The Dark Side of Stardom: Brigitte Bardot's Role in The Truth Nearly Cost Her Life

Image credit: Legion-Media

A cautionary tale of the price of fame.

Brigitte Bardot starred in several dozen movies during her career. One of the most important was the film The Truth. Bardot's performance was critically acclaimed, but for the actress, that role brought nothing but misery.


The film by French director Henri-Georges Clouzot called The Truth was released in 1960, the main female role in it was played by Brigitte Bardot. In the movie, the actress portrayed the provincial girl Dominique, who lived for love, but was abandoned and humiliated by her lover. Unable to bear the resentment, Dominique kills him and ends up in a prison cell.

The Truth is considered one of Clouzot's best works. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Brigitte Bardot won the David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress.

Brigitte was already a star when she was offered a role. She already had such films as And God Created Woman and A Woman of Paris under her belt. But this time she has shown a different side of her talent, proving that she can be not only a sex symbol, but a real actress. Film critics at that time claimed that Bardot's acting covers an unusual range, from cold and arrogant distance to rejected sensuality. They thought her familiar mannerisms and shameless candor in erotic scenes were pivotal here, pointing to the anarchism of contemporary youth.

Harsh working conditions

For the actress herself, however, such a transformation was not the easy one. Bardot said in her biography that the director was ruthless. The dramatic role simply destroyed her. When she worked on The Truth, Clouzot convinced her so well that Brigitte was a down-and-out woman, a tragic character, that at some point she really believed it. In one of the interviews the star confessed that she became Dominique. So much so that a few months later she wanted to kill herself.

On the day of her 26th birthday, Bardot was found outside her apartment. Imitating her character in The Truth, the actress had tried to end her life. She was rushed to the hospital where, to everyone's relief, she was saved. However, the star was diagnosed with depression.

Bardot later said that she felt cornered, trapped, suffocated to the point where she just wanted to die.

The actress called the director the devil for telling Brigitte that her life was over, that she will never succeed at anything else, that her reputation was ruined. It helped create the emotions he needed for the film, but at the expense of the girl’s mental health.

Working with Bardot, Clouzot resorted not only to psychological pressure, but also to physical violence. He slapped her, trampled her bare feet with boots, they even fought right on the set. After getting real emotions out of Bardot, Clouzot usually immediately turned on the cameras.

While filming the suicide scene, Clouzot cruelly deceived Brigitte. He gave her sleeping pills instead of aspirin, which made her sleep for two days.


Simply put, The Truth ruined Bardot's mental health. Despite excellent reviews and the film's overall success, the experience was devastating for the star: It destroyed all the strength that she had in her.

Only three months after the suicide attempt, Bardot returned to filming, but the passion that she had before was long gone. She signed contracts, appeared on the set, but there was no enthusiasm. Only in 1964, Bardot was able to fully return thanks to the role in the film Viva Maria!