René Emile Belloq was born in France to the wealthy wine making Belloq family and claimed to be a relative of Jean Lafitte. He had a brother named Claude Belloq. Belloq grew up admiring France's most acclaimed archaeologists and made it his mission to become one himself by enrolling at the Sorbonne where a fellow student named Indiana Jones was studying linguistics.
In August 1922, the two met at an archaeological dig at Ur in Iraq where Belloq absconded with several artifacts and sold them off, damaging the reputation of Dr. Andrés Uribe in the process. However, the act made Belloq a contact with dealers on the black market. Returning to the university, Belloq came across a paper on stratigraphy by Jones and plagiarized the work. As a result, he was awarded the Archaeological Society Prize with Jones unable to prove the theft. During the next years, Belloq many times interfered during his rival's career and many times stole this one's achievements to present them as his own. In addition, over time, he gained a reputation for stealing artifacts not to donate them to a museum, but to sell them to the highest bidder.
Originally, in the very first draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the French archaeologist which was to be the main antagonist of the story was named Victor Lovar, the archnemesis of Indiana Jones. He was to first appear after the Cairo fight scene and during the opening of the Ark of the Covenant, Lovar was to be killed by his body changing of color before explode. Despite this, by the film's third draft, writer Lawrence Kasdan changed Lovar's name to Emile Belloq. However, Emile being Belloq's first name ended up being changed to René when the legal research department of Lucasfilm discovered there by that time at the United States there was living a man named Emile Belloq. In the fifth draft of the film, Belloq's demise was changed to only have his head exploding at the end without his body's color change from early drafts. Marion Ravenwood was also interested in Belloq in earlier versions of the story, but in the finished film she didn't show at any moment any interest for Belloq.
It should be noted that although the name Emile was never mentioned in the final version of the film, it was used several years later as Belloq's second name when the now defunct IndianaJones.com website officially stated that Belloq's complete name was "René Emile Belloq".
René Belloq spoke several languages in addition to his native French: English, German, Spanish, and those of various tribes indigenous to South America including the language spoken by the Hovitos. He had a weakness for beautiful women, providing they were intelligent as well, but wouldn't let them get in the way of his goals. He was also willing to sacrifice his years long friendship with the Hovitos in order to claim the fertility idol.
Belloq saw Jones as a worthy rival and spoke of being his "shadowy reflection". Up until his death — once he had abandoned the money of museums in exchange for the more lucrative amounts payed by private collectors — Belloq was never unemployed.
Belloq is not seen or mentioned in the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. However, according to the scrapbook The Greatest Adventures of Indiana Jones, in 1935, shortly after Indiana Jones returned to the United States from India, Belloq traveled to China and India to ask Lao Che's pilots and the villagers of Mayapore about Jones' fate, who was believed to have died in the plane crash causes by the pilots of Che, who, in reality, failed in their attempt of kill Jones along Willie Scott and Short Round.
During the early development of the film, Belloq was originally going to make an appearance, with Paul Freeman reprising his role from the first film. However, his inclusion was scrapped by unknown reasons.
- “René Belloq: "How odd that it should end this way for us after so many stimulating encounters. I almost regret it. Where shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?"
Indiana Jones: "Try the local sewer."”
- ―Belloq threatening Indiana Jones in Cairo, 1936.[src]
Upon learning that Jones had taken up the search for the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors as he had done years prior, Belloq informed the Hovitos that outsiders were looking to violate the sacred ground of their ancestors. With a group of Hovitos warriors, Belloq finally achieved his goal of accessing the valley in 1936. The sound of a gunshot led them to Barranca, one of Jones's treacherous guides who had been chased away after being disarmed by the archaeologist's whip. The guide informed the group of Jones's location before the Hovitos killed him for his presence in the valley.
Belloq and the Hovitos warriors ambushed Jones after he recovered a fertility idol in the shape of Pachamama from the temple. Despite friendly relations with the Hovitos, Belloq simply took the relic for himself after setting the Hovitos onto Jones. He returned home, where he was contacted by Colonel Dietrich under the order of the SS officer Eidel and taken to see Adolf Hitler himself, who wished to hire Belloq to find him and the Nazis the Ark of the Covenant.
Belloq agreed, siding with the Nazis during their search and fashioned a crude but working replica of Marion Ravenwood's medallion using the imprint burned onto Major Toht's right hand. However, crucial information was contained on the other side of the medallion and, as a result, his people ended up digging in the wrong place to find the Well of the Souls.
Noting their lack of progress, Dietrich's aide Major Gobler suggested that Marion Ravenwood might hold the answers, but Belloq insisted that she knew nothing. René attempted to extract information from her to placate Dietrich and Gobler. He seems to be more friendly with Marion than the Nazis; he gave her a new dress and joined her in a drinking contest.
The next morning, he saw a group of diggers in the far distance and it was soon discovered that Indy had found the Ark. Gloating, Belloq stole the Ark from him, but he was more than a little disappointed when Marion was thrown into the snake-infested Well of the Souls along with Indiana Jones. However, he quickly accepted her fate and left with Nazis. After Indy and Marion escaped and destroyed the Flying Wing that was going to be used to fly the Ark out of Tanis, it was put on a truck and Belloq traveled with Dietrich and Toht to guard the Ark on the trip to Cairo so it could be taken to Germany. However, Indiana intervened and stole the Ark back.
Indy and Marion escaped with the Ark on a liner, the Bantu Wind, but the Nazis recaptured the Ark and took Marion with the German U-boat Wurrfler. Indiana Jones managed to hitch a ride on the Wurrfler in an attempt to save Marion. From there they went to the Nazis' secret island base near Crete, where Belloq planned to open the Ark to see whether or not it was genuine. To this end, he made a deal with Captain Mohler to set up the Tabernacle on the island, against Dietrich's wishes. Belloq was quite shocked to encounter Indiana once again while he and the Nazis were on their way to the Tabernacle. Indy threatened to destroy the Ark unless they turned Marion over, but Belloq called his bluff and Jones was captured.
With Indy and Marion bound to a stake at the Tabernacle later that night, Belloq eventually began the ritual while dressed in the trappings of the high priest of the Israelites, believing that doing so would make the ritual legitimate. However to his dismay, there appeared to be nothing more than dust and sand inside the Ark; all that was left of the Ten Commandments. However, spirits flew down on them and Belloq, believing this was going to be a wonderful experience shouted that it was beautiful. However, one spirit transformed into the hideous Angel of Death and howled menacingly at Belloq. As Toht and Dietrich were screaming in fear, Belloq's jubilant face turned into horror as his body absorbed the holy fires of the Ark like a conduit. The fires then shot outward and struck all of the soldiers dead including Toht and Dietrich. As the Tabernacle became surrounded by a fiery inferno, Belloq let out a final scream of agony before his head exploded while his body was swept up and disintegrated by the fiery whirlwind.
Upon Belloq's disappearance, his son decided to track Jones using entries from his father's diary to find out what happened and get his revenge against Jones and Ravenwood. By 1957, Belloq's son had discovered the whereabouts of both Ravenwood and Jones, but opted to allow them to spend their honeymoon before beginning his revenge against the Joneses.
Belloq is never seen or mentioned in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show, as Old Indy never tolds any story about him to his family or friends.
During the early development of show, George Lucas originally wanted to include Belloq in two episodes of the show's planned third season: "Honduras, December 1920" and "Brazil, December 1921". These two episodes would have told the story about how Indy and Belloq had their first encounter and how they went from good friends to mortal adversaries. However, as the third season was never made, Belloq never appeared in the show.
- Belloq has several similarities with the real-life Jacques de Mahieu. Mahieu was a French anthropologist, esotericist and Nazi collaborator who conducted field studies in Latin America on behalf of the Ahnenerbe, including studies of the Chachapoya culture.
- The breastplate worn by Belloq in the climactic final scene is actually quite true to the Hoshen, the breastplate worn by the High Priests who were the only ones to have contact with the Ark of the Covenant, according to the description of the Hoshen as found in the Torah.
- Before Paul Freeman was cast as Belloq, Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini originally signed to play Belloq, but director Steven Spielberg cast instead Freeman after he saw his performance in the TV movie Death of the Princess. Also, French singer Jacques Dutronc and Welsh actor/singer Jonathan Pryce auditioned or were considered for the part before Freeman got it.
- In the cancelled Dark Horse Comics' comic book issue Indiana Jones and the Lost Horizon, Belloq was planned to be featured at the story's prologue during a fight with Indiana Jones at a New York City City skyscraper due having stole a fake Shroud of Turin, but Dark Horse's comic series was scrapped due poor sales.