Catherine Deneuve, born on 22nd October 1943 in Paris,
is the third daughter of veteran stage and screen actor
Maurice Dorleac. She made her screen debut at age 13, assuming
the maiden name of Deneuve from her mother, who was an actress
also; her sister, Francoise Dorleac was already an international
beauty and star when Catherine went into films.
Despite the patronage of star-maker Roger Vadim, she did
not achieve any prominence until her appearance two years
later in Demy's Les
parapluies de Cherbourg (1964) - the sentimental
story about Genevieve, a young shopgirl hopelessly in love
with a local gas-station attendant who woos her, makes her
pregnant, goes off to war, writes one noncommittal letter,
and sends her flying into a secure yet loveless marriage
with another man. This movie won the Grand Prix at the Cannes
Film Festival, as well as numerous other foreign prizes.
An exquisite, fragile beauty, aloof and detached in manner,
she developed into France's leading female screen personality
and one of the top stars on the international film scene
in the late 60s.
"I was a very shy girl and I didn't really want to
be in films," she said. "Because my sister was
in films, I was sent to talk to producers. It seems I was
thrown into films almost immediately. I had to deal with
all the technical things, which were a real challenge. At
first, I thought moviemaking was to be a playland - a time
for fantasy. I had to learn differently."
She was particularly effective as the frigid, mentally disoriented
character in Polanski's macabre Repulsion (1965).
Although it was Polanski's first film in English, it brought
him great commercial success and earned Catherine rave reviews
for her powerful performance. Catherine plays Carol, a Belgian
manicurist who works in London and lives in an apartment
with her sister Helen. She becomes increasingly unhinged,
apparently due to her feelings about sex, which simultaneously
repulses and attracts her, and about which she is constantly
reminded by the presence of Helen's lover. When her sister
goes on holiday, Carol is left to fend for herself and becomes
the victim of terrifying, destructive hallucinations.
Two years later, legendary Spanish director Luis Bunuel
cast her as the erotic, enigmatic protagonist of his film
de jour (1967). When it was released, Belle de
jour was initially something of a shocker - Catherine
plays a wealthy but bored housewife who takes an afternoon
job in one of Paris' most fashionable brothels.
"It is strange to me that the public still, today,
associates me with 'Belle de jour,' " she said.
"The fact that Luis Bunuel chose me for the part was
the thing that shocked some people, I think. I was shy.
I had usually played quiet, introspective parts. For him
to cast me as this woman who works in a brothel in secret
shocked people a great deal more than if someone else had
played it. It was a turning point in my career, but I don't
think it was a great performance. It was more a presence
than a performance."
Bunuel was 67 years old and already a legend when he made
Belle de jour. Deneuve was known as the innocent
girl who starred in "Parapluies."
"Bunuel was very quiet," she said. "He talked
very little about the part or the film. It was his aura
of greatness that inspired me. I didn't want to let him
down. He believes in letting actors find their own way.
The film itself was complex so we didn't need a lot of talk.
He doesn't like to analyze roles. He took his work very
seriously but he never took himself seriously."
Truffaut's Le dernier metro (1980) was another big
success. The drama, set in Nazi occupied Paris, unfolds
in the Theater Montmartre as a group of actors rehearse.
Catherine is the manager of the theater and actress with
the company. She keeps her Jewish husband who is in hiding
abreast of the events in the outside world and in the theater,
including the antagonism of a pro-nazi theater critic and
the sexual tension coming from a young actor in love with
her. She won the Cesar Award and was named Best Foreign
Actress at the David Donatello Awards for her performance
in that movie. Although she plays a stage actress, she has
never actually been one. Why?
"It's not that I have no interest," she said.
"It's that I'm scared. I have stage fright. It's something
I haven't been able to get over."
She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance
(1992) - a luscious epic set in the French Indochina of
the 1930s to 1954 (when French withdrew from Southeast Asia).
Catherine plays Eliane, the icy owner of rich rubber-tree
plantations, who has adopted an orphaned Annamese princess.
The story focuses on Eliane's life as she has to deal with
a changing Vietnam, starting to stir with nationalism and
communism, and with a corrupted and cruel colonial establishment.
In Les voleurs (1996), she stars as Marie, a college
professor who discovers, after being married and having
become a mother, that she is in love with her student, Juliette
(Laurence Cote). But their relationship is complicated and
Marie has to compete with a police officer (Daniel Auteil)
for Juliette's affection. At one moment, Catherine shares
a scene in a bathtub with Laurence.
"It's as if it is a love scene between two people who
love each other," she said. "You feel the relationship,
not from kissing and making love (but) because it's what
it says about their characters, what they bring to each
other, which is quite soft and tender."
She was not worried about a discreetly photographed nude
scene even in her fifties.
"It was a good idea. The bathtub is very intimate and
it's better than a love scene in a bed, so I agreed with
This is the fourth time Catherine has played a lesbian.
The first was an obscure French film in the late '70s -
in Zig-Zig (1974), she and Bernadette Lafont played
a lesbian cabaret duo. In Ecoute voir (1978), she
played a lesbian private eye and kissed Anne Parillaud.
The third, erotic vampire thriller The
Hunger (1983) with Susan Sarandon and David Bowie,
won her an enduring lesbian fan base. Now lesbianism has
been on the cover of Newsweek as a hot trend, a situation
that dismays the actress.
"I'm worried it's becoming something fashionable, as
if being bisexual was a plus more than anything," she
said. "To accept the fact that in a woman and a man
there's a masculine side and a feminine side is fine. Maybe
today it's easier to accept the fact that a woman and a
woman are together. And yet it's still more disturbing for
a man to be with a man."
However, Catherine is not only an outstanding actress -
she also went into business. In 1971 she formed her own
production company, Les Films de la Citrouille. In the 80's,
as beautiful and elegant as ever, she advertised Chanel
perfumes so successfully on American TV that in 1986 she
launched a fragrance bearing her own name. By the age of
forty, she was better known outside France in cosmetics
advertisements than in films.
And what about her privacy? Liberated and independent in
her private life, she had a son in 1963 (June 18th), whose
father is director Roger Vadim - but she did not marry.
"Not being married was never a problem to me,"
she said. "I have a deep attachment to people I like.
You can call it friendship. I call it love. I am very committed
to the people I love, and that commitment does not have
to be written on paper."
But two years later she met British photographer David Bailey
and married him. Her marriage ended in divorce in 1972,
after having a daughter (May 28th) with famous Italian actor
"I have been married, but I don't have to live with
that. My sister is married and that is well for her. For
me, I feel the commitment has been as much, but I doubt
I will ever marry again."
Both her children are actors. Her son, Christian Vadim (39),
is a stage actor. Her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni (30),
appears with her in Andre Techine's film Ma saison preferee
(1993), co-starring Daniel Auteuil. Chiara also appeared
with her father in Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter