She was the face (and body) that launched a thousand teenage erotic dreams. Sylvia Kristel, who got her big break in 1974’s lusty classic Emmanuelle, has died at the age of 60.
Despite a career stretching across more than 50 films, she’ll forever be known as the soft-core star of a series of movies chronicling the sexual adventures of a bored housewife.
The original Emmanuelle became something of a controversial X-rated sensation and ran in one Parisian cinema for 11 years.
Kristel was born in 1952 in the Netherlands and was raised by strict parents. After a convent school education, she became a teenage model and scored bit-parts in small films. But winning a Miss TV Europe competition in 1973 put her on the road to cult stardom when it helped her land the role of Emmanuelle at the age of 22.
Kristel parlayed the success of that film into an acting career, appearing in such films as Airport 79, Private Lessons, The Nude Bomb, Mata Hari and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
But fame brought with it temptation, and she sank into a mire of drugs even while engaging in love affairs with such notable men as Gerard Depardieu, Warren Beatty and Ian McShane. Her career collapsed in the early 1980s and she returned to Amsterdam to become a painter while taking small acting roles. She appeared in several Emmanuelle sequels, largely for the money.
After battling cancer for many years, she was admitted to hospital after a stroke in July and her agent announced this morning that she had died in her sleep. Her life may have ended, but her legacy will endure.