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Catherine Deneuve book

The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve: My Life Behind the Camera by Catherine Deneuve

Deneuve's intimate autobiography, focusing especially on her work with directors Bunuel, Truffaut, Polanski, and von Trier. These are Catherine's own words about her personal life and her career in the film industry.

From Perversion to Purity: The Stardom by Lisa Downing and Sue Harris (editors)

A wide-ranging and authoritative collection of essays by a selection of international film academics and writers. Deneuve persona of French national icon is scrutinized and illuminated, beyond the glamorous iconographic status of Yves Saint Laurentis muse, and the epitome of sexual inviolability.

Catherine Deneuve (born 22 October 1943) is an iconic French actress known for playing cool blondes with hidden depths in the work of some of Europe’s greatest directors. Her legendary beauty and classical elegance have made her famous throughout the world where she is as well known for her promotion of perfume and fashion as she is for her acting.

see also articles on:
Top 10 Films by Actor Performance || French New Wave History ||
French New Wave Film Guide || French New Wave Fashion
Catherine Deneuve
actress Catherine Deneuve

Coming Soon!

1. A Theatrical Family 5. Tragedy 9. Secret Lives
2. Vadim 6. Femme Fatale 10. National Treasure
3. Two Early Masterpieces
7. Mastroianni
4. 60's Icon 8. French Allure    

A Theatrical Family

Catherine Deneuve was born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac in Paris at a time when the city was under German occupation. Her parents, Maurice Dorléac and Renée Deneuve, were both actors. She was the middle of three daughters. Her older sister was Francoise Dorléac (born 1942, died 1967) and her younger sister is Sylvie Dorléac (born 1946).

Catherine made her screen debut at the age of 14 in Les Collégiennes (The Twilight Girls, 1957) credited as Catherine Dorléac. She began using her mother’s maiden name of Deneuve professionally in 1960 to differentiate herself from her sister Francoise who had also begun an acting career.


In 1961, at age 17, Deneuve moved in with director Roger Vadim, who at 33 was nearly twice her age. Vadim had famously mentored Brigitte Bardot and now he did the same for Catherine, advising her on her career and directing her in Le Vice et le vertu (Vice and Virtue, 1963) based on de Sade’s Justine. Catherine later refuted the claim that it was Vadim who suggested she dye her naturally brown hair blonde but whoever was responsible, Deneuve’s platinum blonde hair has become a defining aspect of her screen persona.

On June 18, 1963, she gave birth to a son, Christian. Within a month, however, their relationship was over and they broke off contact. At the age of 19 Catherine was faced with the daunting task of bringing up the child alone.

Two Early Masterpieces

Ironically real life began to resemble art when Deneuve was cast as a young, unwed mother in what would become her breakthrough role in Jacques Demy’s classic New Wave musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964). The experience of being able to use her own life as the basis for a performance, and of staring in such an innovative and well-received film, encouraged Deneuve to devote herself to acting with a renewed sense of passion.

Her performance in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg brought Deneuve to the attention of Polish director, Roman Polanski, who had won international acclaim for his debut feature Knife in the Water (1963). He brought her to London to star as a sexually-repressed young woman whose descent into madness results in her becoming a murderer in the disturbing but brilliant Repulsion (1965).

60’s Icon

While in London Deneuve met fashion photographer David Bailey and on August 19, 1965, after a brief courtship, they were married. Their relationship was marred however by affairs on both sides, as well as a language barrier, and eventually ended in an amicable divorce in 1972. She has since said, “Marriage is obsolete and a trap.”

Deneuve returned to France to star in Marcel Camus’ Le Chant du monde (Song of the World, 1965), Agnes Varda’s Les Creatures (1966), and Jean-Paul Rappaneau’s La Vie de château (A Matter of Resistance, 1966). In 1967 she re-teamed with Demy to make the charming musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Ladies of Rochefort, 1967) opposite her real-life sister, Francoise Dorléac. But it was the film she made just prior to that, Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour, that was to make Deneuve an international star.

Telling the story of a bored housewife who turns to prostitution as a way of living out her fantasies, Belle de Jour was a classic work of Bunuelian surrealism complete with outrageous dream sequences, perverse sexuality and sardonic humour. The film and Deneuve’s portrayal of a morally ambiguous, bourgeois woman caught the public imagination. Her cool, reserved manner, even in the most depraved of situations, fascinated audiences and the image of Deneuve as an aloof, mysterious woman with dark secrets has remained key to her enduring screen persona.


At the age of 23, Deneuve was both a celebrated actress and a fashion icon – Yves Saint-Laurent designed her clothes and she was a regular fixture of the “swinging sixties” scene. Then unexpectedly her world was torn apart when her sister Francoise Dorléac was killed in a tragic car accident on June 26, 1967. The two sisters, though very different in temperament, had been very close and Catherine was devastated. Asked years later what had been the lowest point of her life, the actress answered, “When my sister died. She was a lovely actress, Francoise Dorleac... she was my closest friend...”

Throwing herself into work, Deneuve played a young woman torn between two men in Alain Cavalier’s La Chamade (Heartbeat, 1968), as a free spirit who uses sex to get what she wants in Jean Aurel’s Manon 70 (1968), and as the mistress of Omar Sharif’s Archduke Rudolf in Terence Young’s period melodrama Mayerling (1968). In the summer of 1968 she was persuaded by her agent to accept an offer to work in America, acting opposite Jack Lemon in the romantic comedy The April Fools (1969). Although the film was a moderate success with filmgoers and has since gained an enthusiastic following, working in Hollywood was not a very happy experience for Deneuve who has rarely appeared in English-language films since.

Femme Fatale

Returning to France, Deneuve began work on Francois Truffaut’s La Sirene du Mississippi (Mississippi Mermaid) opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo. For once both actors played against type with Belmondo as a naïve plantation owner and Deneuve as the scheming adventuress who deceives him for his wealth. Filming began in December 1968 on Reunion Island, then moved on at the end of the month to the South of France, and finally to the Chartreuse mountain range. At first Truffaut was wary of Catherine, by then a big star, but by the end of the shoot director and actress were having an affair that would last into mid-1970. When the break-up came it devastated Truffaut, causing him to suffer the deepest depression of his life.

Deneuve worked again with Bunuel on Tristana (1970) in which she played an innocent beauty exploited by a lecherous older man played by Fernando Rey. This time however her character achieves independence and eventually exacts revenge on the man who has exploited her. The film received unanimously good reviews from the critics and like its predecessor Belle de Jour, an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. She had further success playing the Princess in Jacques Demy’s musical fairy-tale Peau d’Âne (Donkey Skin/Once Upon a Time, 1970), which became the director’s most successful film in France.


While her film career went from strength to strength, Deneuve was struggling in her private life. In a later interview describing this period of her life she said, “On a personal level, I went into a decline.” In 1972 she officially divorced David Bailey and soon after began a relationship with Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni. In 1972 she gave birth to a daughter by him who they named Chiara. They eventually split up in 1975, although the two remained friends until his death in 1996.

Deneuve kept up a steady work rate through the 1970s, starring in no less than four films with Mastroianni (Ca n’arrive qu’aux autres (1971), La Cagna (1972), L’Événement le plus important depuis que l’homme a marché sur la Lune (1973), and Touché pas à la femme blanche (1974), as well as Jean-Pierre Melville’s Un Flic (1972) and Gérard Pirès’s L’Agression (1975). She had a popular success opposite Yves Montand in the screwball comedy Le Sauvage (Lovers Like Us, 1975) and critical success opposite Jean-Louis Trintignant in L’Argent des autres (Other People’s Money, 1978), which won César Awards for Best Film and Best Director.

French Allure

In America Deneuve became famous as the face of Chanel No.5. Indeed, the American press were so captivated by her charm they nominated her as the world’s most elegant woman. In 1975 she made a rare appearance in a Hollywood film, playing opposite Burt Reynolds in the crime drama Hustle. Although reviews were decent, the film made little impression at the box office.

A potentially far more intriguing Hollywood film in which Deneuve was cast but which never went into production was Alfred Hitchcock’s last project The Short Night. In development since the late 60s, the romantic espionage thriller in which Deneuve would have played the wife of a fugitive spy who falls in love with the man who has come to kill her husband, was cancelled in 1979 due to the director’s ill health. He died the following year.

Secret Lives

Ten years after directing Deneuve in La Sirène du Mississippi (Mississippi Mermaid), Truffaut again directed her in his Second World War drama Le Dernier Metro (The Last Metro, 1980) about a theatre troupe in Nazi occupied Paris. In choosing Catherine Deneuve to play Marion Steiner, the lead actress and manageress of the theatre company, Truffaut commented: “I love the way she projects two facets: a visible persona and a subterranean one. She seems to suggest her secret inner life is at least as significant as the appearance she gives.” Unlike their previous collaboration, Le Dernier Metro was a huge critical and commercial success. It won 10 Cesars including the Best Actress Award for Deneuve.

In 1981 Deneuve began the first of six collaborations with the director André Téchiné with Hôtel des Amériques (Hotel America) in which she played a grieving woman who accidentally hits a man while driving her car and soon after begins a turbulent relationship with him. Téchiné’s complex, emotionally-charged films inspired some of Deneuve’s best performances in roles often written specifically for her by the director. They worked together again on Le Lieu du Crime (Scene of the Crime, 1986), on the highly-acclaimed Ma Saison Préférée (My Favorite Season, 1993), which also starred real-life daughter Chiara Mastoianni and Daniel Auteuil, on Les Voleurs (The Thieves, 1996) again with Auteuil, Changing Times opposite Gerard Depardieu, and La Fille du RER (2009).

In her next English-language outing, Deneuve took her ice-queen image to a new level playing an immortal vampire living in contemporary New York in Tony Scott’s stylish debut feature The Hunger (1983). Co-starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon, the film received mixed reviews on its release but has since garnered a cult following, not least for the erotic sex scenes between Deneuve and Sarandon.

National Treasure

In 1985 Deneuve’s status as a beauty icon was cemented when her image was chosen as the model for Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic seen on French coins and stamps. In September 1987 she became a grandmother for the first time at the age of 43 when her son Christian’s 18-year-old girlfriend gave birth to their son Igor. She now has three more grandchildren: Milo (b. 1996, Chiara’s son with Pierre Torreton), Anna (b. 2003, Chiara’s daughter with Benjamin Biolay), and Lou (b. 2010, Christian’s daughter with Julia Livage).

In the 1990s, Deneuve gave one of her best performances playing an upper-class plantation owner who gets caught up in the political upheavals of Vietnam between the 1930s and 1950s in Indochine (1992). The film won both the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Deneuve herself was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award and won her second César Award for Best Actress. In 1998 she won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice International Film Festival for her performance in Place Vendôme (1998). Other notable 90s films included Raul Ruiz’s Généalogies d’un crime (1997), Philippe Garrel’s Le Vent de la nuit (Night Wind, 1999) and Leos Carax’s Pola X (1999).

After seeing and being impressed by Lars Von Trier’s 1996 film Breaking the Waves (1996), Deneuve asked the director for a part in one of his future films. The result was her supporting role as a factory worker and friend to the lead character played by singer Bjork in Dancer in the Dark (2000). The film polarized critics who either loved or hated it. Nevertheless it received a standing ovation at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Palme d’Or.

At an age when many actresses have retired, Deneuve’s career has continued to go from strength to strength. Her roles in the 2000s have included the Queen in Peter Hyam’s The Musketeer, the head of a star-studded female cast in Francois Ozon’s 8 Femmes (8 Women, 2002), as the voice of the mother in the award-winning animated film Persepolis (2007), as another powerful matriarchal figure in Arnaud Desplechin’s acclaimed Un conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale, 2008), and as a trophy wife who gets to run her husband’s umbrella factory in the hit comedy Potiche (2010) directed by Francois Ozon. The contradictory, ambiguous characters that so fascinated audiences in her younger years have now been replaced with mature women who know their own mind and refuse to be diverted from their decisions.

In 2005, Deneuve published her diary A l'ombre de moi-meme (In My Own Shadow, published in English as Close Up and Personal: The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve); in it she writes about her experiences working with Truffaut and Bunuel and shooting the films Indochine and Dancer in the Dark. Her interest in her profession remains constant, “I find cinema still very interesting. For me, to see a film, and to be shown a story with actors that I like or actors that I don’t know, it’s always a discovery. I’m a great fan of films and I still go to see films in theatres. Even when I’m working, I try to see films. It’s a desire, and its something very important in my life.” In this capacity Deneuve was appointed UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Safeguarding of Film Heritage in 1994. The same year she served on the 1994 Cannes Festival Jury. In 2006 she acted as President of the jury at the Venice Film Festival.

with New Wave Directors
Complete Filmography

French Title
English Title
Le Vice et la Vertu Vice and Virtue 1963 Roger Vadim Justine
Vacances portugaises Portuguese Vacation 1963 Pierre Kast Catherine
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg The Umbrellas of Cherbourg 1964 Jacques Demy Genevieve Emery
Repulsion Repulsion 1965 Roman Polanski Carol Ledoux
Les Creatures The Creatures 1966 Agnès Varda Mylène
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort The Young Girls of Rochefort 1967 Jacques Demy Delphine Garnier
La Chamade Heartbeat 1968 Alain Cavalier Lucile
La Sirène du Mississippi Mississippi Mermaid 1969 Francois Truffaut Julie Roussel
Peau d'âne Donkey Skin 1970 Jacques Demy The Princess
Un Flic A Cop 1972 Jean-Pierre Melville Cathy
L’Événement le plus important depuis que l’homme a marché sur la Lune A Slightly Pregnant Man 1973 Jacques Demy Irène de Fontenoy
Zig-Zig Zig Zag 1975 Laszlo Szabo Marie
Si c'était à refaire If I Had To Do It All Again 1976 Claude Lelouch Catherine Berger
À nous deux Us Two 1979 Claude Lelouch Francoise
Le Dernier Métro The Last Metro 1980 Francois Truffaut Marion Steiner
Hôtel des Amériques Hotel America 1981 André Téchiné Hélène
Le Lieu du crime Scene of the Crime 1986 André Téchiné Lili Ravenel
Ma saison préférée My Favorite Season 1993 André Téchiné Émilie
Les Cent et Une Nuits de Simon Cinéma 101 Nights of Simon Cinema 1995 Agnès Varda La star-fantasme
Les Voleurs The Thieves 1996 André Téchiné Marie Leblanc
Le Vent de la nuit Night Wind 1999 Philippe Garrel Hélène
Les Temps qui changent Changing Times 2004 André Téchiné Cécile
La Fille du RER The Girl on the Train 2009 André Téchiné Louise


FILM (year) ... ROLE

Les Collégiennes (1957) ... credited as Catherine Dorléac
L'Homme à femmes (1960) ... Catherine
Les Portes claquent (1960) ... Dany
Et satan conduit le bal (1962) ... Manuelle
Les Parisiennes (1962) ... Sophie
Dossier 1413 (1962) ... uncredited
Le Vice et la vertu (1963) ... Justine Morand
Vacances portugaises (1963) ... Catherine
La Costanza della ragione (1964) ... Lori
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964) ... Geneviève Emery
Les plus belles escroqueries du monde (1964) ... Swindler (Segment: "L'homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel")
La Chasse à l'homme (1964) ... Denise
Un monsieur de compagnie (1964)) ... Isabelle
Repulsion (1965) ... Carole Ledoux
Les Petits chats ... uncredited
Das Liebeskarussell (1965) ... Angela Claasen
La Chant du monde (1965) ... Clara
La Vie de château (1966) ... Marie
Les Créatures (1966) ... Mylène
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) ... Delphine Garnier
Belle de jour (1967) ... Séverine Serizy a.k.a. Belle de Jour
Benjamin (1968) ... Anne
Manon 70 (1968) ... Manon
Mayerling (1968) ... Maria Vetsera
La Chamade (1968) ... Lucile
The April Fools (1969) ... Catherine Gunther
La Sirène du Mississippi (1969) ... Julie Roussel/Marion Vergano
Tout peut arriver (1969) ... Interviewee
Tristana (1970) ... Tristana
Peau d'Âne (1970) ... La princesse/Peau d'âne
Ca n'arrive qu'aux autres (1971) Catherine
Liza (1972)... Liza
Un flic (1972) ... Cathy
L'Evènement le plus important depuis que l'homme a marché sur la lune (1973) ... Irène de Fontenoy
Touche pas à la femme blanche (1974) ... Marie-Hélène de Boismonfrais
Fatti di gente perbene (1974) ... Linda Murri
La Femme aux bottes rouges (1974) ... Françoise LeRoi
Zig zig (1975) ... Marie
L'Agression (1975) ... Sarah
Le Sauvage (1975) ... Nelly
Hustle (1975) ... Nicole Britton
Si c'était à refaire (1976) ... Catherine Berger
Anima persa (1977) ... Sofia Stolz
March or Die (1977) ... Simone Picard
Casotto (1977) ... Donna del sogno
L'Argent des autres (1978) ... Cécile Rainier
Ecoute voir... (1979) ... Claude Alphand
Ils sont grands, ces petits (1979) ... Louise Mouchin
À nous deux (1979) ... Françoise
Courage fuyons (1979) ... Eva
Le Dernier métro (1980) ... Marion Steiner
Je vous aime (1980) ... Alice
Le Choix des armes (1981) ... Nicole Durieux
Hôtel des Amériques (1981) ... Hélène
Le Choc (1982) ... Claire
L'Africain (1983) ... Charlotte
The Hunger (1983) ... Miriam Blaylock
Le Bon plaisir (1984) ... Claire Després
Fort Saganne (1984) ... Louise
Paroles et musique (1984) ... Margaux
Speriamo che sia femmina (1986) ... Claudia
Le lieu du crime (1986) ... Lili Ravenel
Agent trouble (1987) ... Amanda Weber
Fréquence meurtre (1988) ... Jeanne Quester
Drôle d'endroit pour une rencontre (1988) ... France
La Reine blanche (1991) ... Liliane Ripoche
Indochine (1992) ... Eliane
Ma saison préférée (1993) ... Emilie
La Partie d'échecs (1994) ... Marquise
Les Cent et une nuits de Simon Cinéma (1995) ... La star-fantasme
O Convento (1995) ... Hélène
Les Voleurs (1996) ... Marie Leblanc
Court toujours: L'inconnu (1996) (TV) ... Marianne
Généalogies d'un crime (1997) ... Jeanne/Solange
Sans titre (1997)
Place Vendôme (1998) ... Marianne Malivert
Le Vent de la nuit (1999) ... Hélène
Belle maman (1999) ... Léa
Pola X (1999) ... Marie
Le Temps retrouvé (1999) ... Odette de Crecy
Est-Ouest (1999) ... Gabrielle Develay
Dancer In The Dark (2000) ... Kathy
Je rentre à la maison (2001) ... Marguerite
Absolument fabuleux (2001) ... Une spectatrice du défilé
The Musketeer (2001) ... The Queen Le Petit poucet (2001) ... La reine
8 femmes (2002) ... Gaby
Au plus près du paradis (2002) ... Fanette
Les Liaisons dangereuses (2003) (TV) .... Marquise Isabelle deMerteuil
Um Filme Falado (2003) ... Delfina
Princesse Marie (2004) (TV) ... Marie Bonaparte
Rois et reine (2004) ... Mme Vasset
Les Temps qui changent (2004) ... Cécile
Palais royal! (2005) ... Eugénia
Le Concile de Pierre (2006) ... Sybille Weber
Nip/Tuck (1 episode, 2006) ... Diana Lubey
Le Héros de la famille (2006) ... Alice Mirmont
Après lui (2007) ... Camille
Persepolis (2007) (voice) ... Mrs. Satrapi, Marjane's mother
Frühstück mit einer Unbekannten (2007) (TV) ... Elegante Dame
Un conte de Noël (2008) ... Junon
Mes Stars et moi (2008) ... Solange
Je veux voir (2008) ... L’actrice celebre
Le fille du RER (2009) ... Louise Cyprien (2009) ... Vivianne Wagner


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