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She has been called the most beautiful woman in the world. Yet Catherine Deneuve admits that her beauty "sometimes makes me cry". By any definition, she is an unusual woman - in her own words, a misfit. Although she has two children (a daughter and a son), both were born out of wedlock, while her one marital union - with English photographer David Bailey - produced no offspring. She complains that "all the good roles go to other actresses, and despite her stand-out looks, fame, wealth and the adoration of fans, she is insecure, solemn and often moody.

It is through her commercials (for Chanel and Mercury-Cougar) rather than her films that she became widely known to the American public, and her affairs with leading men before and behind the cameras have brought her more publicity than any single movie (quick, try to name any two of her films other than " Belle du Jour ").

The midi-skirted actress moans sweetly :

For years I was a big star in France and Europe, but in the States they still called me a starlet in magazine stories and photos... It was Chanel who brought me to the Americans. Before that, I was only known as Mastrionni's woman or to art house movie-goers or to homosexuals, who are generally informed about many more things than other men.

Unlike most American actors and actresses, Deneuve is quick to bring up the subject of homosexuality and is not afraid or at all reluctrant to discuss it. She makes no bones about the fact that some of her best friends... One Hollywood gossip columnist recently intimated that perhaps a significant number of Catherine's ex-lovers were actually gays using her as a glittering front for their "shady activities".

Why would I agree to such a thing ? asks the angelic blonde, genuinely shocked. I had not heard of that being written about me, but it does not surprise me - American women are much more competitive than Europeans. In the States, almost everything is measured in terms of beauty, youth and sexuality, so there are many female columnists and women in general who hate me through jealousy. It is strange, because if they knew my looks make me no happier than anyone else, perhaps we could be friends.

As for the accusations of her acting as a "beard" for celebrity gays, Catherine notes :

I have been in love with men who were bisexual, but not exclusively homosexual, even though I prefer them for friends. Why should I go out with homosexuals as dates ? I am not a celibate, even though my sex symbol image is an exaggeration. There's not much future for a woman in love with a homosexual, yes ?

Besides, whose business is it if I did make secret argreements with homosexuals ? Why make it look so devious ? If such arrangements are made, and they are - I know of several arrangements between famous bisexual or lesbian actresses and gay men - it is only because the people involved are forced into them, in order to preserve their careers and public images. It is not they who are to blame, but the society which turns their lifestyle into one of fear and, how do you say... underhanded... underhandedness.

In discussing homosexuals, Deneuve does not take the patronizing attitude of so many gay idols. She realizes gays are among her most devoted followers, but by no means are they the majority of her fans. Not nearly as popular in America as on the continent, she is far from being a gay cult figure, like Mae West or Barbra Streisand. And frankly, she is a bit relieved :

In France now, the films of Mae West are enjoying a vogue with the young people, who pay to see her old films in the cinemas. She is famous all over again, but mon Dieu! avec les homosexuels... She is the goddess of the homosexuals. They are almost violently protective of her, and some groups in France have adopted her as their patron saint. But it must be a little frightening to a woman - I would think, personally - to be so au courant with men who are attracted to other men. What does that say about her own appeal to ordinary men ? Especially since she is not nearly as popular with the latter...

I am glad to have anybody for a fan, as they say here, but to become the exclusive property of one group of human beings, this is restrictive and rather frightening. But it pleases me to appeal to men who like women and men who like men... and to women, of course. I am not at all against my sex, and I want to be among their favorites, too.

In speaking with the intimidatingly beautiful Ms. Deneuve, one senses that here is a woman to whom love is exceedingly important. In an intimate revelation she tells of wanting to be loved, not merely by audiences, but by her men - and more specifically, her man.

The audience is important, yes ? In France I became known as Vadim's latest conquest, his Eliza Doolittle... Then I became known in Europe and was finally what I would call une vedette when I read stories about myself in the papers and saw the famous men I was with referred to as Deneuve's boyfriends. But I still was not, as they say, big box office in the States. So I make films with Jack Lemmon, Burt Reynolds and others which are not as successful as I would like, though.

Then I agree to make advertisements for Chanel No. 5, to become a symbol of the French perfume... And of course, I was amazed at the response ; I became popular in the magazines and Americans wanted to know much more about me. SO I come to Hollywood to make " Hustle " with Burt. Again, it makes some money, but not a gold-mint (sic). Then I do advertisements for Ford, and more popularity. But still, the films are not like those of actresses like Streisand or Fonda.

Speaking of Streisand, what does the classically beautiful Frenchwoman think of her American counterpart, the biggest female superstar west of the Atlantic ?

I think Barbra has the most beautiful voice in the world. She has a genius for films, too. Not just because they all make many millions of dollars, but because even though she does not differ radically from film to film, still the audience always wants more of her. And I must admire her even more because she takes a direct part in her films, beyond acting. On her last, she was a producer, yes ? She is a perfectionist and commits herself completely to each film.

For me, this is more difficult, not only because I do not have all of the technical knowledge, but because I make more films than Barbra and cannot always be enthusiastic about each one.

Asked whether she would trade her extreme beauty for Streisand's singing talent, creative genius and indomitability, Deneuve replies :

A few years ago, I would probably have said yes, which would surprise many people. I receive many letters from American girls who say they wish they could be as beautiful as I am - not from the French, though, for they don't write many letters to stars. Of course, I cannot answer each letter, but I wish to tell them, beauty is no advantage in itself... it does not make one happy, and can even make one exploited.

I would love to have some of Barbra's other talents, but no, I would not want to change my life or looks with hers. I have found that everyone seems to want to be somebody else, no matter what their gifts. The intelligent ones want to be pretty, the pretty ones want to be talented, the poor want to be rich, the famous want to be anonymous... I believe each person is given limitations and must try to make the best of what they have and go beyond the limitations.

It would be boring to be perfect.

Back to the subject of Catherine's desire to be loved by one special man. Despite her many liaisons, none has lasted more than two years (the lengthiest was with Mastroianni, who was married when he met Deneuve, fathered her daughter and left her for an Italian starlet). The Gallic superstar has opined that many men find her boring, once they become deeply involved with her. Additionally, the two major loves of her life have publicly stated that they loved others more.

Vadim, who recently wrote his autobiography, "Memoirs of the Devil", confessed that "Jane Fonda is the only woman I have ever truly loved", while Marcello once said that of all the women he had loved, including his wife, Faye Dunaway came first. Queried about her reaction to such statements, Catherine shrugs, indicating the subject is closed to further discussion.

One thing I do not do is talk about my men and tell everything about them after I go on to someone else. It is indiscreet and can be cruel. In this way, I think women are superior to men; we have more concern for the feelings of others, we are more accepting and tolerant. Homosexuals, for instance... even in the States, where gays have no rights at all, most women are more tolerant of them than the men, who seem to be so insecure with their own feelings that they hate others who are different and confident about themselves.

But there is a big exception to what you say, Ms. Deneuve : Anita Bryant. Have you heard of her, and what do you think of her ?
Yes, the French press reports much about her campaign against homosexuals. It is amusing to us to see how much is made of something so natural, something we take for granted. Why is she so upset ? Is there a past experience she is hiding that makes her so irrational ? Perhaps she once lost a man to a homosexual, who knows... I think she is an awful woman, but unfortunately I am told so many in the States sympathize with her, so many are like her.

A while back, you referred to heterosexuals as ordinary men. Do you feel they are ordinary, and gays extraordinary ?
I don't use perhaps the right word, she smiles, almost blushing. My English is adequate but not fluent, although I study it often... I do not like to use the ugly words for homosexuals that are so common in England and America. In French, the words we use to insult people have to do with impotence or the organs or the respectability of one's mother. But Americans use words to call men unmasculine or homosexual... this seems to be the worst insult they can offer. It is no insult to be homosexual, but it is insulting to be called inconsiderate, stupid or rude. Yet in many of the films today, aggressive and even brutal qualities are considered higher than gentleness and good taste, which most of my homosexual friends have.

How do you acquire homosexual friends ?
This is funny! You must not realize that in France, most of the actors are homosexual. In England, many are, and the same in the States ; but in most European countries it is a vast majority. Acting is a very unrespected profession in France, still. So being an actress, I can't help becoming friends with those men... it is not difficult, since they usually make good friends. But sometimes actresses have to worry about falling in love with bisexuals. It can be a problem, because some develop and attachment to a man who is more interested in men but wants to use her as... une barbe, how do you say, a beard... especially if the actress is popular. I am not at all prejudiced about anyone who is different, since I feel I myself am different, but one thing I do not want is to fall in love with a homosexual - or even a bisexual. This man, for me, must like women only. Otherwise, I am not comfortable in bed with him. Perhaps it is something I should change, perhaps not, yes ?

In what way do you consider yourself different from other people ?
I am an actress, so I must live in a mirror... a goldfish bowl. Sometimes I run away to be completely by myself like a hermit. Other times, I read about my every move and date in the papers. It is one extreme or the other ; this is not an ordinary life. Then there is my beauty, which is often a nuisance. So many men cannot treat me like an ordinary person. So often they act drunk ; they hold too many doors and won't let me do anything for myself or they help me with packages when I don't want help. I also have to become suspicious whenever a man expresses any kind of interest in me. Usually he wants me for something... if not sex or a date, then an interview or a favor or a job or to introduce him to someone. Or to be seen with me. I receive letters from famous or rich men who say they will make a deal with me if I go out with them, to help them get publicity for their own purposes. I never agree to this. My professional life is commercial, and the commercial intrudes into my private life, but I will not willingly make my personal life commercial, too. I believe in the sincerity of the emotions. After all, what else if left if we take them away or put a price on them ?

Asked whether there is one special man in her life at this point, Deneuve politely demurs. She is too discreet to kiss and tell, declining even to name the man. But her reluctance is not couched in arrogance and self-importance, as with so many actresses.

Sometimes I am guilty that each man I choose to go out with must become a part of the papers. But they must know what they are getting involved with, and perhaps some enjoy it. This, I do not mind. If I can give a man pleasure from my being Catherine Deneuve, it makes me happy, too. But I always worry that the man in my life only wants to be with me because I am this movie actress with the nice face.

Ms. Deneuve, when does your beauty make you cry, as you have said ?
When a man would rather look into my face than into my soul.

In front of the camera I am only an actress. On occasion, I am also a celebrity, and enjoy dressing up and playing la grande vedette du cinema. But in my own heart I am a woman, and like any woman or man, I want to be loved for myself.

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