Catherine Deneuve wasn't the least bit shy about using her obvious sex appeal in a Chanel commercial back in the 1970s. Bob Simon of "60 Minutes" chats with a star who is an undisputed legend:
Catherine Deneuve is 70 years old; has been on the screen 57 years; and has made more than 100 films.
In her early years, she became known as the "Ice Maiden": she was elegant, distant, reserved. But then she skipped, with apparent delight, into films packed with passion, often with some pretty kinky sex, like "Belle de Jour," "Manon 70."
Her personal life was always interesting, but never scandalous -- love affairs in France are rarely scandalous, and she had them with some of the most brilliant directors and actors of her time.
Her message was clear: if you want me, you've got to deserve me.
And if you do, welcome to paradise.
So, Simon asked her, "What's it like to be hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world?"
"Well, I don't hear that," she laughed. "Sometimes people say, 'You know, you've been quoted to be called ...' I don't know, it's something I live with. I thought it was a nice compliment."
"It's more than a nice compliment. I mean, it's a nice compliment to be told you're beautiful, but 'THE most beautiful woman is the world' is more."
"Yes, but what I mean is, a lot of good-looking woman have been called that as far as I can remember."
Simon disagreed: "No, no, no, no.".
"Oh yes, oh yes," Deneuve laughed. "I'm sure I read it."
"Name a few."
"Name a few? Uhm ... ... ... ... ... "
"You see?" Simon laughed.
It's not always easy being the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. But Catherine Deneuve has toughed it out. She was once quoted as saying, "Beauty has always been a burden for me."
"Now I told several women at our office this morning that," Simon said, "and they said, 'Gimme a break.'"
"Yes, they're right," Deneuve said. "I never said that. I said that it can be a burden because there is a certain expectation, you know? So it can become a burden sometimes, but to really be a burden? No, No, I never said it was always a burden."
She changed her name from Dorleac to Deneuve (her mother's maiden name) for her second film, "Ladies Man" -- and fell for a world-renowned ladies man, director Roger Vadim.
Their son, Christian, was born when she was 19 and speeding towards stardom in "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," which she has called her favorite film.
"Did your life really change after 'Umbrellas of Cherbourg'?" Simon asked.
"Oh yes. The film got the prize at the Cannes Film Festival and traveled all around the world. I went to a lot of countries with the film."
In 1965, Deneuve and photographer David Bailey were married. During those years, Deneuve flourished, taking both risky and risque roles.
She starred in a horror flick, "Repulsion," directed by Roman Polanski. At 22, she was in theaters around the world.
Two years later, she appeared as an elegant, affluent woman who does tricks in the afternoons in "Belle de Jour." The next year, she was the irresistible Manon (in "Manon 70") who takes many lovers in an effort to have it all, literally.
Simon asked Deneuve, "What was it like for you to when you acted in your first really steamy movie?"
"What would be a steamy movie?" she asked.
"A steamy movie would be 'Belle de Jour,'"
"Ah, Sex. Well, she's a very restrained, sophisticated person doing things that is a big contrast with who she seems to be."
"But it was a new kind of role for you."
"Yeah, but I think that was part of the attraction to the character."
The attraction transcended her beauty. There was something distinctly, inevitably French about Catherine Deneuve.
"If France is known for its cuisine, its wine and its women," Simon asked, "what is it about French women?"
"I don't know what to say," she replied. "I read that French women are able to do the lives they want and eat what they want and still staying not putting on weight."
"You're not mentioning anything to do with a certain kind of flirtatiousness?"
"No, I don't, no, I wouldn't think of that," Deneuve said.
In 1971, she appeared for the first time with Italian idol Marcello Mastroianni, who would become her lover and the father of her daughter, Chiara. They never married, and the affair lasted four years, but trying to get her to talk about it is like squeezing water from a stone.
"Marcello Mastroianni has always been a very, very big deal in this country, since 'La Dolce Vita,'" said Simon.
"Yes, which was is an incredible film," Deneuve said.
"Indeed. What can you tell us about him?"
"Not much. I mean, not much I would like to say. A great personality and a very shy actor, very modest person with a great sense of humor."
The reigning king of French cinema, Francois Truffaut, was also her lover. They met on "Mississippi Mermaid" in 1969, and he's said to have broken down in 1970 when she left him.
But 10 years later, Truffaut directed Deneuve in the critically-acclaimed "The Last Metro." She plays a Parisian movie theater owner hiding her husband during the German occupation. Deneuve won the Cesar (considered the French Oscar).
When asked if a great director like Truffaut has to be a tormented person, Deneuve said yes. "I think if you're a very sort of quiet, happy, fulfilled person, it's more difficult to put it in words and to want to have the desire to put it in images and tell a story. I think that most of the directors I have known were mostly tormented persons, yes."
Nearing 50, she played an unmarried plantation owner who raises a Vietnamese orphan in French Indochina, in "Indochine." She was again awarded the Cesar, and received her first (and only) Oscar nomination.
Simon asked, "Would you like a shot at another Oscar, or does it not mean anything to you?"
"No, I would not say it does not mean anything to me, but there is no chance that it can happen," she replied. "You know, it's very rare that a French-speaking actress is nominated in a film for the Oscar. I know it does happen, but it's very rare."
But her latest film, "On My Way," is in French. She plays Bettie, a former beauty queen who renews ties with her estranged grandson.
She still dreams about Hollywood, but will never able to act with the actor she likes best.
"I would have liked to do work with Cary Grant," she said. "I think he's such a great, great actor. Cary Grant to me was the real summit of what acting can be for a man."
Looking at Catherine Deneuve today, you can understand what it is people really want to know about her -- and it's neither her talent nor her love life.
Simon said, "Both women and men insisted I ask you: What is the secret to aging well aside from starting out beautiful?"
"I think it's different for men and women," Deneuve said. "I think for men it has more to do with a fulfillment of what they do in their life, their social life, their work. I think for women, it's more private. It has more to do with a personal fulfillment with a life, love and children, and work also, but not as the first main thing, I think."
"Do you find aging difficult?"
"I think it's difficult for everybody. It's difficult, the energy, you know, that you miss sometimes, which is a problem."
"You're still going," Simon said.
"I mean, you're turning out movies. And the only reason I mention that is that French people as you know have this reputation about being passionate about retiring."
"Depends on what you are doing in life," Deneuve said. "As an actor, an artist don't retire, no. It's not your decision. It happens."
"Well, you were blessed then, weren't you?"
"Quite," she smiled.
For more info:
- "On My Way (Elle s'en va)" (Official site)