The French actress, who has been an idol for two generations, tells about her life in this interview, starting with her girlhood on the outskirts of Paris to how she became a cinema star, all the way to her years out of the spotlight in Saint-Tropez.
On 28 September 1994, BB turned sixty years old. Here she is spirited and blunt, and she talks about her career and her campaign to defend animals. Brigitte Bardot is direct, and she has no regrets about her career as an actress. She says that she has never felt particularly beautiful. She has always preferred sweetness to sex. While she has no intention of talking about her son who is now an adult, she does speak enthusiastically of her campaign to save the seals as part of her work heading up the foundation that bears her name. These have been memorable campaigns that have also seen practical results, such as less ruthless techniques by poachers in the Great North.
BB is another legend that, unfortunately, is getting older. She (politely) dislikes Sophia Loren who is the same age. Bardot was not happy about the advertising campaign the Italian movie star did for a company that makes furs, and says she could never be friends with that type of woman.
You will soon turn sixty. Does this upset you?
No, it’s what comes after fifty-nine!
What are some of your fondest memories?
Holding a baby seal in my arms on an ice floe.
You don’t have fond memories of your acting career?
My career as an actress is part of a whole other world by now.
How did you make your debut?
I made my debut like all of the other actresses just starting out…
What do you remember about meeting Roger Vadim?
I remember that I was just starting out and he was already a famous director.
What was your life like at the time? Did it change a lot?
Yes, in those years, in the mid nineteen-fifties, everything changed. Debuting in the cinema changed my existence.
How much did your beauty have to do with this change?
To tell you the truth, I don’t feel all that exceptional. That’s how it always has been, and that hasn’t changed.
Did you expect to have so much success?
No. Success is unpredictable and fragile.
What films do you feel most attached to?
“The Truth”, “And God Created Woman” and “The Bear and the Doll”.
You met de Gaulle. What memories do you have of him?
Vivid memories really. He was a person that really stood out.
When did you discover Saint-Tropez? And why, after having lived there for so long, did you decide to leave your homes there?
I discovered it many years ago. Unfortunately, I am not like a snail or a turtle, and I can’t take my houses with me when I move.
When and why did you decide to leave your acting career behind? Do you have any regrets, or the desire to start again?
I have no regrets. If I wanted to keep acting, I would have never left the cinema.
Who were the most important directors for you?
Clouzot, Vadim, Autant-Lara and Michel Deville.
What about actors?
I couldn’t care less about actors.
When did you begin taking an interest in animals?
Always have and always will.
Tell me about your work, your commitment to animals?
It is a battle. A fight against cruelty, stupidity, and the indifference of humans. It’s animals against man, a furious fight meant to better the conditions of animals in the world, to open people’s eyes, to fight their selfishness, and to protect the weakest from the most destructive forces.
You have criticised Sophia Loren for advertising fur. Do you know her personally?
No. I don’t frequent these types of women who wear fur and advertise it.
Your husband is a member of the Front National party. Are you on the far-right?
I am a woman that defends animals, right, left, and in the centre. Animals aren’t political.
What do you remember about Rome and Capri, from when you filmed“Contempt” with Godard?
I remember Godard. And I remember him the way he’s always been. A unique person.
Do you remember Alberto Moravia?
Certainly, and I read his books.
And what about Jacques Prevert?
And who could forget a character like that?
What do you think of Mitterrand’s statements on your being a supporter of Vichy’s pro-Nazi government?
I never talk politics.
Are love and sex very important to you?
I prefer passion and sweetness.
You have often been seen at night in clubs playing the guitar, barefoot. Is having a good time important to you?
Yes, but I never force myself to dance or sing.
You were married to German playboy Gunter Sachs. Perhaps you liked the idea of being the wife of a very rich man?
I have never put a gun to anyone’s head to obligate him to marry me.
Is money important to you?
I prefer love.
How do you live today?
The way I like.
Do you realise you are a legend?
No but, luckily, you have reminded me….
Have you changed a lot in the last few years?
Yes. I have gotten older.
What do you think of the cinema today?
It doesn’t interest me.
What are your main concerns?
What about your flaws?
I have flawed qualities and quality flaws.
Are you generous?
I believe so.
Do you have any unfinished dreams?
Yes, when I am startled awake.
When people ask you what kind of gifts you’d like to receive, what do you say?
To love animals, help out my foundation, don’t eat horsemeat, and stop wearing fur.
Alain Elkann is an author, intellectual and journalist who was born in New York,23rd March 1950. Internationally well-known, his books have been translated into languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Hebrew, Turkish and Japanese. Interview work in English includes dialogue with Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan, To Be A Muslim, and The Voice of Pistoletto with the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, published autumn 2014 by Rizzoli Ex Libris.
Alain has maintained a weekly interview column for the Italian national daily newspaper La Stampa since 1989. His archive encompasses an impressive range of celebrated subjects, including award-winning writers and editors; film stars and directors; fashion designers and businessmen; artists, collectors and museum curators; politicians and diplomats; economists and historians; thinkers and human rights activists. Two books of classic interviews have been published by Bompiani.
Alain teaches Jewish 20th century writers – from Franz Kafka to Primo Levi, from Philip Roth to Aharon Appelfeld – at Penn University in Philadelphia. He has lectured on art, Italian literature and Jewish studies at the Universities of Oxford, Columbia, Jerusalem and Milan’s IULM. He is President of The Foundation for Italian Art & Culture (FIAC) in New York and in 2009 Alain was awarded the prestigious Legion d’Honneur by the French Republic.