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"Emmanuelle" star Sylvia Kristel dies at 60

Picture released on January 25, 1978 of Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel staring in the film "Emmanuelle 2". (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)
AFP

Actress Sylvia Kristel, the Dutch model-turned-actress who starred in the hit 1970s erotic movie "Emmanuelle," has died of cancer at age 60.

Kristel died in her sleep Wednesday night, her agent at Features Creative Management, said in a statement Thursday. Kristel had been fighting cancer for several years.

Her breakthrough came in "Emmanuelle," a 1974 erotic tale directed by Frenchman Just Jaeckin, about the sexual adventures of a man and his beautiful young wife, played by Kristel, in Thailand.

She went on to star in several sequels to "Emmanuelle," as well as in Hollywood movies including "Private Lessons" in 1981.

In Hollywood, she sank into a world of drink and drugs. "I wish I could have skipped that part of my life, she said in a 2005 interview with Dutch newspaper De Volkkrant.

Her agent described her as one of the Netherlands' biggest movie stars, with more than 50 international films to her name.

Among them were many erotically tinted films, including a 1981 adaptation - also directed by Jaeckin - of D.H. Lawrence's novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and "Mata Hari," four years later.

She was honored in 2006 with a special jury prize at the Tribeca Film Festival for a short animated film she directed called "Topor et Moi."

Jaeckin, the director who is also a sculptor and has a gallery in Paris, said by telephone that he and Kristel maintained contact, calling each other every three to four months. But he said he hadn't spoken with her since February.

"I am very sad ... She was like a little sister," Jaeckin said.

"We started together ... `Emmanuelle' brought us big problems. We were a bit marked," he said. "It was a highly contested film then and now it is a cult film."

He said that he knew immediately that Kristel was destined for the leading role.

"When I saw her face, I was thunderstruck," he said.

Kristel is survived by her partner Peter Brul and a son with Claus, Arthur Kristel. She is to be buried at a private funeral. Further details were not released.