Cult film actress Sylvia Kristel has died at the age of 60.
“She died during the night during her sleep,” her agent, Marieke Verharen, told the AFP news agency.
Kristel had cancer and had been admitted to hospital in July after suffering a stroke.
Best known for her iconic starring role in the 1974 soft-porn movie Emmanuelle, Kristel also worked with some of European cinema’s most acclaimed directors, starring in Claude Chabrol’s Alice ou la Derniere fugue, Robbe-Grillet’s Playing with Fire, and Roger Vadim’s Une Femme Fidele.
In the 1980s, Kristel moved to Hollywood, where she found producers were unable to see beyond her “soft porn” image. Kritsel was often cast as the love/sex interest in such ill considered films as The Concorde…Airport 79, co-starring Alain Delon, Robert Wagner, David Warner and George Kennedy; the disastrous Mel Brooks inspired The Nude Bomb with Don Adams, and the wearily predictable soft core Mata Hari.
Kristel made a return to form working again with Just Jaeckin, on his version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But she never broke free of her association Emmanuelle, and continued to make spin-off films and TV series during the eighties and nineties.
Sylvia Kritsel was born in Utrecht in 1952. She lived with her sister Marianne in Room 21 of the Commerce Hotel, which her parents owned. Raised a strict Calvinist, Kristel was convent educated, but ran away as a teenager, finding work as a secretary and then as a model. Kristel went on to enter and win Miss TV Holland and Miss TV Europe. Encouraged by her partner, the novelist Hugo Claus, Kristel pursued an acting career.
After appearing in a couple of films, including Because of the Cats, Kristel attended an audition for a soap powder commercial. By chance auditions for the film Emmanuelle, where being held next door. Kristel accidentally arrived at the Emmanuelle auditions, where the director Just Jaeckin offered her the role.
“He asked me to take my dress off,” Kristel later said. “Luckily it was an easy dress to take off.”
Emmanuelle made Sylvia Kristel an international star, and brought adult themes and sexual relationships to a wider audience. The film was banned in Paris, though it eventually ran for 11 years at a cinema on the Champs-Elysees. In Britain the film caused considerable controversy and was heavily edited, though it became a major box office hit.
The success of the film was to have a damaging effect on Kristel. Her parents were alcoholics, and Kristel soon became addicted to drink and drugs.
In her 2006 autobiography, Kristel wrote an incredibly honest and moving account of the cost of her addictions, and said in interview:
“I sometimes needed a shot before doing certain scenes,” she said. “It definitely comforted me and gave me courage. But then it turned out that I almost couldn’t start a day without a drink.”
In the 1980s, Kristel moved to America, where she set up home with actor Ian McShane. It was a tempestuous relationship, which. Kristel later said failed because their personalities were too alike. Her marriage to American millionaire Alan Turner, lasted only 5 months, Kristel said she had made “a terrible mistake.” Her second marriage to would-be director Philippe Blot, proved equally disastrous, as she bankrolled his films, all of which flopped at the box-office. She left the marriage with $400 to her name. Kristel later said:
“If I’d known then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with any of the relationships I was involved in, with the exception of Hugo [Claus].”
In the 1990s, Kristel continued to act on her return to France, but gave up appearing nude after her son Arthur was teased at school. She then began a new career as a painter. In 2001 Kristel was diagnosed with lung and throat cancer.
R.I.P. Sylvia Kristel 1952-2012