Since starting Fascination, I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with several people who have known and/or worked with Jean. I have been most fortunate to become friends with the star of my favorite Rollin film, The Iron Rose, the wonderful Francoise Pascal. Francoise was recently gracious enough to grant me an interview here at Fascination and I am thrilled to present it here today.
1. Francoise, Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I consider your work in The Iron Rose to be the finest performance in Jean Rollin's canon, and I know my readers here are going to get a thrill out of reading some of your memories on making the film and working with Jean. Before we get to Rollin though I wanted to ask a little about your background. Can you tell us a bit about where you are from and how you got start in the entertainment world?
Francoise: Thank you Jeremy. I was born on the Island of Mauritius of French parents and was educated partly in Mauritius, partly in Paris and in London. May I also remind you Jeremy that I am writing my autobiography and must not divulge too much (Laughter)! I got started in Paris at the age of 11 with Jean Louis Barrault playing Cosette in Les Miserables. I played her in the theatre and had a chaperon at each performance.
2. What were those days on Top of the Pops like? Is there a particular behind the scenes story you would like to share and I have to ask what was Susan George like in that period?
The Top of the Pops days were carefree and I was growing up in London having fun and about to make my mark on the London scene in 1966. One particular moment that I remember so well was when the Producer of TOTP Johnny Stewart had asked one of the Camera man to zoom in on me as I was dancing vigorously. Once the song was over, they had selected some of us to stay around for the Gene Pitney song "24 hours from Tulsa", which they recorded for the next TOTP show. I stayed behind and hid at the back and so I thought, as they stopped the recording at some point of the song, Gene Pitney was looking in my direction and shouted ‘Beautiful Eyes’ and everyone looked in my direction and I looked left and right to see who he was referring to, he then shouted again ‘You, the girl in the Blue dress at the back, you have the most amazing, beautiful big eyes’. Imagine my embarrassment in front of everyone. He came over and asked whether I would have lunch with him the next day, which I did and he was a perfect gentleman.
Susan George was a gorgeous looking lady and is still a gorgeous looking lady she was a lovely, gentle and friendly lady and I adored her. She is still the best.
3. Was it exciting being in the midst of London in The Swinging Sixties and did you get to check out any of the bands from the period?
I remember the 60s with great fondness and am proud to have been part of that wonderful era. The discos, the excitement of Swinging London and believe me London was really swinging with its street paved with gold and its shops full of psychedelic clothes. Yes, the sixties was the era to be in and to grow up in if you were an aspiring actress. I distinctly remember meeting The Rolling Stones, The Animals and Eric Burden and my hero Joe Cocker. I also spent time with Julie Christie which was uber cool!
4. You began making films in 1968 with cult-director Norman J. Warren's Loving Feeling being one of the first. What was it like working with Warren?
Loving Feeling was a film that gave me publicity and a film in 1969 brought me fame with the start of my love affair with the British Tabloid.
Warren was a young Director who was ambitious and I don’t think he liked me very much as he became a partner of Pete Walker (a film that I did with him called School for Sex, and I hated working with him) another 70s film producer and director, and they knew of my fuss about taking my clothes off and they never employed me again for any film that they did with nudity. I never reckoned him as a Director but what do I know, I am a mere actor. It was my first film and I was green about the film business and besides I lied about my age and told them that I was 19 when I was a mere 17 years old, fresh from the Theatre. I laugh at this now!
5. In 1970 you got to act opposite the great Peter Sellers in There's a Girl in My Soup. Was it a good experience making that film and how was Sellers to work with?
I acted with Peter in two films in the 70s, There is a Girl in My Soup and Soft Beds and Hard Battles. I adored Peter as I was his friend and I got on extremely well with him. He was and could be moody! For example on There is a Girl in My Soup, I waited one month for Peter to come back from a trip because he did not want to start work, he was too enamoured with a lady friend, You got to love him. Hey! I was well paid waiting for him..... can’t complain there!
6. I seem to remember you mentioning you saw Elvis Presley live in this period. I have to ask the circumstances of that.
Yes I was staying with a boyfriend of mine in LA and he happened to have know the Producer of The Monkees and was also a close friend of Harry Nillson, who I also met and admired his music very much. Bruce (The boyfriend) got us two tickets to see Elvis in Vegas at The Intercontinental. I was in awe of this great man. Wow! I nearly fainted when I saw him sing and my eyes would not leave the stage and Elvis.
7. Throughout the seventies leading up to The Iron Rose you appeared in several films and television shows as well as doing some very memorable modeling. Do you have any particular favorites from this period or any stories you would like to share?
Several films and television including Napoleon and Love, Burke and Hare . Popular TV series Coronation Street, Incense for the Damned with Patrick McNee. There's a Girl in My Soup, The Beloved with Richard Johnson and Raquel Welch, Go Girl,
School for Sex, and Loving Feeling and One Plus One with the Rolling Stones.
My favourite of them all was One Plus One directed by the ever so unpredictable Jean-Luc Godard, what a great honour to work with him and also to be directed by him. I was in awe and will never forget the words that he said to me....’Never let go of your ambitions’. Words (loosely translated from French) words that I did not listen and forgot in my later years.
Modelling for Penthouse in Israel and for Men Only freezing my ass off near the Thames in a house that had no heating,,,, Would never do that again!
8. Okay, onto The Iron Rose. How did this incredible role come to you and what were your initial impressions of Rollin?
I had done There is A Girl in My Soup and I was in Paris doing another film with a fab Director called Jean (cannot remember his name) and I was introduced to the producer of La Rose de Fer who was American and his wife was Belgian. The next day my French agent called me (who also happened to be BB’s agent) and asked whether I would like to go for a casting, I went to the casting of the film and got it. I was not at all Jean Rollin’s choice, but Sam knew what I was capable of doing (acting wise) and asked Rollin to give me a chance that I would surprise him. I did not like Rollin at fist glance, I thought him arrogant and distant but then I got to know him better and I came to adore him as a human being.
9. The film could rightly be called a silent work at times. Did you have a script you were working off of was it more of an improvised production?
Yes I did have a script but Rolling actually directed the film without a script, he actually worked like Jean-Luc Godard at time. We exchanged ideas together to make the film work.
10. What was Rollin like as a director on set?
Lovely and very enlightening,,,,We worked well because we always had ideas and I bounced a lot of my ideas on him and he would either accept them or ignore them. Either way I knew we could work together.
11. Your performance is so incredibly poetic and moving. Did you do any particular preparation for it and what was it about the material that attracted you?
You are very kind Jeremy!…I think at times my performance was wooden and of course, it was a bit difficult at times but I have an enormous imagination (and still has) and I imagined myself being mad and believe it or not in my research some people that go a bit mad does tend to have poetic gestures. It was my film and I starred in it and I loved the story.
12. What was your working relationship like with your co-star Hugues Quester and tell us a bit about the remarkable cinematographer Jean-Jacques Renon.
I was not very fond of working with Hugues Quester. He was a bit of a pompous ass and though that he was above everyone and above all actors as being the best and the greatest. I did not like working with him because he gave me nothing in return in the film…The more I gave the more distant he became.
As for my darling wonderful friend Jean Jacques Renon the Cinematographer, I loved him very much as an artist and as a girl-friend during the filming. I now know why he photographed me so beautifully….Sadly I think Jean Jacques is no more with us….I adored him and he adored me and we sometime comforted each other in the cemetery as we were filming mostly from 10pm until 6am and I was always scared being in the cemetery at Midnight so Jean Jacques devised a method, we would drink a bottle of White Wine always Muscadet Sevres at midnight to the departed this way they will not come and haunt us….You know we were safe…… also we use to tell Jules Verne, he was buried in the Cemetery where we were filming, Amiens, to protect us, we use to shout it at the top of our voices. JULES, JULES PROTEGER NOUS!
13. Any particular behind the scenes stories from The Iron Rose you would like to share?
14. What were your thoughts on the film when you saw it and how do you feel about it today?
My thought has always been that Rollin did his best and I was sorry that he lost so much money but he had achieved what he wished. I cannot comment on my films when I see it, as I am my worse critic! xxx
15. Have you seen Rollin recently?
No I have spoken to him, he is supposed to come to London soon, perhaps we will meet when he is over. He has my telephone number and he can call me when he is over here!
16. After The Iron Rose you had a few film roles but you basically switched to television work including the very popular Mind Your Language. Do you prefer TV to film as far as working goes and how do the two compare to each other?
I love working on all of the areas of show business. I love The Theatre above all. After all that is where my education was made for the love of the business. I love Films and TV but Theatre gives me the most satisfaction and pleasure as well as interacting with the audience that is what makes you a good actor/actresses……KNOWING YOUR CRAFT!
17. I know you have been working on an autobiography. How is that coming and when can we look forward to reading it?
My book is coming along very slowly as I am busy preparing an event for the Star and the Writer of Mind Your Language on September 12th. You can find all the info on FB and here is the link,.
The book will be out in May 2011. Hope you buy a copy and it will be interesting reading Jeremy! Promise! xxxxx
18. Thank you so much Francoise for taking the time to do this and thank you for your amazing work throughout your career and in The Iron Rose!
Thank you Jeremy for being such a fan of Rollin and The Iron Rose… We all appreciate you as well as Rollin, very much…I spoke to him about you and your blog! Xxxxx
Hope you had a great birthday Jeremy! xxxxx
Thanks so much Francoise! This has been a real treat and a highlight for myself and Fascination!