(Paris) Jean-Paul Belmondo stroking his lips in front of a portrait of Humphrey Bogart: this unforgettable shot ofBreathless is misleading, the French star having never had the Hollywood career that one could have imagined.
Bébel is no stranger to the United States, his roles in Godard’s films having marked generations of filmmakers.
As proof of his dubbing eight years ago by the director Quentin Tarantino, on the stage of the Lumière Festival, in Lyon: Belmondo is an actor “who represents vitality, charisma, a force of nature, super-coolitude “, And whose poster has appeared for 20 years in the room” of all college students and moviegoers, “praises the filmmaker.
After the death of Belmondo, the bible of American cinema, the Hollywood Reporter, even wrote that he was seen as “a mix between Humphrey Bogart and James Dean”, whose performance in Breathless paved the way for “everyday-looking stars like De Niro, Pacino or (Dustin) Hoffman”.
Yet despite his screen presence worthy of the greats, Belmondo never transformed the Hollywood essay.
In the mid-1960s, the one who already had a frantic filming pace, with four or five films a year, had a romance with Ursula Andress, a Swiss actress who rose to fame in her role as James Bond Girl leaving the water in 007 against Dr No.
The latter takes him to the United States, where she introduces him to her friends and acquaintances, reminds AFP Guillaume Evin, author of Belmondo, the tac tac badaboum book.
The French star will meet Warren Beatty, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Kirk Douglas.
In 1966, he co-starred in a big Franco-American production of Paramount, Is Paris Burning?, by René Clément, with Leslie Caron and Charles Boyer.
Then, in 1967, he appeared in a James Bond parody, Casino Royale, with Ursula Andress, in which he plays the role of French legionnaire.
Belmondo’s companionship with Hollywood will go no further. “He loved seeing this Hollywood glitter. He was invited to parties, he looked relaxed, but in fact it didn’t thrill him more than that, ”explains Guillaume Evin.
Belmondo would probably have been confined to cliché roles, he adds – like his performance in Casino Royale, mustache, tricolor kepi on the head and accent to cut with a knife.
“We can be surprised that an actor of the stature of Belmondo did not try his luck. He was approached (by Hollywood) in the 1960s, but he always refused. For him, it was better to be king in France, than a second knife elsewhere ”.
“A whole generation of French actors did not need to go to the United States. The French film industry was flourishing, on the artistic side as well as on the side of popular films. Actors like Belmondo had enough to do, ”confirms British critic Jonathan Romney.
As for Hollywood, the industry was not necessarily then in search of French talent, but rather, at the limit, of Italian accents.
Another idol of her generation, Brigitte Bardot saw her notoriety explode in the United States from her debut with Roger Vadim’s film And God created the woman…, before focusing on French cinema while Delon had a short Hollywood career.
Nothing to do with the career, decades later, of a French actress like Marion Cotillard, Oscar in 2008 for Through rose-colored glasses, which broke through in Hollywood, to the point of sometimes finding more recognition there than in France.