Sylvia Kristel

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Sylvia Kristel
Kristel in 1973
Sylvia Maria Kristel

(1952-09-28)28 September 1952
Utrecht, Netherlands
Died17 October 2012(2012-10-17) (aged 60)[1]
The Hague, Netherlands[2]
Burial placeUtrecht, Netherlands[3]
  • Actress
  • model
  • memoirist
Years active1973–2010
Known forEmmanuelle
Emmanuelle 2
Emmanuelle 3
Private Lessons

Sylvia Maria Kristel (28 September 1952 – 17 October 2012)[4] was a Dutch actress and model who appeared in over 50 films. She is best remembered as the eponymous character in five of the seven Emmanuelle films, including originating the role with Emmanuelle (1974).[5][6]

Early life[edit]

Kristel was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands; she was the elder daughter of an innkeeper, Jean-Nicholas Kristel, and his wife Pietje Hendrika Lamme.[7] In her 2006 autobiography, Nue, she stated that she was sexually abused by an elderly hotel guest when she was nine years old, an experience she otherwise refused to discuss. Her parents divorced when she was 14 years old, after her father abandoned the family for another woman. "It was the saddest thing that ever happened to me," she said of the experience of her parents' separation.[8]


Kristel began modeling when she was 17 years old. In 1971, before becoming famous, she took part in an audition for the female lead in the film Last Tango in Paris (1972) but lost out to Maria Schneider. In 1973, she won the Miss TV Europe contest. She spoke Dutch, English, German, and Italian fluently, as well as several other languages to a lesser extent. Kristel gained international attention in 1974 for playing the title character in the softcore film Emmanuelle, which remains one of the most successful French films ever produced.

After the success of Emmanuelle, she often played roles that capitalized on that sexually provocative image, starring in an adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981), and a nudity-filled biographical film of the World War I spy in Mata Hari (1985).

During the 1970s, she worked on lesser known films by prominent French directors including Claude Chabrol and Roger Vadim. She also starred next to Joe Dallesandro in Walerian Borowczyk's La Marge (1976), a success at the French box office.

She was cast to play the part of Stella in Roman Polanski's film The Tenant (1976) but, after one day of shooting, she was replaced by Isabelle Adjani. In 1977, she was invited to star as Hattie in Louis Malle's controversial erotic drama Pretty Baby (1978) but the role eventually went to Susan Sarandon instead. Several years later, the director wanted to cast Kristel as Ingrid in his next film Damage (1992), but the actress was unavailable at the time. She was friends with Sergio Leone who wanted her to play the role of Carol in the movie Once Upon a Time in America (1984); the producers did not agree to her participation and the role went to Tuesday Weld. In 1982, she was turned down by Tony Scott for the role of Miriam in The Hunger (1983); Catherine Deneuve ended up playing the part. She was considered for the role of Lois Lane in Superman (1978), which went to Margot Kidder. Sylvia unsuccessfully applied for the role of a Bond Girl in the movies: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Octopussy (1983).

She rejected the main female roles in The Story of Adele H. (1975), King Kong (1976), Logan's Run (1976), Caligula (1979), Body Heat (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Scarface (1983), Dune (1984), Body Double (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986).

Her Emmanuelle typecasting image followed her to the United States, where she played Nicole Mallow, a maid who seduces a teenaged boy in the sex comedy Private Lessons (1981).[9] Another mainstream American film appearance was a brief comic turn in the Get Smart revival film The Nude Bomb in 1980.

Although Private Lessons was one of the highest-grossing independent films of 1981 (ranking number 28 in US domestic gross),[10] Kristel reportedly saw none of the profits and continued to appear in movies and last played Emmanuelle in the early 1990s. In May 1990, she appeared in the television series My Riviera, filmed at her home in Saint-Tropez and offering insights of her life and motivations in an interview with writer-director Michael Feeney Callan. Her friend, Gérard Depardieu, wanted to secure her comeback and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the producers of 1492: Conquest of Paradise to cast her as Queen Isabel. In 2001, she played a small role in Forgive Me, Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch's debut. In May 2006, Kristel received an award at the Tribeca Film Festival, New York, for directing the animated short film Topor and Me, written by Ruud Den Dryver. The award was presented by Gayle King.

After a hiatus of eight years, she appeared in the film Two Sunny Days (2010), and that same year, in her last acting role, she played Eva de Leeuw in the Italian TV film The Swing Girls.[11]

In June 2021 it was announced that actress Sylvia Hoeks will play Sylvia Kristel in a biopic about the life and career of Kristel.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Kristel at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival

In September 2006, Kristel's autobiography Nue (Nude) was published in France. The writing was translated into English as Undressing Emmanuelle: A Memoir, by Fourth Estate, 2 July 2007, in which she described a turbulent personal life that was blighted by addictions to drugs and alcohol, and her quest for a father figure, which resulted in some destructive relationships with older men. The book received some positive reviews.[13]

She had her first major relationship with Belgian author Hugo Claus, who was more than two decades her senior. Their union from 1973 to 1977 produced her only child, a son named Arthur, who was born in 1975. She left her husband for British actor Ian McShane, whom she had met in 1976 on the set of the film The Fifth Musketeer (1979).[14] They moved in together in Los Angeles, where he had promised to help launch her American career. However, their five-year affair led to no significant career break for Kristel, but a relationship she describes in her autobiography as "awful – he was witty and charming, but we were too much alike." She began using cocaine about two years into their relationship. This proved her downfall, although at the time she thought of it as a "supervitamin, a very fashionable substance, without danger, but expensive, far more exciting than drowning in alcohol – a fuel necessary to stay in the swing."[13] Sylvia Kristel also had a year-long relationship with French singer Michel Polnareff.[15]

Kristel in 1998

Kristel was interviewed in 2006 for the documentary Hunting Emmanuelle. She described how she made a number of poor decisions due to an expensive cocaine addiction. One of those mistakes included selling her interest in Private Lessons to her agent for US$150,000; the film grossed more than US$26 million domestically. After McShane, she married twice, first in 1982 to Alan Turner, an American businessman. That marriage ended after five months, and she later married film producer Philippe Blot (1986–1991). She then spent a decade with Belgian radio producer Fred De Vree, until his death in 2004.[16]

Her authorized biography was written by Dutch journalist Suzanne Rethans and was published in September 2019. It took Rethans more than three years to write it. Titled Begeerd en Verguisd (transl. Desired and Vilified), it has not yet been translated into English.[17]

Illness and death[edit]

Kristel was a heavy cigarette smoker from the age of 11. She was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001, and underwent three courses of chemotherapy and surgery after the disease spread to her lungs.[18] On 12 June 2012, she suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in critical condition.[19] Four months later, she died in her sleep at age 60 from esophageal and lung cancer.[20] Kristel is buried at her place of birth in Utrecht, the Netherlands.[3]



Year Title Role Notes
1973 Frank en Eva Sylvia English title: Living Apart Together
1973 Because of the Cats Hannie Troost
1973 Naked Over the Fence Lilly Marischka
1974 Emmanuelle Emmanuelle
1974 Julia Andrea
1974 No Pockets in a Shroud Avril
1975 Playing with Fire Diana Van Den Berg
1975 Emmanuelle II Emmanuelle English title: Emmanuelle, The Joys of a Woman
1976 Game of Seduction Mathilde Leroy
1976 La Marge Diana English title: The Streetwalker
1977 Alice or the Last Escapade Alice Caroll
1977 Rene the Cane Krista
1977 Emmanuelle 3 Emmanuelle English title: Goodbye Emmanuelle
1978 Pastorale 1943 Miep Algera
1978 Mysteries Dany Kielland
1979 Tigers in Lipstick The Lady on the Bed / The Unhappy Wife
1979 The Fifth Musketeer Maria Theresa
1979 The Concorde ... Airport '79 Isabelle
1980 The Nude Bomb Agent 34
1980 Love in First Class Beatrice
1981 Private Lessons Nicole Mallow
1981 Lady Chatterley's Lover Lady Constance Chatterley
1983 Private School Ms. Regina Copoletta
1984 Emmanuelle 4 Sylvia / Emmanuelle
1985 Mata Hari Mata Hari
1985 Red Heat Sofia
1985 The Big Bet Michelle
1988 The Arrogant Julie
1988 Dracula's Widow Vanessa
1989 Hot Blood Sylvia
1992 Silence of the Body(성애의침묵)
1993 Beauty School Sylvia
1993 Emmanuelle 7 Emmanuelle
1996 In the Shadow of the Sandcastle Angel Kelley
1997 Gaston's War Miep Visser
1999 Film 1 Patron
1999 An Amsterdam Tale Alma
1999 Harry Rents a Room Miss Pinky Short
2000 Lijmen/Het Been Jeanne
2001 Vergeef me Chiquita (on stage)
2001 De vriendschap Sylvia
2001 Sexy Boys La sexologue
2002 Bank Wife Video
2010 Two Sunny Days Angela


Year Title Role Notes
1979 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Self Talk show guest appearance
1979 The Merv Griffin Show Self Talk show guest appearance
1981 The Million Dollar Face Brett Devereaux TV film
1981 Friday Night, Saturday Morning Self Talk show guest appearance
1982 The Don Lane Show Self Talk show guest appearance
1985 Àngel Casas Show Self Talk show guest appearance
1987 Casanova Maddalena TV film
1993 Emmanuelle Old Emmanuelle TV films
1996 De eenzame oorlog van Koos Tak "Tante Heintje" TV series
1996 Onderweg naar Morgen Trix Odijk TV series
1997 Die Sexfalle Nicole Fuchs TV film
2000 Mind Hunter [de] (a.k.a. Die Unbesiegbaren) Elisabeth Lohmann TV film
2010 The Swing Girls Eva de Leeuw TV film


  1. ^ "Sylvia Kristel, star of Emmanuelle, dies", BBC News, 18 October 2012, retrieved 18 October 2012
  2. ^ "Sylvia Kristel – Dutch actress", Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 10 February 2018
  3. ^ a b "Actress Sylvia Kristel buried in Netherlands". Agence France-Presse via Yahoo! News. 26 October 2012. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  4. ^ Corder, Mike. "'Emmanuelle' star Sylvia Kristel dies at age 60". The Associated Press, Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Actrice Sylvia Kristel (60) overleden". de Volkskrant. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  6. ^ Hal Erickson (2012). "Sylvia Kristel". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Sylvia Kristel: Family and Companions". Yahoo! Movies.[dead link]
  8. ^ Kristel, Sylvia (2007). Undressing Emmanuelle: A Memoir. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-725695-2.
  9. ^ Corry, John (30 August 1981). "Private Lessons (1980) Risque Comedy, 'Private Lessons'". The New York Times.
  10. ^ 1981 Yearly Box Office Results. Box Office Mojo.
  11. ^ The Swing Girls (TV Movie 2010) - IMDb, retrieved 14 August 2021
  12. ^ Kroll, Justin (14 June 2021). "'Blade Runner 2049's Sylvia Hoeks Signs With UTA".
  13. ^ a b Cadwalladr, Carole (21 July 2007). "Sylvia bares her soul". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Ross, Deborah (30 June 2007). "Interview: Sylvia Kristel, the world's most famous porn star – Features, Film & TV". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 20 November 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  15. ^ n'est pas couché (30 April 2016). "Michel Polnareff – On n'est pas couché 30 avril 2016 #ONPC". Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2019 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ Sylvia Kristel dies at 60, trapped by the erotic film that made her name Retrieved 18 May 2019
  17. ^ Demeyer, Paul (8 October 2019). "De echte 'Emmanuelle' verslond mannen, maar hield eigenlijk niet van seks" [The real 'Emmanuelle' devoured men, but didn't really like sex]. Nieuwsblad (in Dutch).
  18. ^ Donaldson, Brian (30 June 2007). "No regrets". The Herald.
  19. ^ "Emmanuelle star Sylvia Kristel suffers stroke". Daily Express. 3 July 2012.
  20. ^ "Emmanuelle star Sylvia Kristel dies" Archived 22 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. The Irish Times, 18 October 2012.

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