Paul Belmondo: "My father is no longer there... but he is still there!"

Paul Belmondo: “My father is no longer there… but he is still there!”

On the occasion of the Festival, the Paris Match photo exhibition at Eden-Roc pays tribute to the most popular of French actors, Jean-Paul Belmondo. His son Paul remembers.

Paris Match. When you look at the photos of your father on display at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, what do you think of?
Paul Belmondo. A whole life goes by. Childhood memories come back, when I went on the set of his films, including that of “Magnificent”. My father is no longer there… but he is still there! In front of these photos, I don’t have the impression that he is gone, even if I miss him sorely. This superb image of him on water skis, towed by Jacqueline Bisset, reminds me that he was delighted to fool around to amuse my sisters and me. And that makes me happy…

Read also: Belmondo the Eternal

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How do you compose, eight months later, with the disappearance of Jean-Paul? Is time doing its work?
Yes… Well no, not at all. We just have to talk about it, about a memory that arises, about an encounter, and tears well up in my eyes, like now. I may not have done my mourning yet. And then there is always this love that people had for him and of which I am the receptacle. At Nice airport, a person came to tell me that she had grown up with Jean-Paul Belmondo and that she missed him. She wasn’t just talking about the actor but above all about the man, my father. We suffer from the same absence.

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We want to create a Jean-Paul Belmondo space within the museum dedicated to my grandfather, in Boulogne.

We imagine that it was necessary to settle the estate, empty his apartment, rather sad things to do…
He had sold his apartment in the rue des Saints-Pères and rented out to the Invalides, getting rid of a lot of things. My father was not attached to the memories of his acting life. In his room, there were only family photos. Nothing glorifying, nothing narcissistic. But I discovered trunks of photos piled up, which I am sorting and putting away. I find negatives of images that made the covers of Paris Match, slides of my sisters and me, children, on vacation with my mother and my father, shots with Laura Antonelli or with Ursula Andress… It’s crazy ! My father took lots of photos, but he never exhibited them.

What grandfather was he with your children and what great-grandfather would he have been with Vahé, your grandson?
He didn’t know he was going to be a great-grandfather. Within a few hours, Vahé, born on April 10, was born on the same day as his great-grandfather! With him, it would have been like with my sons. Alessandro, Victor and Giacomo were born when he was playing in the theater. Three different rooms but always the same ritual: on the mirror of his dressing room, he wrote a word of welcome to each of his grandsons. He pampered them so much, so happy to make them happy that Luana and I had to ask him to calm down, on certain Christmases, he could be so over the top. His children, his grandchildren, that was all!

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So close to showbiz and so different. Luana was barely 20 when she met Paul. “We grew up together,” he says.

© Vincent Capman / Paris Match

Jean-Paul didn’t like rewards. However, in 2011, he came to receive a Palme d’honneur at Cannes. What memories do you have of that moment?
This injury relating to the prizes awarded dates back to the time of the Conservatory. And then the last time he was in competition at Cannes was in 1974, for “Stavisky”, by Alain Resnais, which he produced; the screening had been hissed, the critics had massacred it. He had been unhappy about it. In 2011, when he hadn’t set foot in Cannes for ten years, I was there, behind him, when the photographers put down their cameras to applaud him. What emotion ! It reconciled him with the Festival. He who had not gone to get his César for “Itinerary of a spoiled child” always kept this Palme d’honneur at home, recognition of a career. The Césars and the Venice festival then paid tribute to him. The only ones who did nothing were the Molières, when he held more than thirty roles on the boards and bought the Théâtre des Variétés.

Like the Paul-Belmondo museum, dedicated to the work of your grandfather, could there be a place that pays homage to your father?
We are working on it. I am attached to the fact that his memory endures. We want to create a Jean-Paul Belmondo space within the museum dedicated to my grandfather, in Boulogne. My father was a modest person. He would never have wanted to encroach on the artistic work of his father, whom he revered. He will have to do something that would have pleased him.

Have you been offered other things, for example a street named after him?
No, but my father wouldn’t necessarily have liked that. On the other hand, we had many offers for advertisements, which my father always refused during his lifetime. He couldn’t stand it being done today.

My father often fell in love. He had long love affairs with my mother, with Laura Antonelli, with Ursula Andress, who always speak of him fondly…

In the picture book that accompanied his Memoirs, “A thousand lives are better than one”, he wrote to caption a photo of you baby: “I would like my son to be a pilot or a long-distance sailor, but above all courageous and franc.” Did you respond to his wishes?
When I decided to become a racing driver, I didn’t know that he had wanted it when I was born. Is that why he didn’t push me more than that to be an actor? Frank, I am. I have always preferred truth to lies, including with him, when he remarried and I told him of my disagreement. You have to say things, be honest. Courageous, I don’t know if I am. He was, and he got it from his mother.

Jean-Paul married twice and had different partners. You and Luana will celebrate 32 years of marriage on July 7. What is the secret of a couple that lasts?
My father often fell in love. He had long love affairs with my mother, with Laura Antonelli, with Ursula Andress, who always speak of him fondly… It was his character, it’s not mine. Luana and I are very different from each other, and that’s good. Sometimes it blows up, and then I’m straight up, like my dad wanted me to be. There is nothing left unsaid between us. We have grown and evolved together, without a miracle recipe.

What remains of the Sunday lunches with Jean-Paul and his best friend, Charles Gérard, which you organized with Luana? Do they last with your children?
Even though each of our boys lives their own life, we continue to come together for the important moments. I keep in touch with my aunt, Muriel, and with my sisters, whom I see less of. Stella lives in London. Even if the age difference between us complicates things, I’m sure we’ll find each other again.

Paris Match photographic exhibition “Belmondo the magnificent”, at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, until October 2022: 22 numbered and signed prints for sale.

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