Jean-Paul Belmondo: “Bébel is not the diminutive of my last name”


A major reporter for France-Soir, Yvon Samuel has met on numerous occasions the actor who had become a friend in the 1980s. Selected pieces of confidences published in Top level, numbers 1, in 1988.

For years, our destinies have crossed on the information routes or the gateways of pleasure. Jean-Paul Belmondo explains to me bluntly: “It’s funny, all the people who throw Bébel at me as long as my arm, even that it sticks to my skin (he makes a face, his half-laughing, half-twisted sneer, saying these words, just to clarify that, somewhere, this Bébel side, it swells a bit), believe it is the diminutive of my last name. Fault. Hubert Deschamps, an old actor and galley accomplice from Saint-Germain-des-Prés, called me that way, in memory of Pépel, the character of the “Bas-Fonds” played by Gabin, our idol of the era”

Belmondo has not often known the fall, the feeling of being has been, the pangs of oblivion, the crossing of a desert without the slightest bravo. He’s still there, indestructible. The fair of the artistic world and I have the slightest happiness to have followed him, more or less closely, not always at his pace, letting go of the relentless parallel of the rails. Not always without pain.

A silly brawl story

I had with Jean-Paul a silly story of a fight at the late night establishment which was one of our havens of alcohol and glances, the Élysée Matignon, which I did not leave in very good condition. We don’t box, him and me, in the same category. Anyway, I wouldn’t have had time to see his left, Tyson-style coming. Let us note in passing, to stay in the people register, that it was Thierry Le Luron who relieved me of my technical semi knockout and gave first aid.

The cause was non-existent, a rather null photo story that I had deemed unworthy of the front page of France-Evening, but one like the other, it was difficult to disentangle it for some time. A few months later, hardly any more in my memory, but long enough for both of us to regret it, a witnessless explanation put our watches back on time.

“They tell me ‘waterfall’ and I say ‘banco’, they tell me ‘laugh’ and I shout ‘bravo'”

Jean-Paul Belmondo

OK after the KO: all this to say that I never doubted the friendship of the man. It was only with one character, one between twenty or a hundred that he could have interpreted, that there had been the breakage. We are not alternately chicken or thug, mercenary or hero, stuntman or dreamer with impunity without leaving a few shadows hanging on to the actor’s basques.. “However, I manage to get rid of the characters who tend to stick to my skin, he then explained to me as echoing these reflections. Having said that, I don’t mind, quite the contrary, to be a physical nature. I am told cascade and i say banco, I am told jokeand I scream well done. But should not push in the Bebel-cliché side. The underground, the nerd, all this counter-culture that existed before the café-théâtre, I have already given. And in the first ones again. With Jean-Luc Godard , Breathless and Pierrot le fou ! like that, at first glance, it was not cast in the bronze of the bestsellers ”.

SEE ALSO – Tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo

He has learned in practice that it is not easy to escape the catalog in which are classified, once and for all most of the actors, even when they browse like him, both on the screen and in the theater, of one role to another: “It is as if guys do not know my obstacle course, eight years of struggling to be the halberdier to the French, to hope for an ideal role in the film that will not happen, to be the understudy of an actor who will never catch a cold… ” And to add with clairvoyance: “However, when it comes to the roles to be played, I have to remain plausible. I can’t interpret a complete bastard. The public would find it difficult to follow. But I do not despair of having one of these days in my hands the twenty pages that will make me jump for joy to the ceiling, the draft writing of the story of tomorrow … “

“I owe everything to my parents, I reimburse everything to my children”

Jean-Paul Belmondo

Many of his peers in the profession envy him for having always known how to safeguard better than others the essential, the primordial: his private life: “My cement is my family,” he recognizes, “mine, from top to bottom of the family tree. I owe everything to my parents, I reimburse everything to my children. Normal”.

The many faces of Jean-Paul Belmondo

Go to the slideshow (16)

He told me, one day of confidences: “Vocation is the joy of having your passion for a job”. Well said the friend, who escaped no emotion. Its beginnings have been the dream of generations of dunces, from the Conservatory to the smallest theater course. The dean of the Frenchman, André Brunot, did not go dead hand: “Belmondo, my poor friend, you will never succeed in this business with your physique. You better think of something else ”, he predicted. Jean-Paul Belmondo was one of the most active activists of the last half-century of French cinema, with to his credit an astonishing palette of French art in all facets.

Jean Paul-Belmondo and Yvon Samuel in 1985. Personal collection Yvon Samuel

Extracts from Top level, numbers 1, Robert Laffont editions (1988). Yvon Samuel died on April 12, 2008.

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