Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon (French: alɛ̃ dəlɔ̃; born 8 November 1935) is a French actor and businessman, with French-Swiss dual citizenship since 1999. He rose quickly to stardom, and by the age of 23 was already being compared with French actors such as Gérard Philipe and Jean Marais, as well as American actor James Dean. He was even called the male Brigitte Bardot. Over the course of his career, Delon has worked with many well-known directors, including Luchino Visconti, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, Michelangelo Antonioni and Louis Malle.
Delon acquired Swiss citizenship on 23 September 1999, and the company managing products sold under his name is based in Geneva. He is a citizen of the community of Chêne-Bougeries in the canton of Geneva.
Delon was born in Sceaux, Seine (now Hauts-de-Seine), Île-de-France, a suburb of Paris. His parents, Édith (née Arnold) and Fabien Delon, divorced when Delon was four. Both remarried, and Delon has a half-sister and two half-brothers. His paternal grandmother was Corsican, from Prunelli-di-Fiumorbo. He attended a Roman Catholic boarding school, the first of several schools from which he was expelled because of unruly behavior. Teachers once tried to convince him to enter the priesthood because of his aptitude in religious studies.
At 14, Delon left school, and worked for a brief time at his stepfather's butcher shop. He enlisted in the French Navy three years later, and in 1953-54 he served as a fusilier marin in the First Indochina War. Delon has said that out of his four years of military service he spent 11 months in prison for being "undisciplined". In 1956, after being dishonorably discharged from the military, he returned to France. He had little money, and got by on whatever employment he could find. He spent time working as a waiter, a porter, a secretary and a sales assistant. During this time he became friends with the actress Brigitte Auber, and joined her on a trip to the Cannes Film Festival, where his film career would begin.
At Cannes, Delon was seen by a talent scout for David O. Selznick. After a screen test Selznick offered him a contract, provided he learn English.
Delon returned to Paris to study the language, but when he met French director Yves Allégret, he was convinced that he should stay in France to begin his career. Selznick allowed Delon to cancel his contract, and Allégret gave him his debut in the film Quand la Femme s'en Mêle (When the Woman Butts In).
Delon then appeared in the film Women are Weak, which was a big hit. This was also the very first of his films to be seen in America.
Delon then made two films which ensured his international reputation. In 1960, he appeared in René Clément's Purple Noon, which was based on the Patricia Highsmith novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. He played protagonist Tom Ripley to critical acclaim; Highsmith herself was also a fan of his portrayal.
He then appeared in Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers. Critic Bosley Crowther of the New York Times said Delon's work was "touchingly pliant and expressive." John Beaufort in the Christian Science Monitor said:
"Rocco's heartbroken steadfastness furnishes the film with the foremost of its ironic tragedies ... Its believability rests finally on Mr. Delon's compelling performance."
Delon made his stage debut in 1961 in the John Ford play Tis Pity She's a Whore alongside Romy Schneider in Paris. Visconti directed the production which cost a reported 60 million francs and which broke box office records.
Around this time Delon was mentioned as a possibility for the lead in Lawrence of Arabia. Peter O'Toole was cast instead, but then Delon was signed by Seven Arts to a four picture deal, including a big budget international movie of the Marco Polo story and The King of Paris, about Alexander Dumas.
Neither project came to fruition however Delon then appeared in a big hit at the French box office, co-starring with Jean Gabin in Any Number Can Play. His reputation was further enhanced when he worked with Visconti again for Il Gattopardo (The Leopard).
Instead of a straight salary for Any Number Can Play, Delon accepted distribution rights for the film in various territories. This gave him a taste for producing, which he would develop later.
In 1964, the Cinémathèque Française held a showcase of Delon's films and Delon started a production company, Delbeau Production, with Georges Beaume. They produced a film called L'insoumis, which had to be re-edited because of legal issues.
By now Hollywood studios were very interested in Delon and he decided to make a bid for American stardom. He was quoted in 1965 as saying:
I don't know whether I'll succeed or not. If I were to concentrate on working entirely here and flop it would be a disaster for me in Europe. Everything would dissolve and I would have nothing. My dream is to do one picture a year in America and one in Europe... But America is the top, the last step. It's a kind of consecration... If you want to be an international star you must establish yourself in American pictures, because only they will get adequate world wide distribution. It takes only a year for an American star to become known throughout the world. But European actors consider it a big break to get their pictures shown in New York. Because of my accent I would not attempt to play Americans. I am working on removing the distinctly French inflections from my speech so that I can play all continental nationalities.
Any Number Can Play had been distributed in the US by MGM, who signed Delon to a five picture contract. The first movie of this deal was Joy House (1964), shot in France with Jane Fonda. He then followed it up with two more films for the studio: the all-star The Yellow Rolls Royce, in which Delon had a relatively small role, and Once a Thief, where he co-starred with Ann-Margret.
(MGM also announced him for a Western Ready for the Tiger directed by Sam Peckinpah but the film was never made.)
Delon signed a three picture deal with Columbia, for whom he appeared in the big budget action film Lost Command (1966). The studio also announced would appear in the biopic Cervantes, but this was never made.
Universal Studios used Delon in a Western, opposite Dean Martin, Texas Across the River. Seven Arts wanted to use him in The Night of the Iguana and This Property is Condemned. He did not appear in either film but was in that studio's Is Paris Burning?. This was a massive hit in France but performed disappointingly at the US box office - as did all of Delon's Hollywood financed films.
Along with Steve McQueen and Sean Connery he was one of the biggest stars in Japan. However he could not make headway in America.
Return to France:
After six Hollywood movies Delon returned to France to make The Last Adventure. He was meant to reteam with Visconti in The Stranger but did not end up playing it.
Delon then made Le Samourai with Jean-Pierre Melville, which became another classic.
Delon then started his own production company, Adel, and starred in the company's first film, Jeff. Delon followed the success of the film with Borsalino, which became one of France's highest grossing films of the time.
In the early 1970s Delon tried Hollywood again, appearing in Red Sun. The film was popular in France but not the US.
In 1973, he recorded "Paroles, paroles", a popular French-language version of the Italian song "Parole parole", with French pop singer Dalida.
He played the title character in the 1975 Italian-French film Zorro. In 1976, Delon starred in Monsieur Klein, which won him the César awards (French equivalent of Oscars).
In 1979 he stated only a quarter of his business activities involve films:
I have a helicopter business, build furniture, promote prize fights, and race horses... I star in two or three pictures a year in France. They make tremendous profits around the world. My pictures are the most popular in Russia. I am a superstar in Europe. I would like to be a star in America. In order to do so I would have to live and work in Hollywood. I can't do that. My Adel productions makes at least one film a year. I do everything from A to Z. I find a story, hire writers, choose a director, collect a cast, and then put it all together. I even handle the finances, distribution, and publicity. I refuse to accept the director who thinks himself a genius and tries to put his stamp on my films. It is my stamp that counts... I don't mean to sound egotistical. The simple truth is that I am an enormous star all over the world. I like that because it enables me to live well.
In 1979 he made another attempt at Hollywood stardom, signing with agent Sue Mengers and staarring in The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979). The film was not a big success.
He was awarded the Best Actor César Award for his role in Bertrand Blier's Notre histoire (1984), and portrayed the aristocratic dandy Baron de Charlus in a film adaptation of Marcel Proust's novel Swann in Love in the same year.
Then followed a string of box office failures in the late 1980s and 1990s. One notable film during this time was Jean-Luc Godard's Nouvelle Vague in 1990, in which Delon played twins. Delon's last major role was in Patrice Leconte's Une chance sur deux in 1998, another box office disappointment.
Delon announced his decision to give up acting in 1997, although he still occasionally accepts roles.
In the 1970s Delon expanded his interests. He bought trotters and promoted fights.
Since the formation of a perfume label in his name, Delon has had a variety of products sold under his name including wristwatches, clothing, eyewear, stationery and cigarettes.
Delon's sunglasses brand became particularly popular in Hong Kong after actor Chow Yun-fat wore them in the 1986 crime film A Better Tomorrow (as well as two sequels). Delon reportedly wrote a letter thanking Chow for helping the sunglasses sell out in the region. The film's director John Woo has acknowledged Delon as one of his idols and wrote a short essay on Le Samourai as well as Le Cercle Rouge for the Criterion Collection DVD releases.
On 20 March 1959, Delon was engaged to actress Romy Schneider, whom he met when they co-starred in the film Christine (1958).
During their relationship, he had an affair with German actress, singer and model Nico. On 11 August 1962, Nico gave birth to a son, Christian Aaron "Ari", fathered by Delon. The child was raised mostly by Delon's parents.
In December 1963, Schneider and Delon decided to break the engagement.
On 13 August 1964, Delon married Nathalie Barthélemy. Their son, Anthony Delon, was born in September. Delon filed for divorce in late 1967 but they continued to live under the same roof. The couple divorced on 14 February 1969.
In 1968, during the shooting of the film Jeff, he met French actress Mireille Darc with whom he started a 15-year relationship, lasting until 1982.
In 1987, Delon met Dutch model Rosalie van Breemen on the set of the music video for his song "Comme au cinéma" and started a relationship. They had two children: Anouschka (25 November 1990) and Alain-Fabien (18 March 1994). The relationship ended in October 2002.
During an interview in 2013 Delon came out in support of the French far-right political party National Front, saying "The National Front, like the MCG Geneva Citizens' Movement in Geneva, is very important...I encourage it and I perfectly understand it".
Alain Delon lives in Chêne-Bougeries in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland with his two youngest children.
Alain Delon was good friends with, among others, Argentine world champion boxer Carlos Monzon.
On 1 October 1968, in the village of Élancourt, Yvelines, on the western outskirts of Paris, the dead body of Stevan Markovic, ex-bodyguard of Delon, was found in a public dump.
Alain Delon and a Corsican gangster Francois Marcantoni came under investigation. One of the factors pointing in that direction was a letter of Stevan Markovic to his brother Aleksandar where he wrote: "If I get killed, it's 100% fault of Alain Delon and his godfather Francois Marcantoni."
Later, the investigation involved the former French Prime Minister (and later President) Georges Pompidou after a few press articles and a testimony of Borivoj Ackov.
He testified that he was present at parties with the wife of Pompidou, Stevan Markovic and Alain Delon.
The death of Stevan Markovic provoked a lot of rumors, suggesting the existence of group sex photos with Pompidou's wife. Pompidou himself accused Louis Wallon and Henri Capitant for using the French espionage service SDECE with an aim to set him up. After becoming President of the Republic, he named Alexandre de Marenches as the head of the SDECE in order to reform it. Assisted by Michel Roussin, his principal private secretary, de Marenches expelled a "secret agent" involved in investigation Jean-Charles Marchiani.
Other legal troubles:
In 1969 Delon was given four months in jail by an Italian court for assaulting an Italian photographer.
De Gaulle document:
In 1970 it was reported that Delon, through a friend, purchased a copy of the original manuscript of Charles De Gaulle's 1940 speech to the French encouraging them to resist the Germans. Delon paid 300,000 francs for the manuscript then returned it to the government.
Delon's favorite actor was John Garfield. He also admired Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Robert Walker.
Honours and cultural impacts:
At the 45th Berlin International Film Festival, he won the Honorary Golden Bear.,
At the 2008 César Awards on February 22, 2008, he presented the César Award for Best Actress to Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose.,
Delon appears on the cover of the 1986 album The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths.,
He was made Officier (Officer) of the Ordre national du Mérite in 1995.,
He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur on 21 February 1991. He was promoted to Officier (Officer) in 2005.,
The song "Beautiful Killer" on Madonna's twelfth studio album MDNA is a tribute to Delon.,
Quand la femme s'en mêle
Sois belle et tais-toi
with Romy Schneider
Women are Weak (Faibles femmes)
with Mylène Demongeot
Le chemin des écoliers
with Bourvil and Lino Ventura
Rocco and His Brothers
with Annie Girardot
Purple Noon (Plein Soleil)
with Marie Laforêt
The Joy of Living (Che gioia vivere)
nominated for the Palme d'Or 1961
Les Amours célèbres
Love at Sea (L'Amour à la mer)
a film star
with Monica Vitti
Carom Shots (Carambolages)
The Devil and the Ten Commandments (Le Diable et les Dix Commandements)
Joy House (Les Félins)
with Jane Fonda
Any Number Can Win (Mélodie en sous-sol)
with Jean Gabin
nominated - Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Male with Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale
La Tulipe noire
Guillaume/Julian de Saint Preux
with Lea Massari
The Yellow Rolls-Royce
Once a Thief
with Ann-Margret, Van Heflin and Jack Palance
Is Paris Burning? (Paris brûle-t-il?)
written by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola
Texas Across the River (Texas nous voilà)
with Dean Martin
Capt. Philippe Esclavier
with Anthony Quinn, Michèle Morgan and Claudia Cardinale
The Last Adventure
with Lino Ventura and Joanna Shimkus
Diabolically Yours (Diaboliquement vôtre)
with Senta Berger
Jean Pierre Melville
with Nathalie Delon
Spirits of the Dead (Histoires extraordinaires)
Farewell Friend (Adieu l'ami)
with Charles Bronson and Brigitte Fossey
The Girl on a Motorcycle (La Motocyclette)
with Marianne Faithfull
with Mireille Darc
The Sicilian Clan (Le Clan des Siciliens)
with Lino Ventura and Jean Gabin
The Swimming Pool (La Piscine)
with Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin
with Mireille Darc
Doucement les basses
with Nathalie Delon
with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Rouvel
Le Cercle rouge
with Bourvil, Gian Maria Volonté and Yves Montand
The Assassination of Trotsky
with Richard Burton as Leon Trotsky
Fantasia chez les ploucs (fr)
Red Sun (Soleil Rouge)
with Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune and Ursula Andress
La Veuve Couderc
with Simone Signoret and Ottavia Piccolo
Dirty Money (Un flic)
with Catherine Deneuve
La prima notte di quiete
with Giancarlo Giannini and Alida Valli
with Annie Girardot
No Way Out (Tony Arzenta)
with Burt Lancaster and Gayle Hunnicutt
The Burned Barns
with Simone Signoret and Miou-Miou
La Race des seigneurs
with Sydne Rome and Jeanne Moreau
Two Men in Town (Deux hommes dans la ville)
with Jean Gabin, Mimsy Farmer and Gérard Depardieu
Borsalino & Co.
sequel to Borsalino
Les Seins de glace
with Claude Brasseur and Mireille Darc
Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro
with Stanley Baker and Ottavia Piccolo
also produced by Alain Delon
with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Claudine Auger
Comme un boomerang
credited as writer
Doctor Michel Ambroise
César Award for Best Film
with Mireille Darc
Death of a Corrupt Man (Mort d'un pourri)
with Ornella Muti, Stéphane Audran and Mireille Darc
credited as producer
Attention, les enfants regardent
with Sophie Renoir
The Concorde ... Airport '79
David Lowell Rich
with Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely and Sylvia Kristel
The Medic (Le Toubib)
with Véronique Jannot
Three Men to Kill (Trois hommes à abattre)
credit as writer
Aleksandr Alov and Vladimir Naumov
Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival 1981
For a Cop's Hide (Pour la peau d'un flic)
credited as director and writer
The Shock (Le choc)
with Catherine Deneuve
with Anne Parillaud
with Nathalie Baye
Swann in Love
Baron de Charlus
based on Marcel Proust, with Jeremy Irons, Ornella Muti
Parole de flic
with Fiona Gélin
with Christine Boisson
Let Sleeping Cops Lie (Ne réveillez pas un flic qui dort)
Commissaire Eugène Grindel
credited as co-writer and producer
with Domiziana Giordano
The Return of Casanova (Le Retour de Casanova)
Un crime (fr)
credited as writer
L'Ours en peluche
based on Georges Simenon
A Hundred and One Nights (Les cent et une nuits de Simon Cinéma)
Le Jour et la nuit (fr)
with Arielle Dombasle and Lauren Bacall
Une chance sur deux
with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Vanessa Paradis
Les Acteurs (fr)
Asterix at the Olympic Games (Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques)
Frédéric Forestier and Thomas Langmann
with Gérard Depardieu, Clovis Cornillac and Benoît Poelvoorde
Happy New Year, mothers! (С новым годом, мамы!)
2003 Frank Riva Television Series
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license