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Patrice Leconte, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Vanessa Paradis on the One in Two Set.

Director of “Tandem”, “The Girl on the Bridge” and “Ridicule”, Patrice Leconte directed Jean-Paul Belmondo facing another giant: Alain Delon. The duo, reformed for the first time since “Borsalino”, found themselves in 1998 in “Une chance sur deux”. The director remembers.

Patrice Leconte’s phone was left in the harbor, without battery, all day this Monday, September 6, the day of the disappearance of Jean-Paul Belmondo. When he recharged it in the evening, he discovered dozens and dozens of messages from journalists who had desperately tried to reach him so that he could tell them “his” Belmondo: that of the film Une Chance sur deux. Produced in 1998, it reconstituted the legendary duo formed with Alain Delon in Borsalino, by Jacques Deray, eighteen years earlier. Patrice Leconte remembers a relaxed shoot, far from the alleged rivalry between the two actors …

Une Chance sur deux by Patrice Leconte (1998), with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon. “During the ten weeks of filming, I would say to myself every morning, ‘I’m making a movie with Pierrot le fou and Le Cheépard’, and I couldn’t believe it.”

How did you react to the news of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s disappearance? It surprised me – it’s always surprising, when someone leaves – but it didn’t put me in pain infinite: 88 years old, it is certainly still a little early to leave, but he had such a good life! I don’t know if he was doing the mirror test, wondering, “What have I done with my life? “But if she did, he could tell himself she had been pretty formidable. The end, however, due to his stroke, falls and relapses, was arguably more complicated, less pleasant, and maybe as well as it went.

Was it part of your life as a spectator? Absolutely, because my life as a filmmaker only began when I discovered New Wave films. Belmondo was so associated with this period, between Breathless and Pierrot le fou … So many films that allowed me to consider cinema as a possible profession, an accessible dream. Seeing them, I told myself – even if it may seem pretentious to put it that way – that I could do the same, unlike the films of Duvivier for example, a filmmaker whom I adore but who seemed to me to be 3,000 kilometers from me and made any ambition to become a director impossible. Jean-Paul Belmondo and the Nouvelle Vague, on the contrary, brought the screen closer to our desires and dreams.

Once your career was launched, did you dream of running him? He is an actor that I have always loved very much, both within the Nouvelle Vague and with Philippe de Broca, Georges Lautner and Henri Verneuil. There was something electrifying, very endearing. So when producer Christian Fechner called me into his office to offer to reunite Delon and Belmondo, I said yes right away. I was like a child at the foot of the tree! During the ten weeks of shooting, I said to myself every morning: “I’m making a film with Pierrot le fou and Le Guépard”, and I couldn’t get over it.

They hadn’t filmed together since Borsalino, and at that time there was a lot of nonsense about the film … We were counting the length of their respective close-ups, that sort of thing, whereas during the filming of Une Chance out of two, I had in front of me two friends who were only thinking of splitting the fish. Well, one more than the other … They were no rivals, they trusted themselves, me, and it was amazing.

Alice Tomaso (Vanessa Paradis) surrounded by her two potential fathers, Julien Vignal (Alain Delon) and Léo Brassac (Jean-Paul Belmondo).

How did you imagine them one and the other before spinning them? I thought to myself that Delon was undoubtedly impressive and intimidating, and I realized very quickly that he was not. He was loyal, deep and friendly. Belmondo, I was happy to meet him because I had the impression that we were going to find each other, to make friends very quickly, and I was not disappointed. He made me feel like I had decided to be deeply and genuinely sympathetic, above all so as not to complicate his life. And even though, like all of us, he had gray areas, torments and doubts, he didn’t want to annoy the world with it. So if he had blacknesses, he kept them to himself and preferred to convey that friendly, warm image. It’s a philosophy of life and a nature that he presumably kept until the end, probably to avoid getting into something rough and rough.

How did we run Belmondo? I find the term “acting management” to be a very bombastic expression, a little pretentious too, because actors are not puppets who can be made to do anything. In a way, since the movie was purposefully written for the two of them, Delon played Delon, Belmondo played Belmondo, and I didn’t ask them to do anything other than what was their core nature. They therefore slipped into this film as in a bath at the ideal temperature. They were both very attentive, and Belmondo was by no means an argumentative or reluctant person. The shoot was really smooth.

What memory came to you when you heard of his death? That of a laughing man who had a sort of gaiety of a big old joker kid. He had a pim, pam, poum side!

If you only had to keep one film with Belmondo? His disappearance would make me want to see Pierrot le fou again. If I take Pierrot le fou and Le Doulos with me, I’m fine. These two films do not show the entirety of his palette which also contained, of course, the films of Verneuil and Lautner, these insane successes, but I prefer to keep in mind the freedom of script, filming and acting that there is. had in Pierrot le fou, and the magnificent black and white of Doulos, in which we can see his more serious and somber side, with this strapped raincoat. These two films look like two sides of the same mountain, the famous adret and ubac, and that suits him well.

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