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.
Unlike Antoine and Colette, which came about when François Truffaut was asked to contribute an episode to an anthology film, the next movie in the Antoine Doinel series had no external impetus. “I usually start with more solid material,” the director said on a 1970 episode of Cinéastes de notre temps. “I like having two or three reasons to make a film, a coming together of a book I want to adapt or an atmosphere I want to show with an actor that I want to film, and perhaps a third reason. Here, I admit, I just wanted to work with Jean-Pierre Léaud again. I more or less set a specific date by which I wanted to make a film with Léaud, with my friends Claude de Givray and Bernard Revon. I’d worked with Claude before. I’d known him for many years. We sat down and said, ‘What are we going to do with Léaud?'”