Jean-Pierre Léaud

Active - 1959 - 2017  |   Born - May 28, 1944 in Paris, France  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Avant-garde / Experimental, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of French writer/director Pierre Léaud and actress Jacqueline Pierreux, Jean-Pierre Léaud used none of his connections to win his first screen role. The 15-year-old Léaud answered an open call posted by François Truffaut, and as a result was cast as troubled adolescent Antoine Doinel in Truffaut's The 400 Blows. It is now generally accepted that the character of Antoine Doinel was conceived as Truffaut's alter ego, reenacting the triumphs and traumas of the director's life, not only in 400 Blows but also as the protagonist of the subsequent Antoine and Colette (1962, part of the episode film Love at Twenty), Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970), and Love on the Run (1979). There were also generous doses of Jean-Pierre Léaud himself in Antoine; at Truffaut's urging, Léaud frequently improvised his dialogue, drawing from his own deep-rooted emotional turmoil. In addition to his many Truffaut assignments, Léaud was also a regular in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, including Masculin/Feminin (1966), for which he won the Berlin Festival award for Best Actor. In addition, he co-starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972) with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. On occasion, Léaud has functioned as assistant director for his starring films. Since the heyday of the New Wave, his film appearances have been erratic, with occasional bursts of activity followed by long, dolorous periods of inactivity. In 1996, he made something of a triumphant comeback as a put-upon director in Olivier Assayas' Irma Vep, and the same year he had a supporting role in Bertrand Blier's Mon Homme.

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Factsheet

  • Enfant de la balle, il est le fils du scénariste Pierre Léaud et de la comédienne Jacqueline Pierreux.
  • Après une première apparition au cinéma dans La Tour, prends garde ! (1957), il passe le casting des Quatre cents coups de François Truffaut. L'adolescent turbulent de 15 ans séduit le réalisateur, qui se reconnaît en lui et lui offre le rôle qui le fera connaître.
  • Acteur emblématique de la Nouvelle Vague, il tourne de nombreux films sous la direction de Truffaut (Baisers volés, La nuit américaine...) et de Godard (Pierrot le fou, La Chinoise).
  • Après le décès de François Truffaut en 1984, sa carrière marque un temps d'arrêt, il tourne moins.
  • Aki Kaurismaki lui remet le pied à l'étrier en 1990 avec J'ai engagé un tueur. On le voit plus fréquemment au cinéma, principalement dans des films d'auteurs.
  • Il reçoit une Palme d'Or pour l'ensemble de sa carrière lors du 69ème Festival de Cannes.