New biopic Gainsbourg features the untimely swansong of a young actress

Lucy Gordon didn't live to see the acclaim that she would receive for playing Jane Birkin in Gainsbourg, a biopic about the acclaimed French crooner, Serge. She committed suicide aged 28 in May 2009, just a short time after filming had completed and just before she was due to appear in Cannes to promote the film. The usual tittle-tattle about suicide notes and suppositions as to why she took her own life quickly appeared, alongside premature (the film was still some way from being completed) assessments of her talent. Now, as Joann Sfar's film hits cinemas, it's clear that, like Birkin, Gordon was set to move from mannequin to actress with aplomb.

I met with Gordon, less than a month before her death, at London's Royal Court Theatre. She talked excitedly about the role and the joy that it had given her. Her successful capturing of the spirit of Birkin is all the more remarkable when one considers that she had only the briefest of encounters with the former Mrs Serge Gainsbourg – despite her best efforts to meet with her.

"I sent Jane a letter when we first started filming, which I'm never quite sure she received," Gordon revealed. "Then I went to see one of her concerts in Paris, and was really moved by it, because it was a really emotionally charged performance. Afterwards, I just asked if there was any way for someone to say that I came by as I was supposed to be playing her. And I wanted to say I had found that performance moving. They said, 'OK, just wait here,' and I stood there with my boyfriend, slightly terrified, by the door, with sweaty palms. Then we got taken down to the nether regions of the theatre, and I met her. She was really kind and interesting."

Born in Oxford, Gordon first found fame as a model while still at school. Life in the fast lane soon had her living in New York before she settled in Paris. Bit parts in Perfume and Spider-Man 3 followed. Her final performance suggests she was destined to blossom further.

'Gainsbourg' is released on 30 July

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