'Emmanuelle' star Sylvia Kristel dies at age 60

Associated Press Modified: October 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm •  Published: October 18, 2012
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — At the time, Sylvia Kristel was worried about starring in the 1974 erotic movie "Emmanuelle," but consoled herself with the thought that few people would see her sexually charged performance.

That turned out to be wrong.

"I thought, 'oh my goodness, this is not easy stuff,'" the Dutch actress once said in an interview. "I was nervous but then my boyfriend said, 'Who's going to watch this film? It will never pass censorship.'"

It did pass the censors and went on to become a classic of the sexually liberated 1970s, propelling Kristel to international stardom.

Kristel died of cancer in her sleep Wednesday at age 60, her management company announced Thursday. She had been fighting cancer for several years.

Kristel told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant in 2005 that her former partner, Belgian author Hugo Claus, had persuaded her to star in "Emmanuelle." The erotic tale directed by Frenchman Just Jaeckin examined the sexual adventures of a man and his beautiful young wife in Thailand.

"He said, 'Thailand, that's nice, we've never been there and anyway the film will never come out in the Netherlands so you won't put your mother to shame,'" Kristel said. "In the end, 350 million people saw it worldwide."

Kristel was born into a family that ran a hotel in the central Dutch city of Utrecht and had a religious upbringing. Her striking beauty defined her career, however, sending her into modeling and then to the steamy "Emmanuelle."

She wasn't even in the casting call when Jaeckin visited the Netherlands looking for a leading lady. He said when he saw her elsewhere at the casting agency he knew immediately that Kristel was destined for the role.

"When I saw her face, I was thunderstruck," he said in an interview with the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur.

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

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