Leslie Caron is one of the great Hollywood actresses, but carries on as if she’s still on wartime rations, says Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian. The 89-year-old French star, who lives in London with her pet shih tzu, roasts her potato peelings and sticks slivers of soap together. The war defined me, she says. She grew up rich in 1930s Paris, but her parents lost everything when the Nazis arrived. Suddenly she had to work. “My mother said, ‘There’s only one profession that leads you to marrying money and becoming a princess or duchess, and that’s ballet.’”
So she became a ballerina, but not for long. When she was 17, Gene Kelly spotted her dancing, and 18 months later they were filming An American in Paris. Caron was a hit. She was nominated for two Oscars, landed the lead role in Gigi and danced opposite Fred Astaire – he made her feel she was “floating”.
Off screen, she wasn’t so lucky. She was anorexic, anxious, addicted to alcohol and always marrying the wrong men. At 20 she wed, and swiftly divorced, “a junkie” musician, Geordie Hormel. At 25 she married theatre director Peter Hall. There wasn’t room for two dramatists in one relationship. “He wanted me in the kitchen, preparing sandwiches for him.” So she had an affair with Warren Beatty and left. And at 38 she married film producer Michael Laughlin, but found him stifling and left him too.
“I do regret walking out on Peter,” she says. But it’s better not to get hung up on old flames. Recently she had her wedding rings melted down into cufflinks for her grandsons. “Hehehehe! All three of them. Hehehehe!”