French actor Jean Reno is best known for
his iconic role of Leone "Leon" Montana in Director Luc Besson's hit
cult classic film, 1994's Leon:
electrifying and dynamic portrayal of the heroic Little Italy, New York
hit man with a heart transformed
Reno into an icon among film critics, fans, and many esteemed directors
and filmmakers. In the action-thriller film, Leon takes in and protects
Mathilda, (played by a very young Natalie Portman), a twelve-year-old
girl orphaned when her family is murdered by a corrupt DEA Agent.
For his role as Leon, Reno was nominated
for a Cesar Award for Best Actor, France's most prestigious award for an
actor in film achievement (the French equivalent of an Oscar).
At the time, Jean Reno was already a
major star in France and Europe, having crafted an extensive and stellar
acting career on stage and screen.
The Professional brought its talented star international acclaim, which caught
the attention of U.S. and international audiences – and filmmakers who
wanted to see more. Hollywood came calling the very next year in 1995,
with Reno's American major film debut in the romantic comedy French
Kiss, starring with Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan. In 1996 Reno landed
the major role of IMF Agent Franz Krieger, starring opposite Tom Cruise
in Director Brian De Palma's blockbuster hit, Mission
Impossible. From there,
Reno's career took off as an international star.
Reno is a
multi-faceted, classically-trained theater actor of immense emotional
depth and range. His esteemed canon includes
a diversity of roles and genres, encompassing drama, comedy, historical
and war-based, animated films, crime and action thrillers on stage,
screen, and TV.
Jean Reno grew up and was raised by
Spanish parents in Casablanca, Morocco. Reno studied drama and performed
in a diverse range of theatrical productions at the National Drama
School of Casablanca. At nineteen years old, the young Reno decided to
move to France and pursue an acting career there.
First, Reno studied at the Cours
Simon Drama School in Paris. Then, through the late 1970's and early
1980's Reno continued honing his craft. He began his career acting in a
series of small roles in French films, stage productions, and TV shows.
From 1977 to 1981, Reno also toured Europe in all of the theater
productions of esteemed French theater director Didier Flamand's Theater
In 1981, Reno's future as an actor was
charted on a course for much better things. It was then that Reno met
and struck up what would become a lifelong, and wonderfully creative
professional collaboration with young French film director Luc Besson.
Besson was also just embarking on his
career as a writer, producer, and director. In 1981, Besson directed
the film short, "L'avant
Dernier" and cast Reno.
Then in 1983, Besson directed the post-apocalyptic film Le
Dernier Combat (The Last Battle), again
casting Reno in a starring role. In 1985, Luc cast Jean again as a
charismatic character known as The Drummer in the charmingly eccentric,
quirky pop-culture confection Subway.
In 1988, Besson directed his first major
English language film, the critically acclaimed, introspective and
meaningful Le Grand Bleu
(The Big Blue) and cast
Reno in one of the starring roles. The film portrayed a fictionalized
account of the friendship and rivalry of real life champion free divers
Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca (changed to Enzo Molinari in the film).
Reno's sparkling and exuberant portrayal of Enzo Molinari was
tremendous, a larger-than-life Italian athlete with a gusto and love for
food, family, and life. The film received numerous accolades including
screening at that year's Cannes Film Festival. The movie officially made
Reno a star.
But Luc Besson had even more in store
for Jean Reno, who continued to be Besson's incredibly talented creative
muse. In 1990, Besson wrote and directed the hit action thriller, La
Femme Nikita, in which Reno's immense portrayal of Victor the
Cleaner nearly stole the movie. Besson was so fond of Reno's portrayal
as the vicious hit man Victor, that Besson was inspired to expand the
role. Only this time the hit man would evolve into a more sensitive and
Besson wrote an entire movie around this
"cleaner," as a starring vehicle for Reno. Besson invited Reno to his
home in Paris for dinner where he presented the script wrapped up as a
gift to Jean. That script was for 1994's Leon:
The Professional, the
film and role that would at last garner Reno the international
recognition and acclaim he deserved as an actor of immeasurable
since portrayed some of his most indelible, acclaimed, and creatively
challenging and fulfilling roles.
Kiss and Mission
Impossible, in 1998 Reno
starred as heroic French Secret Service Agent Philippe Roache in
Director Roland Emmerich's blockbuster, Godzilla.
In 1998, Reno starred in one of his
greatest and most memorable roles in Ronin, directed by the
esteemed John Frankenheimer. Reno enigmatically portrayed the French
mercenary Vincent, embarking on a dangerous and ambiguous mission. Reno
joined an all-star cast, starring opposite Robert De Niro, Stellan
Skarsgard, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce.
In 2000, Jean starred in one of his most
challenging roles as Detective Pierre Niemans in the psychological,
horror crime thriller The
Crimson Rivers. For his role as Detective Niemans, Reno was
nominated for a European Film Award: Jameson People's Choice Award –
Best European Actor. Reno reprised his role for the film's equally
riveting 2004 sequel, Crimson
Rivers II: Angels Of The Apocalypse.
possesses an immense and wonderful flair for comedy and has starred in
many of Hollywood's and France's most successful comedies. He also has
the distinction of starring in France's all-time top grossing film ever,
1993's time travel comedy Les
Visiteurs (The Visitors). He also starred in the film's 1998
hit sequel Les Visiteurs
II: Les Couloirs Du Temps (The Visitors II: The Corridors Of Time).
Les Visiteurs was
so successful that an American, English language remake was made in
2001, Just Visiting.
The hilarious and enchanting Just
Visiting starred Reno as
well as his Les Visiteurs creator,
writer, and cast mate Christian Clavier. Malcolm McDowell and Christina
Applegate also joined in on the fun adventures through time with Reno.
In 2001, Reno starred as Detective
Hubert Fiorentini in the fan favorite action comedy cult film, Wasabi,
which was written especially for Jean by Luc Besson. Reno also portrayed
gendarme Gilbert Ponton with Steve Martin in the 2004 mystery comedy The
Pink Panther and its 2009
sequel The Pink Panther 2. In
2012, Reno served up a deliciously charming and witty soufflé as a top
rated chef struggling to keep his three star rating against a scheming
CEO in Le Chef.
Jean has portrayed a treasure of roles
which showcase his nuanced artistry and deft ability to immerse himself
in subtle characterization, exuding immense emotional complexity and
depth. In 2006 Reno inhabited one of his most unforgettable roles in
the historical war film Flyboys.
Reno beautifully portrayed real-life Lieutenant Colonel Georges Thenault,
the heroic mentor and commander of the courageous Lafayette Escadrille.
The Lafayette Escadrille was the brave, all-volunteer squadron of
American flying fighter pilots who helped France in their fight against
the Germans during WWI.
That same year, Reno performed in one of
his favorite films – director Ron Howard's riveting blockbuster film
adaptation of The Da Vinci
Code – as determined
Police Inspector Captain Bezu Fache.
In 2010, Jean sublimely portrayed the
brave, emotionally torn, and compassionate Dr. David Sheinbaum in the
haunting war drama, La
Rafle (The Roundup). The film depicts the true story of the mass
arrest of Jews in Paris and their deportation to the Nazi concentration
camps that was conducted by the French police during WWII.
More recently in 2013, Reno starred in
his very first English language TV series portraying the emotionally
complex and heroic Detective Jo St.-Clair in the weekly crime solving
thriller, Jo. Jo, which
is filmed entirely on location in Paris, was created and written by Law
and Order's Rene Balcer.
Its stellar writing showcases Reno's superb acting which elevates the
series. Each episode focuses on a different murder mystery solved by
brilliant sleuth St.-Clair. But the series also delves into St.-Clair's
emotional struggles to reconnect with his estranged daughter while
conquering his own personal demons and grappling with a tenuous
friendship with a former childhood friend who is now a crime boss.
Jean is especially proud of his voice
acting work, imbuing his rich and expressive vocal characterizations
into several major animated films. He performed the voice of Mufasa in
the French-language version of Disney's The
Lion King in 1994,
lending emotional depth and rich gravitas to the royal lion patriarch.
In 2006 he performed the charming role of Le Frog in the animated
adventure comedy, Flushed
Away, performing with an all-star cast that included Hugh Jackman,
Ian McKellen, and Kate Winslet.
still very much enjoys performing live theater, is especially proud of
his theatrical work and often returns to the stage. Reno did just that
this past March 2015, when he and longtime friend and creative
collaborator Richard Berry, who directed Jean in the 2010 crime and
action film, 22 Bullets,
performed together to sell-out crowds in the comedy Nos
Femmes at the Theatre de
When Jean Reno isn't busy acting – which
isn't often since his eminent thespian skills are also constantly in
demand for numerous commercials including Bentley Motor Cars, UPS,
Toyota, and a Japanese Brand soy sauce – he's a successful entrepreneur
and businessman with his finger on the pulse of pop culture. He has his
own line of designer eyewear eyeglasses and two perfumes for women.
also a devoted foodie and connoisseur of fine dining and cuisine. He has
his own line of olive oil produced from his farm in Provence, France.
Reserve Jean Reno Olive Oils are available through D'Artagnan Gourmet
Foods here in the USA. Jean is also the President of The Les Amis de
Moulin Cornille Olive Farming Cooperative in Provence.
Currently, Jean Reno is busy at work,
shooting three new films, all planned for release in 2016, which he
graciously took time to discuss with me.
However, Reno is most at home when he is
talking about his favorite topics of pop culture, travel, and food.
On a beautiful autumn day, right before
the October 27th, 2015
release of Leon: The Professional on
Sony Pictures' Blu-Ray, 4K Restoration Supreme Cinema Series, Jean Reno
graciously spoke with me about a delightful hodgepodge of topics
including his new films and where to get the best paella.
First, Reno and Christian Clavier are
teaming up again to film Les
Visiteurs 3: La Terreur, the
second sequel to 1993's time travel comedy Les
Visiteurs. The film premieres April 2016.
also just wrapping up production on The
Last Face, directed by Sean Penn. The film depicts the emotional and
moral conflicts of doctors working in Africa's Sierra Leone during
political conflict. Reno stars alongside Charlize Theron and Javier
also just been cast in the history-based drama The
Promise, starring with Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Reno plays an
emotionally-conflicted French Admiral caught up in the last days of The
Ottoman Empire. The
Promise is just beginning
filming in Spain.
I want to congratulate you on the many new film projects you are working
on for 2015 and 2016. You have Brothers
Of The Wind coming
out this Christmas 2015. You also have the 2nd sequel to 1993's time
travel comedy Les
Visiteurs 3: La Terreur coming
out April 2016. What heroic and comedic adventures through time will
your character – Comte Godefroy de Montmirail – be sorting out this time
Arlene, this time Les
Visiteurs 3 will be
traveling during the time of the French Revolution called "The Terror."
This is a very dangerous time for the aristocracy and the Comte Godefroy
de Montmirail. The comedy is full of danger.
also in the The Last Face with
Sean Penn directing. What can you tell people about your character and
the film's storyline? What was your creative experience working with
Face is a movie about Medecins du Monde trying to save
people in Sierra Leone, in the middle of tribal wars. Sean
Penn is a very talented and sensitive director. It was such a great
pleasure to work with him, and be part of the cast as well, with
Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, and Jared Harris.
been announced that you have a pivotal role in the anticipated The Promise co-starring
with Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, directed by Terry George, who you
worked with in 2004's Hotel Rwanda.
You have a very profound and compelling role, playing a deeply
conflicted French Admiral who faces life threatening danger in the last
days of the Ottoman Empire. What is it about this film that creatively
speaks to you and what drew you to the story and your character?
I am a friend of the Armenian community
of which I am very close. I played an Armenian in Le
When Terry George asked me to be part of The
Promise, I accepted it. I
have a very small role in it.
You're also shooting The
Promise in Spain
and Portugal. What restaurants do you plan on enjoying? Where
can you get the best paella, one of my favorite dishes by the way with
lots of shrimp, sausage, and mussels?
It has been a long time since I have
been shooting in Spain. I will be shooting in Madrid soon and I will let
you know if I find an exceptional restaurant. The
real place to eat an authentic paella is in Valencia.
have any pets, cats or dogs, and if so, do you take them on vacation
with you and your family?
I have no pets because I am traveling
all the time with my family and we don't want to leave the pets alone.
you're traveling or on holiday, what are your favorite beaches?
We have a peaceful place in the South of
France where we are traveling for the holiday. I do prefer boats rather
still go free diving to see sharks, which you started doing after
learning free diving for your role as Enzo Molinari in The
I stopped free diving a long time ago. I
love to spend time with my children and walk with them along the water.
March 2015, you and your longtime friend and creative collaborator
Richard Berry performed in the critically acclaimed stage production, Nos
Femmes to standing
ovations at The Theater de Paris. How artistically fulfilling and
challenging was that experience, as well as doing theater again, and do
you have plans to do more theater, including here in the States?
I like doing live theater. It's so
different than doing a movie. Performing theater is a different
discipline. I enjoyed being
in Paris during the play Nos
Femmes. I am actually
looking for a play in New York.
much enjoy your beautiful piano playing in 1988's The
Big Blue as well as
your musicianship on the drums in 1985's Subway playing
in the film's fictional band. You also rocked the house last year
singing some scorching rock and blues onstage at New York's Beacon
Theater with your friend Johnny Hallyday. Are there any other musical
instruments that you play and what are your favorite styles of music?
I like to play instruments. I think life
without music will be sad and pitiful. I
do play guitar, piano, and a little drums. I
do not consider myself a musician. I
like all kinds of music. My preferences go to the 70's. Among
this I like to listen to all kinds of music, including jazz and
have done voice-acting work for several major animated films, including
the charming Le Frog in 2006's Flushed
Away. You also voiced Mufasa in the French Language version of
Disney's The Lion King and
you are just tremendous, adding such gravitas to the role. What are the
creative challenges in creating and conveying your emotions and
character development through voice acting?
I like to do voice acting. I consider it
as a real work. The fact of making your voice a vehicle to give an
animated character some sensation and feelings is a very good exercise.
The voice is a wonderful instrument for an actor!
you get involved with olive farming and producing your own line of olive
I started to make my olive oil in the
south of France. The olive
tree is a noble and historical tree. For me I am fascinated by this
some of your favorite foods and restaurants here in the States?
I have a lot of favorite restaurants in
New York. All kinds of food, speciality, and style.
I would love to see you cast in the new Star
Wars trilogy as an
esteemed Jedi Knight or hero. How would you feel about being offered a
role in Star Wars if
you got the call from George Lucas?
If I got a call from Georges Lucas and
was offered a role, I would open a bottle of champagne!
creatively collaborated with Luc Besson on so many wonderful films which
Luc directed, wrote, or produced. How did Luc first learn of your
acting talents and begin working with you, and of your many films with
Luc, why do you think that after two decades, Leon:
The Professional is
such an iconic role and film of yours that continues to resonate so
emotionally and powerfully with people?
I think it's very difficult to keep a
high creativity all life long for a film director. You
will have some peak as a creator and Leon:
The Professional is one
of them. In the USA it is a
cult movie. I like very much that movie. Natalie Portman was fantastic