Death of Jean-Paul Belmondo: “It was the 4X4 of comedy, it could be great with Godard and play Broca’s toy”, testifies Claude Lelouch

He was a hero both in front of the camera and behind“, says director Claude Lelouch, who shot three films with Jean Paul Belmondo: Itinerary of a child spoiled (1988), Wretched (1995), A man I like (1969), and the documentary From one film to another (2011), the actor’s last big screen appearance. “It was the comedy SUV. He could be great with Godard and play with Philippe de Broca. The man from Rio, The magnificent, which at the beginning were comedies, were somewhere films that said a lot more than all serious films“, he testifies.

franceinfo: You must be very moved at the news of the disappearance of Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Claude Lelouch: The word is weak. It’s a big chunk of my life that’s going away. But his joie de vivre, his good humor, the courage he has shown in front of and behind the camera, through all the films we are going to see again, are immortal. And we are going to binge on Belmondo because we will miss him. I miss him and he will be missed in French cinema in its greatest, most talented and most wonderful.

What do you want us to take away from him?

He was in life as in his films. He was a hero both in front of the camera and behind. When we said “Cut!“, he continued to be a man who was not afraid of anything. TO each time he went even further than what I offered him. He had all the courage, all the nerve. The stunts, he did them. And he was there to make people happy. He was a positive man. He was clinging to the positive all the time. And he trusted the audience. He said : “The public is always right, even when they are wrong“.

He also knew how to play roles beyond his natural.

He knew how to play the roles. Behind all the roles he played, there was always something positive. That’s what made the people who were going to see him come out with the peach, whether in the most intricate and curvy movies. And we need that today. Positive people interest me. Jean-Paul is the joy of living, that’s what made all his films so joyful.

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What is the pleasure of running Jean-Paul Belmondo?

Jean-Paul is one of those actors that we listen to, whatever they say. We didn’t want to miss anything, whether it was with Audiard’s dialogues or mine. This is the characteristic of great actors. Jean-Paul was a star, and the stars are happy to go see them even in bad movies.

Did he surprise you?

Yes, he was a man who loved to make jokes. We had the right on all the shoots to his fancy, to his joie de vivre. He loved messing around before even serious takes. So that when we were saying “action”, all of a sudden, in a second, when I was shooting with him and Annie Girardot, I had two jokers on the set who suddenly started to 100% in their role.

Did he inspire actors?

Gabin, Raimu, and Belmondo were the image of France. Behind them it is all the French who recognize themselves. These are the stars, those who at one point symbolize the man in the street, with his simplicity, his good humor. And every time I toured with Jean-Paul, I had the feeling that we were talking about the essential things, but always in a good mood, without taking ourselves seriously.

Does his filmography say who Jean-Paul Belmondo is?

Jean-Paul could box in all categories. It was the comedy SUV. He could be great with Godard and play with Philippe de Broca. The Man from Rio, the Magnificent, which at the beginning were comedies, were somewhere films that said a lot more than any serious film. Jean-Paul loved the box office, the public, clowning. I loved this man and will love him all my life, and I say thank you to him for being so kind to make three films with me.

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