Prot-a-gonist* People always like things that seem exotic | Jane Birkin, 1946-2023

 Eric Swayne, Jane Birkin, 1965                                        Jane Birkin, London, 1964


“I loved having a crew. I loved being the person who woke at six in the morning and
knew where to put the camera. I loved watching the actresses cry, and to know that if
you were clever and didn’t do too many rehearsals, that it just came that way.”

“I grind my teeth and keep my thumbs in so tight that I’ve dislocated them, just not
to scream. Sometimes as an actor one is lucky enough to be asked to scream.”

“When I made mistakes, people used to laugh. I could have learnt better,
but I’ve always liked to make people laugh.”

“Everything I wear doesnt put me in the league of women. If I were a boy,
I could look a lot prettier than a lot of boys I know.”

“I didn’t really think of myself as being a muse.”

jane birkin brian duffy
Brian Duffy, Jane Birkin, 1965

“When I was at school I used to scream in trains, in those concertina things between
the carriages. I used to try to be so good that sometimes I couldn’t bear it any more.”

“If I were mayor, I’d invite everyone to have free boat trips on the river and free
balloon rides over the city. I’d let the elderly in residential homes wander free.”

“One of the things I’ve discovered, thanks to the Japanese, is that you should enjoy yourself.
In the old days, I used to think: ‘Oh, never be satisfied, never admit to being happy.’
But there’s no curse in being happy.”

jane birkinJeanloup2BSieff2B2BJane2BBirkin2B2528in2Ban2Bensemble2Bby2BFederico2BForquet25292B2B2B2Bin2BRome harper s bazaar 1966
  Jeanloup Sieff, Jane Birkin, 1965                  Jeanloup Sieff, Jane Birkin in Rome 1966

“Any film I see at two o’clock in afternoon with my mother seems to cast a strange
spell that means we both come out sobbing.”

“If you fall in love with a country and its people, that makes any country warm to you.”

“People always like things that seem exotic.”

“I know what it’s like to have someone coming home who looks at you not in the way they used
to in the old days, and I’ve seen my own face contorted with sadness and rage in the mirror.”

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg on the set of the movie Slogan, June 1968
“I met Serge through taking a role in a French film called Slogan. To begin with, he didn’t like me because my French wasn’t very good and he’d been hoping that Marisa Berenson (Death in Venice, Cabaret) would get my role. Everybody told me he was a mad, bad, dangerous Russian, but after a dinner together I discovered he was very charming. He was still in love with Brigitte Bardot and I was still in love with John, but little by little we healed each other’s wounds. He was 20 years older than me, but looked much younger. He used to say he loved the ambiguity of my body, a girl that looked like a boy, and with that in mind he made me sing an octave higher.”
Jane Birkin photographed by her brother, Andrew, 1964

“I don’t know why people keep banging on about the ’60s. I was very conventional because
I came from a conventional family and I didn’t go off with different people – I rather wish
I had now, seeing all the fun everyone else was having.”

“I love Dickens because it makes me chuckle to myself so. He has taken me to
another world and out of so many earthly miseries.”

“Robert Louis Stevenson… I’m focusing on the late short stories that I was ignorant of.
I always thought he was a boys’ author, but he’s not at all.”

Patrick Lichfield, Jane Birkin, 1971

“I’d rather live on my own than live with a face that looks at me with the wrong eyes.”

“My look is a cocktail. I’m not as nicely turned out as the french, but I don’t care like the English.”

“Keep smiling – it takes 10 years off!”

Jane Birkin


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