Cult actress Sylvia Kristel, whose iconic Emmanuelle role symbolised the sexual revolution of the seventies and who spent years fighting drug addiction, died today at the age of 60, after a long struggle with cancer.
Sylvia Kristel was catapulted to fame in 1974 by her first movie, Emmanuelle which recounted the erotic adventures of a young woman in Asia.
A worldwide success, Just Jaeckin‘s film was shown in a cinema on the Champs-Elysées in Paris for 13 years, and seen by at least 350 million people around the world, but Sylvia Kristel never learned to live with her fame.
The image used in the film’s promotional poster of Sylvia Kristel sitting half-naked in a wickerwork Peacock chair is seared into the minds of a generation of both men and women.
A series of sequels followed, also starring SylviaKristel, with Emmanuelle 2 in 1975, Goodbye Emmanuelle in 1977 and Emmanuelle 4 in 1984.
She soon became typecast in erotic roles, and admitted to taking acting jobs in the 80s simply to make money to feed her expensive cocaine habit.
“I was a silent actress, a body. I belonged to dreams, to those that can’t be broken” Sylvia Kristel, who for years battled drug and alcohol addiction, wrote in her 2006 autobiography Naked.
She was born on September 28, 1952 in Utrecht, where her parents ran a hotel near the train station. She relates in her autobiography how she was sexually abused at age nine by the hotel’s manager. Her parents sent her to a religious boarding school age 11 where she was described as a gifted pupil. But when she was 17 she turned to a career in modelling, winning the Miss TV Europe competition in 1973.
Following that success, French director Just Jaeckin chose her to play the title role in Emmanuelle.
She played in several non-erotic films but was then forced to act in “Emmanuelle” sequels because of contractual obligations.
Sylvia Kristel turned to painting in her later life, an activity she said was therapeutic, Dutch media quoting her as saying : “Self confidence for me is a fragile fleece”
She was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002 and underwent a number of chemotherapy treatments. She had a stroke following treatment for throat cancer. She was also suffering from liver cancer. “I don’t expect much from the afterlife, I think that I know very well what pain is” Kristel said in a 2005 interview with newspaper Volkskrant. “When I think of the end of my life, I think mainly : I didn’t do nothing, but I could have done more”