Lifestyle & Belief

Sylvia Kristel dead: 'Emmanuelle' actress dies aged 60


Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel in 1978, four years after she found fame in it movie 'Emmanuelle.'

Sylvia Kristel, the actress who played a bored and sexually adventurous housewife in the French movie Emmanuelle, has died. She was 60.

"She died during the night during her sleep," her agent, Marieke Verharen, told Agence France-Presse on Thursday. 

The Dutch-born actress had been battling cancer for 10 years and in July she had a stroke that put her in hospital, Verharen said.

She will be remembered by most as the title character in Emmanuelle, a role she was to reprise many times in less successful sequels.

The 1974 original was one of the first erotic movies to make it into the mainstream, according to the BBC, though only after lengthy battles with the censors. 

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Kristel starred as the teenage wife of a French diplomat in Thailand, who whiles away her days in a soft-focus haze of sexual encounters, some real, some imagined.

The movie eventually grossed more than $300 million and was seen by at least 350 million people (it was advertized in the US with the tagline: "In the first 14 weeks after its release, two and a half million Frenchmen stood in line for it!"), making it one of the most successful French movies of all time, the Guardian said.

Kristel went on to appear in Hollywood movies including The Concorde: Airport '79, The Nude Bomb and Private Lessons, and a long list of film and TV roles in Europe.

Yet she admitted, writes the Guardian's Xan Brooks, that her career was "blighted by heavy drinking, cocaine use and a nagging inability to shake off her most famous creation."

Speaking to the paper in 2001, however, Kristel said she "absolutely no regrets" about her iconic role. 

"Because of her I went on to work solidly for many years, travelled the world and met thousands of people. I worked with directors like Claude Chabrol, Walerian Borowczyk and Roger Vadim. I would say to them: 'Well, you know I can't really act?' And they would say: 'It doesn't matter, come with us and make a movie, we'll have lots of fun!'"