Mid 2021. I had called Deneuve's number a day earlier, all for a book I was writing on the French film icon Michel Piccoli. She had kindly agreed to give me some of her memories of the great man, but when I rang her there was no reply. Later that day I got an email from one of her people to say she had had a hospital appointment and simply could not cancel. I said I hoped she was OK, and thought I might try another day. A part of me suspected that the allusive and mysterious Deneuve, not known for liking interviews it has to be said (though this was going to be more of a brief chat than an interview), might have changed her mind about speaking to me. So the next afternoon after out failed chin wag, I was very surprised to see the message come through saying that Miss Deneuve was trying to get through. I shouted up to my partner Linzi to get off the bloody phone (I tried to remain calm), insisting that her and her mum would have to discuss the fireplace at a later date... maybe a time when Catherine Deneuve, one of the most iconic French figures of all time and one of my favourite actors, wasn't trying to get on the blower.
The phone line now open, it rang again. I picked it up and said "Hello?" The voice on the other end of the line was Catherine Deneuve. Catherine Debloodyneuve. Belle De Jour, Tristana, The Last Metro, The Hunger, Indochine. The French legend herself. Just hearing her iconic voice on the other end of the phone was surreal, the same phone that receives calls from my dad, the odd friend, many wrong numbers, my mother in law (of course), con men trying to get me to give them my Amazon login details etc. But this was Deneuve, sounding so much like Deneuve it was almost like a parody of Deneuve. "I tried to get through," she added lightly, "but the line was busy, I guess you must have been on a business call or something." I told her that wasn't the case, and added that it was my partner and her mother talking about a fireplace. She laughed and said, "Ah wives and their mothers, uh?" We continued to speak for ten minutes or so, she telling me little memories and thoughts of Piccoli, and their work together on Belle De Jour, Benjamin, La Chamade and others. She was being driven through Paris at the time, and as the call went on the traffic around her got louder. In the end she started to struggle with my pronunciation of certain French films and my voice was fading a little. At one point I asked her about Maonel De Oliveira's I'm Going Home, in which she has a small role alongside Piccoli. "What film? The Angry Homer? I don't know that one!" Naturally it was time to let her go, leave her to carry on being Catherine Deneuve.
I know I'll probably never speak to her again, but I will never forget that typically bonkers day when she called my house in Yorkshire and shared some memories of her legendary on set adventures with Michel Piccoli, all of which nearly never happened, simply because of a heated conversation about a fireplace.