When have you ever spied the word happiness in the same sentence as sex symbol? It may happen, but it's too rare to be anything other than irony. However, the word complexity should always be used in a sentence containing the word Bardot. No doubt every cliche ever written has decorated the paparazzi's description of this magical woman, but none have ever captured her heart. Mme Bardot has spent her life confined within some invisible cage; iron bars wrought by overwhelming experiences, the fickleness of men, and perhaps by her own inability to find the equilibrium needed to cope with early successes.
Yet with time and by the sheer force of her personality, Brigitte has hopefully found inner freedom. Or has she? No one can really know what emotions nestle inside the heart of this woman as she enjoys her 70th birthday. We can only wish her well.
Such longevity is, in itself, a hint of the steel which runs through the veins of Mme Bardot. Otherwise how do you account for the survival of a woman so abused by men, big business, the press and sadly, by her own ability to cope with stardom? Even then this term is wrong because somewhere along the line this word became inadequate. Inadequate because the word Bardot has its own set of meanings; to men, to women, to boys and nowadays to governments, Bardot possesses vastly different connotations. And none of these meanings are passive in nature.
Is it little wonder that this caged soul stalks a world where animals are so unimportant in the schemes of men that it is nothing to see bears being slowly gutted, seals clubbed to death, and what for most of us are domestic pets spend their lives as experiments, trapped in the name of profit? Brigitte has given almost half her life fighting for the sanctity of life, but spends her time beating her head against a mindless bureaucracy taking two steps forward and more often three steps back. And although this is a mind-numbing fight, she has never given up or willingly taken a backward step in her fight to perserve life.
David: Firstly let me say how great it is to catch up with you and have this chance to chat about the two worlds of Bardot: the actress and the champion of animal rights. While the latter has become the centre of your life and a long and bitter struggle, I have a couple of quick questions about your film career. Could you tell us a bit about your very first autograph request and how you felt about this moment?
Brigitte: It is quite sometime ago and I don't remember exactly. Perhaps at the Festival de Cannes in 1954 or 55. I was very proud, unknown, and recognized by the presence of Vadim.
David: While much of your career is well documented, I was curious about what role you consider to be your best work and which film remains your personal favourite.
Brigitte: My favourite films in which I have acted are: Et Dieu Crea la Femme (And God Created Woman), La Verite (The Truth), En Cas de Malheur (In Case of Adversity aka Love is my Profession), Viva Maria, Rhum Boulevard (Rum Runners), Ours et la Poupee (The Bear and the Doll), Le Mepris (Contempt) and Private Life.
David: Which actors have you enjoyed working with the most?
Brigitte: All my acting partners were brilliant! The fact that I often fell in love with each one of them proves it!
David: You are one of the most popular and elegant signers in the world. Have you encountered forged examples of your signature? How does it make you feel when unscrupulous people take advantage of your good name? And how many photos do you think you sign each year?
Brigitte: I have been betrayed so many times. I was naive, confident, and ideal prey. Since then I have changed, but my opinion about humanity stays very despicable. I have been signing about 500-600 autographs a week for the last fifty years.
David: Thirty years have passed since you made your last film, Colinot. Since that time you have devoted yourself to the fair treatment of animals across the globe. How hard was it to make such a momentously life-changing decision?
Brigitte: You need to be brave and strongly determined to abandon, from one day toanother, the status of a star and start all over again such a different life, full of pitfalls, distress and suffering. A life for which a force of will is needed to reach a respectful place after being ridiculed by the international press. I am very proud of myself.
David: Having thrown yourself into a life where battling bureaucracies is a tedious and thankless task, and where the paperwork and patronizing politicians are often mind-numbing, where do you find the energy to continue fighting?
Brigitte: The energy within me comes from my love for animals, my suffering comes from their despairing distress, which pushes me to fight more every day, and I continue to do so. When I am tired, weary, worn out, I tell myself that my state is nothing compared to the suffering they go through. So I continue. I will go as far as I can for them.
David: You have won some landmark battles in various countries fighting against the brutal killing of seals, protecting endangered species and reducing animal experimentation in laboratories. What do you regard as your greatest gains and your biggest losses in this fight?
Brigitte: No battle is ever really won. For example, after having drastically fallen, the fur trade has come back strongly. The same applies to seal hunting. After a moratorium of ten years, following my intervention in 1977, their massacre is higher than ever! Alas! You think you are progressing and suddenly you fall backwards. It's very tiring...
David: Do you find the biggest stumbling blocks are governments, corporations or public lethargy when it comes to bringing about lasting change?
Brigitte: The governments are deaf when it comes to animal welfare, for most of them it is the last of their worries! However, after a lot of patience and obstinacy and many years of begging and effort, we have recently succeeded in prohibiting the importation of cat and dog fur from Asian countries, meant for fashion shows and pret-a-porter clothes. We are about to be allowed to condemn the scandalous activity of bestiality practised widely in the pornographic domain, which was not punishable and more or less ignored and protected, until today. Human perversity and cruelty are abysmal.
David: Do you find yourself wanting to support groups who resort to violent or radical methods to make their points, or do you believe that, in the end, they destroy the very principles guiding your life?
Brigitte: I try to reach some sort of wisdom, which disappears when animal suffering is in front of me. Then my rage takes over and becomes stronger.
David: Would you advocate making texts like Animal Liberation by Professor Peter Singer mandatory reading in high schools and universities? And do you think world leaders might do well to read such works before they make policy?
Brigitte: I have not read this book but I imagine that it denounces a lot of things that people ignore, by starting with those who create laws and govern us. It would be great if everybody knew and was conscious of the horrors animals are submitted to. Animals are not objects.
David: Over the years you have suffered great personal stress while "maintaining the rage." Given that you may have succumbed to this stress, which would have robbed us all of one of our greatest animal right's campaigners, have you reached a stage spiritually where you can cope with the trials and tribulations that life throws your way?
Brigitte: I wish that my battle would be taken into consideration and respected. That people would stop despising pain when it is not human pain. I wish to see an improvement before going. Only then would I leave this cruel world in serenity.
David: What do you see for yourself on the road ahead and what brings you joy?
Brigitte: One can always dream, we only live in hope.
David: Do you see the day when the world will embrace a Bill of Rights for both humans and animals?
Brigitte: Man is a destructor, a criminal deep down inside. Only a soul, a conscience, a heart can calm down the impulse to use force against weakness. How can hunting still exist? How can somebody still work in slaughterhouses? How can animals still be put through torture for scientific research? How can animals still be bred, trapped and killed for fur? Why are trees still being cut? How can man continue to pollute seas, oceans and rivers? How can man still kill whales, orques, seals and dolphins? How can we leave so much rubbish behind us...
David: You have established a lasting foundation to carry on the good fight. What would you say to your fans and to all animals lovers around the world to incite their involvement in making this world a better place for not only animals, but our flora and for people? Can we ever respect and protect our flora and fauna if we cannot care for each other?
Brigitte: I think this planet is is suffering from overpopulation that unbalances it to the detriment of those who are the chain of our survival quantity to the detriment of quality, alas! Only the strong souls, the senstive and the rare people can understand; I hope that you will be many!