“I won’t do anything that offends my moral sense. I prefer making love with
gestures, rather than taking my clothes off and getting into bed with a woman.
I’d hate to have my children see that.” Jean Reno
A French actor of Spanish-Moroccan descent, Jean Reno, known for his trademark
four-day growth of stubble, oblong face and mournful, magnetic eyes, and his
frequent partnership with writer/director Luc Besson, has been a familiar face
in French TV and film before breaking into the American market in the early
1990s. Coming to prominence with Besson’s films like The Last Combat (1983), The
Big Blue (1988) and La Femme Nikita (1990), multi-language Reno is best known
for his role as Leon, an illiterate mob executioner, in his Hollywood debut The
Professional (1994). He received additional popularity for playing roles in
movies like the successful The Visitors (1993), Lawrence Kasdan’s French Kiss
(1995, opposite Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline), Mission: Impossible (1998, starring
Tom Cruise), the sci-fi film Godzilla (1998, with Matthew Broderick), Ronin
(1998, starring with Robert De Niro), Rollerball (2002, alongside Chris Klein
and LL Cool) and Hotel Rwanda (2004).
Recently costarring with Steve Martin, Kevin Kline and Beyoncé Knowles in a
remake of The Pink Panther (2006), Reno will be seen in The Da Vinci Code
(2006), Margaret (2006) and Flyboys (2006). His voice can also be heard as Le
Frog in the animated feature Flushed Away (2006).
Off screen, Reno spends his life outside the limelight with his wife Nathalie
Dyszkiewicz, whom he married in 1996 after his first marriage with Geneviève
ended in separation, and his four children, daughters Sandra (mother Geneviève)
and Serena (mother Nathalie) and sons Mickael (mother Geneviève) and Tom (mother
Nathalie). He maintains homes in Paris and Los Angeles.
Childhood and Family:
Born Juan Moreno, on July 30, 1948, in Casablanca, Morocco, to Spanish parents
who relocated to North Africa to run away from the fascism of Francisco “El
Caudillo” Franco, Jean Reno moved with his family to France when he was 12 and
then settled in Paris at age 17 after serving in the military in Germany.
Following high school graduation, he attended a French-government sponsored
drama school and began his acting career.
Jean Reno has been married twice. He first tied the knot with a woman named
Geneviève, but they later split up. With his first wife, Reno has two children,
daughter Sandra (born in 1978) and son Mickael (born in 1980). In 1996, he
married his model-girlfriend Nathalie, whom he met on the Champs Elysées (Paris'
largest avenue). The couple has a son named Tom (born in 1996) and a daughter
named Serena (born in 1998).
The Big Blue
Morocco-born, France-raised Jean Reno became interested in acting after high
school when he enrolled at a drama school in Paris. Next up, he joined a
traveling theatre company and performed all over the country. Having his first
professional stage appearance in “Ecce Homo” (1974), Reno moved on to film in
1979 with a bit part in The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting and followed with
another small role in Costa Gavras’ Woman Light, that same year.
After a series of film and TV appearances in 1983, Reno earned his first notice
as swordsman The Brute in director Luc Besson’s The Last Combat. The sci-fi
film, which starred Pierre Jolivet, Jean Bouise and Fritz Wepper, also marked
Reno’s first collaboration with the director. Two years later, the actor
rejoined Besson for the Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert starring vehicle
Subway, but it was the Luc Besson-helmed The Big Blue, in 1988, that landed Reno
a breakthrough role as the second male lead, Enzo Molinari. Playing a macho,
free diver champion fighting off competition from an old friend and foe
(Jean-Marc Barr), the actor gained critical acclaim.
Reno’s mounting star was further established in 1990 when Besson once again
tapped him to star in La Femme Nikita, where he appeared as the partner-in-crime
to Annie Parillaud’s title character. His fine performance in the
romance-thriller garnered Reno his first American attention. The same year, the
bearded actor teamed up with director-writer Eric Duret in the drama The Man in
the Golden Mask and had a compassionate starring turn as a pastor who moonlights
as a wrestler to earn money for his church’s missions.
He went on to take roles in such films as Loulou Graffiti (1991), Opération
Corned-Beef, L’ (1991), the animated Crimson Pig (1992, voiced Porco Rosso),
Flight from Justice (1993, TV) and The Screw (1993), before stepping into the
French box office realm with The Visitors (1993, released in the US in 1996). In
the Jean-Marie Poiré-helmed feature, Reno starred as Godefroy de Montmirail, a
heroic nobleman from the Musketeer-days who is transferred to the 20th Century.
Led by the success, the movie spawned its second installment, The Corridors of
Time: The Visitors II, in 1998.
Already popular in his native land of France, Reno finally made his
English-language debut in 1994 with The Professional, for director Luc Besson.
Costarring with Gary Oldman and Natalie Portman, Reno was seen as uneducated mob
executioner Leon, a heralded performance that made him famous and became his
Hollywood calling card.
The following years, Reno had a supporting role as Inspector Jean-Paul Cardon in
the Lawrence Kasdan-directed French Kiss (1995), which starred Meg Ryan, Kevin
Kline and Timothy Hutton, was featured as Franz Krieger in Mission: Impossible
(1998, starring Tom Cruise) for director Brian De Palma, costarred with Matthew
Broderick in the sci-fi film Godzilla (1998) and headlined the crime/thriller
Ronin (1998), opposite Robert De Niro. Aside from his American projects, Reno
also maintained his presence in France with roles in Beyond the Clouds (1995),
Jaguar, Le (1996), Roseanna’s Grave (1997), Witch Way Love (1997) and Soeurs
Soleil, Les (1997).
Entering the new millennium, Reno starred with Vincent Cassel in the
France-produced The Crimson Rivers, playing a detective on the trail of a serial
killer, while in 2001, he dotted his resume with two films, the American remake
of The Visitors titled Just Visiting, and Wasabi, an action film written by Luc
Besson and helmed by Gérard Krawczyk. Reno then worked with Juliet Binoche for
the romantic-comedy Jet Lang (2003), costarred alongside Chris Klein and LL Cool
J in Rollerball (2002), had a title role in Ruby & Quentin (2003), reprised his
Niemans role for the second sequel Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse
(2004), had a cameo role as a caring Belgian hotel corporation executive in
Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda (2004), starred in the comedy Enquête corse, L’
(2004), the thriller Empire des loups, L’ (2005) and in director/writer-actor
Roberto Benigni’s The Tiger and the Snow (2005).
Recently, the actor starred with Steve Martin, Kevin Kline and Beyoncé Knowles
in a remake of The Pink Panther (2006) and plays Bezu Fache in Ron Howards’ big
screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code (2006). He
will also be seen as Ramon, a South American millionaire, in Kenneth Lonergan’s
Margaret (2006) and will appear in Flyboys (2006). Reno is also scheduled to
provide his voice for Le Frog in the upcoming animated Flushed Away (2006).
European Film: Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema, 2000