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LOOK SHARPE! CECILE'S READY FOR ACTION; Beautiful French actress Cecile Paoli is set to steam up our screens when she stars as Sean Bean's mistress in ITV's new series of Sharpe, which starts on Wednesday. But as she tells HELEN GARSTON, she's no stranger to sharing passionate moments with our British heart-throbs...

Cecile Paoli just can't get enough of British men. The stunning French actress has played opposite some of our hunkiest heart-throbs - and loved every minute of it!

She set the screen alight as John Nettles' girlfriend in Bergerac.

She played the sex siren lured to bed by gorgeous Marcus Gilbert in the screen version of Jilly Cooper's raunchy sex-and-saddles novel Riders.

And she's even shared the stage with the thinking woman's crumpet Kenneth Branagh.

Now she's about to set Sean Bean sizzling as his mistress in the new series of Sharpe.

Although Cecile, 33, recognises that French men have style, she still loves working with our boys.

"I've always been impressed with British men - the way they move and carry themselves," she says. "I think it must be something to do with foreign people looking exotic.

"The British are very witty dressers, with a lot of individual style. They are more adventurous than the French. I think we tend to be more classical."

Cecile even says London is trendier than Paris.

"At the moment I would say that England is trendier," she says.

"It has more imagination and it's more fun. I find the streets in Paris quite dull compared with the streets of London."

Cecile's first day filming Sharpe was an eye-opener.

"I arrived on the set when they had just finished filming the Battle of Waterloo.

"I came face to face with all these boys and they were so sexy."

And she was knocked out by hunky Sean Bean, who plays the title role. "Sean is very good-looking when he wants to be," she says. "Sometimes he turned up in the morning just wearing really shabby clothes but he still looked good!"

Cecile is in a fortunate and unusual position as an actress.

She speaks French, English, German and Italian - and has appeared in a German film called Gasper Hauser with Guinness advert star Rutger Hauer.

In fact, Cecile has rarely been out of work since she finished drama school in Marseilles.

"I was very lucky because I started work almost immediately," she says.

"I spoke English quite well and I heard that the BBC were looking for a French girl. That's when director Martin Friend chose me to do Bergerac."

When she isn't on TV, Cecile loves to perform in the theatre.

"I couldn't live without theatre, it's so physical," she says.

"You can drown yourself in a part in a way you can't do in film. I do a lot of theatre work, mainly in France.

"The industry there is quite big and is very lively - just like England only not as good.

"British actors have a different way of working.

"When English actors work in the theatre, it is like breathing to them."

Cecile was lucky enough to work with Kenneth Branagh in Henry V.

"He had just finished doing A Month In The Country with Rupert Everett. Henry V was a mind-blowing experience.

"In France, it's harder to find a good piece of work. I think French actors are more difficult to direct.

"If you're famous in France you become a bit of a prima donna. There are very few actors in France who agree to take risks, not like Anthony Hopkins or Jonathan Pryce."

Theatre work suits Cecile because she can spend time with her seven-year-old son Pierre and her partner, whom she keeps under wraps.

"My boyfriend isn't involved in the business and I like it that way," she says. "I wouldn't mind if Pierre wanted to follow me into acting but he hasn't expressed an interest. I think he is a bit too young at the moment."

Sharpe came at just the right time for Cecile, who was looking for a TV role after all her theatre work.

"They were looking for a French woman and I met Tom Clegg the director.

"I read for the part and I just knew I had it."

It is perhaps Cecile's raunchiest role to date. And although she's in her 30s she is not concerned that the work might dry up as she gets older.

"There are more parts now for women than ever before, particularly in theatre because you can do so many things," she says.

"You change and you grow older and different parts come to you.

It is a life journey which makes it so nice.

"At the moment it is the only thing that I want to do but you never know. Things can always change."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Garston, Helen
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 4, 1997
Words:746
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