Born: Sceaux, France, 8 November 1935.
When the exceptionally handsome young Alain Delon started acting in the 1950s, he bypassed the New Wave, unlike his contemporary Jean-Paul Belmondo. Instead, he came to prominence in René Clément’s Plein Soleil/Purple Noon (1960), based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, and his career took off in prestigious Italian auteur films (Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers, 1960, L’eclisse/The Eclipse, 1962, Il gattopardo/The Leopard, 1963), in which he combined charismatic but ambiguous sex appeal with a hint of corruption. His success in the thriller Mélodie en sous-sol/The Big Snatch (1963, with Jean Gabin) steered him away from playboys towards increasingly tough and monosyllabic gangsters or flics in films directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samouraï, 1967, Le Cercle Rouge/The Red Circle, 1970), Henri Verneuil (Le Clan des Siciliens/The Sicilian Clan, 1969), Jacques Deray (Borsalino, 1970), or himself (Pour la peau d’un flic/For a Cop’s Hide, 1981), Le Battant/The Cache, 1983). Delon failed in Hollywood but reigned over French cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, sharing top box-office ranking with Belmondo and Louis de Funès, his image apparently unaffected by off-screen liaisons, scandals and right-wing politics. He also founded his own production company. Delon’s popularity then declined with that of the traditional policier, prompting, perhaps, his return to art cinema: Un Amour de Swann/Swann in Love (1984), Notre histoire/Our Story (also 1984, for which he won a César), and, ironically, Jean-Luc Godard’s Nouvelle Vague (1990).