It is on the 6th of June 1973, during the filming of Nina Companeez’s Colinot Trousse-Chemise that Brigitte Bardot (or ‘BB’, as she is affectionately known) walks away from films. She is 38 years old. She catches a look at herself from behind in a mirror on that day, and suddenly finds herself decidedly ridiculous in a costume from the middles ages. And so, she decides to put a definitive full stop on her cinematic career in order to pursue her other passion – the protection of animals.
The latest in a seemingly interminable series of biographies on Brigitte Bardot features the whole family album – Bardot the Ballerina, Bardot receiving her First Communion, Bardot at 18, Bardot on honeymoon with Roger Vadim, Bardot the indomitable. The book is more of an homage to her friendships, loves and adventures. She met Pablo Picasso in 1956, for example, in his studio in Cannes where he proposed to paint her portrait. The 22-year-old Bardot, intimidated by the great artist, was only able to stutter out ‘perhaps’ but never followed through on the offer. She was, however, to be the inspiration (in part at least) for Picasso’s pony-tailed ‘Sylvette’ series of images and sculptures.
“Unfortunately, I can’t prevent this person or that person from writing biographies. None of them are fully truthful, except what I wrote myself in my memoirs, but it’s a little compliment that’s sometimes charming (like with this book that I authorised) and sometimes hard to swallow. But, as someone once said: ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’.
Bardot’s retreat in the Var department in the South of France is close to St Tropez – the formerly quiet fishing village that she was to help put on the map when she made her career-changing film And God Created Woman there in 1960. Since eschewing the silver screen, she has watched her paradise turn to purgatory with over-crowding of the small peninsula having long exceeded capacity. Bardot has been outspoken on this matter on numerous occasions, as well as continuing to be the brittle unofficial spokesperson for animal rights activists everywhere.
In an exclusive interview with Le Point magazine, she pulls no punches and still believes in looking forward at the age of 77.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet extraordinary people,” she says, when asked about which of the litany of stars of the arts from the 1950s (including such luminaries as Serge Gainsbourg, Jean Cocteau and Gunter Sachs) she would most like to meet again. “I never look back… I don’t have any regrets. I live only for the moment.” She has, she says, enjoyed adding in her own legends to the many photos in the biography. “I prefer to put my own captions in my own photos myself rather than letting someone else put in whatever they want. The captions of certain pictures express neither bitterness nor regret, but lots of humour and tenderness… I’m a big fan of self-deprecation. One should never take oneself too seriously.”Although Bardot’s image remains an iconic one 40 years on, she still seems to find it entirely laughable to be considered a ‘myth’.
“Never!” she retorts when asked at what point she realised she had become a legend. “You’re making me laugh with that question.”
Bardot is still the symbol of luxury brand Lancel, while fellow screen-legend Alain Delon is that of Dior. Delon is of a similar age (75) and burned up the silver screen on a number of occasions with Bardot. She has her own views on why such ageing icons are still common currency amongst luxury brand companies:
“I think that Alain Delon and I represented an era which still inspires people to dream. We were both stars in the magical sense of the word. Now, the dream is no more, only a confusing reality where actors are mixed with the workaday life of the mortals.
“I actually hate the current era. There is a complete lack of freedom; you don’t have the right to do anything, or say anything. We’re under a dictatorship of the ‘politically correct’. You can’t smoke any more, you must drive strapped in by belts and you’re absolutely forbidden to go above the legal speed limit. On a motorbike, you’re a long way from feeling the wind in your hair… We all look like leather-clad insects. And as for romance, it gets a right kick in the teeth with ‘Hang on a minute while I put on a condom!’ Quelle horreur! Yes, I do have a touch of nostalgia for my ‘happiness’ years but I had the good fortune to have lived them!”
When asked if she felt close to any of today’s actresses, Bardot answered by saying that she didn’t feel “close to anything except animals.” The one piece of advice she had to offer men today, when asked, was that they “stop shaving their heads. It’s horrible – they look like they’re sick. Long live hair!”Unsurprisingly, Brigitte Bardot’s favourite photo amongst the hundreds featured in this book is the one taken on the ice-barrier in 1977 with the baby seal – an image that, while it may never become quite as iconic as any number of those from her film career, is still a hell of an attractive poster for animal rights everywhere.
“I’d like everyone who sincerely loves animals to join my foundation because there is strength in unity and in these times, there is an urgent need for strength: in the face of the hunting and furrier lobbies, animal experimentation, bullfighting, unrelenting slaughter; in the face of inhuman hunting of whales, dolphins, elephants; in the face of the disappearance of tigers… the consumption of horse meat (the shame of it!).
“Yes, we need to be a significant force in order to make ourselves heard and to get laws passed that protect all the animals. So if your heart will join with mine, join my foundation and together we will perform miracles… I hope!”
“Bardot l’Indomptable” is written by Alain Wodrascka et François Bagnaud and is published by Hugo & Cie at €19.95.
For those interested…
Fondation Brigitte Bardot, 28, rue Vineuse, 75116 Paris 01 45 05 14 60 http://www.fondationbrigittebardot.fr