Sylvia Kristel: A Brief Biography


Lovely and talented Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel was born on September 28th 1952 in Utrecht. She was raised in a rather repressive and strict environment by her parents who ran a hotel. After they divorced while she was in her early teens, Sylvia was sent off to boarding school where she spent more and more time alone and isolated in her own thoughts.
She began modeling just before her 18th birthday and entered the Miss TV Europe contest in 1973, and shortly after she landed her first film role in the thriller BECAUSE OF THE CATS. This part led to her getting an audition that would change her life forever.
Sylvia was chosen from many hopefuls to play the title role in director Just Jaeckin’s EMMANUELLE in 1974. The film, based on the memoirs of Emmanuelle Arsan, proved to be an international sensation and became one of the most popular French films of all time. Sylvia was quickly vaulted into the position of one of the most famous and desired women on the planet.
After EMMANUELLE, Sylvia began getting offers all over the world from different filmmakers, and she would spend the next several years working with many of Europe’s top directors.
Key films of this period include the astonishing follow up film to EMMANUELLE, (an erotic tour de force directed by famed photographer Francis Giacobetti), Alain Robbe-Grillet’s PLAYING WITH FIRE, Roger Vadim’s GAME OF SEDUCTION, and Claude Chabrol’s ALICE.
Sylvia’s greatest performance was given for masterful Polish director Walerian Borowczyk in his astonishing LA MARGE. The film should have altered the shape of Sylvia’s career but unfortunately the picture was marketed wrong and proved a failure. It remains however one of the best films of the seventies, and the best role Sylvia was ever given.
After the disappointing GOODBYE EMMANUELLE, Sylvia decided to try some English language productions. These included THE FIFTH MUSTEKTEER, THE CONCORD…AIRPORT 79 and THE NUDE BOMB.
She had two back to back successes with the American teen comedies, PRIVATE SCHOOL and PRIVATE LESSONS in the early eighties, but it was her re-teaming with Just Jaeckin on a version of LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER that would provide Sylvia with arguably her last great role.
Many more films would follow, including Curtis Harrington’s MATA HARI, but Sylvia’s career never blossomed into what it should have become. After surviving some personal demons and cancer, Sylvia retired from the screen in the early part of this decade to focus on her painting.
In 2006 she published NUE, her moving and resonate autobiography. The book was published in an English language version called UNDRESSING EMMANUELLE and it has received much acclaim.
Sylvia Kristel remains one of the biggest, and most undervalued, icons in French film history. She is a talented actress who has never gotten her due and one of the most beautiful women to ever appear on a movie screen.