With mournful eyes that suggest deep contemplation lurking beneath a sometimes imposing exterior, French actor Jean Reno has carved a particular niche in cinema by portraying men who prefer to define themselves through action rather than words. Though his characters may often resort to violence without pause when necessary, that isn't to say that they are without the sort of honor or dignity that has served to define some of the screen's most memorable action stars. Born Juan Moreno Errere y Rimenes in Casablanca, Morocco, the future star spent his early, more carefree days roaming the beaches with friends to escape the searing summer heat. Reno was captivated by the likes of such screen legends as John Wayne, Marlon Brando, and Jean Gabin, who would form the foundation of his screen persona much later in life.
An early stint in drama school found Reno exploring his acting abilities, but little did the aspiring talent know that his life would soon take a new and unexpected turn. Though Reno's life to that point had been somewhat idyllic, Morocco's increasing instability forced Reno's family to flee to France to start anew. Unfortunately, his new homeland was in the midst of turbulent civil unrest. In order to gain his citizenship, Reno had to sign up with the national service, and he was quickly recruited into the army. When his superiors noticed that he had previously been to drama school, they placed him in charge of arts and entertainment, and after a year of service, Reno set his sights on Paris. More drama school was soon to follow, and throughout the 1970s, Reno gained experience through stage and television work. After being singled out by critics for memorable appearances in such plays as Costa-Gavras' Clair de Femme (a role that he would later revisit in the 1979 film of the same name) and touring Europe with Didier Flamand's theater troupe, Reno made his screen debut in the 1979 Raúl Ruiz film The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting.