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

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

On the occasion of the Festival, the Paris Match photo exhibition at the 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 Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, what do you think of?
Paul Belmondo. A whole life goes by. Childhood memories come back to me when I was shooting his films, including “The Magnificent.” My father is no longer there… but he is still there! In the face of these photos, I don’t feel like he’s gone, even though I’m sorely missed. This beautiful picture of him on a water ski, drawn by Jacqueline Bisset, reminds me that he was thrilled to be a fool to amuse me and my sisters. And I’m glad

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How do you cope, eight months later, with the disappearance of Jean-Paul? Does time do its work?
Yes… Finally no, not at all. It is enough to talk about it, a memory that arises, an encounter, and tears well up in my eyes, as now. I may not have mourned yet. And then there’s always that love that people had for him and that I’m the receptacle for. At the airport in Nice, someone came to tell me that she had grown up with Jean-Paul Belmondo and that he missed her. She was talking not only about the actor but especially about the man, my father. We suffer from the same absence.

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

One imagines that it was necessary to settle the estate, empty his apartment, rather sad things to do…
He had sold his apartment on Rue des Saints-Pères and had gone to rent to the Invalides, getting rid of a lot of things. My father was not attached to the memories of his acting life. There were only family photos in his room. Nothing to his glory, nothing narcissistic. But I discovered piles of photo piles, which I am sorting and storing. I find negatives of images that made covers of Paris Match, slides of my sisters and me, little ones, on vacation with my mother and father, shots with Laura Antonelli or Ursula Andress… It’s crazy ! My dad used to take lots of pictures, but he never showed them off.

What grandfather was with your children and what great-grandfather would have been with Vahé, your grandson?
He didn’t know he was going to be a great-grandfather. Within hours, Vahé, born on April 10, was born on the same day as his great-grandfather! With him, he would have been like my sons. Alessandro, Victor and Giacomo were born when he was playing in the theater. Three different pieces but always the same ritual: on the mirror of his lodge, he wrote a welcome word to each of his grandchildren. He pampered them so much, so happy to please them that Luana and I were forced to ask him to calm down, at some Christmas, as much as he could be in excess. Her children, her 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 said.

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Jean-Paul did not like rewards. Yet, in 2011, he received a Palm of Honor at Cannes. What memories do you have of that moment?
This award-winning injury dates back to the time of the Conservatory. And then the last time he competed in Cannes was in 1974, for “Stavisky,” by Alain Resnais, which he produced; the projection had been whistled, the critics had massacred him. 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 set up their camera to applaud him. What an emotion! It reconciled him with the Festival. He who had not gone to fetch his Caesar for “Itinerary of a Spoiled Child” has always kept this Palm of Honor, a career recognition. The Caesars and the Venice Film Festival then paid tribute to him. The only ones who did nothing were the Molières, when he played more than thirty roles on the boards and bought the Théâtre des Variétés.

Like the Paul-Belmondo Museum, dedicated to your grandfather’s work, could there be a place that pays homage to your father?
We are working on it. I am committed to keeping his memory going. We want to create a Jean-Paul Belmondo space in the museum dedicated to my grandfather, in Boulogne. My father was a modest man. He never wanted to encroach on his father’s artwork, which he revered. He will have to do something he would have liked to do.

Were you offered other things, such as a street in his name?
No, but my father wouldn’t have liked that. On the other hand, we had many proposals for advertisements, which my father always refused during his lifetime. He would not stand for it today.

My father often fell in love. He has had long love affairs with my mother, with Laura Antonelli, with Ursula Andress, who always talk about him tenderly…

In the picture book that came with his Memoirs, “A Thousand Lives Are Better Than One,” he wrote to caption a picture of you baby: “I wish my son was a pilot or a sailor in the long run, but most of all frank. ” Did you fulfill his wishes?
When I decided to become a car driver, I didn’t know he wanted it when I was born. Is that why he didn’t push me to be an actor more than that? Frankly, I am. I always preferred the truth to the lie, including with him, when he remarried and I told him my disagreement. You have to say things, be honest. Brave, I don’t know if I am. He was, and he cared about his mother.

Jean-Paul got married twice and had different companions. You and Luana will celebrate your 32nd wedding anniversary on July 7th. 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 talk about him tenderly… It was his character, it’s not mine. Luana and I are very different from each other, and that’s so much better. Sometimes it farts, and then I’m honest, like my dad wanted me to be. There is nothing unsaid between us. We grew up and evolved together, without a miracle recipe.

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

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

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