Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, an icon of the French New Wave film genre, has died at age 88. His lawyer confirmed the news to the Associated Press on Monday.

Belmondo is best known as the star of Breathless, the quintessential movie of the aforementioned cinematic movement that became popular in the 1960s. He also acted opposite Sophia Loren in Two Women, a role that made her the first person to win the Best Actress Oscar for a non-English-language performance.

Born April 9, 1933, Belmondo was raised in a suburb of Paris by his artist parents, sculptor Paul Belmondo and painter Sarah Rainaud-Richard. While he was initially an athlete, taking up soccer and boxing, he found his way to acting in the 1950s while studying at the Paris Conservatory.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo
| Credit: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

As he was getting started, Belmondo's teachers and critics alike told him that he would likely not become leading-man material because of his rugged appearance, but by 1958 he'd caught the eye of a young director named Jean-Luc Godard.

The auteur first cast Belmondo in a short film that year, and then soon after offered him the lead in the 1960 movie Breathless, opposite American actress Jean Seberg. The project served as his breakthrough, and allowed him the flexibility to try everything from blockbusters like Cartouche to arthouse fare like Moderato Cantabile, with actress Jeanne Moreau.

Other highlights of his 50-year career include another project with Godard, the 1965 film Pierrot le Fou, opposite Danish actress Anna Karina; a role in fellow French New Wave filmmaker Francois Truffaut's 1969 film Mississippi Mermaid, opposite Catherine Deneuve; and his Cesar-winning turn in the 1988 film Itinerary of a Spoiled Child, directed by Claude Lelouch.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo attends the 2018 French Open.
| Credit: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty

Belmondo's later efforts were a mix of successful action films, some of which he produced, and a return to the stage in the 1980s. He worked steadily until a stroke in 2001 slowed him down, but he would ultimately make a return to the screen with the 2009 film A Man and His Dog.

The actor was married twice, first to actress Élodie Constantin, from 1952 to 1968, and then to dancer Natty Tardivel, from 2002 to 2008. While one of his daughters, Patricia, died in 1994, Belmondo is survived by three children: Florence, Paul, and Stella Eva Angelina. 

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