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Sylvia Kristel (born 28 September 1952) is a Dutchmarker actress, model and singer. Her most famous role is in the French film Emmanuelle (1974).


Early life

Kristel was born in Utrechtmarker, The Netherlandsmarker, the daughter of Piet and Jean-Nicholas, who ran an inn in Utrecht. In her 2006 autobiography Nue she claims to have been sexually abused by an elderly guest at the hotel at the age of nine, an event which she still refuses to discuss in detail. Her parents divorced when she was 14 years old after her father left home for another woman. "It was the saddest thing that ever happened to me", she says of the experience of her parents' separation. She has a younger sister, Marianne.


When she was 17, she began modeling. She entered the Miss TV Europe contest in 1973 and won. She speaks Dutch, English, French, German and Italian. She gained international attention in 1974 for playing the title character in the softcore film Emmanuelle which remains one of the most successful Frenchmarker films ever produced.

Kristel found herself typecast as Emmanuelle and often played roles that capitalised upon that image, most notably starring in an adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981) and a nudity filled biopic of World War I spy Mata Hari in which she played the title role. Her Emmanuelle image followed her to the United Statesmarker where she played Nicole Mallow, a maid who seduces a teenage boy, in the controversial 1981 sex comedy Private Lessons. One of her only other mainstream American film appearances 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 #28 in US Domestic Gross), Kristel saw none of the profits. She continues to appear in movies and last played Emmanuelle in the early 1990s. 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.

Personal life

Cover of Undressing Emmanuelle, English language translation of autobiography
In September 2006 Sylvia Kristel's autobiography Nue (Nude) was published in France. It was translated into English as Undressing Emmanuelle: A Memoir, by Fourth Estate, 2 July 2007 (ISBN 978-0007256952). In it she tells of a turbulent personal life blighted by addictions to drugs, alcohol, and her quest for a father figure which resulted in some harmful relationships with older men.

Her first major relationship was with Hugo Claus, a Belgianmarker author twenty-seven years her senior with whom she had a son, Arthur, born in 1975. She left him for Ian McShane, ten years her senior, whom she met on the set of the 1979 film The Fifth Musketeer. They moved in together in Los Angeles where he had promised to help her launch her American career. However their five year affair would lead 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.' About two years into the relationship she began taking cocaine. This proved to be her downfall, though 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.'

Interviewed in 2006 for Firecracker Films' Documentary "Hunting Emmanuelle", she describes how, nurturing an expensive cocaine habit, she made a number of poor decisions, including agreeing to sell her interest in Private Lessons to her agent on a whim for $150,000. With a domestic gross of over $26 million, she laughs at how much of her agent's mansion her percentage probably paid for.

Since McShane, she has been married twice, first to an American businessman which ended after five months and then to film producer Phillippe Blot. She spent a decade with Belgian radio producer Fred De Vree before he died. She herself now lives a comparatively simple life back in Amsterdammarker, presently remaining single while mourning the death of De Vree from cancer.


  1. Sylvia Kristel Biography (1952-)
  2. Sylvia Kristel - Family and Companions - Yahoo!7 Movies
  3. 1981 Yearly Box Office Results
  4. Firecracker Films
  5. [1]

Further reading

External links

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