THE HAGUE — Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, whose iconic "Emmanuelle" role symbolised the sexual revolution of the 1970s and who spent years fighting drug addiction, has died aged 60 after a battle with cancer.
"She died during the night during her sleep," agent Marieke Verharen of Features Creative Management told AFP of the 60 year-old actress who had been admitted to an Amsterdam hospital in July following a stroke.
Kristel was catapulted to fame in 1974 aged just 22 by her first movie, "Emmanuelle" which recounted the erotic adventures of a young woman in Asia.
A worldwide success, the French film was shown in a cinema on the Champs-Elysees in Paris for 13 years, and seen by at least 350 million people around the world, but Kristel never learned to live with her fame.
The image used in the film's promotional poster of Kristel sitting semi-naked in a wickerwork Peacock chair is seared into the minds of a generation of both men and women.
With her short-cropped hair, innocent features and slender frame, she lured movie-goers with her "natural erotic attraction" and made "soft-core pornography acceptable", Dutch media said,
A series of sequels followed, also starring Kristel, with "Emmanuelle 2" in 1975, "Goodbye Emmanuelle" in 1977 and "Emmanuelle 4" in 1984.
She soon became typecast in erotic roles, and admitted to taking acting jobs in the 1980s simply to make money to feed her expensive cocaine habit.
"I was a silent actress, a body. I belonged to dreams, to those that can't be broken," Kristel, who for years battled drug and alcohol addiction, wrote in her 2006 autobiography "Naked".
Kristel was born on September 28, 1952 in Utrecht, where her parents ran a hotel near the train station. She relates in her autobiography how she was sexually abused at age nine by the hotel's manager.
Her parents sent her to a religious boarding school age 11 where she was described as a gifted pupil. But when she was 17 she turned to a career in modelling, winning the Miss TV Europe competition in 1973.
Following that success, French director Just Jaeckin chose her to play the title role in "Emmanuelle", which would become one of the biggest French box office successes ever.
Jaeckin told AFP in Paris that Kristel was "a wonderful woman, very pure, very innocent. But the mark that Emmanuelle left on her was very hard for her."
"Unfortunately, I was expecting it," Jaeckin said of her death. "I'm also relieved that she no longer has to suffer."
Dutch film director Frans Weisz lamented Kristel's death on national television, but added: "Sylvia and happiness for me was always an odd combination."
She played in several non-erotic films but was then forced to act in "Emmanuelle" sequences because of contractual obligations.
Kristel is survived by a son, Arthur, who she had in 1975 with her then-husband Belgian author Hugo Claus, a man 24 years her senior whom she described as a "father lover".
Claus was "the father that I would have liked to have had and the lover that I had dreamt of."
Kristel turned to painting in her later life, an activity she said was therapeutic, Dutch media quoting her as saying: "Self confidence for me is a fragile fleece."
In one of her last interviews broadcast on Dutch national television she said that although she had left her alcohol abuse behind her, she would "not say no to a glass of good champagne."
She was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002 and underwent a number of chemotherapy treatments, it was reported.
Agent Verharen declined to say whether the world's most famous Dutch actress died at home or at hospital. The funeral will be private, she said.
Kristel had a stroke following treatment for throat cancer. She was also suffering from liver cancer.
"I don't expect much from the afterlife, I think that I know very well what pain is," Kristel said in a 2005 interview with Dutch newspaper Volkskrant.
"When I think of the end of my life, I think mainly: I didn't do nothing, but I could have done more."
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