Stephane Audran, Star of 'Babette's Feast,' Dies at 85

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Stephane Audran in 'Babette's Feast' (1987)

The French actress had a long creative collaboration with auteur Claude Chabrol, with whom she made 25 films.

Stephane Audran, an icon of French New Wave cinema who starred in movies by auteurs Eric Rohmer, Luis Bunuel and Claude Chabrol, has died. She was 85.

Her son, actor Thomas Chabrol, told the AFP news agency that Audran, who was the second wife of Claude Chabrol for 16 years until 1980, died early Tuesday following a long illness. "She [Audran] had been in hospital for 10 days and she had returned home. She died peacefully at around 2 a.m.," he said.

Audran's more memorable film roles include Chabrol's 1970 film Le Boucher, Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and Gabriel Axel's 1987 art house hit Babette's Feast, in which she had the starring role of Babette Hersant.

Born Colette Dacheville on Nov. 2, 1932, Audran went on to become a mainstay of European cinema in the late 1960s and '70s after getting her start in French theater. In all, she made 25 films with the prolific Chabrol, many classics about murderous intrigue that starred Audran as an adulterous or betrayed wife called Helene, including Les Biches and La Rupture.

"My rapport with Stephane as an actress is more agreeable now than when we were married," Chabrol said after his divorce from Audran. "When you spend your days and nights with your wife and then you look through the camera and see her again, it's just too much."

Her TV roles including a star turn as Lord Marchmain's mistress Cara in the period drama Brideshead Revisited. Audran won a BAFTA in 1974 for her role in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie after receiving BAFTA nominations for roles in Le Boucher and Babette's Feast.

Audran also received three Cesar Award nominations in France and picked up a best supporting actress Cesar for her role in the 1978 film Violette Noziere. She also was named best actress in 1989 by the London Critics Circle Film Awards for her leading role in Babette's Feast.