Few French actors are recognized by North American audiences, but Jean Reno is a notable exception. He was born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez on July 30, 1948 in Casablanca, Morocco. His Spanish parents had fled Franco’s regime and eventually moved to the French mainland.
As a young actor, he had the huge good fortune to catch the eye of director Luc Besson, with whom he worked on cult classics Subway, Le Grand Bleu, La Femme Nikita and Léon: The Professional. Léon really catapulted him onto the international stage because it was filmed in English. You may also recognize him from Mission Impossible, Ronin, The Pink Panther, or The Da Vinci Code, all of which were in English.
Reno has been nominated for a César as best actor three times. One of those was for Les Visiteurs, a film about a time-traveling knight that I think is the dumbest thing on celluloid, which only proves I’m not yet French because my real French friends think it’s hysterical. Comedy does not always translate well. It was also a really different role for Reno since he usually tends to play either hard-edged cops or hit-men. In fact, he turned down the role of Agent Smith in The Matrix in order to make a movie in Japan, where he also has a huge following.
Today’s expression, mondialement connu (mon-dee-al-mohn konnew) means “worldwide known” or we’d say “world famous.” That certainly applies to Reno far more than most French actors, even though he’s mostly limited to supporting roles in foreign films.
- Leon: The Professional (1994) (sweatpantsandpopcorn.com)
- False Twitter Rumor Circulates Saying French Actor Jean Reno Dead (sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com)