Lino Ventura

  1. Franco Fabrizzi, Un temoin dans la ville, France-Italy, 1959.      Auteur Edouard Molinaro offered the killer or the taxi-driver hero.  “I can’t be a cold-blooded killer, lunatic, sadist or child-slayer,” said Lino, among the few to make heroes more memorable than villains.
  2. Raymond Pellegrin, Horace 62 (US: The Fabiani Affair), France-Italy, 1961, Or Horace 61 when Ventura and scenarist pal José Giovanni quit André Versini’s dea of modernising Corneille’s 1640 play about the  fratricidal war between the houses of Horace and Curiati into a  vendetta of rival Corsican families in Paris  On the absurd poster, Charles Aznavour brandished a rifle almost taller than he was.
  3. Robert Hossein, Le Meurtrier, France, 1963.    Realisateur Claude Autant-Lara suggested the lead role in his version of the Patricia Highsmith’s The Blunderer. “A fabulous story,” said Lino,  “hiding on a bus as the unbreakable alibi for a guy. You can travel across the USA coast to coast on a bus. The very length of the trip was the alibi. In France, a bus trip from Limoges to Pezenas can’t offer the same kind of alibi. They ignored this… and they fell flat on their faces.”
  4. Jean-Paul Belmondo, 100 000 dollars au soleil (Green in the Sun), France-Italy, 1963.    Ventura had enjoyed working with réalisateur Henri Verneuil on Les lions sons laches (US: The Lions Are Loose), 1960, and loved his new project. Sole question was which tough guy? Rocco hijacking a truck packed with the title or the guy chasing him, Marek, aka Plouc. Ventura voted for Marco and had a great John Fordian fight with Rocco Belmondo. Ventura later co-starred with Alain Delon and Jean Gabin in Verneuill’s similarly gripping Le clan des Siciliens (US: The Sicilian Gang), 1969.
  5. Paul Meurisse, Le deuxieme souffle, France, 1966.     Some years before the Jean-Pierre Melville classic, another  director, Denys de La Patelliere,  planned it with Gabin as Gu, the escaped con – and Ventura as Commissaire Blot. Melville also first saw Lino as the cop, before making him Gu – and the cop became Meurisse.
  6. Michel Constantin, Les Etrangers, France-Italy-Spain-West Germany, 1968. To follow this Classe tous risques (almost obliterated by the Belmondo explosion of A bout de souffle – I saw them both on the same day on my first trip to Paris in 1960), scenarist Pascal Jardin wanted Ventura in a modern update of The Taming of the Shrew, a project that simply imploded Jardin tried again by adapting a French crime novel, L’Oraison de plus fort. Ventura even worked on the scenario but despite lofty plans for such co-stars as Jane Fonda, Terence Stamp and Richard Boone, Ventura quit and Constantin took over. He inherited two other Ventura roles, though lacking his charisma.
  7. Michel Piccoli, Les choses de la vie, France, 1969.    “Let me think about it with ma petite tete de Parmesan…”  But after the gem called Classe tous risques flopped (as did their second, L’arme a gauche, 1965), Ventura steered clear of Claude Sautet, whose rise to rréalisateur he had supported during Le fauve est lâché, 1958.  But no updated Taming of the Shrew now, no Condé, and  inexplicaby, as Sautet began emerging as one of the great French auteurs, no Things of Life. With Annie Giradot. For Piccoli, Sautet chose (and not for the last time) Romy Schneider. 
  8. Michel Bouquet, Un condé (UK: Blood on my Hands; US: The Cop, Murder-Go-Round and Night of the Executioners), France-Italy, 1970.   The suave favourite of Chabrol was was the last actor anyone would see for a cop who was so brutal (censors cut some interrogation scnes) that tough guy Ventura  had refused to play him! Bouquet took lessons to handle his gun and cut his hair short.  “That’s reat,” said the surprised auteur Yves Boisset. “But I would never have dared to ask you to do that!”
  9. Bourvil, Le cercle rouge, France, 1970.    Despite the fact that Lino and Jean-Pierre Melville only talked to each other via their assistants  during the realisateur’s previous classic, L’armée des ombres (The Army of Shadows), 1969, Ventura had been offered Comissaire Mattei.   Melville being such animpeccable polar director meant that one great cast (Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, Paul Meurisse and Lino) could finish up as another classic group: Bourvil, Delon, Yves Montand, Gian Maria Volonte. The great heist tale was concoctedby Meville in 1950 and shelved after the heists of The Asphalt Jungle, 1950, and Rififi, 1955. Sadly, this proved to be the penuiltimate film for Bourvil (ditto for Melville); he was billed as André Bourvil for the first and last time in his 62 movies.
  10. Michel Constantin, Il Etait une fois un flic, FranceItaly, 1971.  A tough bachelor cop poses as a married man with a child in order to nail a drug gang in Nice.  A comedy-thriller, low on the laughs despite being written by Francis Veber, whose L’Emmerdeur, 1973, is one of the Ventura (and Veber ) classics… re-made, badly, by Billy Wilder as Buddy Buddy, 1981.

  11. Michel Constantin, Les hommes (UK: Killing in the Sun), France-Italy, 1972. Wise to pass on an average, small potatoes thriller setting gentleman gangster Constantin against US interloper Henry Silva in the Marseilles underworld.  Daniel Vigne would direct far better fare – such as Le retour de Martin Guerre with Gérard Depardieu in 1981
  12. Marcel Bozzuffi, Valdez il mezzosangue (UK: Valdez the Halfbreed; US: Chino), Italy-France-Spain-US, 1972.   Producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted to re-team Charles Bronson and Ventura after The  Valachi Papers. Hey, said Lino, this a is just a support role.  Ciao Dino!  Worse, John Sturges fell ill, so the Western was really helmed by Duilio Coletti, no matter what the credits say.  Bozzuffi  had dubbed Bronson fn the 1963 French language release of Machine Gun Kely, 1957.

  13. Yves Montand, César et Rosalie, 1972.   
    Two guys in love with the same woman… Oskar Werner refused the  younger guy. Well, he’d been here before and saw little reason to modernise Jules et Jim, the French classic   that made  him a  star in ’62..  (Besides he was the same age as his César, Vittorio Gassmann, a year younger than Yves Montand).  Impressed by the Ventura-Belmondo chemistry in his third film, Classe tous risques, 1960, réalisateur Claude Sautet wanted them for his (semi-autobiographical) tale. Until Classe flopped – and the next Ventura-Sautet number, L’arme a gauche, 1965, was an even bigger disaster. Anyway, Ventura does not do… intime.  Or rarely. (Such as La Bonne Année for Claude Lelouch). BB-Ventura-Belmondo became BB-Gassman-Belmondo, then Deneuve-Montand-Belmondo, then Schneider-Montand-Depardieu, ultimately, beautifully Romy Schneider-Montand-Sami Frey…. in Claude Sautet’s greatest box-office triumph the  most cherished by the French public. BB and Ventura made Boulevard du rhum, 1971, and did not get on.  So, nor did the film…

  14. Jean-Louis Trintignant, Un homme est mort (US: The Outside Man), France-Italy-US, 1972. Producer Jacques Barr, realisateur Jacques Deray and scenarist Jean-Claude Carriere, were staying in Greta Garbo’s old mansion, swiftly writing a thriller  for Ventura as a  hitman on the run in LA after killing a gang boss (in Cubby Broccoli’s mansion) after their Henry Fonda project collapsed. However, for the US money men Lino was a nonentity, while Jean-Lou – hey! they all knew Un homme est un femme and let play him with Angie Dickinson and Ann-Margret.  (He got paid, as well). Neither French star ospoke decent English. Yet Barr delighted in using French actors in countries where they didn’t know the language… Charles Vanel in Rififi à Tokyo, 1962; Les Tueurs de San Francisco, 1965, with Alain Delon; Maria Schneider in La babysitter in Rome,1975; GérardDepardieu in the Hollywood’s My Father The Hero, 1993; etc.
  15. Jean Gabin, Deux hommes dans la ville (US: Two Men In Town), France-Italy, 1973.   Franco-Italians Yves Montand and Lino Ventura surprisingly refused the anti-capital punishment drama – despite it beng made by an auteur who knew what he writing about. José Giovanni was sentenced to death in 1945;  he was pardoned by the the French president, served fen years and   started writing books, films and directing many of  them. Alain Delon played a similar ex-con aided by Gabin to keep on the straight and narrow. The French death penalty was eventually  abolished in 1981. 
  16. Max von Sydow, Three Days of the Condor, 1975.    “If I refused films,  it’s because the scripts were not good – for me.”  Such as this killer of everyone in  Robert Redford’s CIA office colleagues when he was, literally, out to lunch.  Apart from very few occasions, Ventura refused all villains. He did not want his children to see him as antipathique characters.
  17. Pierre Mondy, La Telephone Rose, France, 1975.   Far from interested in a fresh comedy from the director and writer of his huge hit, L’Emmerdeur – Edouard Molinaro and Francis Veber.  He liked them both but not their Toulouse businessman talking up with a Paris call-girl sinously portrayed by Mireille Darc. Impossible. “I’d forgotten the Ventura  code,” said Veber.  “He  never falls in love with a hooker.”  Lino, said Veber, was often a perfectionist, capricious,  unsupportable – “like a young woman whose desires were never fulfilled.”
  18. Philippe Noiret, Le vieux fusil (UK/US: The Old Gun), France-West Germany 1975.  When Yves Montand refused, realisateur Robert Enrico contacted Ventura – but he was still, annoyed  about his Enrico flop, Boulevard de Rhum, with  Bardot . Plus, he explained  with remarkable  honesty: “A true actor is supposed to be able to play just any parts, including the ones  contrasting the most with himself –  and make them believable. If I try to do that, I am lousily out of tune. My range as an actor is limited.” Noiret made it his own and later took on two other roles refused by the “limited” Ventura. 
  19. Yves Montand, Police Python 357, 1975.  The actor-writer Bob Decout had a meeting with Ventura in the star’s office at  his Paris home in St Cloud. “A torture chamber for writers and directors,” said his son, Laurent.  Delcout  had an idea for a thriller  and ) Montand gave him his orders. “Write away,” he said. “But not crap like Alain Corneau. He’s been wanting to work with me for ten years.  He’s charming but I never understood his stories.  When I read Police Python, I had no idea what it was about.  So, l’autre con  –  the other idiot – made it.”
  20. Yves Montand, La menace, France-Canada, 1977. ”Same thing,” Montand is still talking to Bob Delcout in his basement office… “I read it – and jt annoyed me. Couldn’t find anything in it. Again, the other guy, the poker player, he made it. He was even pleased with it! But it was shit – that’s what it came down to. Not a thriller, just depressing.  It’s only [José] Giovanni who can write great movies about hoodlums.”  Having been one, himself.

  21. Jean-Paul Belmondo, L’Incorrigible, France, 1975.  Or,  Ah…mon pote! (Ah… my frtend!)  when Lino agreed to meet director Philippe De Broca and writer Michel Audiard. De Broca blew it by mentioning  far too early in the proceedings: “At the start, you’re a dame pipi [female lavatory attendant].”  Ventura exploded:  “Ventura  as  a dame pipi!  You joking  or  what?”  And he got up and left the café.  De Broca  ran to cover – his usual star. Belmondo. That meant many  Bebel-style changes.  He  was never seen as a dame pipi but yes, as a blonde hooker in the  police paddywagon!
  22. Yves Montand, Le sauvage, France, 1975.      Impressed by  M*A*S*H and The Long Goodbye, wriiters Jean-Loup Dabadie and Jean-Paul Rappeneau first wanted Elliott Gould as the titular, rugged American. Producer Raymond Danon said such an important French production must have French stars. Auteur Jean-Paul Rappeanu got the brush-off from Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo. As everyone knew, Ventura was not at ease with love stories while Montand could play anything.  He loved the title but not playing second fiddle to Catherine Deneuve. Can she run more slowly?” he complained. ”Otherwise, I can’t catch her and we’ll have to change the ending.” He never did catch her. Deneuve being among the very few leading ladies he was never able to seduce.
  23. Bruno Cremer, Sorcerer, 1976.      Ventura quit when director William Friedkin lost Steve McQueen, the script’s greatest fan –  by not shooting inside the US.  “One of the biggest mistakes I ever made….  There were other actors I had who would’ve done it with Steve, like Lino Ventura and Marcello Mastroianni. That’s the cast I had if I could’ve gotten Steve. I said: ‘I don’t need stars; I’ll just make it with four good actors.’ And I did.” Another of his major mistakes. Of course, trying to re-make  Le salaire de la peur/The Wages of Fear, 1953, was the biggest error or ’em all. Ventura said he told Friedkind:   “It’s shit!  And anyway, who are you going to scare today with nitroglycerine?”   (Lino said much the same about Yves Boisset’s 1987’s offer to head La Plus Grand Pent. The book  was  too obviously  written by the Wages of Fear author Georges Arnaud).
  24. Yves Montand, Le grand escogriffe (The Big Operator), 1976. Four of Claude Pinoteau’s 13 films (after 36 as assistant or second unit director) were headlined by Lino – he gave his support from the very start, Le Silencieux, 1972.  However, firm, friends or not, Ventura didn’t fancy being a charming but ageing rogue revving up for one last swindle.  He left it to Montand  who ate it up with  flamboyant panache and much umbrella-twirling! 
  25. Christian Marquand, Apocalypse Now, 1976.
  26. François Truffaut, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1976.    After Steven Spielberg’s offerwas rejectedby five top French stars (Yves Montand, Philippe  Noiret, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Lino), Truffaut warned him that he’d be a neutral actor, playing himself. “But many times on the set, he managed to get me to go beyond myself.” It was the “tastiest” casting said co-producer Julia Phillips – not that she enjoyed working with him.  Not a jot. “I could detect the aura of a private dancer in Truffaut.”
  27. Michael Lonsdale, Moonraker, 1978.
  28. Yves Montand, Le choix des armes, France, 1979.  Another gift for Monand, an ex-gangster chief  faces a young killer  hiding out at his  country estate in Yvelines (the French county I live in). Or, put it another way, Montand v Depardieu.  With Catherine Deneuve as their audience!
  29. Mario Adorf, L’empreinte des géants (The Imprint of Giants), France-West Germany, 1979. Apparently, he still hadn’t forgiven auteur Robert Enrico for the 1971 flop of Boulevard de Rhum and backed off from this sort of re-make of his 1965 Les Grandes Gueules (US: The Wise Guys).  For  sawmill workers read  motorway  builders.  
  30. Philippe Noiret, Pile ou face (Head or Tails), France, 1980.  Non to Enrico yet again.  The film explains why. The cop and the suspected killer here, Noiret and Michel Serrault, are no match for the Ventura and Serrault in the same roles in Garde à vue (US: The Grilling), a year later by the more controlled Claude Miller.

  31. Gérard Lanvin, Est-ce bien raisonnable?, France, 1980.  Both director Georges Lautner and wonder-writer Michel Audiard chased Lino for the top role in their tale of a hood being mistaken for a judge by journalist Miou-Miou.  A comedy. It had to be. Ventura was 61, Lanvin was 30… and hardly judge-like.  Even for French judges.
  32. Gérard Depardieu, La Chevre, France, 1981.  Francis Veber kept trying to win him back. But only with L’Emmerdeur II, III, X…!  This time opposite Jacques Villeret or Pierre Richard.  Ventura wasn’t taken with either clpwn and left it to Depardieu and Richard – a major success leading to two more together: Les comperes and Les fugitives. All three were re-made badly, as usual – by Hollywood, even though Veber, himself,  directed Three Fugitives  in 1988.  The intended Ventura roles going to Danny Glover, Billy Crystal  and Nick Nolte.
  33. Yves Montand, Le Choix des armes,  France, 1981. Auteur Alain Corneau asked but Ventura was tired of gangsters, even well-off retired ones… wed to Catherine Deneuve.  (And, of  course, it being a Corneau script, Lino  didn’t understand any of it). 
  34. Jean-Louis Trintignant, La grand pardon, France,1981. The French like to call it  the French Godfather. It tried very hard, even too hard, but it isn’t, though covering a Corleone-style family, here  a  French Sepharadic family in Algeria. Ventura passed the cop to Trintignant – Commissaire Ducé, hell-bent on putting an end to the gang headed by Roger Hanin… the actual brother-in-law of the then French President François Mitterand).  
  35. Philippe Noiret, La grand carnaval, France-Tunisia,1983.  Once again, Noiret moved into where Ventura refused to tread – in something of a prequel by auteur Alexandre Arcady to his Grand Pardon, set in 1942 as Allies invaded North Africa.
  36. Louis Jourdan, Octopussy, 1982.
  37. Nicolas Silberg, Mesrine, France, 1983.   Jean-Paul Belmondo beat Alain Delon in 1978 to the autobiography of the French Public Enemy #1, Jacques Mesrine.   Bebel was fascinated by the self-confessed killer, from a good family, winning heroism medals in the Algerian war and boasting “I’ve never stolen from the poor, never raped, attacked old people or exploited women.” A row between Bebel and director Jean-Luc Godard killed the project. Producer  André Gènové took it over (without any rights) and called Ventura  who refused immediately. “I didn’t see the point of filming this killer who was walking around with grenades on him.  I don’t see what’s interesting about Mesrine. I wouldn’t be able to play a bloodthirsty murderer, a cruel mentally deranged person, or a child molester..” When Belmondo had shown Mesrine the script, he said: “Ne mettez pas le mot fin, ce n’est pas fini  – “Don’t use: The End.  It’s not over yet!”  Days later, he broke out of Le Santé prison, the first convict to scale the walls of the jail in 112 years). 
  38. Philippe Leotard, Adieu blaireau, France,1984.  Apparently, Bob Delcout did not follow Ventura’s advice  (see above), as Liino turned down his first script.  Too melancholic for anyone! Delcout also committed the unforgivable sin of writing  a zero role for Annie Giradot, the #1 star of the time and… his lover .
  39. Jean Yanne, Attention bandits!, France, 1985.  Must have been easy to reject  this  weak-kneed exercise  by Claude Lelouch.  The film contains the line: “Jean Gabin is dead – there can be no more gangster movies” – and then sets out to prove it!  
  40. Roger Hanin, La Rumba, 1987.    “He’s a much better actor than I am,” said Hanin about offering Lino the lead role in his latest outing as director. Ventura turned it down but asked what else he could do for his old pal- and chose a little cameo as a Godfather for what proved his final film.

  41. André Dussollier, Mon ami le traite (My Friend, The Traitor), France, 1988.  The scenario was a biographical redemption piece by auteur José Giovanni –  a WWII criminal, collaborator and gestapiste. Never in the Resistance as he claimed, he was even sentenced to death by guillotine in 1948 for a triple murder – commuted in 1949. Giovanni was 33 when finally released from jail  in 1956. His first book became the classic prison-escape film, Le trou, breeding his career of 33 scripts and directing 15 films – including nine for Lino. This time, however, Ventura felt the script was too easy on collaborators. In fact, Giovanni never held back on the bitter truths of the Occupation period. The public, however, agreed with Ventura and not, perhaps, their consciences.    
  42. Ugo Tognazzi, I giorni del commissario Ambrosio (Days of Inspector  Ambriosio),  Italy, 1988. This is the only sc riot  to be made of three vehicles that Ventura had OKed in the months before his death at 68 in 1987.   Maestro  Francesco Massaro had asked him to  be novelist Renato Olivieri’s  creation of Commissario Giulio Ambrosio, in a possible Reiitalia series.   Finally, Sergio Corbucci made the film with Tognazzi as the  Milanese Columbo?   (Italian TV had a greater success with Luca Zinaretti as Andrea Camilleri’s creation of Il commissario Montalbano).
  43. Gérard Depardieu, Astérix & Obelix contre Caesar, France-Germany-Italy, 1998.   The frst live-action version of the French comic-book heroes created by Rene Gosciny and Albert Uderzo.   But TVeteran Pierre Tchernia first had the idea in the 60s – wanting, obviously, the nation’s #1 comic, Louis De Funes, as the spunky little Gaul and, surprisingly, Lino Ventura (not yet seen in a comedy) as the mighty Obelix. Tcherina was often caricatured  in the comics, narrated many of the toon versions (he wrote four), Months  before his 2016 death, he played  the centurion (and narrator) Caius Gaspachoandalus in the second live-actioner,  Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre, 2002, far better than Claude Zidi’s heavy-handed ’98 take. Astérix changed actors twice during the first live quartet but  up until 2020, no one dared replace Depardieu as Obelix.






 Birth year: 1919Death year: 1987Other name: Casting Calls:  43