She was photographed by Warhol, and Dalí wanted to paint her; the first films she made were Death in Venice and Cabaret. So why did she walk away?

Most people, says Marisa Berenson, “tend to live in my past. Which is fine.” She smiles, well aware of the fascination. “But I tend to live in the present and in the future.” A 2001 profile of the model/actor in the New York Times described her as a “Zelig of the zeitgeist … popping up in the right place at the right time”. And there is certainly something magical about her life and the people who have passed through it. As a child (she is now 72) she was taught to dance by Gene Kelly. Greta Garbo came to her parents’ parties; Salvador Dalí – a friend of her grandmother, the designer Elsa Schiaparelli – wanted to paint her. The legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland pushed her to become a model – Yves Saint Laurent would describe her as “the face of the 70s” – and she was photographed by giants such as David Bailey, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Andy Warhol photographed her wedding.

She discovered meditation in India alongside George Harrison and Ringo Starr, was at Bianca Jagger’s Studio 54 birthday party – the fabled night of the white horse – and attended Truman Capote’s famed Black and White ball. Although she continues to work in film, she hasn’t made a huge number of movies – but the biggest, early in her career, were Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret and Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

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