Seeking a Young Alter Ego

“I didn’t like the idea of finding a kid on the street and asking his parents, “Would you let him make a movie with me?” For this first feature film of mine about children, I wanted the children to be willing—both the children and their parents. So I used the ad to get them to come to a studio near the Champs-Elysées, where I was doing 16-mm. screen tests every Thursday. I saw a number of boys, one of whom was Jean-Pierre Léaud. He was more interesting than all the rest, more intense, more frantic even. He really, really wanted the part, and I think that touched me. I could feel during the shoot that the story improved, that the film became better than the screenplay, thanks to him.”

François Truffaut’s Last Interview
by Bert Cardullo


François Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Léaud on the set of Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)


Seeking a young actor to play the autobiographical hero in The 400 Blows – François Truffaut first feature after three short films – Truffaut placed an ad in the newspaper France-Soir. Of the nearly 400 boys who answered, it was 14-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud who stood out. Son of a screenwriter and an actress, Léaud was also a troubled youth whose school career was shaping up as disastrously as Truffaut’s had. In fact, one of the reasons Truffaut chose Jean-Pierre Léaud for the role of Antoine is his evocation of longing and nervousness. Truffaut notes that in casting Antoine He was looking for a “moral resemblance to the child I thought I had been”.


To watch Jean-Pierre Léaud’s audition for The 400 Blows, please take a gander at The Genealogy’s of Style‘s Facebook page:

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