Jean-Paul Belmondo, star of French New Wave cinema, has passed away at the age of 88 in Paris on Monday.
Belmondo, known for what the French deemed “ugly beauty,” was most famous for his roles in Jean-Luc Godard’s groundbreaking 1960 film “Breathless” and the 1964 adventure film “That Man from Rio.”
The French actor was a favorite of Godard, a pioneer of the New Wave movement. Belmondo, affectionately called “Bebel” in France, starred in “A Woman is a Woman,” and “Pierrot le Fou,” some of Godard’s most acclaimed films.
The life of the acclaimed French actor
The actor was born in 1933 in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, which is located just west of the French capital. His father, an Italian born in Algeria, was a sculptor.
Although he attended some of the best schools in the area, Belmondo was focused much more on sport, particularly boxing and soccer, than on his schoolwork.
As a teenager, Belmondo began his short but successful career as an amateur boxer. Although he didn’t stay at it long, the actor remained undefeated in the ring.
In addition to an incredible athlete, Belmondo was also an accomplished thespian throughout his teenage years.
Due to his talent and interest in acting, Belmondo was sent to a private drama school and was able to learn the best techniques.
After graduating, the young actor attended the Conservatoire of Dramatic Arts, France’s national drama academy. While there, Belmondo’s talent blossomed.
During his final performance, it was widely believed that Belmondo would take the prize for best actor. But “Bebel” was known for his sense of humor, and he made a joke about the school in his performance, which offended the jury. He won honorable mention, and the crowd revolted.
The incident made the front page of the local news in Paris.
Jean-Paul Belmondo was the “face of the New Wave”
Belmondo’s career began with a few plays shortly after graduating from the Conservatoire. It was when Godard directed the young actor in a short film in 1958 when he really got his start, however.
Belmondo soon became Godard’s pick for male leads, and was thrust into the limelight as the “Face of the New Wave,” even though Belmondo himself was quoted as saying, “I don’t even know what that means” to the New York Times.
While he entered the limelight working on the artsy films of the New Wave, Belmondo easily broke out into box office hits as well, and went on to star in many action and adventure movies in France.
After a long career in French film, which spanned from the late 1950s until the 1980s, Belmondo began producing and even returned to the theater.
For his prominence in cinema, Belmondo has been knighted twice and was given the Career Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Belmondo was married twice, once in 1952 to a woman named Elodie Constantin, with whom he had three children, and in 1989, to a 24-year-old dancer named Natty Tardivel.
Tardivel and Belmondo had a child together in 2003.