Tuesday, November 12, 2013
In 1968, Bisset gained mainstream recognition when she replaced Mia Farrow for the role of Norma MacIver in The Detective, opposite Frank Sinatra. In the same year, she co-starred with Michael Sarrazin in The Sweet Ride, which brought her a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer, and played Steve McQueen's girlfriend in the police dramaBullitt, which was among the top five highest-grossing films of the year.
In 1969, she played her first "older woman" (at 25) in the sex comedy The First Time. She was one of the many stars in the 1970 disaster film Airport, as a pregnant stewardess carrying Dean Martin's love child. Following films included The Mephisto Waltz (1971) with Alan Alda, The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973) with Ryan O'Neal, The Spiral Staircase (1975) with Christopher Plummer, and St. Ives (1976) with Charles Bronson.
Several of Bisset's movies are also French or Italian productions. In 1973, she appeared in François Truffaut's Day for Night, where she earned the respect of European critics and moviegoers as a serious actress. She co-starred with Marcello Mastroianni in Luigi Comencini's La donna della domenica in 1975.
In 1977, Bisset made strides towards becoming a better-known entertainer in America with her movie The Deep, where swimming underwater wearing only a T-shirt helped make the film a box office success, leading the producer Jon Peters to say, "That T-shirt made me a rich man," and led many to credit her with popularising the wet T-shirt contest. At the time, Newsweek declared her "the most beautiful film actress of all time." About that time, a small Dutch-produced film Bisset had made some years earlier was re-released in the United States under the title Secrets. That movie featured the only extensive nude scenes of Bisset's career and the producers cashed in on her fame.
By 1978, she was a household name. In that year she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress (Comedy) for her performance in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, and starred opposite Anthony Quinn in The Greek Tycoon. Soon thereafter, she played in the movies When Time Ran Out (1980) with Paul Newman, andGeorge Cukor's Rich and Famous (1981) with Candice Bergen, where she also served as co-producer. She then appeared in the comedy film Class (1983), as Rob Lowe's attractive mother who seduces her son's best friend (Andrew McCarthy). She earned another Golden Globe nomination for her role as Albert Finney's wife in John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984).
Bisset has appeared in many made-for-TV movies since the mid-1980s. One of her later TV movies, in 2003, was America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story, in which she portrayed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Bisset's other television work includes the Biblical epics Jesus (1999) and In the Beginning (2000), and the miniseries Joan of Arc, which earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1996, Bisset was nominated for a César Award for her role in the French film La Cérémonie. She appeared in Dangerous Beauty (1998) with Catherine McCormack, and in the Domino Harvey biographical film Domino (2005) with Keira Knightley.
In 2006, Bisset had a recurring role on the TV series Nip/Tuck as the ruthless extortionist James. She starred in the lead role of Boaz Yakin's Death in Love which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Later in 2008, she starred in the Hallmark television film An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving. She recently finished filming The Last Film Festival, which was the final screen appearance of Dennis Hopper.
Unlike many actresses of her generation who have difficulty finding work after 40, Bisset has made a seamless transition from leading lady to character actress. She remains in demand in Hollywood and Europe. She told a Bermuda newspaper in 2004: This film business, perhaps more so in America than in Europe, has always been about young sexuality. It's not true of theatre, but in America, film audiences are young and they go to the cinema to see the sort of romance or adventure that appeals to them. It's not an intellectual cinema in America. But one mustn't be too greedy. One wants to be stimulated by the work as long as there is something to give. I think you have to be as flexible as possible. Perhaps you don't get handed the big American productions, but, quite honestly, who would want to be in a lot of them? Many of them are just puerile teenage filler, and they're not fascinating to be in. To be used in a part without depth is a frustrating feeling, when you know you have something to give, and the camera just sort of brushes past you, and doesn't get what you have to give. Most actresses I know are frustrated, but you have to adapt to the reality. I go and find a small part in something I find interesting, or find an independent film.
In 2010, Bisset was awarded the Légion d'honneur insignia, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling her "a movie icon." She recently returned to the UK to film Stephen Poliakoff's 1930s jazz drama series, Dancing on the Edge, which screened on BBC2 in 2013.
Posted by Courtney K at 4:30 PM