The French actor Jean Paul Belmondo has died aged 88 at his Paris home. Nicknamed Bébel by French audiences , he became one of the country’s biggest box-office stars in the 60s and 70s. Belmondo was a key figure of the outstanding generation of European film-making of the period. After performing on stage in provincial theatres, his movie break came with the role of Laszlo in Claude Chabrol’s 1958 film Les Tricheurs. The series of films he made with Godard – which included A Woman Is a Woman and Pierrot le Fou – had a big audience. Belmondo specialised in playing gangsters and low-lives, although he scored a big hit in 1962 with Cartouche. Belmondo established his reputation playing tough, unsentimental, even antisocial characters who were cut adrift from bourgeois society. Belmondo kept up a string of popular hits in France into the mid-80s, with comedies, action films and crime dramas.
He formed his own production company, Cerito. In 1987 Belmondo returned to the stage for the first time for nearly 30 years and divided his work between theatre and film for the rest of his career. Two years later he won a Cesar, the French equivalent of an Oscar, for his performance in Itineraire d’un Enfant Gate. In 2001, he was hospitalised with a stroke, and did not make any films until 2009’s A Man and His Dog. Belmondo was married twice, to fellow actor Élodie Constantin between 1952 and 1968, and dancer Natty Tardivel from 2002-8. He later had long relationships with actresses Ursula Andress and Laura Antonelli. He was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history.