Carole Bouquet: Buñuel’s Muse, Bond Girl, Chanel Icon and Wine Producer

In the UK, she might be more famous for being James Bond’s love interest in For Your Eyes Only, Carrie’s confident in Sex and the City: an American in Paris or as the former face of Chanel Number 5, but in her native France, Carole Bouquet (54) is much more than that: a living screen icon of such status that she can only be compared to Catherine Deneuve or Brigitte Bardot. Like her former partner of ten years, Gérard Depardieu, she has been directed by France’s leading film makers and has won countless awards, including best actress at the Césars (the French Oscars). During a recent visit to London to promote her wine she produces in the Italian island of Pantelleria, the passionate actress shared a long lunch with Chic-Londres at The Connaught. There she talked candidly for two hours about her personality, life, career and passions.

My main personality trait: As most people, I can be quite ambivalent. I guess others tend to form a stronger opinion about myself than I do.

My main quality: It is not up to me to tell- what might seem likeable in a person suddenly becomes much less so if she boasts about it- although I should probably say fearlessness. I tend to push boundaries as far as I can without thinking about the risk, which can be a good or a bad thing.

My main character flaw: There is a very long list of them! The one I dislike the most is melancholy- I don’t mind it in others, but hate it in myself. I am also quite sensitive to the climate, and my moods tend to change accordingly.

If I could change something in the way I look: When I was younger, I really wanted a longer nose, like Silvana Mangano- I saw it as a sign of character. Now I don’t really care.

The quality I appreciate most in others: Generosity, in the larger sense, because for me it equals abundance and sharing.  I love being surrounded by people who are funny, bright and witty, but not when those qualities come at the expenses of generosity. In any case, generous people are rarely boring…

The fault I am most likely to forgive: Certainly not a fondness for food, as I consider it as a quality not a fault- in fact, I don’t really trust people who dislike food, which I find very miserly. Generally speaking, I don’t see faults in people I love, just personality traits.

My idea of happiness: Something that comes from the sun, which has some light and warmth.

My definition of love: It is not limited to my children or to the men I shared moments of my life with- for me, friendship is also love: a feeling of joy which is shared, constant and reassuring.

My definition of beauty: Something that touches my soul, which I find in music or art, be it in the searing intensity of a Lucian Freud’s painting or the luminosity of the Florentine Annunciation portraits.

What I love most in the world: My children- there is nothing more deeply passionate and carnal than a mother’s love.

What I hate above all: People who are stingy, both with their possessions or feelings. I have no time for them.

What life has taught me: Patience, very much despite myself.

My biggest regret: I have plenty of small ones, but nothing really big. I have developed a certain wisdom -limited but real!- which means that I don’t really bother about things I didn’t get and rather make the most of what I have.

What I am most proud of: The fact that my children are happy.

How I would like to be remembered: As someone who liked sharing her time and self with others- I hope that the people I love will have some comforting memories of me. That said, to be frank, I don’t think about it that much as I won’t be here anymore anyway.

My motto: “Sadness is a vice.“ (Flaubert)

And a little bit more…

On her first film: “Buñuel changed my life when he chose me as the lead role for That Obscure Object of Desire. I was an extremely shy 18-year old at the time, who had decided on impulse to become an actress and was completely unaware of the film’s meaning- I was particularly oblivious to the fact that my role represented a sexual fantasy. But I guess that there was a deeply rooted desire to act that I didn’t even realisedback then, but which must have seemed obvious to a director- in any case, Buñuel seemed to know me much better than I did myself.”

On her role as a James Bond Girl: “I am very happy that I was chosen for this role, but it was quite a boring film to do nonetheless. People don’t realise that action films are much more fun to watch than to film, unless you are a stuntman. Personally, I love words, so I find it much more satisfying to play Racine -or Shakespeare if I was English- than to pretend that I am swimming in deep water or hanging out of a helicopter.”

On her image as an ice beauty: “I don’t really care about image, even though I have to admit that the way I look has obviously influenced my career, in the same way that my role as a James Bond girl or as a Chanel model has influenced the way people perceive me. I am often described as “harmonious” and “calm”, which couldn’t be further to the truth. But that is just a part of the job- spectators build an image of the actor’s personality according to his roles and not to his personality in real life.”

On the ups and downs of being an actress: “People often assume that actors are incredibly vain, while in fact they are often very shy and lacking in confidence, as they know that they can always be replaced- however successful one is, there is always that fear of rejection. When Bertrand Blier offered me the part for Too Beautiful for You, I was ecstatic, as I hadn’t had a good offer for two years. But this job also gives you plenty of joy. The opportunity to work with incredibly gifted directors and actors makes you a better person, while their talent rubs on you.”

On her new life as a winemaker: “I didn’t start making wine because I was passionate about the process, but because I fall in love with a land, where there happened to be some very old vineyards of Muscat d’Alexandrie. At first, I was selling the grapes to the local co-op, but then I decided to produce my own wine, partly to challenge myself. Now, I spend my time going around the world selling this Passito, a task in which I am greatly helped by the best sommeliers who support it. If I stopped doing that, I would feel that I am abandoning this land and the people who work there.”

The Passito di Pantelleria produced by Carole Bouquet can be tested at the restaurant Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. For more information about the wine, visit: