Death of Jean-Paul Belmondo: his cult interview for Première in 1995

From Godard to Guignolo, Bébel delivered his confessions to the magazine Première. The actor left us this Monday at the age of 88.

Update April 9, 2018: For Bébel’s 85th birthday, we dive into Première’s archives with extracts from a long interview with Duke Omédien published in 1995.

News of November 3, 2016: Première is celebrating its 40th birthday and Jean-Paul Belmondo is preparing to publish his Memoirs … it logically made us want to dive back into the river interview that the actor had granted us in 1995, when the films were released. Miserable Lelouch version. On 18 pages, illustrated by superb black and white photos by Michel Haddi (taken rue Campagne-Première, where Breathless 35 years earlier), Bébel brewed his life, his work, from his first steps at the Conservatory to his interpretation of Jean Valjean. Here is a best-of from this interview that you can find in full in the latest issue of Première Classics, currently on newsstands

Summary of Première Classics n ° 3: 2001 Space Odyssey, Belmondo, In the mood for love, Crystal Trap…

Test tips

“I have done few test ends in my career. That of The truth de Clouzot was rather comical. I had to do, just after, a bit of test for Moderato Cantabile, but Clouzot had locked me in a room with his wife. I said to him: “I must go! – You won’t go out! – Open the door, otherwise I’ll put it in the air! I finally gave it a try. With Brigitte Bardot. He made me fondle her breast for a quarter of an hour. Right, left… It was very pleasant but my performance ended there. Either way, I knew I was incapable of playing a conductor. I think it was he who was stubbornly stubborn: feeling that I didn’t want the role, that had excited him… Like women, what! Quick passage but good memories: it was the only time I saw Bardot, with whom I finally never toured. Even though she was approached for The Mississippi Mermaid. “

The Godard revelation

“The shootings, with Carné for example, were still very structured. At the time, there were a lot of technical constraints. Me, as I came from the theater, I spoke too loudly, I went beyond the lights… I found the Very annoying cinema. It was with Godard that I had the revelation. There, total freedom. His way of filming was quite extravagant. As it was not in direct sound, he blew the text. The first day of the film.Breathless, he said to me, with his Swiss accent and his drawling tone: “You walk into that phone booth, and then you phone. I enter the cabin, and there you go. He said to me, “Okay, I’m fine. We will return tomorrow, I have more ideas. One day, Jean Seberg had made up and he didn’t like it. He then said to me, “Tell her she looks ugly with her makeup on.” For me, accustomed to the rigors of the theater, it was fabulous! I would come home in the evening, I would say to my wife: “This is wonderful! He is a mad ! I was sure it would never come out. We were totally relaxed: we took it for an amateur thing, a fun. “

“Il Brutto”

“When I arrived in Italy, the journalists called me: ‘Il Brutto.’ I was very proud: he brutto, the bully… I was told that it meant “the ugly”! With us, there was Jean Marais, Georges Marchal, Henri Vidal… what handsome guys! (…) René Clair had said: “Yes, he is very good… But he has a bad face! He can’t make a movie. »(…) The revolution ofBreathless, it is also that the young first is not the “beautiful”! (…) From’Breathless, it was really like in fairy tales. The phone rang from morning till night. I thought it wasn’t going to last. So, I accepted a lot of films. It was a dream: suddenly, I found myself in the arms of Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale! It was the Sixties, the “dolce vita”… In Rome, in the clubs of Via Venetto, there were the most beautiful women in the world. It was madness every night. I was there six months, I made four films in a row. In La Ciociara, for the first scene I had with Sophia Loren, I had just come to Italy and, at seven in the morning, I was rolling a huge galoche for her! Great memory. The career was starting very well… With Vittorio De Sica, when we started over, it was never the actor’s fault. He was playing at the casino. Some mornings, he arrived on the set a little tired … One day when I had to declare my love to Sophia, he fell asleep. But it was “Il Maestro”, nobody dared say anything … Finally, a guy dropped a bowl. He woke up and shouted, “Cut! Perfetto ! A really delicious man. He arrived one Saturday with his wife and children and the following Saturday with his mistress and children! I chained Unrealizable with Gina, to whom I rolled a galoche, the mouth full of rice! “

Melville and Léon Morin

“Melville was very shocked at my attitude. We were shooting Léon Morin, priest in its studios, the Jenner studios, behind the Place d’Italie. In the morning, I arrived behind the wheel of my convertible, an AC Bristol, with my cassock and my beret… When he saw me disembark, he was aghast! He thought – and this followed me for a long time – that I was not concentrating. If you show up relaxed and are a jerk, that means you’re not taking the movie seriously. Whereas if you talk about the moods of your character, that you are tortured in the evening, it is better… Whereas we, in the evening, we went to Ricard! Melville thought I didn’t care about the movie; he said to me: “Go and concentrate. I replied: “If I concentrate, I fall asleep!” Suddenly, one day when he sent me to my dressing room, I pretended to be asleep. Same with Emmanuelle Riva: there was a scene where I had to speak Latin to him, and he wanted me to learn all the Latin text! I told him, “No. You stick some papers behind me and I will say it very well. Finally, he glued the papers. And if you see the film, I look very inspired, because I am looking for my text while reading it and it gives me some confusion. Obviously, when we say that, afterwards, we are no longer taken seriously. “


“In an action film, do not hesitate”

“In France, there are really films that we could remake. If it’s the Americans who do it, we don’t flinch, then … Ho! is one of those. (…) At the start, it’s a wonderful book by José Giovanni. But the adaptation was missed: the little saleswoman has become a cover girl… And when you offer Cindy Crawford a fur coat, she doesn’t care! The end was also missed. He walked out with his hands in the air when an end was needed Scarface : he climbed on the roof, we machine-gunned him, and he jumped! In an action movie, don’t hesitate. If the guy ends up sissy, that’s no good! The public doesn’t like it. After The Mississippi Mermaid, when I went to boxing matches – there were still some good ones in Paris – the guys would say to me: “But how! You are tortured by this chick! You should strangle him at the end, and don’t move… “They were furious.”

Cannes, Resnais and the whistles

“Just after The magnificent, I produce Stavisky entirely, with Mnouchkine as executive producer. To film with Resnais – still a charming man for the actors – it was also an idea of ​​Gérard Lebovici. I didn’t want the film to go to Cannes. Everyone told me the opposite. And it was a massacre! Resnais hadn’t toured in five years and that’s the only time he got dragged in the shit. Cannes, I have been there twice. For Moderato Cantabile : whistles. And for Stavisky : whistles! Over time, it became a good memory. “

Pierrot vs. The Guignolo

“Deray, Lautner or Verneuil are directors who have often been massacred. Yet they have contributed a lot to French cinema. They are very good directors of this kind of cinema. And this is the popularity that I have acquired. with them who allowed me to play Kean and Cyrano. If I hadn’t shot with Verneuil, Pierrot le fou would not have happened, and Stavisky Where The Mississippi Mermaid would not have existed! There was a relentlessness on these directors that I find unjustified. I was very happy to tour with Godard, but also with Lautner. The Guignolo, it is not the masterpiece of masterpieces, even if the first three quarters of an hour were formidable. And if I had only done that, it would be sad. But if I had only done Léon Morin, priest, that would be very sad too. I had the chance to be among the actors who were able to mix all genres: from the New Wave intellectual to frank laughter. I really have no regrets. And if you give me a choice between a crazed career playing in front of 100 people with rave reviews and an overly popular actor, I don’t hesitate: I’ll start again tomorrow. “

Interview by the Kruger brothers, Première n ° 217, April 1995

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