PARIS : Steadying himself on a crutch, veteran French film star Alain Delon made a rare public appearance on Friday at the funeral of a fellow giant of French cinema, Jean-Paul Belmondo, who died on Monday at the age of 88.
Belmondo, a charismatic actor who often performed his own daring stunts, switched from existential New Wave roles in the 1960s to mainstream films and became one of France's most beloved comedy and action heroes.
Family members and film figures - including Delon and director Claude Lelouch - gathered in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church in central Paris for the funeral, a day after a national tribute led by President Emmanuel Macron.
Delon, 85, stayed for some time in front of the church, where he was applauded by Belmondo fans massed outside.
On Tuesday, Delon told Europe 1 radio that he was devastated by his great contemporary's death.
"We have made French cinema, the two of us, he and I, we are two icons of French cinema, you can't speak of one without the other. We are the same age, it won't be long before it happens to me too," Delon said, visibly moved.
Through Thursday evening and well into the night, fans braved mixed sunshine and rain to pay their last respects to Belmondo. They queued for hours to be allowed to access the closed casket tribute set up in the sprawling courtyard of Les Invalides military museum, following the ceremony led by Macron.
"Cinematographically and culturally, yes, he's part of the family," 58-year old post office worker Jean-Francois said of Belmondo. "(He) was the movie you watched on Sunday night on TV...We would watch all his movies.
"He's part of the family, he's part of French heritage like the Eiffel Tower or the Mont-Saint-Michel."
(Reporting by Antony Paone, Lucien Libert, Ingrid Melander, Olivia Schmoll, Camille Verdier; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark Heinrich)