Early life Edit
Jane Mallory Birkin was born on 14 December 1946, in Marylebone, London. Her mother, Judy Campbell, was an English actress, best known for her work on stage. Her father, David Birkin, was a Royal Navy lieutenant-commander and World War II spy. Her brother is the screenwriter and director Andrew Birkin. She was educated at Upper Chine School, Isle of Wight.
Birkin emerged in the Swinging London scene of the 1960s, appearing briefly in the 1966 film Blowup, and as the fantasy-like model in the psychedelic Wonderwall from 1968. That same year, she auditioned in France for the lead female role in Slogan. Though she did not speak French, she won the role. She co-starred with Serge Gainsbourg, and performed with him on the film's theme song, "La chanson de slogan" — the first of many collaborations between the two. In 1969, she and Gainsbourg released the duet "Je t'aime... moi non plus" ("I love you... me neither"). Gainsbourg originally wrote the song for Brigitte Bardot. The song caused a scandal for its sexual explicitness, and was banned by radio stations in Italy, Spain, and the UK.
"Je t'aime" made UK chart history in that on 4 October 1969 and the following week on 11 October, the song was at two different chart positions even though it is the same song, the same artists, and the same recorded version. The only difference was that they were on different record labels. It was originally released on the Fontana label, but due to its controversy, Fontana withdrew the record which was then released on the Major Minor label. Because there were Fontana singles still in the shops along with the Major Minor release, on 4 October 1969 the Major Minor release was at number 3 and the Fontana single at number 16. Also at that time it was the biggest ever selling single for a completely foreign language record. She appeared on Gainsbourg's 1971 album Histoire de Melody Nelson, portraying the Lolita-like protagonist in song and on the cover.
She took a break from acting in 1971–72, but returned as Brigitte Bardot's lover in Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman in 1973. In 1975, she appeared in Gainsbourg's first film, Je t'aime... moi non plus, which created a stir for frank examination of sexual ambiguity. For this performance she was nominated for a Best Actress César Award.
Birkin appeared in the Agatha Christie films Death on the Nile (1978) and Evil Under the Sun (1982), and recorded several albums, including Baby Alone in Babylone, Amours des Feintes, Lolita Go Home and Rendez-vous. She won Female Artist of the Year in the 1992 Victoires de la Musique. She starred in two films directed by Jacques Doillon – as Anne in La fille prodigue (1981) and as Alma in La pirate (1984, nominated for a César Award). This work led to an invitation from Patrice Chéreau to star on stage in La Fausse suivante by Marivaux at Nanterre. In 1980 she worked with director Herbert Vesely on Egon Schiele Exzess und Bestrafung, appearing as the mistress of Austrian artist Egon Schiele, played by Mathieu Carrière. Jacques Rivette collaborated with her in Love on the Ground (1983) and La Belle Noiseuse (1991, Nominated Césars best supporting actress). She appeared in Merchant Ivory's A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998, also used her song "Di Doo Dah") and Merci Docteur Rey (2002), while Le Divorces end title song featured her singing "L'Anamour", composed by Gainsbourg. In 2006, she played the title role in Elektra, directed by Philippe Calvario in France.
Birkin recorded the song "Beauty" on French producer Hector Zazou's 2003 album Strong Currents. The cover art of Have You Fed the Fish? by singer-songwriter Badly Drawn Boy features her image. The album features her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg on backing vocals. In 2010 she recorded a duet with Brazilian singer Sérgio Dias for a project by Dias and french band Tahiti Boy and the Palmtree Family.
Birkin bag Edit
In 1981, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas was seated next to Birkin on a flight from Paris to London. She had just placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment of her seat, but the contents fell to the floor, leaving her to scramble to replace the contents. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked. In 1984, he created a black supple leather bag for her: the Birkin bag, based on an 1892 design. She used the bag for herself for quite some time until developing tendinitis, switching to other types at that point.
Birkin's humanitarian interests led her to work with Amnesty International on immigrant welfare and AIDS issues. She has visited Bosnia, Rwanda, Palestine and Israel.
In 2001, Birkin was awarded the OBE. She has also been awarded the French Ordre National du Mérite. She won the "Best Actress" award at the 1985 Venice Film Festival for her performance in the film Dust.
Personal life Edit
Birkin was married in 1965 to John Barry, the English composer who wrote the musical score to the James Bond movies. They met when Barry cast Birkin in his musical Passion Flower Hotel. Their daughter, photographer Kate Barry, was born on 8 April 1967. The marriage ended in 1968.
She had a passionate and creative relationship with her mentor Serge Gainsbourg, whom she met on the set of Slogan in 1968, a relationship that lasted 13 years. They never married, despite rumours and misreporting to the contrary. In 1971 they had a daughter, the actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. They separated in 1980.
On 4 September 1982 she gave birth to her third daughter, Lou Doillon, from her relationship with the director Jacques Doillon They separated in the 1990s. The Observer reported in 2007 that Doillon "could not compete with her grief for Gainsbourg" (who died in 1991), and that she had lived alone since their separation.