Death of Jean-Paul Belmondo: why was he nicknamed Bébel?

Legend of the cinema, the actor is deceased and leaves a huge void among the French. For decades, they called him Bébel. But where does this nickname come from?

This is sad news that we will have to get used to: Jean-Paul Belmondo has passed away. The actor died at the age of 88 and, already, the chains jostle their grids to pay homage to him. A legendary actor, Belmondo has survived the ages with panache and has developed immense popularity. Belmondo has quickly been given a nickname since its inception… that of Bébel. If one can easily think that Bébel is a diminutive of the surname Belmondo, this is not its origin. It is to his old friends at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art in Paris that he owes this name. Seeing him wear the same old sweater every day, his friends at the Conservatory decided to call him Pépel, in reference to the tramp character played by Jean Gabin in The shallows (1936) by Jean Renoir. Then Pépel became Bébel …

Jean-Paul Belmondo proud of the nickname Bébel

“I was proud that I could be compared in one way or another to Gabin”, explained Jean-Paul Belmondo in an interview given in 2016 to Paris Match. The apprentice actor he was at the time kept repeating that this role played by Jean Gabin in Jean Renoir’s film was one of the most beautiful in cinema. “Without us really knowing why, it turned into Bébel. At first, it made me feel weird. Now, it flatters me to have my nickname”, also specified the actor about this nickname in the preface of the book More Bébel life. Actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Gabin finally worked together on the set of the film A monkey in winter by Henri Verneuil in 1962.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, the popular actor

“There are some who want to call me Bébel, others who want to call me Belmondo or Jean-Paul, I believe in leaving people and especially letting them dream as they want you see”, launched the actor with the legendary banter in 1992 during an interview for Zap’ In France on France 3. Jean-Paul Belmondo has never shunned this popular star image, the one we feel so close to the point of affectionately calling him by a nickname. Bébel, a short name to symbolize this turbulent clown facet that fans love to see in him. Conversely, his friend and screen partner Alain Delon has never received such a nickname. It is certain that between these two, often displayed as rivals, Jean-Paul Belmondo won the palm of sympathy with the public.

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