When you're the daughter of the world's most notorious maverick and his famous model muse, the burden of expecttion can

outweigh the privilege of fame. Model and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg reveals haw the legacy of her father Serge still weighs

heavy on her mind.

Her father was a musical genius and her mother the face of a generation. Together,they staged fetishistic fantasy sequences,

lacing pop music with orgasms and playing out psycho-sexual games in public that both enthralled and appalled a nation. But

while others worshipped the
iconic singer,Serge Gainsbourg,and his radiant English damsel,Jane Birkin,the reality of being the

daughter of such decadence made growing up for Charlotte a media minefield that could have turned her into a nightmare

primadonna or driven her out of the spotlight altogether.

As if it were'nt enough that Charlotte was born into such an "X-rated" family,no sooner was she on the cusp of puberty than

she too had been co-opted into her father's non-stop eroti@ccabaret.

‚v‚ˆ‚‰‚Œ‚… Charlotte claims that her appearance aged 13 in the video for "Lemon Incest" ,in which she writhes against her half-

naked father on a PVC bed,made little impact on her, she was able to play the incestuous sister in "The Cement Garden"-

derected by her uncle, Andrew Birkin-incredibly convincingly. Indeed, while her parents were baiting the media with their wild

antics, Charlotte was becoming a child star in her own right, winning a Cesar( the French equivalent of an Oscar) for her

portrayal of an angst-ridden teenager in "L'Effronte". The film turned Charlotte into an inadvertent style icon and she was

typecast, in films like "La Petite Voleuse" and "Merci La Vie", as the eternal teenager of French cinema.

Unlike her parents, Charlotte's reaction to fame was to shrink away from the public eye. She explains of her father, "He

respected my personality and that way of thinking about the media.

He didn't understand it but in@a way I think he respected I felt. Something strange that came out of him but didn't look like him. "

Smoking a cigarette in a cafe on the corer of the bustling street shere she lives near Denfert Rocherau in central Paris, she

comesacross as reserved but opens up when it feels right. She is quietly diplomatic about the things she would rather not

discuss. "I have a very selective memory,"

She offers in softly spoken English. "I tend to erase a lot of stuff and I do know why I do it... I only have beautiful memories, it

was just a simple family life."

Motherhood and the stability of her long-term relathionship with actor Yvan Attal has seen Charlotte tentatively become more

extrovert. Not least because as a successful, versatile actress she has appeared in no less than 20 films in 16 years, including

Patrice Leconte's latest film, Felix et Lola and Attal's derectorial debut, Ma femme est une actrice which finished shooting at the

beginning of this year.

Now aged 29, Charlotte has taken up modeling, appearing in Italian Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Self Service, and has recently

become close friends with Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquiere. The appeal of acting, modellong and singing, Charlotte points out,

is that she can, under someone else's direction, live vicariously though the roles she chooses. But having been a perpetual

participant in someone else's spectacle since her early teens, Charlotte is still trying to figure out where the identity projected

onto her by others ends and her own identity begins.

-What are your first memories of your father?

"It's quite normal chaildfood stuff. Just a father. That's the main image I have. I do habe the Impression that I've put him, with

reason, on a pedestal. I know tor the work it was diffrent; I remember Lemon Incest as something completely innocent and easy.

I can't remember anything about the scandals that it made. I think I was in boarding school and I didn't hear anything about it.

And then I was very proud to do the second album with him. He had a way of directing the singer in an intense way. I'm really

happy that I did that with him. Charlotte Forever, the film we did together (following Lemon Incest in 1986, about an older man's

relationship with his daughter) I didn't feel very comfortable with that because it was a bit too close and I didn't feel comfortable

with showing us together in front of other people."

-How did you reconcile hie private and public presences?

"He was very in control of his image, like his playful, barbaric alter-ego Gainsbarre, he knew what he wanted to show and he had

fun. I don't think he was ever surpassed. It was a mixture of public and private and he p;ayed woth that so much; it was part of the

game and it was easy to understand though as a child the alchol and what it did to him wasn't very pleasant. I can't say I enjoyed that,

it was very difficult. Now when I look at it, it's just normal, it just happened that way. It was part of him and I accepted it quite easily.

It's easy to say it because he's my father, but he was a fascinating person and very real, very human.

-Do you think your reluctance to speak to the media, if not the lack of interest in playing games with the media is a reaction to your


"I know that I didn't feel the same way about the media that my father felt, I know that when I started to work , he couldn't understand

why I wasn't that pleased to be on the cover of a magazine. With all the talent he had he could have been so confident in himself, so

blase, but he was never that way. He was alwys like someone making a discovery, he was very proud of people liking him. And often

the ones that really loved him were kids and he was very excited and touched by that."

-Are you misunderstood because of your parents?

"No, I don't really feel misunderstood. People don't know me, I'm not showing that much sbout me in films. I like having secrets, knowing

that people don't know about me. It may be a reaction to my parents but I don't know. I didn't suffer much because of being famous. At

school sometimes children could be horrible and say horrible things about my parents. Maybe that's why I protected myself very early

on from people saying nasty things. I do have a memory of when he burnt a 500FF note on TV. I was at school and I was working with

some older children, I must have been about 13, and a boy burnt my work. That was the sort of thing that happened. But it was no

drama, not that big a deal.

-What was the motivation behind your father's tireless provocation?

"For me, it was the complexity of someone terribly, terribly shy and yet also the other extreme. It's very obvious, that combination.

The fact that he hated his faces, that he thought he was ugly. People were quite brutal about his looks in the beginning. He just

assumed it afterwards and having beautiful women with him was arevenge. I can understand why he always attracted beautiful woman.

He was very charming. That's what he had; charm. He suffered a lot at the beginning of his career because he didn't have much

success then. His success came very late and when it did, it was huge. He didn't particularly want revenge, he wasn't aggressive in

that way. It was just something that happened."

-What did you make of his highly sexual music and public appearances when you were a tennager?

"I think I did understand it. When he did "Love On The Beat" I knew it was Bambou ( his partner after Jane Birkin) screaming on

the record. He could be cruel sometimes; I remember he told very
rude jokes at dinners and I always laghed witout understanding them.

He would turn to me and
say "Why are you laghing?" So maybe I didn't understand everything! I remember watching "Je T'aime Moi

Non Plus" as a little girl and loving it. I was never shocked by what he did, never ever"

-Did you ever rabel against your father?

"No, and I don't think it's a good thing not to have that period where you're against your parents and all that. I didn't have that so I had

to fight other things later. It's what happened when I put him on such a pedestal. I didn't have a rebellious period, but I was very sulky.

My father was easy to manipulate. He was like a child, if he was against me over some children thing I always knew how to get him

back. He was easy-going, But at the same time he was very rigorous and strict about certain things. Very precise things, like the way

you are and the way you were at the dinner table, that the forks should be like this, that may sister and I shouldn't talk. Now I like the

fact that he had principles, that he felt very srtongly bout manners. At the same time I remember at one time I would say rude words

but very shy rude words, like damn instead of shit, and he used to say, "Don't say that! Say merde! Don't be shy with those words!"

So it was very contradictory."

-What effect do you think having such a charismatic and complex father has had on your life?

"I think the main thing is not being able to think on my own and always judging myself through him, though what he did. I find it very

difficult to have my own taste. And at 29 I should be able to decide for myself what I like, but I find I still go from his taste. His taste

for beauty, books, films, art-everything was so strong and so very modern. He wasn't soft on one period, he was always changing, so

I can't even say being in 2001 his taste is old fashioned for me because it's not. In fasion, I have my own taste but even that is to do

with him. But I'm not that happy about it, because I don't feel very free. And it's not something he forced on me, it's just me and how

I deal with that.

-coming from a family of actors and musicians, did the decision to become an actress come naturally to you?

"I can't remember a time when I really said to myself that's what I wanted to do, that I would go to acting school and all of that. It

all happened very early; I don't really think at 12 you really know what career you wanto to have. When I acted the first time, in "Paroles

Et Musique", I did it as a game. It was with "La Petite Voleuse" that I got more of a feeling that I was doing something for me, rather

than just to please the director. I haven't done that many films. I've never done one after the other without stopping. I built up my

confidence during a school. The thing with stopping is that it takes all my confidence out and it's very hard to get into another project.

I'm working on it but it's not working that well."

-How do you deal with your lack of confidence?

"Very stupid things like getting to know people and trying to forget the feeling of being judge, of not being afraid of being ridiculed. I'm

hoping to get more free with time but I'm not really getting that close to it. I still get the impression that I'm holding on to something.

It's a bit boring-I'd lie to change that. I thought it would changeas I got older but it hasn't.

-Did you enjoy your first steps into the world of modelling?

"It was fun but at the same time I thought; "What am I doing?" It's a world that has nothing to do with anything; it's no real. When I see

the photgrapher and people looking at the polaroid because it's very important, Because it's for this magazine or that, it makes me laugh.

I have no cofidence in myself and I don't like the way I look. It's fun just putting myself in the hands of people and just letting go, seeing

what happens. People told me they were happy and it gave me confidence.

-At 29 you've already accomplished a great deal- you're an established actress as well as a mother. What do you hope to have achieved

in ten years time?

"My praivate life is very important. It's more important than my work. Even though I know that if I'm unhappy with my work, I'll be

unhappy with my life. I just want to bloom and not regret anything. I don't want to say it's too late to do anything I want to do. I've often

thought about what I could do if I wasn't an actress , if one day I was really unhappy doing that. What could I do, I still don't know.

Hopefully I'll find something.