France will this week pay film star Jean-Paul Belmomdo the rare honour for an actor of a tribute at its national memorial site, the presidency said on Tuesday, as colleagues and public mourned the passing of one of the great icons of French cinema's golden age.
Over six and a half million people in France watched special TV screenings of Belmondo films after his death was announced Monday, audiovisual data showed, as schedules were cleared for an actor whose swaggering smile and one-liners are inscribed in the national consciousness.
Fellow French film legend Brigitte Bardot, who starred with Belmondo in several movies including the 1961 "Famous Love Affairs", said in a statement to AFP she felt "great grief" and was "thinking of him".
"I feel great grief just like his dog Chipie who was his last and so faithful companion," said Bardot, who is now a prominent animal rights activists and from whose foundation Belmondo adopted the crossbreed dog Chipie abandoned by previous owners.
"I miss him and I don't want to talk more about it. The greatest pains can only be expressed through silence," she said.
The office of President Emmanuel Macron said the national tribute to Belmondo would take place at the Invalides memorial complex in Paris on Thursday, an extremely rare honour for an actor although singer Charles Aznavour who appeared in several films was celebrated with such a homage when he died in 2018.
"We have lost a guide," Jean Dujardin, one of the most prominent of the current generation of French actors, said on BFM TV. "He was a guide, Jean-Paul, someone who told us: do not burden yourself with anxieties, have fun".
Fellow iconic French actor Alain Delon -- both a friend and a rival of Belmondo -- said Monday he was "completely crushed" by the news of Belmondo's death.
Even France's police force hailed an actor who starred in numerous crime thrillers such as the 1979 "Cop or Hood". "Even if it was just cinema you were in a way one of us, Mr Belmondo," the national police tweeted.
Belmondo, who first came to fame as part of the French New Wave cinema movement with films like "Breathless" by Jean-Luc Godard, went on to become a household name, acting in 80 films covering a multitude of genres, including comedies and thrillers.
He died peacefully aged 88 at his Paris home, his family announced Monday.