Deneuve: 'I was exploited by film that made me a star'

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The Independent Online

The French actress and fashion muse Catherine Deneuve speaks for the first time this week about her sense of being humiliated and exploited during the filming of Belle de Jour, the movie that made her international reputation in 1966.

On Wednesday La Deneuve, 61, who is a notoriously discreet, even secret person, publishes her private diaries of the making of six of her films and a lengthy interview with a French journalist on her 44 years as an actress.

Of Belle de Jour, in which she plays a wealthy, sexually disturbed woman who leads a secret life as a prostitute, Deneuve says: "I was very exposed, in all senses of the word, and especially exposed physically, and I suffered terribly. There were moments when I had the impression of being simply exploited."

The actress - 23 at the time - says that she wanted to complain to the director, the mischievous surrealist legend Luis Buñuel, but found she could hardly talk to him because he was "cut off" from the actors by the film's producers. All the same, she says, she watched the film again recently and found it "very beautiful".

Deneuve is scathing about the Icelandic pop star Björk, with whom she made the film Dancer in the Dark in 1999. In a diary written during the filming of the movie in Copenhagen, she describes her elf-like co-star as "irrational" and "uncontrollable".

After holding up the filming for several days, and even threatening to pay for the cancellation of the whole project, Björk "came back as if nothing had happened, not a word of explanation or excuse to me or anyone else ... There is no point in expecting logical behaviour. You have to her accept her like she is, wild, unique."

Deneuve's book - A L'Ombre de Moi-Même (In My Own Shadow) - was slammed by one French critic as an inconsequential collection of saccharine observations, worthy of a teenage supermodel. The comments - by the journalist François Lelord in Le Figaro - have infuriated Deneuve's friends for the article woefully misrepresents the book.

Although short on celebrity gossip and on the sort of pontificating about the art of cinema that might appeal to some French readers, the book gives many insights into the career of a very private woman. The six diaries of film productions abroad - spanning the period 1968-99 - were not intended for publication. They are strewn with clues about Deneuve's approach to acting and her personality.

She hates to learn her lines thoroughly because she believes she acts mechanically if she knows them too well. She also talks of the great burden she feels from her reputation, as a star and one of the world's most beautiful women. "That's an even heavier weight to carry," she says. "It falsifies all relationships."

But the character who returns, haunting her life far more than her two husbands, is her older sister, the actress Françoise Dorléac, who died in a car crash in 1967 when her own movie career was booming. (Deneuve was also born Dorléac, the daughter of two actors, but chose to use her mother's name to distinguish herself from her sister.)

The diaries refer to the closeness of their relationship over and over again. Deneuve had never intended to be an actress but agreed to make her first proper film - Les Portes Claquent in 1960 - to take the role of her sister's sister. In March 1968, on her 25th birthday, Deneuve writes: "Twenty-five, the age of my adored sister (when she died). She haunts me at night, always."

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