Portrait-of-Catherine-Deneuve-by-Helmut-Newton-1976-1280x845
Portrait: The Helmut Newton Foundation

Catherine Deneuve turned 75 last month and is still as as hard working as ever.

“I started doing my best work at 40, but it wasn’t until I was 50 that I really became the actress I wanted to be.” This from an actress who had done dozens of high-profile films at that point.

It’s interesting that we have heard that same marker of 50 several times in our work. It was Beatrix Ost, also someone who had lived a huge life by that point, who laughed and told us that it wasn’t until she reached 50 “that she had attained a respectable age.”

Checking IMDB, Deneuve was in three films last year and five the year before. Here is someone who has had global success, probably has some serious cash in the bank, and could, if she chose, slow down or not bother with work anymore at all. But no, she is out there working, practicing her craft.

Of course, this is Deneuve, not exactly your typical actress. Repulsion, Belle de Jour, The Last Metro, Indochine, married to David Bailey— jet set A-list all the way.

The Last Metro, 1980

But still, there is a commonality between her drive and the drive we see throughout our community. The idea of retiring — literally retreating — seems to now be pushed back several decades from where it was for our parents. Why stop doing the thing you love to do, unless you are forced to?

One of the things that we find most interesting was when last year she waded into the #MeToo controversy by signing an editorial with 100 other influential French women. Of course there was an outcry, and who got the most heat? It was Deneuve. Right or wrong, whether or not this was a good move or ill-advised, she clearly had impact. If indeed no one cared, the outcry would have been focused onto someone else rather than her.

From “Potiche”, 2011

This idea of holding onto a sense of agency in the world, having influence, is something that we hear a lot about. There is well-founded fear, bordering on panic, which people have around losing their ability to contribute and be part of the larger discussion.

This was not always the case. In fact, until very recently age didn’t matter. What was important was what you could do and what you knew.  The song Happy Birthday, written in 1912, was barely known until 1933. No one cared how old you were; it didn’t matter.

From “A Christmas Tale,” 2005

Deneuve works in a field that is very much tied to looks and to an audience’s opinion of those looks. Movie producers are not about to risk a film production on a whim — they want to know that the person can perform in a way that will sell tickets. Deneuve, at 75, is one of those people.

Not in this post, but perhaps another time, I will write about my personal interaction with Catherine Deneuve. Memorable, very memorable. Stay tuned.