Keen to lose his enfant terrible image, Delon wants to talk about acting.We are sitting in the plush apartment of a Knightsbridge hotel, Delon holed up to promote his latest acting venture, a television adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek (to be shown on ITV next Sunday).

But the French like their role models a little more roguish and risque than us, and Delon pere certainly fitted the mould.

A marine who had fought in Indochina, he was also notorious for a major murder, sex and drugs scandal which broke in 1968: the corpse of his bodyguard was found in a garbage dump, and - although cleared of criminal suspicion - Delon's political and underworld connections, like Sinatra's, came under scrutiny for years.

Like father like son: Anthony, now 34 and an actor, has had problems of his own.

"When I was young, I just didn't care, I was thinking 'I'm going to do what I want to do, I'll steal a car, whatever'.

All that time, I didn't enjoy it, but I had to live my life." When 19, Delon had his own leather company and part-owned a club, but his business partner in the venture was shot.

Delon himself, for unrelated incidents, went to prison for a month: "Oh, that was for guns and stuff, for stealing a car.Every young guy is more or less rebellious," he says with a Gallic shrug, his embarrassment very genuine. It's taken me an hour to build up to the crunch question about his family's murky past, and Anthony Delon, otherwise supremely confident, is suddenly bashful."I was a nasty kid," he says in a French-American accent, "and then I was a nasty young man who wanted to f*** around and do some nasty things.Also, deep inside, there was some provocation, because people would just break my balls for years, maybe because of my name."Anthony Delon is the son of Alain, the French film star who announced his retirement from acting this month.Delon pere is a man who, like De Niro or Al Pacino, represents the very pinnacle of cinematic cool.