2000 was a good year for me. Not only did I land in Paris, but I landed in a hotel with Catherine Deneuve. Well, so what if it was only the hotel's bar? I had a real fine time. This interview originally appeared in the New York Daily News.

Do you imagine I was blase, even a little bored, during my 2000 interview with Catherine Den New York Daily News? Are you nuts? This superstar knocked my socks off. --GUY FLATLE

It’s noon, and I’m standing in the bar of the Hotel Lutetia in Paris, feeling sad and stood-up. Then a blonde wearing a leopard-skin coat and shades enters the dusky room. Poised, cool and only half an hour late, she approaches me and says, "Bonjour! I have to wash my hands."

With that, the lady vanishes. But I no longer feel sad, because I’m certain Catherine Deneuve—celebrated for her performances in "Belle de Jour," "Repulsion," "The Last Metro" and "Indochine" and arguably the world’s most gorgeous movie star--will soon be back, sitting opposite me and gazing intently into my eyes. Seated she soon is, but it’s hard to see the gaze. The star may have shed her leopard-skin coat, but the shades are here to stay.

Lighting the first in a chain of cigarettes, the 56-year-old actress plunges into a discussion of "East-West" (Regis Wargnier’s Oscar-nominated French film opening in New York on April 7), in which she plays the small but flashy role of a passionately political actress patterened after the late Simone Signoret, as well as "Belle Maman" and "Le Vent de La Nuit," both featured in the recent Rendez-Vous 2000 series at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.

She is less eager, however, to discuss a private life that includes the tragic, still-haunting death of her beautiful sister and occasional co-star, Francoise Dorleac; a brief marriage to David Bailey, the British photographer she met on a shoot for an intimate Playboy spread; and relationships with director Roger Vadim—the father of her son--and Marcello Mastroianni—the father of her daughter.

Deneuve prefers reminiscing about the directors of her screen triumphs. "When I made ‘Belle de Jour,’ I was very young and didn’t realize it was such a big challenge. I was just so pleased to be working with Luis Bunuel. A few years ago, I saw the movie again with my daughter in a New York theater, and I was surprised that it was so humorous in showing all the ways a woman can go in a sexual fantasy. When you’re in a film and see yourself for the first time, you look only at yourself. On second vision, you look at the film."

Also rating second visions from Deneuve were "Mississippi Mermaid" and "The Last Metro," the two films she did with Francois Truffaut, a man rumored to have been her lover. "Francois and I were great friends until he died," she says, her husky voice turning tender. "He loved women, and he was very delicate with actors and actresses. He was the most dedicated director to cinema that I ever knew. His life was film."

To a degree, so is hers, which is the reason she is so distressed by the failure of "Place Vendome," "Pola X" and other Deneuve vehicles to travel abroad. "It’s not fair. American films go all over the world, so why can’t they accept a little of our world in their country? They don’t want dubbing, and they don’t want subtitles. They say no to everything. It’s a very little-minded idea to think of a world of only American films."

Forget American films. Doesn’t Deneuve still have her pick of roles in top-notch European films?

"No, no," she says. "It’s very hard for me. Aging is so difficult for a woman. Men, of course, have the same problem--you see them when they turn 50, divorcing and getting married again with a very young woman. To me, that’s very sad. But for an actress, aging is especially difficult, because we live so much in a world of image. I don’t struggle against it, but I cannot say that I like it. Women who say they like aging are liars."

Can Deneuve identify with a middle-aged woman who falls for a younger man, like the maverick mom in "Belle Maman" who tumbles into bed with her son-in-law?

"As a mother, I do not identify with that particular situation, because I am so close to my own daughter," she says. "But I have no problem identifying with a woman who falls in love with a younger man. No problem at all!"

Suddenly, I detect a twinkle behind those dark shades.