The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - DUN­CAN LAY EN­TER­TAIN­MENT WRITER

Jean Reno has been play­ing hit­men with hearts of gold for more than 25 years and, at 71, there are still a few bul­lets left in his magazine.

The French star’s roles are not as vi­o­lent as some of those played by his equally el­derly con­tem­po­raries, such as Sylvester Stal­lone, 72, who has just fin­ished punch­ing the snot out of another mob of ex­tras in his fi­nal Rambo movie. But he is amused by the way the movie world is still happy to have sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­ans smash­ing up the young­sters and sus­pects he will pull the pin on blow­ing peo­ple up be­fore the likes of Stal­lone, Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, Liam Nee­son and Bruce Wil­lis.

“One day or another it will stop,” Reno says. “They will say: ‘Uh oh, he is too old. He can­not jump, he can­not fall down’.”

While some might won­der why Hol­ly­wood is happy to cast old guys in these movies but only wants young women in ac­tion roles, Reno can see change com­ing.

“It’s been the habit of writ­ers, pro­duc­ers and au­di­ences,” he says.

“Pro­duc­ers and di­rec­tors think there is no room for a woman yet.

“Younger women haven’t yet done what the men have done (in ac­tion movies). But we will get a charis­matic ac­tor and fol­low her ca­reer.

“In my mind I can see it. We will be hooked and fol­low her and de­mand more. Jodie Foster — a per­son like that, she could do it.

“The epochs are chang­ing. One movie, one ac­tor, could change things.”

Reno found fame as the hit­man Leon who looks af­ter an or­phaned Na­talie Port­man in The Pro­fes­sional back in 1994. He still fol­lows Port­man’s ca­reer and sees her as another who could eas­ily be­come an ac­tion star in her fifties, six­ties and beyond, just as Nee­son went from re­spected ac­tor to ac­tion fig­ure later in his ca­reer.

“Na­talie could be per­fect,” he says. “She’s very tal­ented, she could do any­thing. She could be the one.”

The Pro­fes­sional was such a hit, it de­fined Reno’s ca­reer in Amer­ica and brought a se­ries of tough guys roles in block­busters such as The Da Vinci Code and Godzilla. His lat­est movie, Cold Blood Le­gacy, sees him as a re­tired hit­man try­ing to live the quiet life but forced to help an in­jured young woman. As al­ways, he seeks to find the hu­man­ity in­side the char­ac­ters.

“They are not the same char­ac­ters,” he says. “They don’t have the same past. They have dif­fer­ent sen­ti­ments, dif­fer­ent vi­bra­tions.”

Euro­pean movies, how­ever, do al­low him to in­dulge his comic tal­ents.

“In Amer­ica they don’t like to change your im­age. They give you a stamp and it is very dif­fi­cult to change that stamp, he says.

A wel­come ex­cep­tion to the com­edy rule was his roles in Steve

Martin’s Pink Pan­ther movies, while he also popped up in Cou­ples Re­treat.

But while The Pro­fes­sional re­mains his best-known role — at least out­side of France — Reno says he doesn’t have a favourite movie.

“I still like be­ing an ac­tor,” he says. “I like those sto­ries, the lone­li­ness and dif­fi­cul­ties of life.”

He says he plans to go on as long as “my phys­i­cal con­di­tion will al­low”.

His next project will be Euro­pean, fea­tur­ing “songs and love and en­joy­ing, just hav­ing fun with the movie,” he says.

Reno says if he does re­tire, it would be to a Span­ish is­land. But he still has am­bi­tions.

“I would like to find a com­edy in English,” he says. COLD BLOOD IS OUT ON OC­TO­BER 23 ON DVD, BLU- RAY AND DIG­I­TAL DOWN­LOAD

Jean Reno in a scene from his lat­est movie Cold Blood.

Reno starred with Na­talie Port­man in The Pro­fes­sional.

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