Spotlight: Leslie Caron


"An American In Paris" (1951) made a leading lady of Leslie Caron, a French export who would go on to win American hearts over more than six decades of work and 50 films. On the eve of receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Caron -- who has been nominated for two Oscars and won an Emmy for her 2006 guest spot on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" -- spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Rebecca Ascher-Walsh from her home in Paris.

The Hollywood Reporter: The star coincides with the stateside publication of your autobiography, "Thank Heaven." What made you want to write your story?

Leslie Caron: I've met some remarkable people and have something to say about it. For the dates to be accurate, I used a lot of cuttings, but I think the best thing is inner memory. Years later, it's what's left in my heart that resonates. It's a big book, but not as big as Jane Fonda's!

THR: You've worked with everyone from Gene Kelly, who discovered you, to James Ivory. What's been the most fun you've had making a film?

Caron: "Gigi." Cecil Beaton came every morning with fresh flowers, and you just knew what you were doing was first class. "An American in Paris" was difficult. I had gone through the war in Paris, and no one in Hollywood had suffered in the same way. And I didn't speak English, although MGM always had an English teacher on set. Not just for me -- there were American girls who couldn't speak proper English!

THR: What do you think of the newer generation of actresses?

Caron: They are very free, with much more independence of mind. I like the way girls have liberated themselves. Maybe that's because I've liberated myself.

THR: Who do you admire as an actor?

Caron: I think Meryl Streep is the best thing that ever, ever hit movies.

THR: What's been among the highlights of working in America?

Caron: Winning an Emmy for "Law & Order" was a great thrill. The ceremony was magnificent, filled with zest and fun. And the lovely thing was that I got to give the prize to "The Sopranos" for best dramatic series. We didn't get the show that often in France, but I watched it whenever I could and thought it was superb.

THR: Is there anyone you haven't worked with that you'd like to?

Caron: I thought my career was over when I was 50, and I was suddenly asked to work with remarkable directors like Louis Malle and James Ivory, which was thrilling. I'm always open to new directors and great parts. The only thing I won't do is action movies. I'm not fond of them, and I suppose I've slowed down a little.

THR: This star has been a long time coming, hasn't it?

Caron: I just kept rushing forward and never stopped for things like awards and recognition, but my lovely "Law & Order" producer Neal Baer said, "How can you not have one? I have to do something about this!" This time I've decided to slow down and go with it.