"I know that people don't approach me easily. Now I am thinking, 'it must be me'. It's true that I must have something that doesn' t

....well, step outside a force field. People are very nice with me ; almost too nice. They want to let me be praivate all the time.

They always say, 'no, I don't want to disturb you'. People are very shy around me". The unassuming young woman speaking

these words sits in the bar of a Left Bank Hotel, drinking Evian, smoking Marlboro Lights. She'sinconspicuously dressed in flares

and a jamper, Burberry trench tossed casually over the back of her in chair. But she is alert, Poised and owns a very individual

beauty. Half of her life has been spent reluctantly in the focus of the public eye; since her birth 30 years ago, Charlotte

Gainsbourg has been courted by a celebrity she never really asked for. She's shy and closed fretting about these aspects of

her personality, qustioning the commonly received notion of how gorgeous she is even as photographers queue to take her

picture and directors beg her to be in their filmes.

Well, it's all in the eye of the beholder anyway and today willowy Charlotte is a long way from our first impressions of her,

as a tousled tomboy guesting on her father's records, the insouci-ant teenager whose films spoke to an adolescent audience

who weren't bothered with the stanard youth-culture preoccupations. She's won the Cesar twice for these; British viewers

ignorant of these achievements know her best for her performance in "The Cement Garden" her uncle ANdrew Birkin's 1993

adaptation of the lan McEwan novel. SHe made her role-that of a girl whose parents have abandeoned their children, who

falls into an incestuous relationship with her brother- harrowingly real, as if pretend family romance was the only way to

stay alive.

Glimpses of teenaged Charlotte remain as her neck arches to catch fleeting words in her mouth. "This idea of my shyness

and caution is exaggerated but it's true, when I was 14 or 15, I remember people were placed in a very difficult position whenever

they spoke to me, because I would hardly answer questions beyond 'yes'or'no'. They were very embarrassed, but I was just

uncomfortable and wasn't being difficult on purpose", she laghs gently.

"Now , it's easier to talk" She smiles and lights another cigarette. It's tempting to opine that Charlotte Gainsbourg's greatest

achievement is to live a private and insular life when all around it seems that the childeren of the prominent adopt ana unattractive

'look at me!' approach to living. Her parents, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Lived life in full view of the glare of publicity and

the gaze of the press, thriving on it; Charlotte, offered opportunities to act or sing, accepted the work but not the peripherals.

"My parents took their public life very easily. There was no separation with praivate life because they loved it, loved it all. My

father liked to be in magazine, to know that people were talking about him. He thought it was good. I didn't feel the same way-

I was much more shy about it".

c the way the word unfurls the red carpet for her, Chalrotte remains diffident in an 'it's not you, it's me' relationship to

public life. Although she's recently accepted work as a model, and serves as muse for Balenciaga designer Nicholas Ghesquiere,

she's hyper-critical of her looks and nonchalant about this new line of work. "I've always had problems with what I look like.

Even doing films is weird because I hate watching myself. It's very difficult to accept yourself and feel natural about what

you show and what comes across. I started at 12 and I can't say it's gotten much easier. I can't get use to it". she concedes.

@"Well, a bit. But when I watch my own films I see all the wrong things. I just can't be happy about myself, thinking everything

is perfect. I've never been totally happy about what I do I hope it's perfectionism rather than being.... really bad. But every actor

is insecure. I wouldn't like being happy about everything. It's just like my looks that I'm not happy about either, but the problem

is not what it was".

For Charlotte, the modeling she does is really just a pleasnt distraction, which is as it should be. "I don't want to think of myself

as a model-it's just for fun! Films come first. Before I met an agent who was happy to advise me, I never knew what to do, what

magazines to do it for, which photographers were interesting. She counseled me about the choices and yeah, I take a lot of pleasure

in doing it because it helps me not to hate having my picture taken so much".

As to Nicholas Ghesquiere, he's become a friend. Charlotte, though friendly and polite, has only a few of those.

"I don't know what's Nicholas'head really, how he thinks of me, so I don't know whether he considers me to be...his muse. We didn't

talk about that. I haven't known him that long, just about a year. He's someone I like. I love his work, I love his personality and it's

true that for the first time I've felt close to his fashion. But fashion is not something I am very implicated into. I don't know that

much about it".

Implicated is a word Charlotte comes to in a recurrent way, in the halting, delicate English that sounds uncannily like her

mather's voice. As if she worries that involvement will tangle her in a spider's web of responsibility for the actions of

associates andcolleagues-but maybe that's what it's like to have the public aware of your existence, your whole family romance,

before you've even spoken your first words. Imagine if your parents were never completely away from the publiceye; you'd never

want to feel like you too were being watched. Look further than the surface for the truth, however, and it's revealed that Serge

Gainsbourg was in reality a very divided personality, reconcilling himself with his public face through a device he called Gainsbarre;

the name he gave to the roguishness he showed the public. It was Gainsbarre who propsitioned Whitney Houston live on French

television. It was Gainsbarre who courted controversy with Bardot, Jane Birkin, and France Gall, using highly sexualised, provocative

records which now have a place in the pop-cult mainstream a decade after Serge Gainsbourg's death. But Gainsbourg pere was born

into a different world than his daughter, a world where it was neccessary to modify his name to sound less Jewish, to avoid a

particular kind of French stick prevalent in post- war times. There was a bit of him that was forever Lucien Ginsburg, protected

from the slings and arrows of public opinion by his outrageous, fearless alter-ego. "Of his bravado was a kind of mask. That was

just his way. My way was to put up a barrier because otherwise I wouldn't have known how to cope. I wanted to be discreet.

So I protected my private life and I was very happy that way. If it makes people
happy to seek that attention, then why not?

I don't judge them. But I hope the people from
Hello! never disturb me".

Although her own tastes lean toward the classical, music keeps Charlotte alive. "It's very jouissant. I love Chopin from trying to

play it in lessens and I'm always listening to old stuff; Dylan, film music, and musicals like West Side Story and My Fair Lady.

I do write down what I like in a book but I've left that at home today. And Beck....I love Beck, but he daesn't know it".

And she's just as reverent about her father's place in the pop lexicon as even the most enthsiastic of his fans.

"I love it! The fact that Serge Gainsbourg is alive in so many people's heads in an artistic way is great. I'm really proud of that.

When he was alive, he was very well-known here but for the past ten years he has crossed borders. He would have been so,

so happy about that". She beams with pride. "He always wanted to be recognised as an artist in England and America and now

he's getting there. For me, it's wonderful. And you know, I'd love to make music again. There was one album I made with my father,

becauseof his words and music. When he died I thought I'd never do it again. It would be nice but it doesn't consume me, so maybe

it won't happen. It would be all about meeting the right person".

It's true that when most of her contemporaries wished only to belong to a group of close friends, Charlotte was more insular. She

still is. "I don't have lots of friends now. I prefer relationships between two people; I'm very one-on-one. A lot of my friends have a

wide circle but I just can't have alot of relationships like that", she explains.

"I didn't miss much. I had this great thing where I had a normal life as a child, but at the same time, being with crazy parents who

were always, you know, having a go? I didn't have very many friends but I was being protective of myself. I changed schools every

year because that was the way I wanted it. I don't know why-maybe it was for the clean page?

At the same time, though, I never met people . But I wanted a very strict life so I went to bording school. Then I went some place

where I could do Russian. Next I wanted to do Italian. They let me change; they couldn't say no because I was a good student and

I never misbehaved. It's true; I don't like loud things or crowds. I have tired! Sometimes I do go out, but it isn't really my thing. I

like being secretive. Of course, sometimes it was a trap being a really timid, quiet girl. People sometime don't approach me for

projects because they think I'll say no, so they just don't bother. I hear this so often now and I have to tell people,

@'yes I was free and why on earth did you not tell me you needed me?' Sometimes the choices are made even harder because

I'm known for saying no to the things I know I don't want to do. I think too much about 'is it really good enough?' and 'do I

really want to do this?' when it's best for an actor to just work. And I'm not working enough".

It seems strange, then, that this shy child should open up to being an actress, but Charlotte likes to hide in roles if she's to be

in public at all. "I didn't consider it work, I wasn't exactly looking for work.... and it's not necessary for me to work to live. I can't

remember what I was thinking at the time, but my mother told me they were looking for a girl of my age for a film and if I wanted

to go to the audition, here was the actress. I didn't learn how to act by watching my mother-and her mother, Judy Campbell, is

still a working actress too- but I did watch her on sets when I was younger, so those are my memories. We never discussed

the way she worked, So I went to the audition, but it was months later that they told me I got the part. Then I went back to bording

school and didn't bother about it. I'd act in films in the summer holidays but when I was 19, I had to make a choice. I'd gotten my

Baccalaureate and had done a year's foundation for the Beaux-Arts. But after that, I really had to choose whether I wanted to go

on being an actress or whether I wanted to study. Until then I would say I'm okay to shoot, but only in the summer holidays. Being

19, I couldn't just go on ssaying that! So I had to say that it was my choice to go on acting full-time".

It proved to be a wise choice. A year later, in1990, she met her partner Yvan Attal on the set of Autobus, a film they'd both been

picked to star in. They've been together ever since; their child Ben is four and goes to nursey just down the road. A few short weeks

ago, Yvan and Charlotte were in Toronto for the city's film festival, promoting their fourth film together , Ma Femme est une actrice,

when they were stranded by the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster. "Of course they stopped everything for two days, but

we showed the film after that. People had very nice responses to it; maybe they were happy to have something else in their minds

for a couple of hours. But it felt like such a strange situation in which to be talking about flms, so superfluous. I never looked at

the news as much as I do now; all that I was thinking about was the separation from my child and getting back here to Paris to be

with him". Nevertheless, she's proud of the film, wistful even. "I've never been so implicated in a film as this one. Yvan was more than

capable of getting it made without my help. The script-about a man who marries an actress and gets jealous when she has a crush

on her co-star-is his and the money was together before I agreed to do it. But I love to work with him".

Part of Charlotte's careful but uncalculating personality is, through working on new things, starting to blossom outside of the confines

she's kept it in for so long. When she takes on work, she's intererted most in the personality of her collaborator.

"Not much of what I do is self-determined. I meet with the personality of whoever I work with but I don't intend to show my own.

People try to see me the way they think I am and I'm happy for them to do that. All the things about sensibility, and sharing that

with someone are down to personality. A good actress is not like marble, because that's very hard. You need to be more like clay,

so people can mould you into what they'd like. It's an image I keep
returning to,". she suggests.

"But I know how lucky I am. I'm not obligated to work. It's all right for me because people really really love my parents, what they

represented, who they were. And that is why people
are so generous with me".