“My mom will call me and say, ‘You looked great. I’m proud.’ That’s really important.”
Alain-Fabien Delon Jr. doesn’t sound like a rich kid. More like Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman if he were raised on the mean streets of Switzerland. There’s something vaguely comic about all the “yos” and “fuck yeahs” that punctuate his speech; the only hint of a pop culture pedigree comes through in his confidence. Not many 19-year-olds with heavily buzzed-about films at Cannes would sail past the red carpet firing squad and think: Yeah, dude. This is exactly how I planned it.
Of course, it would be easy to write off his bravado as run-of-the-mill entitlement. After all, his father is French-film-god-turned-highly-successful-businessman Alain Delon; a man dubbed both the French James Dean and the male Brigitte Bardot. But Alain-Fabien refuses to be defined by his old man, even if it means there’s a tanker load of bad blood between them.
“Our relationship is complicated,” he says in perfect English from his Paris flat, recounting a childhood that was far from idyllic. At 7, his parents told him they were getting a divorce on Christmas Eve. From then on, Alain and his sister were ferried around on private planes by his father between Holland, Paris and Geneva. It was difficult for him to lay down roots, and his relationship with his father deteriorated. It was an Oedipal struggle, with the roles reversed: “He has problems with rivalry with his sons,” Alain says. “My half-brother had the exact same problem as me. My sister had it easy. My brother, no one ever helped him. My dad tried to destroy his career. It goes back to mythology. About your sons outgrowing you, or killing you.”
At 17, Alain was hosting a party in his father’s Geneva apartment while he was away. Alain and another boy started fighting over a gun. It went off. A girl was shot in the stomach. Thankfully, she survived, and the courts ultimately ruled it an accident. But Alain dropped out of high school, severed ties with both his parents, and took off.
“I called up a French news show and was like, ‘OK, yo, this is who I am. I wanna do this, and I wanna get paid. I’m an 18-year-old businessman, right?’”
He ended up in Paris, alone and broke. He couch-surfed, lived on pain au chocolat, dressed in baggy jeans and hoodies, and ran with a tough crew. No one had a clue where he came from. He was completely cut off from his family, but exactly where he needed to be.
Under French law, the media is prohibited from publishing pictures of minors without parental consent. Alain had been written about since he was born, but the public had never seen his face. After over a year on the streets, he was finally ready to step out of the shadows and accept the mantel of his name. On his own terms, of course.
“I called up a French news show and was like, ‘OK, yo, this is who I am,’” he laughs, still amused by his own brazeness. “And I said ‘Yo, man, I wanna do this, and I wanna get paid. I’m an 18-year-old businessman, right?’” He threw out a ridiculous number, which they agreed to without hesitation.
The interview came together quickly and aired with much fanfare. Alain talked candidly about the difficulties of his relationship with his father and how disconnected they were. The French ate it up.
So did director Yann Gonzalez, who was casting his first feature film. Three weeks later Alain was shooting an orgy scene for Gonzalez. The film, You and The Night, is about a couple and their transvestite maid throwing a sex party. The Hollywood Reporter called it “a visually exquisite, occasionally hilarious … meditation on sex, love, dreams, death, camp and kitsch.” It includes scenes of footballer Eric Cantona running around naked with a giant prosthetic penis, and characters with names like “The Slut” and “The Stud.” Alain played “The Teen” .
“It was like a family. A huge family of 100 people”
The role required him to lick a girl’s breasts, kiss a guy, and make out with a 60-year-old woman. “It was fucking crazy,” he says. But what really hooked him was something he craved on a deeper human level: Drinking beers with the camera crew, eating dinner with the sound guys, working with his co-star, Nils Schneider, on The Teen’s big monologue until 5AM. “It was like a family. A huge family of 100 people,” he says.
The film premiered at Cannes in 2013 where the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema called it one of the year’s best. Alain’s performance was a break-out. With success came much-needed stability. He just signed a lease on a swanky flat in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement, is negotiating to become the face of a legendary fashion house and is attached to a couple of films, including a dark, psychological study of a disturbed young man whose obsession with guns leads to murder.
Outside of work, he’s happily single and concentrating on his new Jack Russell pup, “Snoop,” while rebuilding his relationship with his mother. “Every day I do something — I go to the Armani fashion show or something — and my picture gets on the Internet,” he says. “My mom will call me and say, ‘You looked great. I’m proud.’ That’s really important.”