The veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve is in a Paris hospital after suffering a small stroke, her family told Sky News Africa on Wednesday.
The 76-year-old screen icon who made her name in such classic films as Luis Bunuel’s “Belle de Jour”, Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” and Jacques Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, had a “very limited stroke which is reversible”, her family said in a statement.
“Happily she has no loss of motor function, although she will of course have to rest for a while,” said the statement, issued on behalf of her family by her agent Claire Blondel.
Deneuve is arguably the most famous French actress of all time, having starred in more than 100 films, most recently alongside Juliette Binoche in Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Truth”.
The actress had been shooting her latest film, “De son vivant” (“In her/his Lifetime”) when she was taken ill.
A source had earlier told the French television news channel BFMTV that Deneuve was suffering from “exhaustion after doing too much”.
As the news of her stroke broke, fans took to social media to post get-well-soon messages and photographs of the star in her prime.
Known in her youth as the “ice queen” for her cool, perfect blonde looks, the director Francois Truffaut said Deneuve was so beautiful “that a cinema-goer finds his happiness simply by looking at her”.
– #MeToo controversy –
Rising to stardom in the 1960s during a golden age for French film, cinema greats from Bunuel to Truffaut, Demy and Polanski queued up to work with her.
She caused a scandal in 1966 by playing a bored middle-class housewife who becomes a prostitute in her spare time in “Belle de Jour”.
Five years later she made global headlines again by signing a petition with 342 other French women artists and intellectuals who admitted they had undergone illegal abortions.
Deneuve, who is a fixture of Paris fashion week front rows, was also a muse for her friend the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who saw her as the model of the liberated modern woman.
Despite her trailblazing support of abortion rights, Deneuve has frequently clashed with feminists, attacking the #MeToo movement last year as a “puritanical witch-hunt”.
An open letter she signed with 100 other prominent French women defending men’s right to “hit on” women caused uproar, although she later attempted to distance herself from some of its signatories.
She has also been a staunch defender of her friend Polanski, who is wanted in the US after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s.
While her extraordinary good looks undoubtedly helped to propel her to fame, Deneuve widened her range as she grew older, turning out a line of memorable roles, including in Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark”.
She also picked up rave reviews for her portrayal of a recovering alcoholic in “Place Vendome” (1998) and her role as a runaway grandmother in the 2013 road movie “On My Way”.
Her biographer Alexandre Fache said that over the years Deneuve has come to personify France, “its classical elegance, haughty charm and its innumerable paradoxes”.