Inside Ian McShane's abusive relationship with Sylvia Kristel: 'We screamed, we cried, broke ornaments'
Kristel described the relationship with McShane as 'awful -- he was witty and charming but we were too much alike'
‘American Gods’ is soon to be back for the third season. And there can be no ‘American Gods’ without Ian McShane. The British actor has earned the show Best Actor in a Drama Series nomination at the 8th Critics' Choice Television Awards. And while McShane is a celebrated actor, there is a dark chapter in his past: his relationship with Sylvia Kristel. Kristel was a Dutch model and actress who is best remembered as the eponymous character in five of the seven ‘Emmanuelle’ erotic film series. Kristel died at the age of 60 in 2012 from cancer. She was married and divorced twice. In Hollywood, she had a volatile relationship with McShane, whom she met while making ‘The Fifth Musketeer’.
So, what happened there?
In her autobiography, Kristel described the relationship with McShane as "awful -- he was witty and charming but we were too much alike". The two met in Vienna when McShane was still married to his second wife, the mother of his two children. He was 10 years older than her.
As per the Evening Standard, she had then spoken about him, saying: "He had a Greek nose and big, bright glittering eyes. His smile wasn't an innocent smile though -- it was as if I was his prey and he had wolf's teeth. But to many the devil is beautiful and my attraction to Ian overwhelmed me."
Soon, the two left their partners and moved in together in Los Angeles. McShane, she said, was not comfortable living with her son so she sent Arthur to live with her mother and sister in Utrecht. But McShane had other problems at that time as well. "Ian's agent confided in me that if he had been four inches taller, he could have had a career as brilliant as Sean Connery's,” she said. “That reality frustrated him and made him sometimes explode with rage."
It was this frustrations with his career that was sometimes vented at her. She once recalled him shouting, "Look at you! You don't know how to act. You don't know how to walk and speak at the same time. You aren't an actress. All you've got is a beautiful bottom and some luck!"
And sometimes, the couple's arguments would escalate into physical violence. "We screamed, we cried, broke ornaments. We played a tragedy. Sometimes, he would stop himself as if to say 'cut' like a director. He would put his arms around my waist, turn me around and say I was beautiful,” she said. "He would hug and caress me. 'Forgive me, forgive me, my beauty', he would say. We had lots of costume changes for sexual fantasies, about three a day. It was very tiring. After two years a sexual relationship was no longer enough -- we would fight but I am not a masochist."
She had recalled that McShane had once “picked up a bucket of champagne and threw it at my head. We started hitting each other ferociously,” after which she fled to Europe back to the haven of her family in Utrecht.
"After having been brutal, he would treat me with feminine sweetness. He sometimes cried and regretted his excesses. Then, without any provocation, we would find ourselves fighting again,” she said. "I would have really loved it if this handsome actor had told me that I had a little talent. But he wasn't able to. Talent only belonged to him. It was his prerogative. Not to be shared."
It was at this juncture in her life that Kristel was also addicted to cocaine. "Cocaine seemed to be the opposite of a drug, a super vitamin, a very fashionable substance, without danger, but expensive, far more exciting than drowning in alcohol. A fuel necessary to stay in the swing," she had said.
When Kristel discovered that she was pregnant, McShane was not pleased. She said, "He didn't make any comment. He just wasn't interested." One day, while the two were arguing, she fell. This caused her to miscarry. After she was released from the hospital, she flew to Paris. A few days later, McShane followed her there, and "he begged me to see him. He pleaded with me to return to London with him, to forgive him for the last time. This time I couldn't." This was when their relationship was finally over.
McShane has claimed not to have seen the ‘Emmanuelle’ films before he met Kristel. "We got on really well, she's a very nice woman, I liked her a lot... mad as a snake," McShane said of how they met. "It's like one of those things. You know you're going to go round the world having a good time, doing a lot of illicit things, for a year and a half. But at the end of it, you go, 'That's the end of that one -- back to work again'. Haven't seen her or spoken to her in 30 years, but I don't think she's had that happy a life. I don't know..."