What happened when Françoise Sagan met Brigitte Bardot in 1976

<span>Bardot v Sagan: a Gallic coup on 20 June 1976.</span><span>Photograph: Garofalo</span>
Bardot v Sagan: a Gallic coup on 20 June 1976.Photograph: Garofalo

There was a Gallic coup for the Observer in 1976 when it persuaded novelist Françoise Sagan to interview Brigitte Bardot (‘At 41 still a sex kitten’, the introduction noted, approvingly).

The pair were ‘nodding acquaintances’ who had never had a conversation, but there was no easing in from Sagan, also 41, who kicked off with ‘Who are you? What have you done with your life?’ Bardot answered in the same spirit: ‘Someone who is incomplete,’ she said. Films ‘annihilate and imprison you. I’ve failed my real life.’

The tone set, their candid conversation touched on Bardot’s upbringing with ‘very strict, bourgeois with principles’ parents who she thought were ‘a little racist’. A formative part of her childhood was spent in wartime Paris, feeling ‘afraid of dying’ during air raids. She dreamed of becoming a dancer, but instead started in cinema at 17.

They discussed the vertiginous experience of early celebrity. ‘People look at us as objects. It’s irritating,’ Sagan said of her own ‘too fast’ experience (she was 18 when Bonjour Tristesse was published). It was even more intense for Bardot: ‘I don’t have one second’s peace.’ That made finding love difficult. ‘The man who’s going to meet me says to himself, “I am going to meet Brigitte Bardot” and he starts worrying,’ she complained. ‘Love needs mystery, secrecy, silence.’ She hadn’t let that overwhelm her, though: ‘When I didn’t see my lover for three months,’ she said briskly, ‘well, I found another one.’

There are lots of fascinating titbits: Sagan described her preferred mode of break-up: in public. ‘I go to Lipp’s brasserie on the Boulevard St Germain… Of course, it’s unpleasant, but there are people who go by and say, “Hello”, “How are you?” which is distracting.’

Bardot said her secretary told her she had learned more in six months opening her fanmail than in ‘20 or 30 years of marriage’. There’s a hint, too, of Bardot’s future solution to the fame problem: ‘I love the country, I love animals,’ she said. ‘Cows won’t ask me for my autograph.’