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

Most beings, says Marisa Berenson,” tend to live in my past. Which is fine .” She smiles, very conscious of the fascination.” But I tend to live in the present and in the future .” A 2001 profile of the prototype/ performer 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 mystical about her life and the people who have transferred through it. As small children( she is now 72) she was taught to dance by Gene Kelly. Greta Garbo came to her parents’ parties; Salvador Dali- 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 70 s”- and she was photographed by giants such as David Bailey, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Andy Warhol photographed her wedding.

She detected meditation in India alongside George Harrison and Ringo Starr, was at Bianca Jagger’s Studio 54 birthday defendant– 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 busines, were Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret and Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

Berenson lives in a villa down an unprepossessing road on the outskirts of Marrakech. Even this home seems fittingly mystical-” my paradise”, she says- an oasis of bright colours and patterns, and luxuriant greenery amid the rub. We sit on her terrace, overlooking the plot and kitty. Tiny fowls scoot in and out. Berenson, beautiful and glamorous, is wearing a long, patterned kaftan, her slight but athletic chassis untroubled by the weight of her heavy jade earrings and according tangled vine of necklaces. Her sunglasses stay on throughout- I never once accompany her eyes.

Berenson with Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli at the Paris premiere of Cabaret in 1972. Photograph: Bertrand Laforet/ Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A housekeeper introduces light-green juice acquired with vegetables from her organic garden. She is thinking, she says, of writing a lifestyle book, fitted with healthy recipes, and interiors and gardening advice. There is something both timeless and extremely current about Berenson. She was well ahead of the “wellness” veer, and stands at something like high priestess level now- she doesn’t snack carbohydrate or gluten, she does yoga, pilates and reflection- and has taken to Instagram.

Berenson is one of a generation of supremely cultured, well-connected Euro-aristocrats( she speaks five languages ), suffer to socialite Gogo Schiaparelli, daughter of Elsa, and Robert Berenson, board of directors of Aristotle Onassis’s shipping company who became a US diplomat. As a child she wanted to be in the movies, her bedroom plastered with pictures of Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich.

She grew up moving around Europe, then was sent to boarding school in Berkshire, where she concluded she was ” hopeless” at action.” They had participates they put one over and we were obliged to get up on stage and do things. And I remember flowing off the stage crying, because I was so frightened. So you can imagine I never thought it would ever happen .”

‘ I imagine Stanley liked the idea that I have become melancholic’ … Berenson in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Photograph: Warner Bros/ Kobal/ Rex/ Shutterstock Photograph: Warner Bros/ Kobal/ REX/ Shutterstock

When she was 16, her papa took her to a ball in New York where Vreeland spotted her and decided she must start modelling. Vreeland, she remembers,” said,’ We have to photograph Marisa .’ That was it. That’s how it started .” Berenson had already been turned down by one model agent, the influential Eileen Ford, but with Vreeland’s backing, she became one of the most sought-after faces of the 60 s and 70 s. Elsa Schiaparelli wasn’t too satisfied.” I recollect she was afraid for me ,” says Berenson.” I was so young, and living in New York alone .” Also, she adds with a smile,” I was a little bit outrageous more. I did the first nude in Vogue, and things like that, and she was terrified .”

In her spare time she was hanging out at parties with masters and stone stellars, and in relationships with actors and rich heirs. She recollects doing a shoot for Vogue in Iran.” In those periods, everything was accessible .” She makes it reverberated so glamorous and bohemian. Was she a wild hippy?” Not at all ,” she says with a laugh.” I was a combination of very well-brought-up, and an old-fashioned romantic way of looking at life .” She was on, she says, a” spiritual seeking “. Being into health and musing probably saved her.” Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t survive. I went through that whole stage on orange juice and meditation .” Narcotics, she says, were” startling to me. I couldn’t imagine losing it like that. And then sexually I was various kinds of romantic, so I never did the whole crazy thing that space .”

It was on a Vogue shoot in India when she was about 18, in the late 60 s, that she learned about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram, the birthplace of transcendental meditation. Two of the Beatles were there when she arrived.” And one of the Beach Boys ,” she points out.” So I aimed up abiding there for a while, going through the start, becoming a vegetarian. The dates gone by and we would just meditate, sleeping in little shacks .” Did she expend much season with George and Ringo?” When we’d finish the working day, George would say,’ Come into my chamber’ and we’d sit on the storey, and listen to them playing guitar .” At the time, she says, it didn’t feel like a big deal.” We are still on the same quest- there was a lot of peace and enjoy in those eras that “weve all” looking for .”

Marisa Berenson with Andy Warhol in 1975. Photograph: Ron Galella/ Getty Images

Back in New York, Berenson took acting categories in the evenings.” And then I started doing very off-off-Broadway things, simply to learn and to get past my dangers and shyness .” She filled Visconti though her then-boyfriend Helmut Berger- he had also been in a relationship with Visconti- and he virtually thrown her on sight for Death in Venice.” The first day, I made I was going to die of frighten. But then I place foot on that stage, and I simply had this incredible feeling that this is where I’m supposed to be .”

She was doing Death in Venice when she got a call from agricultural producers who said Bob Fosse wanted to see her for a movie, which turned out to be Cabaret. On the give of that, she says she recollects shuddering so badly that Fosse questioned her why her hat was shaking.” It was terrible. It was simply my second movie .” Then Kubrick examined Cabaret and decided he missed her to play Lady Lyndon in his adaptation of the Thackeray novel Barry Lyndon. He called her when she was in bed with pneumonia and could hardly speak.” I was almost unconscious ,” she says.” I just let him speak because I was speechless regardles. But he carried on for quite a while about every detail of what he’d liked about my achievement in Cabaret .” She didn’t meet him until she was on the set.

Berenson moved into the wing of a draughty palace in Ireland, where they were shooting. Every day Kubrick would tell her she might be needed on adjusted, but she never was( her backgrounds were filmed formerly the make unexpectedly moved to England, reportedly following security threats from the IRA ).” It was the most depressing home ,” she says.” I had perceptions of disappearing riding in the Irish countryside and all that, but in the end, it rained all the time and I was so lonely. I repute Stanley liked the idea that I became very melancholic there .” She would cook spaghetti bolognese for the gang, just to have visitors.

Berenson in a Vogue fashion shoot in Capri, 1968. Photograph: Arnaud de Rosnay/ Conde Nast via Getty Images

Kubrick was, she echoes,” entirely kind and respected, and exceedingly amusing. He never elevated his voice, he was always very gentle, but he required what he missed, so if he wanted a scene shot 50 experiences then it would be hit 50 epoches. Yes, he was a perfectionist and he required you to give the best of yourself, and he expected parties to be available .” She said he understood that, she includes.” Every great person I’ve worked with, whether board of directors or photographer, they have this exceptional kind of rarity. You have to be demanding, you have to be a perfectionist, you have to know what you want, and you have to have the best of what you can have because otherwise you don’t do amazing things .”

Her acting career had got off to an electrify start, but Berenson walked away.” I got married shortly after that, so my vocation sort of …” She pauses, then says crisply,” I set everything on hold for a period of time, which was a choice .” Her marriage to rivet financier Jim Randall didn’t last.” And then I went through a series of very challenging things in “peoples lives”, so I had to kind of move through all of that and come out the other side. I had a marriage, a divorce, a car accident”- she was injured, but the two beings in the other car were killed- “and another marriage and another divorce.”

She started working again, in theater and European films, but none of her characters have had the same impact as her first three. Does she regret not pushing her career?” I can’t regret anything because I had a great, beautiful daughter ,” she says.” And now I have a granddaughter, so I’m stimulated. With Hollywood, I don’t know what would have happened if I had stood. It’s true that Barry Lyndon was such an amazing thing for me, that had I continued on that road, perhaps, I don’t know … But one induces alternatives and I prepared that option at the time so I can’t regret it .”

There doesn’t seem much room in Berenson’s life for negativity. She takes her spiritual rehearse very seriously, and it has viewed her through the most severe seasons, she says, among them the death of her sister Berry, a talented photographer who was a passenger on one of the planes that hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Berenson was also in the air that day, flying to New York, when her plane was diverted to Newfoundland, where she was stuck for several days.” We were put into this big stadium place, and there were tables they had organised with fruit and a toothbrush and a piece of soap, and medical whatever, and then a whole position of telephones on another counter .” She called her daughter, who had frantically been trying to track her down, and learned what had happened to Berry. She remembers accompanying a priest, a fellow fare, to a tiny church on a slope where “theyre saying” devotions and sang songs.

It must be a particularly distressing loss because those personas are so vivid, and are still used in reports and documentaries all the time. She nods.” To see that tower forever, it’s awful. It’s so huge and so beyond anything imaginable .”

She has been able to deal with it, she says, because of her spirituality.” I try and look at things on a different level of consciousness, and I connect with my sister all the time. So that helps a lot .” She contributes, very sincerely:” I believe that so strongly that I never feel alone and I ever known better I’m accompanied by higher powers .”

When she seems back, does she really have no sadness?” Sometimes I feel perhaps I wasted too much time on things. But in the end, I talk myself out of it- nothing is a waste of time, because everything is a ripening process .”

Berenson isn’t slacking. She spent much of last year in Paris doing a musical, realising her dream to sing and dance. Three years ago, she took on Shakespeare for the first time, play-act in London’s West Purpose in Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo and Juliet.” I don’t let age get in the way of my life. I continue to do the things I was intended to do and thank God I’m able to do it .” Nobody likes going age-old, she says,” but it can also be splendid. I feel right about a lot of things now than I did when I was younger, and creatively I imagine I’m much better now. I’m more secure within myself .”

By now it’s late afternoon, and a far-off call to prayer comes shimmering through the warm air. She likes this time of day- she’ll watch cinemas, or read books. Perhaps have a swim. A duration for consideration, and contriving. What does she are trying to achieve?” Lots of things. I’m not finished yet .”


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