14 May 2009 - 12:29 PM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM

Marianne Faithfull – Paris Je T'aime

With roles in Marie Antoinette, the upcoming Irina Palm and PARIS JE T'AIME, sixties icon MARIANNE FAITHFULL has a brand new career. BY FILMINK'S GAYNOR FLYNN

Marianne Faithfull is a “tough” interview, several colleagues warned. “Don't mention the '60s,” they advised. “Or Mick Jagger, and whatever you do, don't mention her fifteen-year addiction to heroin.” What? Here's a woman who took the whole sex, drugs and rock'n'roll legacy to a new level. She was a pop sensation at fifteen, a mother at eighteen, and Mick Jagger's girlfriend at nineteen. And I shouldn't ask her about the era or the escapades on which her legendary status is based? “She's over it,” they said. “She's sick of the '60s.”

I meet Marianne Faithfull at The Cannes Film Festival, and luckily she doesn't fit my colleagues' descriptions. A commanding 59-years-old, Faithfull looks fab in a pair of tight jeans and spiky heels, and packs plenty of attitude. The woman I meet is larger than life, funny and as sassy as ever. “I'm in a good mood,” she drawls as she sends waiters scuttling in all directions to fill her demands. She only drinks “Evian, darling” at “room temperature.” What's the reason for the good mood? “I adore France,” she says. She's also currently “in love with a Frenchman”, which only adds to her romance with the country. It's all very apt given that Paris Je T'aime, a movie in which she features memorably, is set in Paris and is all about love. “I'm actually living the love story,” she laughs wickedly. Who is he, I ask? “I'm not here to discuss my bloody love life,” she snaps. Right…

Paris Je T'aime consists of eighteen five-minute films by directors including The Coen Brothers, Walter Salles, Wes Craven, Olivier Assayas and Alexander Payne. Faithfull stars in Gus Van Sant's “Le Marais”. Set in a printer's shop, the story revolves around two attractive young men (Elias McConnell and Gaspard Ulliel) and a brief, chance encounter. Faithfull had never met Van Sant before, but she has a hunch about why he may have cast her. “I'm sure he wanted me because I bring all this strange baggage with me,” she says. “I loved it even though I didn't get to dress up much. I love not having to be Marianne Faithfull; it can be quite tough sometimes.”

Indeed. That's why she's lived in Ireland on and off since the '60s. Besides being a tax haven for artists, there's also a distinct lack of paparazzi attention, which sounds a tad uneventful for a legendary hellraiser. “I live a quiet life,” she says. “I look after myself now and I work as hard as I can.”

Despite having a successful recording career (her album Before The Poison included collaborations with PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Jon Brion), Faithfull has a new focus. “I want to do more films,” she says. “It's funny – when I was very young and very beautiful I was so frightened of working in films. I turned down Women In Love, I turned down Candy…I turned down lots of things. The only thing I did take was such a nightmare: Girl On A Motorcycle, with Mr. Alain Delon,” she drawls disdainfully. “I absolutely loathe that man! I rather liked the director Jack Cardiff though, but he was creepy as well. The whole thing was creepy because I've got a face that can look like anything and he made me look like Marilyn.”

Faithfull is no fool and knows that her acting career is a direct result of her infamy, rather than any inherent ability. But as long as it works in her favour, she can live with it, and has lately parlayed her image into striking films, such as Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and the controversial Irina Palm, in which she plays a destitute widow who takes up prostitution to raise money for her ill grandson. “The legend has its own life,” she shrugs. “It just does its own thing and I do mine.”

Faithfull began acting back in 1965, but has always kept her involvement to a minimum. “If I'd gone to Hollywood, it would have chewed me up and spat me out. I think it's much better if I start acting now. It would have destroyed me at the time.”

Her instincts were right, given that she didn't handle the fame that did come her way and sought refuge in drugs, which led to her losing custody of her only child Nicholas, and living on the streets of Soho for two years. But somehow Faithfull survived it all – a fact she's infinitely proud of. “Regrets? I don't believe in such things,” she scoffs haughtily when I ask if she has any. “It was just life in general. That's all I knew. I know everybody who wasn't there is jealous. Tough! We had a lot of fun. It's not overrated, and it's all true. It was brilliant.”