The more things change, the more they stay the same, for Leslie Caron at least.
The 78-year-old actress will soon play the role of Madame Armfeldt, created by Hermione Gingold in the original 1973 production of A Little Night Music, on the Paris stage. Gingold portrayed her grandmother in the 1958 film, Gigi, which starred Caron as a young courtesan-in-training.
Now a grandmother herself, Caron will appear in an English-language revival of A Little Night Music, the musical by Stephen Sondheim, at the Theatre du Chatelet next February http://www.chatelet-theatre.com/2009-2010/#/a-little-night-music-367-en/; besides Caron, it will also feature Kristin Scott Thomas and Lambert Wilson.
Although Caron has been operating a five-bedroom bed and breakfast, Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes http://www.lesliecaron-auberge.com/US/auberge_us.html in Burgundy, 75 miles outside of Paris, for the last 15 years, she has also been busy the past few years writing her memoirs, appropriately called Thank Heaven. They will be published this month in the U.K. and in December in the U.S.
At a recent event at the Paley Center for Media in New York honoring the composers Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Caron revealed it was actually her idea to turn the Colette novel, Gigi, into a film. http://www.paleycenter.org/the-musicals-of-lerner-and-loewe-an-evening-of-song-and-television/
She said that when Arthur Freed, the producer who had brought her to Hollywood to star in An American in Paris, suggested they do another film together, she proposed making a film of Gigi.
"Audrey Hepburn was doing it on Broadway, I had read the novel and I thought it was a terrific story. So I put it to him, and it took him about a year and a half to get the rights, because Colette had so many husbands and lovers, and there were so many people who had a bit of the rights," Caron said.
She also said the first version of the film, written by Lerner, was a comedy rather than a musical. "Everybody forgets this was the story of the making of a prostitute. They went back and rewrote it, and I suspect it was for reasons of censorship. Arthur Freed thought that they would drown the fish by making it into a musical, and the music would solve the problem of the nasty story," she explained.
Caron's long-term goal, once she's played Madame Armfeldt in Paris: to perform on the Great White Way.
"I'd love to come and do something on Broadway, I never have and it's my dearest wish," she admitted.