Johnny goes to Hallywood

France's veteran rock star hopes to conquer the US at last, writes John Lichfield

After more than half a century of being ignored by Anglo-Saxon popular culture, Johnny is going to Hollywood, or perhaps Hallywood.

Quentin Tarantino has asked the indestructible French rock star Johnny Hallyday, 66, to appear in a movie, possibly next year. The French legend, once described by USA Today as "the biggest rock star you never heard of", is also considering an offer by the Coen brothers. "Quentin Tarantino is writing a screenplay for me but I haven't read it yet," Hallyday told the newspaper Le Parisien. "I am also going to meet the Coen brothers, who have approached my agent."

The director of Reservoir Dogs and Inglourious Basterds is said to have been bowled over by Hallyday's performance as an ageing gangster in Vengeance, a thriller by the Chinese director Johnnie To, which was shown at the Cannes film festival in May. Tarantino had dinner with the French star during the festival and they agreed in principle to make a movie together.

To appear in a Hollywood movie would be a final consecration for Johnny Hallyday, who has become a French national hero by reworking every passing style of American and British pop music since 1958. He has appeared in 30 French films, usually as either a pop star or a gangster. He has never previously made a film in his spiritual homeland, and recent, occasional country of domicile, the United States. "Johnny" – as he is universally known in the French-speaking world – is completing his latest, final, farewell concert tour of France, which is called Tour 66, after his age and the transcontinental highway of American rock legend. Between concerts, he spends much of his time in Los Angeles, where his two adopted Vietnamese daughters, Jade and Joy, aged five and two, are in school and kindergarten.

While in the United States, he revealed earlier this year, he likes to ride a Harley-Davidson through the Californian desert and to stay overnight incognito in small motels.

There has, until now, been little danger of him being recognised in the California boondocks. After 51 years in the rock business, 900 recorded songs, 100 live tours, four wives, two children, two grandchildren, two adopted children, two suicide attempts and 30 movies, Johnny's popularity is restricted almost entirely to the French-speaking world.

Quentin Tarantino, unusual for an American film executive in being a connoisseur of foreign movies, appears to be one exception to that rule. According to Paris Match, he admired Johnny Hallyday as an actor long before he saw him in Vengeance in Cannes earlier this year.

Tarantino is a fan of the now reclusive French "New Wave" director Jean-Luc Godard. He apparently first discovered Johnny Hallyday in Godard's film Detective (1984).

In an interview with Match yesterday, Hallyday said: "I have two or three [movie] proposals which interest me, including one which Tarantino is writing. We met in Cannes after [Vengeance] was shown. He said he adored the movie and wanted us to work together."

Hallyday's "final" tour has been marked by scares about his health. He had an operation for colon cancer last summer. He had to take the stage pumped with painkilling drugs after he dislocated his hip when he slipped on the deck of a yacht in Saint-Tropez in July. He admitted in his interview with Le Parisien that he has had, finally, to face up to his own mortality.

"They told me that [after the cancer operation], they had difficulties waking me up ... That sent shivers down my spine. My daughters are very small. I've had a good life but I would like to see them grow up. They need a Daddy."

Hallyday: A rocking life

* Born in Paris in 1943, Jean-Phillippe Smet was abandoned by his parents and raised by his aunt and cousins.

* Inspired by Elvis Presley, he began singing covers of American rock'n'roll songs in clubs, and was snapped up by Vogue Records. He took the name Johnny Hallyday and released his first album, Hello Johnny, in 1960.

* By 1962 he was France's highest-paid music star.

* He has sold more than 100 million records and in 1997 was awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by President Jacques Chirac.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick