THE HAGUE, Netherlands—Sylvia Kristel, star of five theatrical and seven made-for-cable Emmanuelle movies, who suffered a debilitating stroke in June, has died of cancer at the age of 60 at her home in The Hague.
Born to a family of hoteliers in nearby Utrecht, the lithe beauty began her working life as a clerk and part-time model until she was reportedly convinced by her then boyfriend, Hugo Claus, to try her hand at movie acting. Her first nude scene was in 1973's Because of the Cats, a Dutch-English production, but she was destined for bigger and better (or at least more notorious) parts.
In 1974, she was offered the starring role in the adaptation of Emanuelle Arsan's 1950s novel Emmanuelle, and though she was concerned that her straight-laced religious parents would see her is the sensuous role, she reasoned that since the movie was being shot in Thailand, no one would see it.
"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 quoted Claus as advising, then added, "In the end, 350 million people saw it worldwide."
In the film, Kristel played a sexually liberated young model who travels to Thailand with her husband and engages in a series of erotic adventures there, and over the years since the film's release, it has reportedly grossed over $100 million worldwide—which made it a lot easier for Kristel to get the $100,000 fee she demanded for her role in the sequel, Emmanuelle, Joys of a Woman (also known as Emmanuelle 2).
Kristel went on to play Emmanuelle in a total of four feature films, and also starred as "old Emmanuelle" in seven cable TV productions, but that character was hardly the sum total of her movie experience. In 1981, she played the titular female in Lady Chatterley's Lover, and four years later, essayed the role of Mata Hari in the film of the same name.
Her personal life came to resemble her on-screen characters, with the actress having taken a series of lovers that included actors Gerard Depardieu and Ian McShane, and director Roger Vadim. She moved to Los Angeles with the British McShane, whom she met on the set of The Fifth Musketeer, in 1977. Once there, she had roles in a number of movies, including the Don Adams/"Maxwell Smart" parody The Nude Bomb, Private Lessons and Red Heat.
Sadly, her fame came with its own baggage, and Kristel became addicted to alcohol—her parents had both been alcoholics—and cocaine, wich put her career on the skids, and when she was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph (UK) in 2007, she was living in a small studio apartment above a café in Amsterdam, living on the income from small acting jobs.
Her final film was another made-for-Italian-TV production, The Swing Girls. She is survived by her partner Peter Brul and her son Claus. She will be interred after a private funeral.
Last year, AVN reported that "Vivid Girl Allie Haze... was unveiled in May at the Cannes Film Festival as the new star (under the name Brittney Joy) of the celebrated Emmanuelle franchise." She made her debut as the iconic character in Emmanuelle Through Time: Emmanuelle's Sexy Bite, which aired on Cinemax.