Jean-Pierre Léaud

Jean-Pierre Léaud

Jean-Pierre Léaud at the 2000 César Awards
Born (1944-05-28) 28 May 1944
Paris, France
Occupation Actor
Years active 1958–present
Awards Silver Bear for Best Actor (Berlin International Film Festival)
1966 Masculin Féminin

Best Actor (Thessaloniki Film Festival)
1996 Pour rire!

Honorary César (César Awards)

2001 The Pornographer

Jean-Pierre Léaud (French: [ʒɑ̃pjɛʁ le.o]; born 28 May 1944) is a French actor, best known for playing Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut's series of films about that character, beginning with The 400 Blows in 1959. He also worked several times with Jean-Luc Godard, and is a notable figure of the French New Wave.

Early life

Born in Paris, Léaud made his major debut as an actor at the age of 14 as Antoine Doinel, a semi-autobiographical character based on the life events of French film director François Truffaut, in The 400 Blows. To cast the two adolescents, Truffaut published an announcement in France-Soir and auditioned several hundred children in September and October 1958. Jean Domarchi, a critic at Cahiers du cinéma, had earlier recommended the son of an assistant scriptwriter, Pierre Léaud, and the actress Jacqueline Pierreux.

Truffaut was immediately captivated by the fourteen-year-old adolescent,[1] who had already appeared the previous year with Jean Marais in Georges Lampin's La Tour prends garde! He recognized traits they both shared, "for example a certain suffering with regard to the family...With, however, this fundamental difference: though we were both rebels, we hadn't expressed our rebellion in the same way. I preferred to cover up and lie. Jean-Pierre, on the contrary, seeks to hurt, shock and wants it to be known...Why? Because he's unruly, while I was sly. Because his excitability requires that things happen to him, and when they don't occur quickly enough, he provokes them.".[1]:129 In his final interview, Truffaut mentioned he was happy with how Léaud improvised within the flexibly written script.[2]

Jean-Pierre Léaud, then in the eighth grade at a private school in Pontigny, was far from an ideal student. The director of the school wrote this to Truffaut, "I regret to inform you that Jean Pierre is more and more 'unmanageable'. Indifference, arrogance, permanent defiance, lack of discipline in all its forms. He has twice been caught leafing through pornographic pictures in the dorm. He is developing more and more into an emotionally disturbed case."[1]:129 But this unstable boy, who often ran away with the older students on their nights out, could also be brilliant, generous, and affectionate. Extremely cultured for his age,.[1]:130 he was already very good at writing, and he even claimed to Truffaut that he had written a "verse tragedy", Torquatus.[1]:130

Truffaut's influence from adolescence into adulthood

Throughout the production of The 400 Blows,”Truffaut would take Léaud to see rushes of Godard's Breathless each evening. They'd sit up late talking film with Godard, Rivette, Rohmer, Eustache, Orson Welles.”[3] Upon the filmmaker’s death, the actor reminisced Truffaut was the first person he admired and that he “spoke to children like they were adults. He realized that children understood things better than adults did. He was purely intuitive. We operated in a sort of complicity.”[3]

During and following the filming of The 400 Blows, Truffaut’s concern for Léaud extended beyond the film set. He took charge of the difficult adolescent’s upbringing after Léaud was expelled from school and kicked out of the home of the retired couple taking care of him. Truffaut subsequently rented a studio apartment for Léaud. Truffaut also hired him for assistant work on The Soft Skin and Mata Hari, Agent H21.[4]

Acting career

Léaud starred in four more Truffaut films depicting the life of Doinel, spanning a period of 20 yearsafter the short-film Antoine et Colette in 1962beside actress Claude Jade as his girlfriend, and then wife, Christine. Those films are Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970) and Love on the Run (1979). Truffaut stated that Léaud was the source of inspiration for the Antoine Doinel character and "I created some scenes just because I knew he would be funny in them—at least I laughed during the writing as I thought of him."[2] He also collaborated with Truffaut on non-Antoine Doinel films like Two English Girls and La Nuit américaine and became the actor most commonly affiliated with him. Although Antoine Doinel is his most famous character, he often found his performances in other films to be compared to his Doinel character whether there were legitimate similarities or not.[5]

He is one of the most visible and well-known actors to be associated with the French New Wave film movement and, aside from his work with Truffaut, collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard (nine films), Jean Eustache, Jacques Rivette and Agnes Varda. 1973 was perhaps the peak of his professional career when he had three critically acclaimed films released: Truffaut's La Nuit américaine, Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and Eustache's The Mother and the Whore.

In 1966, he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival for his role in Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin, féminin.[6] He was nominated for a César Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1988 for Les Keufs and was awarded an Honorary César for lifetime achievement in 2000.

Léaud acted in films by other influential directors, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jerzy Skolimowski, Bernardo Bertolucci, Aki Kaurismäki and more recently Olivier Assayas and Tsai Ming-liang. He appeared with a hero of his, Marlon Brando in the Bertolucci film Last Tango in Paris, although the two never met, since all of Léaud's scenes were shot on Saturdays and Brando refused to work on Saturdays.[7]

Personal life

He is married to the French actress, Brigitte Duvivier.[8]

Honours and awards

Selected filmography

Year Title Role
1958 King on Horseback Pierrot
1959 The 400 Blows Antoine Doinel
1960 Boulevard Jojo
Testament of Orpheus Dargelos
1962 Antoine and Colette Antoine Doinel
1965 Pierrot le Fou A Spectator
Love at Sea Cameo Appearance
1966 Le Père Noël a les yeux bleus Daniel
Made in U.S.A. Donald Siegel
Masculin Féminin Paul
Alphaville The Waiter
1967 Weekend Saint-Just
La Chinoise Guillaume
The Departure Marc
1968 Stolen Kisses Antoine Doinel
1969 Pigsty Julian Klotz
Joy of Learning Le Rousseau
1970 Bed and Board Antoine Doinel
The Seven Headed Lion Preacher
1971 Two English Girls Claude Roc
Out 1 Colin
1972 Last Tango in Paris Tom
1973 The Mother and the Whore Alexandre
Day for Night Alphonse
1979 Love on the Run Antoine Doinel
1981 Help Me Dream Mario
1985 Treasure Island Midas
Détective Inspector Neveu
1987 Les keufs Commissioner Bullfinch
1988 36 Fillette Boris Golovine
1989 Bunker Palace Hôtel Solal
1990 I Hired a Contract Killer Henri Boulanger
1992 La Vie de Bohème Blancheron
1993 La Naissance de l'amour Marcus
1995 One Hundred and One Nights Jean-Pierre
1996 My Man Monsieur Claude
Irma Vep René Vidal
2001 The Pornographer Jacques Laurent
What Time Is It There? Jean-Pierre/Man at Cemetery
2004 Folle embellie Fernand
2005 J'ai vu tuer Ben Barka Georges Franju
2009 Face Antoine/King Herodes
2011 Le Havre The Informer
2012 Camille redouble The Jeweller
2014 La collection: Ecrire pour... la trentaine vue par des écrivains (2014 TV Mini-Series) Cameo appearance in "Rosa mystica" episode
2016 The Death of Louis XIV Louis XIV
2016 M. (in post-production) Cameo appearance


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Baecque, Antoine de; Toubiana, Serge (4 September 2000). Truffaut. University of California Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-520-22524-4. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  2. 1 2 Brody, Richard. "Truffaut's Last Interview". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  3. 1 2 Carr, Jay. "Jean-pierre Leaud Going It Alone With Loss Of Father-protector". The Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  4. Brody, Richard (2008). Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard (First ed.). New York: Metropolitan Books / Henry Holt and Company, LLC. p. 256. ISBN 9780805068863. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  5. "Essay on Léaud's career".
  6. "Berlinale 1966: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-02-24.
  7. Monaco, James (1978). Celebrity: the media as image makers. Dell Pub. Co. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-440-50991-2. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  8. Lounas, Thierry. "- Interview : JEAN-PIERRE LEAUD - " Il me faut la caméra. Dans la vie, il n'y a pas de caméra et je deviens ennuyeux. "". Sofilm. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  9. Nancy Tartaglione (10 May 2016). "Jean-Pierre Léaud To Receive Honorary Palme d'Or – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
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