‘70s Icon Jane Birkin Reflected On Why She Quit Acting

by Leanne Stahulak

Jane Birkin turned herself into a household name in the 1970s especially. And since then, she’s maintained an incredible career as a musician and actress.

But in 2016, Jane Birkin’s acting days came to an end. She officially starred in her last film, a short feature called “La femme et le TGV,” directed by Timo von Gunten. The film would go on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film, a nice finishing touch to Birkin’s career. But what led the now-75-year-old actress to quit acting?

“This will be my last one! Unless they make a film about a 70-year-old explorer, an adventure film. I’d always wanted to do a sort of ‘African Queen,'” Jane Birkin told IndieWire in 2017.

Over the course of six decades, Birkin has starred in nearly 100 films or television shows. You might’ve seen her in “Blow-Up,” “Slogan,” “Death on the Nile,” or “Evil Under the Sun.” She’s done it all while singing and modeling too. It sounds like she’s accomplished all she wanted to as an actress, with only one potential film left on her bucket list.

Whether Jane Birkin will ever get to have her “African Queen” moment, we can’t say. But another reason that Birkin has retired from acting has to do with her health as well.

How Jane Birkin’s Health Affected Her Decision to Quit Acting

According to BestLife, Jane Birkin was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002. Though the cancer went into remission, it’s caused other health problems that still plague her to this day. Just this past September, Birkin suffered a “minor form of a stroke,” though she’s “doing well” now.

But even back in 2016, when she decided to star in her last film, Jane Birkin suffered from health concerns. When Timo von Gunten asked her to star in his short film, she insisted he meet her in person first. “I had been very ill, and was afraid I’d changed a lot and wouldn’t be what he’d expected,” Birkin told IndieWire.

“I had been in bed a lot for, what, six months, a year, so no muscles,” Birkin said. “On the last day, I had to run for the train in Zurich, what, 10 times, across a very big station. Then I couldn’t even walk and had to be carted on the train to Paris. I couldn’t get out the other end!”

The filmmakers even hired a stunt double to shoot any bicycle scenes for Jane Birkin’s character as well. But her physical struggles didn’t stop her from putting in a top-notch performance.

“After 12 hours of shooting, she was the one to say, ‘Oh, let’s do the scene again, I don’t feel comfortable with it,’” von Gunten said. “What’s really beautiful is the sensibility she has and how easily she could implement my directorial notes on her acting.”

Jane Birkin made her impact on the entertainment industry, and few are likely to forget her incredible legacy.