In September of 1958, a fledgling director placed an advertisement in France-Soir, seeking a young adolescent to star in his upcoming movie. Finding the right actor was particularly important to him: Not only would this be his first feature film, but the boy he chose would be playing a thinly veiled version of the director himself.
“I had often thought of filming a sequel to The 400 Blows,” François Truffaut wrote in his introduction to the Antoine Doinel screenplays, “but feared it might be taken as the exploitation of a ‘good thing.'” By June of 1961 he had changed his mind on this point, so when producer Pierre Roustang asked him to contribute an episode to an international anthology film called L’Amour à vingt ans (Love at Twenty), he decided to take the opportunity to follow up on Antoine Doinel. He brought back Jean-Pierre Léaud, for whom he had been seeking a project — as early as July 1959, he said that he wanted the young actor to star in “an adolescent’s first love story” in a few years — and Patrick Auffay in the role of René. The rest of the cast would be new.