British-born actress and singer Jane Birkin has been found dead at her home in Paris, the French culture ministry announced on Sunday.
Birken, 76, was best known overseas for her 1969 hit in which she and her lover, the late French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, sang the sexually explicit Je t’aime… moi non plus.
Birkin found fame in his adopted France, catapulted into the public eye by his tumultuous relationship with Gainsbourg. His heavily accented French became his personal style signifier.
She crossed the Channel in 1968 at the age of 22 to star in a film alongside Gainsbourg, 18 years her senior. It was the start of a 13-year relationship that made them the most famous couple in France, highlighted as much for their bohemian and hedonistic lifestyle as for their work.
The doe-eyed, soft-spoken, androgynous-looking Birkin quickly becomes a sex symbol, recording the raunchy Je t’aime… moi non plus with a growling Gainsbourg. Banned from radio in several countries and condemned by the Vatican, the song is a worldwide success.
“He and I became the most famous couple in this weird way because of I Love You and because we were together for 13 years and he continued to be my friend until the day he died. Who could ask for more?” Birkin told CNN in 2006.
“So Paris became my home. I was adopted here. They like my accent,” she said.
Birkin was born in London on December 14, 1946 to an actress mother and a naval officer father. At 17, she married James Bond composer John Barry, with whom she had a daughter, Kate, but the marriage only lasted three years.
She made waves in her 1966 film debut with a full-frontal nude scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s ’60s swing classic Blow-Up.
After meeting Gainsbourg, 18 years her senior, in Paris on the set of a romantic comedy – he was her co-star – she settled permanently in France. Their musical and romantic relationship was tumultuous. During one of their wild rows, Birkin dashed into the Seine after throwing a cream pie in Gainsbourg’s face.
They had a daughter, Charlotte, who became a successful actress and singer.
Birkin finally left France’s favorite bad boy in 1980 and went on to blaze his own trail. In film, she moved from more timid roles to art house productions, earning three César nominations – the French Oscars – starting with La Pirate in 1985.
In her approximately 70 films, she has been directed by the greatest French directors, including Bertrand Tavernier, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, James Ivory and Agnès Varda.