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French actress St├ęphane Audran dies aged 85

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This file photo taken in 1968 shows French actress Stephane Audran in Paris. UPI / AFP

French actress Stephane Audran, best known for her leading role in the Oscar-winning Babette's Feast, died on Tuesday at the age of 85.


Although she also starred in Luis Bunuel's 1972 classic The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, it was only in middle age that the great beauty became a big name internationally.

As well as winning the best foreign film Oscar in 1989, Babette's Feast -- the story of a French refugee who introduces an uptight Danish community to the sensual joys of food -- also won a Golden Globe and Audran a Bafta best actress nomination.

But it was her two-decade-long partnership with French director Claude Chabrol, whom she later married, that made Audran a household name in France.

She won best actress at the Berlin film festival in 1968 for playing a bisexual woman in Les biches (The Hinds) and her first Bafta nomination for her repressed schoolteacher in another Chabrol thriller, Le boucher (The Butcher).

She and Chabrol divorced in 1980 after 20 years together just as her international career began to take off, with roles in Sam Fuller's acclaimed war film, The big red one, and the British television series Brideshead revisited.

Their son, actor Thomas Chabrol, told the AFP news agency that his mother "had been ill for some time. She had been in hospital for 10 days and she had returned home. She died peacefully at around 2 am," (00.00 GMT) he added.

Audran was also briefly married to another French acting legend, Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Frédérique Bredin, head of the French National Cinema Centre (CNC) led to the tributes to an actress whose "magnetic presence, intelligence and technique profoundly marked French cinema.

"She had a great elegance and mystery about her, a casualness and a complexity at the same time," she added.

"Stéphane was a very good actor. She was brilliant at playing free and independent women like herself," said French director Jean-Pierre Mocky, who directed her in Les saisons du plaisir (The Seasons of Pleasure) in 1988.

"Lots of directors fell in love with her, including Chabrol, for whom she was his key actress as well as his wife," he added.

- with AFP