“I’m either offered window-dressing parts in large movies - or little art films no one ever sees. People think the movies I end up doing are my real choices. I do the best things I’m offered.” Jacqueline Bisset
A British actress since the mid 1960s, Jacqueline Bisset highlighted numerous glossy features from the 1960s through the 80s and has created a prolific acting career with more than 50 films in her pocket. The recipient of the 2003 Lifetime Achievement award from Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival, Bisset was also honored with a 2001 Honorary Roger from the New York Film Festival and a CineMerit Award from the Munich Film Festival for her significant contribution to the world of entertainment.
A huge fan of Jeanne Moreau, Jessica Lange, Marlon Brando, Anthony Hopkins and Montgomery Clift, Bisset received recognition and appreciation for her bravura portrayal of fatally ill Frances in the Sundance-premiered The Sleepy Time Gal (2001), in which she took home a Cambridge Film award, and bright-eyed Canadian beauty Christine in the compelling The Grasshopper (1970), where she won a Laurel award. A native of Weybridge, Surrey, U.K., Bisset is also well-remembered for playing roles in such films as the critically acclaimed Two for the Road (1967), The Sweet Ride (1968, earned a Golden Globe nomination), François Truffaut’s Oscar-winning Day for Night (1973), the highly successful The Deep (1977), Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1978, received a Golden Globe nomination), Under The Volcano (1982, earned Golden Globe nomination), La Ceremonie (1995, nominated for a César Award), as well as the television movies September (1996) and Joan of Arc (1999, earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations). More-recent credits include John Irvin’s The Fine Art of Love: Mine Ha-Ha (2005), Tony Scott’s Domino (2005) and Steppin' Up: Save the Last Dance 2 (2006).
A former model, Jacqueline Bisset stands 5’ 6 1/2” tall and has 36C-24-36 1/2 (as starlet 1973), 37C/D-25-36 (filming The Deep (1977) measurements. On a more private note, a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival (2001) and the Godmother of actress Angelina Jolie, Bisset has never been married though has been involved in several long-term romantic relationships with such men as Michael Sarrazin, Victor Drai, Alexander Godunov (together in 1982-88) and Vincent Perez (dated in 1989). More recently, she was linked to Turkey-born Emin Boztepe, whom she has been dating since 1994.
Childhood and Family:
Daughter to Max Fraser Bisset, a Briton of Scottish descent and a General Practitioner from Reading (died in 1982), and Arlette Alexander, a French attorney, Winnifred Jacqueline Fraser-Bisset, who would later be famous as Jacqueline Bisset, was born on September 13, 1944, in Weybridge, Surrey, U.K. When she was a teenager, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and Jacqueline had to take on a great deal of responsibility for her mother’s care. After the divorce of her parents, she moved in to help her mother. Jacqueline has a brother named Max Fraser-Bisset, who now resides in Florida.
As a child, Jacqueline had a dream to be a ballet dancer and so she took ballet lessons as a young girl. After realizing she was too tall and too bony to become a ballerina, the 18-year-old girl switched gears and began pursuing a modeling career. Two years before, in preparation to attend college, Jacqueline attended the Lycée Français to learn French. However she changed her mind and decided to pursue acting instead. She used the money from modeling to take acting classes.
The Sleepy Town Gal
An inspiring ballet dancer, Jacqueline Bisset was forced to terminate her childhood dream to be a professional ballerina because she was too tall. Instead, she entered showbiz as a fashion model, and in 1965, made first film appearance as an extra in The Knack ...and How to Get It. Bisset took another bit part in Arrivederci, Baby (1966) and landed a more substantial role in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac (1966). Signed by 20th Century-Fox in 1967, Bisset received attention in her debut performance for the studio, portraying the small role of Jackie in the flashback sequence of Two for the Road (1967) after finishing The Cape Town Affair (1967) and the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967).
The following year, Bisset replaced Mia Farrow as Norma MacIver, with Frank Sinatra, in The Detective (1968) and was cast opposite Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968). But, it was a costarring role opposite Anthony Franciosa and Michael Sarrazin in the drama The Sweet Ride (1968) that made Bisset a sudden hot commodity. In addition to her burning performance, Bisset proved she had more to give when she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer in 1969. She rounded out 1969 with a supporting role in the comedy The First Time and a starring role in her French-language debut Secret World.
Bisset’s rising status was seen in the following years. In 1970, after playing stewardess Gwen in the star-studded Airport, the actress’ film career gained momentum when she won a Laurel award for Best Dramatic Performance in Jerry Paris’ The Grasshopper, portraying Christine Adams, a bright-eyed Canadian girl who ends up a burnt-out Vegas call girl by the time she is 22. Next up for Bisset, she played Alan Alda’s wife in The Mephisto Waltz (1971) and followed it up with Believe in Me (1971), Secrets (1971), Stand Up and Be Counted (1972), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) and The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973). Bisset once again offered a fine turn starring as a Hollywood star recovering from a nervous breakdown in François Truffaut’s Oscar-winning Day for Night (1973), in which she received the respect of European critics and moviegoers as a serious actress.
She was then seen in The Magnificent One (1973), Sidney Lumet’s classy Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Spiral Staircase (1975), Getting Away with Murder (1975), The Sunday Woman (1976) and St. Ives (1976). In the subsequent year, Bisset’s popularity in America grew as she costarred opposite Robert Shaw and Nick Nolte in the highly commercial The Deep, where she was cast as an innocent diver stumbling onto drugs and trouble. However, it was her swimming underwater, wearing only a T-shirt, which made Bisset well-remembered as the wet-T-shirted heroine of the film. At the time, Newsweek magazine proclaimed her to be “the most beautiful film actress of all time.”
The actress made a wrong choice to costar in The Greek Tycoon (1978), but soon bounced back with Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1978), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in Musical/Comedy. The following years saw roles in films like I Love You, I Love You Not (1979), When Time Ran Out (1980), the bomb Inchon (1981), Rich and Famous (1981, starred opposite Candice Bergen), Class (1983, played a sex-crazed mother to prep student Rob Lowe) and Forbidden (1984). In 1984, Bisset once more proved she was a talented actress when director John Huston had her costar with Albert Finney in the drama film Under the Volcano (1982). For her bright performance as Yvonne Firmin, Bisset received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.
Taking a few years off from the big screen, Bisset tried her luck on television by making her TV movie debut in the title role of Anna Karenina (1985). She also played Marisa Granger in the television movie Choices (1986) and guest starred in an episode of “Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?” (1986). Bisset then gained attention for her cleavage while playing Josephine in her miniseries debut “Napoleon and Josephine” (1987). She returned to the silver screen in 1987 as a photographer in the forgettable High Season, and in 1988, starred in the French film The House of Jade. At the end of decade, she experienced box office failure with Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989).
The 1990s saw roles in a number of films, including Wild Orchid (1990), The Maid (1991), Rossini! Rossini (1991), Hoffman's honger (1993), Crimebroker (1993), East & West: Paradises Lost (1993), The Groundhogs (1993), Leave of Absence (1994, TV), End of Summer (1996, TV), Once You Meet a Stranger (1996, TV), Dangerous Beauty (1998), Witch Hunt (1999, TV), Let the Devil Wear Black (1999) and Jesus (1999, TV). Bisset garnered positive reviews as a bourgeois housewife in Claude Chabrol’s thriller La Ceremonie (1995), where she was nominated for a César Award and as a Scottish woman named Pandora in the television film September (1996), as well as Isabelle D’Arc in the television film Joan of Arc (1999). Bisset’s performance in the latter brought her nominations at the Emmys and Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actress.
In the new millennium, Bisset continued to divide her time between television and big screen projects. She was seen in the television movies Britannic (2000), Sex & Mrs. X (2000) and In the Beginning (2000), as well as the French-language film People Who Love Each Other (2000), before earning praise for her outstanding starring turn as terminally ill Frances in the R-Rated film The Sleepy Time Gal (2001), which premiered at Sundance. With Christopher Münch directing at the helm, Bisset was handed a Cambridge Film award in 2002. She followed the award-winning performance with New Year’s Day (2001), Dancing at the Harvest Moon (2002, TV), and in 2002, was invited to play a recurring role in Fox’s “Ally McBeal.”
In 2003-2004, Bisset dotted her long resume with five different projects. She was first cast as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in the made-for-TV-movie America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story (2003), then played the small role of Lila Montagne in the comedy Latter Days (2003) and found herself acting with Constance Brenneman, Innis Casey and Tom Skerritt in the romantic film Swing (2003). In the following year, she starred as Carol Rosen in the thriller The Survivors Club (2004, TV) and had the female lead, opposite Adam Garcia, in the Klaus Menzel-directed Fascination (2004). In 2005, she was cast opposite Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but her part ended up on the cutting room floor. She then played the headmistress in John Irvin’s The Fine Art of Love: Mine Ha-Ha (2005) and was featured as the mother of Keira Knightley’s Domino in Tony Scott’s Domino (2005). Recently, she costarred with Izabella Miko and Columbus Short in the drama Steppin' Up: Save the Last Dance 2 (2006).
- Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement, 2003
- Cambridge Film: An Actress, The Sleepy Town Gal, 2002
- Munich Film Festival: CineMerit Award, 2001
- Avignon/New York Film Festival: Honorary Roger, 2001
- Laurel: Best Dramatic Performance-Female, The Grasshopper, 1971