Alain Delon: As I Lay Dying My Children Are Fighting Over My Future Corpse

Birds hide to die, but big cats die in the spotlight. Since the early days of 2024, the family of famed actor Alain Delon has been tearing itself apart in broad daylight, as the public watches in dismay and fascination. In France, not since the terrible battle over rock star Johnny Hallyday’s inheritance in 2017 has a family’s turmoil caused so much noise, created so much curiosity and aroused so much unease.

There’s one major difference: Hallyday was dead and buried when the war was declared between his wife, Laeticia, and his children David and Laura. Although considerably weakened by a stroke in 2019, Alain Delon is still alive and kicking, and is a witness, distressed and powerless, to the fight between his three children.

Although the legendary actor of Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers
(1960) and The Leopard (1963) often retreats into silence, finds it difficult to express himself, can hardly hear and appears trapped in a body and brain that awaken only intermittently, his three children, Anthony, Anouchka and Alain-Fabien, agree on at least one point: Their father understands what’s going on around him.

Alain Delon: Tragic finale as film great’s family is torn apart

The last of the male superstars from the golden era of French cinema is back on the front pages, but not for a new film, or a late-in-life marriage.

Once described as the most beautiful man in the movies, at 88 Alain Delon is old, sick and a virtual recluse.

The final tragic act of Delon’s life, unfolding in the media before a public torn between horror and fascination, is the breakdown of his family.

His three children are fighting over the traces of memory and paternal love.

“Birds hide away in order to die. Big beasts do it under the full light of the projector,” runs the first line of a long article in Le Monde newspaper dedicated to the saga.

It is a story, the newspaper says, with all the elements of Greek drama – a divided family, a tumbling mansion that was once the scene of glorious festivities.

And above all, a suffering protagonist confronted by the demons of his own turbulent past.

For the French, Delon is cinema’s ultimate grand fauve (big beast) who charmed and seduced his way around Europe in the heady 1960s, appearing in hits like The Leopard and Rocco and his Brothers.

For decades they have followed the ins and outs of his prolific career and equally prolific love life, via Paris-Match and other “people” magazines.

They knew that the actor had three children – two sons and a daughter – by two different women, and a third son unacknowledged and now dead.

But what they have discovered in the last two weeks is the trauma at the heart of the Delon family, as the surviving children laid their mutual grievances before the media in a series of insults, accusations, lawsuits and secret recordings.

First of all Anthony Delon, the 59-year-old son of actor Nathalie Delon, gave an interview to Paris-Match, accusing his younger half-sister Anouchka of “lying” and “manipulation” for hiding the results of cognitive tests on their father.

Anouchka, 33 and daughter of Dutch model Rosalie van Breemen, counter-attacked in a communiqué issued by her lawyer, claiming that Delon could “no longer endure the aggressivity of his son, who is constantly telling him he is senile”.

The pair then insulted each other some more in appearances on French TV, before the third child – Alain-Fabien who is 29 – stepped in on Instagram, taking his half-brother’s side and playing a secret recording of Anouchka dripping (he claimed) insinuations into their father’s ear.

The latest legal exchanges have been over medical treatment for Delon, who had a stroke in 2019 and is suffering from another serious condition, unnamed in French media. On Saturday a court-sanctioned doctor examined the actor, but his conclusions were immediately disputed by the children.

And in the background hovers another plaintiff: 66-year-old Hiromi Rollin, Delon’s former housekeeper or love-partner, depending on who you talk to. She was ejected in a rare display of unity by the children last year, but has now filed a suit against them for endangering Delon’s life by refusing him medicines.

The action is all taking place in the mansion that Delon had built at Douchy, in a wooded estate 120km (75 miles) southeast of Paris. It is there that the ageing star lives with Alain-Fabien, receiving occasional visits from the other children.

Off-limits to the public, the place is – according to Alain-Fabien – a shadow of its former self. “Everything keeps breaking down and the electricity doesn’t work,” he said.

According to all concerned, Alain Delon – though frail and often confused – is still lucid and grasps the enormity of what is happening to his family.

For Le Monde and other commentators, it is a tragedy whose roots lie deep in the actor’s own past.

Delon’s childhood and adolescence were vexatious and troubled, leaving him arguably incapable of establishing relationships with his sons.

Born in the outskirts of Paris in 1935, he was left with a foster family at the age of four when his parents divorced.

As a boy he was a rebellious truant. He joined the navy and saw action in Indochina, but was court-martialled for stealing a jeep. Back in Paris in the late 1950s, he lived among prostitutes and gangsters before his looks brought him to the world of film.

In the words of Le Monde: “No doubt his ego – as uncertain as it was immense – made him consider his sons as potential rivals who he needed to smash in the egg.”

What is well-documented is that Delon as a father was extremely tough with his two boys, both of whom went on to have brushes with drugs, guns and the law.

With Anouchka, it was different. Of her he said in 2008, “To no other woman have I so often said ‘I love you’.”

His other son, by the German rock-star Nico of the Velvet Underground, also suffered. Born in 1962, Ari Boulogne was never acknowledged by Delon.

But Delon’s own mother, believing he was indeed his child, helped bring him up. He died last year in Paris after an apparent overdose.

Delon has arranged his will so that half of his estate goes to Anouchka, and the other half is shared between the two boys.

But everyone seems to agree that the rift among the siblings is not about the money.

It is about love, rivalry and the past.