We look back on the life of French filmmaker Roger Vadim

By David Hochman
Updated February 25, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Remembering Roger Vadim

Austin Powers would have loved director Roger Vadim. The French filmmaker, who died of cancer Feb. 11 in Paris at 72, was as famous for the women he flamboyantly romanced — Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Jane Fonda — as for the movies he directed them in.

Of the more than 20 films Vadim made, many featured gorgeous women he was either lusting after, on the way to marrying, or both. In 1952, at 24, he married 18-year-old Bardot, his first of five wives. He then transformed her into an international sex sensation with 1956’s controversial And God Created Woman, about a young married woman’s quest for sexual freedom. The racy-for-its-time film was denounced by the Vatican and banned in several countries. Undaunted, Vadim went on to make on-screen sex kittens (and mothers) out of girlfriend Deneuve and third wife Fonda, whose peekaboo anti-gravity garb in the 1968 sci-fi romp Barbarella gave the space race a lift.

All that kissing led to rampant telling in his 1986 autobiography titled Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda. Bardot and Deneuve sued and were each awarded $10,000 for invasion of privacy. ”Vadim loved women with a kind of boyish passion,” says Angie Dickinson, star of Vadim’s 1971 film Pretty Maids All in a Row. Rebecca De Mornay, who starred in Vadim’s 1987 And God Created Woman, which, oddly enough, was not a remake, adds, ”He knew how to make women feel important.”

Vadim had his own theories on his appeal to women. ”For some,” he wrote in his memoirs, ”the secret was my performance in bed; for others, I was only a vehicle for success; and for still others, I was a Svengali capable of bewitching innocent young girls and molding them as I wished.” Yeah, baby!