Letter: Stéphane Audran was the perfect Cara in Brideshead Revisited

Derek Granger writes: No actress could have fitted more perfectly Evelyn Waugh’s conception of Cara, Lord Marchmain’s mistress in Brideshead Revisited

As the producer of Granada’s 13-hour television version of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, I remember casting the net wide in our search for the actress to play Cara, the mistress of the exiled Lord Marchmain. But how lucky we were in Stéphane Audran.

No actress could have confounded more absolutely Charles Ryder’s lurid expectation of “a voluptuous Toulouse-Lautrec odalisque”, or fitted more perfectly Waugh’s own conception: a “middle-aged, well-preserved, well-dressed, well-mannered woman”, the “neat prosaic figure” who briskly marshalled her two undergraduate charges, Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, as she guided them on their tour of the splendours of Venice.

Audran was an actress of great subtlety. In a later scene in Marchmain Palazzo (filmed in the Palazzo Barbaro), in which she gently confronted Charles with the truth about his relationship with Sebastian, her delicate expressiveness provided a masterclass in intimate scene playing.

Away from the set, Audran was an engaging colleague who offered a sometimes surprising twist to the workaday travails of a long location shoot. “Derek, who do you think I met today walking across the Yorkshire dales?” There was a second’s pause: “Derek, it was my skiing instructor.” What followed was a charmingly persuasive request for Granada to add another supernumerary to the hotel budget. The word which most readily conveyed her quality is appropriately a French one: insouciance.

Derek Granger

The GuardianTramp

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