Celebrities

Jean-Paul Belmondo dead: French actor dies aged 88

Jean-Paul Belmondo dead at 88: French actor famed for starring in 1960 crime drama Breathless passes away at home amid ‘ill health’

  • French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo has died aged 88, his agent has confirmed 
  • The iconic star is said to have passed away at his home in Paris amid ill health
  • Belmondo was a key individual in the French New Wave in the 1960s
  • He won international recognition in 1960s crime drama Breathless 
  • In 2001, Belmondo suffered a stroke that paralysed the right side of his body 

Jean-Paul Belmondo has died aged 88.

The actor, who was arguably one of the biggest French stars in the 1960s, was famed for starring in crime drama Breathless and 1964 movie That Man From Rio. 

News of Belmondo’s death was confirmed to AFP on Monday by his lawyer. It’s believed Belmondo died at his home in Paris amid ill health.

Sad news: Jean-Paul Belmondo has died aged 88 – his agent confirmed his death to AFP on Monday (pictured above in 2011)

Belmondo’s lawyer Michel Godest confirmed in a statement: ‘He had been very tired for some time. He passed away quietly.’ 

No further details are currently known surrounding his passing. 

The movie talent, who was nicknamed Bébel by French audiences, initially shot to fame over 60 years ago and has over 80 film titles to his name, with Belmondo last appearing on screen in 2009 in French feature A Man and His Dog (Un Homme et Son Chien).

Born in Paris, Belmondo was an amateur boxer before he turned his attentions to acting.  

Talent: The actor, who was arguably one of the biggest French stars in the 1960s, was famed for starring in crime drama Breathless and 1964 movie That Man From Rio (pictured in 1974)

Stellar: He won international fame with his performance in Breathless – a French movie that was widely seen by US and UK audiences (pictured above with Ursula Andress (L) and Catherine Deneuve (R) in 1968

He enrolled in a drama school in his teenage years and got his first big break on stage at Theatre de L’Atelier in Paris in 1953.

Belmondo’s first film appearance was in the short film Moliere in 1956 and he appeared in movie A Dog, A Mouse and a Sputnik in 1958. 

He later appeared alongside fellow French actor Alain Delon, who went on to become one of Europe’s most prominent movie stars, in Be Beautiful But Shut Up the same year.  

Belmondo then worked with director Jean-Luc Godard in short film Charlotte and her Boyfriend, before bagging his first leading role in Les Copains du Dimanche and going on to gain international success in Godard’s French film Breathless in 1960.

His role in Breathless arguably made Belmondo a key individual in the French New Wave – a film movement that first emerged in the 1950s.    

The film was widely seen across the US and the UK, with the New York Times describing Belmondo as ‘the most impressive young French actor since the advent of the late Gérard Philipe’ in 1961.  

Much-loved: Iconic star Belmondo went on to become a favourite among film lovers, despite his rugged looks being a far cry from French cinema’s usually chiselled stars (pictured above at the Lumiere Festival in Lyon in 2013)

Big screen: The movie veteran spent three months of a sabbatical from film-making in Hollywood, but had no interest in learning English or making any English language movies

Iconic: Belmondo became a key individual in the French New Wave – a film movement that first emerged in the 1950s (pictured above with fellow French actor Alain Delon in 1969)

Belmondo played the role of Michel Poiccard in Breathless, which was inspired by killer Michel Portail. The film immediately became a box office hit on its release and it was widely known for its unconventional production process, with director Godard reportedly writing new dialogue for the movie every day.

Godard was also known for shooting the movie without lighting.  

Iconic star Belmondo went on to become a favourite among film lovers, despite his rugged looks being a far cry from French cinema’s usually chiselled stars.  

Belmondo was known for playing gangsters on the big screen, with the actor also starring in many comedies and a series of Italian movies too.

Other titles he worked on in the 1960s were Greed In The Sun, Is Paris Burning?, Weekend At Dunkirk, A Woman Is A Woman, Banana Peel, Casino Royale – which was loosely based on Ian Fleming’s James Bond and The Thief Of Paris. 

After wrapping 1967 title The Thief Of Paris, Belmondo took a year-and-a-half off from film-making. He spent three months of his sabbatical in Hollywood, but had no interest in learning English or making any English language movies. 

Of his time off, Belmondo previously said: ‘One day it seemed that life was passing me by. I didn’t want to work. So I stopped. Then one day I felt like starting again. So I started.’ 

Romance: Belmondo was married twice throughout his lifetime and split from second wife Natty Tardivel (pictured above with the actor in 2004) in 2008 after six years of marriage

Returning to acting, he went on to star in Ho!, The Brain and The Burglars among others. 

Throughout his career, Belmondo starred alongside a slew of famous actresses, including Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren, Jean Seberg, Claudia Cardinale, Raquel Welch, Gina Lollobrigida and Ursula Andress

Belmondo also set up his own production company, Cerito Films, in a bid to produce his own movies and the first film his company released, black comedy Dr Popaul, starring American actress Mia Farrow.   

In 2010, Belmondo was given the Career Achievement Award at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards. 

The late star is survived by his three children; daughters Florence and Stella and son Paul. His eldest child Patricia died in a fire in 1993. 

Belmondo was married twice throughout his lifetime. He first wed Élodie Constantin in 1952, who he shares children Patricia, Florence and Paul with. The pair split in 1965 and their divorce was finalised in 1968.

Health issues: In 2001, Belmondo suffered a stroke that paralysed the right-hand side of his body and left him unable to speak for six months (pictured in Paris in 2007)

Last hurrah: He underwent physical therapy daily to regain his strength and last appeared onscreen in 2009 in movie A Man and His Dog – only agreeing to do the film if it portrayed him as he was, an elderly disabled man (pictured above in 2015)

In 1989, Belmondo, then in his mid-50s, met his second wife Natty Tardivel, who was 24 years old at the time. 

They later married in 2002 and welcomed daughter Stella, now 17, the following year in 2003. Belmondo and Natty divorced in 2008. 

While married to Natty, Belmondo suffered a stroke in 2001 that paralysed the right-hand side of his body and left him unable to speak for six months. 

The star managed to regain his physical strength to continue making movies, after undergoing physical therapy daily. He agreed to be a part of his final movie A Man and His Dog over a decade ago, as long as the film portrayed him as he was; an elderly, disabled man. 

Belmondo previously said of his role, that had little dialogue, in the 2009 movie: ‘It’s me without any special effects,’ and he appeared onscreen with a cane.  

The movie follows the story of an old man who finds himself homeless and alone, with just his dog to keep him company. 

Much-loved: Following news of Belmondo’s death, tributes have flooded in for the star on social media (pictured above with Italian actress Laura Antonelli in 1974)

Following news of Belmondo’s death, tributes have flooded in for the star on social media. 

Fans paid their respects, with one posting on Twitter: ‘A legend that goes away. One more star in the starry sky. RIP Mr Belmondo. You have accompanied all my life with your films and I had the immense honor of meeting you.’

Another wrote: ‘RIP Jean Paul Belmondo. Screen legend. One of the absolute coolest.’  

A third penned: ’80 films, 50 years of career, more than 130 million spectacles, Jean-Paul Belmondo great French actor died today at the age of 88 years. Rest in peace Sir. Condolences to his family.’

Belmondo was last seen celebrating his 88th birthday in August at a family party with his children and grandchildren. 

Family: The movie talent is survived by his three children; daughters Florence Stella and son Paul. His eldest daughter Patricia died in a fire in 1993

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