CANNES, France – Alain Delon is one of the world’s most well-known French actors for his films, his good looks, his loves and also for his controversial statements criticized as being homophobic and misogynist.
On Sunday, he reviewed his life and his career in a public conversation at Cannes, leaving to the side the darker aspects of his life story.
On Sunday evening, Delon will receive the Palme d’Or at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival and a few hours before the event the 83-year-old veteran actor and sex symbol offered a series of emotional recollections and observations about his career.
He was received with loud applause but that was not enough for the Cannes Festival’s artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, who asked the audience not to take photos with their mobile devices so that they could give the actor an even greater ovation.
And Delon tried right from the start of his remarks to give the audience more than they had expected in his conversation with journalist Samuel Blumenfeld.
He spoke about his first appearance at Cannes in 1956, before he had even made a film. “I don’t have big memories (of it). I came with a girl who liked me and I didn’t pay much attention (to the festival). I went across the red carpet, looked at everyone but they also looked at me because, excuse me, I didn’t look bad.”
That was the tone of Delon’s remarks about his good looks in his younger days, his debt to women – “If it weren’t for women, I would have died” – and the gift he received by being advised to act by “living the character and not acting.”
“I went to the war in Indochina when I was just 17 and on returning I didn’t really know what to do ... It was the women who loved me, who got me to get into this profession and who fought for me,” he recalled.
His first film, released in 1957, was “Quand la femme s’en mêle” (Send a Woman When the Devil Fails) and Delon immediately felt he was in his element.
In addition, Delon said that his director, Yves Allegret, gave him a piece of advice that he has followed throughout his career. “He told me, ‘I want you to look like you look, to move like you move, to speak like you speak, to listen like you listen. Be yourself, don’t act.”
It was advice that marked him for life. “I’ve lived my roles. I haven’t acted,” he said.
He gave his recollections on an assortment of his films, including “The Leopard” (1963), directed by Luchino Visconti, one of his most celebrated films.
Although Visconti was said to be obsessed with Delon’s good looks, neither this nor other complicated issues and situations from his career emerged during the actor’s conversation at Cannes.
Delon also tiptoed through his relationship with German actress Romy Schneider, with whom he starred in the 1958 film “La Piscine,” his brief sojourn in Hollywood, saying “I missed France a lot, I missed Paris and I missed French film,” as well as his political ideology, although he was long recognized as a conservative Gaullist.
His 1976 film “Mr. Klein” will be shown Sunday evening at Cannes after Delon receives his honorary Palme d’Or, which will be presented by his daughter Anouchka.
During the interview, Delon was moved to tears when he recalled the fire at the Jenner studios in which French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville lost everything and when he viewed images taken from his greatest film successes.