Jean Pierre Léaud was born on May 28, 1944 in Paris, Île de France, France. He is the son of actress and writer Jacqueline Stony Pierre Léaud [1923-2005]. If the French New Wave has a face, it might be the beaky, piercing-eyed visage of Jean-Pierre Léaud. In 1959, at age fifteen, Léaud made his debut as Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows”; over the next two decades, he would play alter ego not only to Truffaut, but to a generation that grew up (or failed to) in parallel with him. For Jean-Luc Godard, he was one of the ‘children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ in films like “Masculine Feminine” (1966) and “La Chinoise” (1967). Later, Léaud worked with Jacques Rivette in the epic “Out 1” (1972) and stalked through the wreckage of the late-sixties dream in Jean Eustache’s anti-epic “The Mother and the Whore” (1973), a film and a performance that obliterate sentimentality. The effect of all these collaborations is cumulative: when Léaud appears in a film by Aki Kaurismäki or Olivier Assayas, his history appears with him.
“Léaud is an anti-documentary actor,” Truffaut said. “He has only to say ‘good morning’ and we find ourselves tipping over into fiction.” Or, in Godardian terms, a Léaud film is Léaud, twenty-four frames per second. Not one to disappear into a role, Léaud brings a defining set of gestures to each performance; Manny Farber wrote, “Léaud’s acting trademark is a passionate decision that peaks his frenzied exasperation, physical compulsiveness.” Declaiming his lines with solemn clarity or demented enthusiasm, Léaud can be compelling or brilliantly comic, sometimes strange, always iconic.
Jean-Pierre appeared in only one Euro-western “A Girl is a Gun” (1971) as William ‘Billy’ Bonney.
Today we celebrate Jean-Pierre Léaud’s 70th birthday.