Victor Belmondo: ‘At the end of the movie my grandfather is shot. I was a kid and I was crying’

It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of an icon, but Jean-Paul Belmondo’s grandson is quietly becoming a screen star in his own right

By now Victor Belmondo is primed for questions about his famous family, especially his papi, who died two years ago, prompting days of national mourning. Thousands lined the streets of Paris, and Emmanuel Macron joined Victor and his family as the coffin left Les Invalides, France’s national memorial site.

Fortunately, the younger Belmondo is a good sport about family-specific questions: “I never mind talking about my grandfather,” he says, smiling.

Belmondo bears an uncanny resemblance to that grandfather, the new-wave icon Jean-Paul Belmondo. Bébel, as the French called him, was more than a movie star. A daredevil who performed his own stunts, he had his ear chewed while wrestling a tiger and stood on the wing of a flying aeroplane, a Fieseler Fi 156, during the making of the 1977 adventure-comedy Animal, and flew over Venice suspended from a rope ladder beneath a helicopter in Le Guignolo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Victor Belmondo has wanted to be a screen actor for as long as he can remember.

“I never considered anything but cinema,” he says. “I can’t think what else I could do. I remember when I was eight years old, in school, we were reading poetry and French theatre. All my friends and classmates didn’t want to do it. I was the only one saying, ‘Me, I want I want to do it, I want to do it’.”


Belmondo’s earliest memories of his grandfather’s work, however, are primarily in theatre, where the star of Breathless and Pierrot le Fou spent much of his late career.

“When I was a kid he wasn’t working in cinema any more,” Belmondo says. “As a grandfather and grandson, we spoke about cinema, but also about sport and life and everything. He had a big humility. He was a really modest man. So he would not think to give me advice, except to enjoy what I want to do. For him, this work, being an actor, was a big game. It was not like something intellectual. It was play.”

Belmondo cites Henri Verneuil’s A Monkey in Winter, over better-known collaborations with the giants of cinema such as Vittorio De Sica, Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Ophüls, as his favourite Jean-Paul Belmondo flick. “But the film that was the most emotional for me was The Professional,” he says, adding a spoiler. “Because at the end of the movie my grandfather is shot in the back. I was a kid and I was crying. I thought they were really shooting him and that he was really dead.”

It’s a difference when I play someone who exists. I have to respect him. When I played Roger Vadim my work was to respect him and to respect precisely who he was

It’s not easy striking out on one’s own with a surname like Belmondo, but this year has proved a landmark in Victor’s career. He has earned rave reviews for his depiction of the film director Roger Vadim in Bardot, a miniseries about the bombshell Brigitte Bardot. Over six episodes (shown on French TV and German-language Netflix) Belmondo’s Vadim transforms from a lovestruck youngster into a tolerant husband who watches his wife’s much-publicised affair with Jean-Louis Trintignant while on the set of And God Created Woman.

“It’s a difference when I play someone who exists,” Belmondo says. “I have to respect him. When I played Roger Vadim my work was to respect him and to respect precisely who he was. So I’ve watched a lot of movies. I’ve watched a lot of interviews. I watched documentaries. I’ve read what he wrote. And also what he wrote and what people wrote about him.”

The anglophone world, meanwhile, can enjoy watching Belmondo in Lie with Me, an adaptation of the best-selling French novel, by Philippe Besson, about an affair between two teenage boys in 1980s France. (The English version of the book, as translated by the retired 1980s icon Molly Ringwald, was called a French Brokeback Mountain by Elle magazine in 2019.) The boys are the nerdy, blond Stéphane (Jérémy Gillet) and the brooding farmboy Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean). Ringwald’s English title is a cleverly slanted translation of the French one, Arrête avec Tes Mensonges, or Stop with Your Lies.

Their unlikely queer romance is told in flashback in a handsome new film from the director Olivier Peyon. As the older Stéphane, a successful novelist, returns to his cognac-producing hometown of Barbezieux 35 years after his teenage love affair, he’s greeted by Lucas (Belmondo), a local guide, and son of the late Thomas, who has questions about his inscrutable, closeted father. “He only ever brightened up when you were on TV,” he says. “What was he for you?”

My dream is to work in Italy, because my mother is Italian and, also, Jean-Paul Belmondo was practically Italian

“I discovered the story in the script,” Belmondo says. “I didn’t know the book before, and I didn’t want to read the book, because I asked the director if he wanted me to read it and he told me the story in the book is really different. This script is focused on the present and the book is focused on the past. I wanted to have a new approach for my proposal of the character. My character doesn’t know anything about the past. I didn’t want to know more than he did.”

Victor Belmondo was 10 years old when he was cast in Acharnés, a short film featuring his father, Paul, and, perhaps eerily, Christian Vadim, son of Roger Vadim and Catherine Deneuve.

“At home my father had a huge collection of DVDs,” Belmondo says. “So since I was a kid I watch a lot of movies. A lot of French movies but also international movies. When I played the short movie, that was the first time when I was on a set. I was really young, but it was already the best day of my life. I never felt so good. And I said, ‘Okay, I want to be back on a set’.”

He subsequently trained in theatre at Cours Peyran Lacroix and landed his first lead role in the hit 2021 family comedy Fly Me Away, playing a hedonistic young man who is forced into caring for an ailing 12-year-old. He also played the resistance leader Claude Hettier de Boislambert in the 2020 biopic De Gaulle, starred in Netflix’s firefighting drama Notre Dame and will appear alongside Maïwenn in Yvan Attal’s incoming marital thriller, Un Coup de Dés N’Abolira Jamais le Hasard. With 34,000 followers on Instagram, people are starting to recognise him on the street.

“When you’re working in TV in France, everybody starts to recognise you,” he says. “But I’m not the big star. I’m not the French Justin Bieber.”

While he’s a fan of Martin Scorsese, Belmondo is currently focused on a European career. He cites Tahar Rahim as an influence and as “his brother”: “I want to discover all the cinema and I want to meet everybody. I watch everything. I will definitely see Barbie when I am back from holidays. My dream is to work in Italy, because my mother is Italian and, also, [Jean-Paul] Belmondo was practically Italian. So, for the moment, I’m more thinking about Italy than America. And France, of course. It’s incredible. We are really, really lucky to work as actors in France.”

While it’s easy to characterise Victor Belmondo as having signed up with the family guild, he did have options. His father, Paul, is a racing driver who competed in Formula 1 before founding his own team. His mother, Luana Tenca, is a popular television chef. His brother Alessandro has followed her into the culinary arts.

“They are all artists,” Belmondo says. “My aunt is a graphiste [or graphic designer]. My grand-aunt is a ballet dancer. My younger brother is a drummer.”

And how are his cooking and driving?

“Driving not so bad. I’m better with a motorbike. I’m so bad at cooking.” He laughs. “But I’m a good eater.”

Lie with Me opens on Friday, August 18th