It was the wet T-shirt seen round the world — the poster for 1977’s “The Deep” that made Jacqueline Bisset the source of many a fantasy.
A less talented actress would see her career dry up faster than that T-shirt. But Bisset’s beauty, humor and savvy have kept her on-screen ever since.
Now, lithe and lovely at 74, she’s featured in “Here and Now,” out Friday. Sarah Jessica Parker stars as a singer facing a deadly diagnosis, but Bisset steals every scene she’s in as Parker’s brittle, self-absorbed mother. The character happens to be French, but Bisset (rhymes with “kiss it”) is not.
She was born Winifred Jacqueline Fraser Bisset in Surrey, England, the daughter of a doctor dad and a mother who, before marrying, was a lawyer — factors she believes saved her from plenty #MeToo moments.
“I always thought Hollywood a dangerous place, especially if you’re very ambitious,” Bisset tells The Post. “It had been drummed into me in childhood: ‘Keep your self-respect.’ ”
Besides, she adds, speaking quietly in a room at Central Park South’s Essex House, her blue eyes hidden behind vintage sunglasses, “I think some people were a bit intimidated by me, because I was very British.”
Nevertheless, during the 40 or so years she’s lived in California, she armed herself with “a few swear words” and froze out anyone who seemed sleazy. Whenever she had an appointment with someone she wasn’t sure about, she took a friend.
She also learned not to believe everything she heard, a lesson that started with Frank Sinatra and 1968’s “The Detective.” Mia Farrow, who was Mrs. Sinatra at the time, was supposed to play alongside him, but her “Rosemary’s Baby” shoot ran overtime. Bisset, hired to replace her, was told that Sinatra tended to be difficult and demanding.
She says she found someone quite different.
“With me, he was charming and very protective,” she says. “He called me ‘the kid,’ and when the writer got a bit nasty with me, he said, ‘Leave the kid alone. She has good instincts!’ ”
After the film wrapped, Sinatra gave her a leather-bound copy of the script. Overwhelmed, she burst into tears.
“Everyone said, ‘Oh, what’s he done? What’s he said to you?’ ” she recalls. “They were all gossiping, projecting, but I couldn’t stop crying because he couldn’t have been nicer!”
Perhaps, had Sinatra filmed “The Deep” with her instead of Nick Nolte, Bisset might have been spared the indignity of inadvertently becoming the poster girl for wet T-shirts. Who’d ever scuba dive in one?
“Oh, please,” she murmurs, shaking her head. “Somebody said to me, ‘This is what they wear.’ I had no sense of what I looked like at all.” When she finally did see herself in all her splendor, she says, “I thought I was going to die!”
Happily, she didn’t, though she came awfully close to a large and ferocious fish when “The Deep” shot in the water off the British Virgin Islands.
“I was feeding this little blowfish shrimp or something and it got its teeth into my glove,” she recalls. “I was shaking it, trying to get it off, and then a barracuda came zooming through, took the fish and went!”
She cherishes quite a few roles, including the writer she played in “Rich and Famous” and the complicated, Jill-of-all trades of “The Sleepy Time Gal.” And then there are a few she’s still not sure of, like the MILF of 1983’s “Class” who seduces an adolescent Andrew McCarthy.
“He was so young!” she says. “I felt uncomfortable when they first cast him, but he’s a very bright boy.” Nor was she comfortable, she says, when the director decided — “at the last minute!” — to have her character and McCarthy’s make love in a glass elevator.
“Why would she take her clothes off in a glass elevator? Is this even credible?” Bisset remembers thinking. “In the end, I just had to drop my skirt. It was sort of insane, the idea of making love in a glass elevator in the middle of Chicago. But,” she adds with a laugh, “it’s just a movie.”
Though she’s had a series of committed relationships — one with the late ballet star Alexander Godunov — Bisset never married. She does, however, have a goddaughter: Angelina Jolie, whom she recently visited on the set of “Maleficent 2.”
“I’ve seen [Jolie’s six] children at different times, not all at the same times,” Bisset says. “She’s very busy. I don’t know how she does it.”
One might ask the same about how Bisset’s managed to stay so beautiful without Botox. Her secret, she says, is simple: “Don’t think ugly thoughts!”
But she doesn’t mind playing ugly if she has to, she says, and she does just that in the upcoming film “Asher.”
“I play a mean old lady,” Bisset says, with relish. “I look god-awful, but I’m good!”
Source: Read Full Article