2009, in Un Homme et son chien, from director Francis Huster. In June of last year the actor was seen attending the funeral of the comedian and screenwriter Guy Bedos in Paris.
In 1989, the actor won a best actor Cesar Award for his performance in Claude Lelouch’s Itineraire d’un enfant gate. However, he refused to accept the award because it was designed by artist Cesar Baldaccini, who had never acknowledged the work of Belmondo’s father, sculptor Paul Belmondo.
Belmondo was twice divorced, and his daughter Patricia Belmondo, from his first wife, died in 1994. He had a number of high-profile relationships, including with his co-star Ursula Andress in the late 1960s. The actor is survived by three children, including Paul Belmondo, who is an actor and race car driver.