My sign is Virgo (ascendant Libra). I was born a 3rd of September in Marocco, then part of the French colonial empire.
My parents, Maria Belsky and Prince Wladimir Gagarin, were related. They met again in the South of France after escaping from bolchevism and emigrating from Russia, each in her or his own adventurous way. They were married, they became French citizens and bought a small horticultural farm near Antibes with the last jewels that could be saved.
My half-brother and my sisters Helen and Elisabeth were born on the French Riviera. Little before the war, my father, who was agricultural engineer, was offered a job to create a citrus fruit farm in Marocco. I was born during those happy years, when my parents were back in big open spaces such as they knew in their youth in the Ukraina, with the mild North African way of life in addition.
War upset that new found peace. Overwhelmed with grief after his son Georges was killed on the Franco-German front, a few weeks before the armistice, my father died of typhus on his way to his son's grave in France. I was five years old.
With remarkable courage, my mother decided to bring us back to France, in order to complete our education.
I went to school at Lycée Marie Curie near Paris , then started an Arts degree at the Sorbonne University, while attending a theatrical school, Cours Charles Dullin at the TNP(Théâtre National Populaire).
I was soon offered my first role and I stopped my academic studies. We were very hard up, my sisters and myself had to start working early.
I appeared in movies for the first time in a small part in LE SIGNE DU LION, by Eric Rohmer, but my first important role was in LA MAIN CHAUDE, first film as director by actor Gérard Oury. I was to replace Brigitte Bardot then pregnant. My partner was Jacques Charrier, her new husband. The production prefered to hire an unknown young actress.
On the advice of both Gérard Oury and the producer, I changed my name to Macha Meril, managing to keep at least my first name. They said Gagarin was an impossible name for the stage, nobody would ever remember itÉ
I was dreaming to attend Lee Strasberg's courses at the Actor's Studio, and improve my English at the same time. Therefore, despite my first cinematographic success, I jumped on the opportunity to go to New York on Henry Wolf's offer to work with him and photographer Richard Avedon. Henry was the Art Director for Harper's Bazaar. I stayed in the USA for two years. Fascinating years in fashion and show business in New York. I did go to the Actor's Studio, as an observer, the only possible category for a foreign student in a famous american school. I also acted in a few television programs and films.
A new carrier seemed to take shape in the States with a six pictures deal over seven years with Paramount, starting in Hollywood with: WHO'S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BED by Daniel Mann, starring Dean Martin.
But France called me back with the offer to play Marina Vlady's younger sister in ADORABLE MENTEUSE by Michel Deville. The New Wave was coming in, my american dream was swept away. I did not return to the USA.
Luck was on my side when Jean-Luc Godard chose me for the leading role in A MARRIED WOMAN. The picture was presented in Venice Film Festival and promoted me in the whole world. In France, I receive the Suzanne Bianchetti Prize for best young actress of the year.
I published my first book: Le journal d'une femme mariée, (Denoël) a selection of photos and dialogue lines from the film.
My carrier went on with THE DEFECTOR, L'HORIZON, BELLE DE JOUR (see filmography) . On the eve of May 68, I created my own company called Machafilm which produced AU PAN COUPÉ, directed by Guy Gilles.
In 1969 I married Italian producer and film maker Gian Vittorio Baldi and settled in Rome, where I acted in several films (see list of films) .
I came to France in 1973 to play in NOUS NE VIEILLIRONS PAS ENSEMBLE. My company coproduced Quatre nuits d'un rêveur by Robert Bresson and Pigsty by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
In Italy again I participated in PROFONDO ROSSO by Dario Argento, in Germany in CHINESISCHES ROULETTE by Reiner Werner Fassbinder.
Back to France after my divorce, French audiences were reminded about me with ROBERT ET ROBERT, BOLERO and a TV mini-serie on Colette's life. To be followed BEAU-PÈRE, LE CRIME D'AMOUR, DUET FOR ONE, VAGABOND, MEETING VENUS etc. (see filmography).
1982. I publish my first novel: La star (Grasset) then my cookery books Joyeuses Pâtes (1987), Moi, j'en Riz (1994), Haricots-ci, haricots-là (1999).(Robert Laffont)
I made my stage debut in Paris with L'Éloignement (Loleh Bellon). I then played Arcadina in The Seagull (Tchekov), Roman Fever (Edith Wharton), Bel-Ami (Pierre Laville from Guy de Maupassant) etc... (see Theatre)
Simultaneously I played in many TV films, in France, in England, in Argentina, in Poland, in Bulgaria and in Italy. (see television in "films")
Having failed in the big project to realize a saga based on my mother's best seller Blonds étaient les blés d'Ukraine, I produced, directed and acted in Alla Turca, a road movie from Paris to Istambul.
I legally adopted my ex husband's son Gian Guido whom I brought up. He is now a television star in Italy.
During the 50th Film Festival in Cannes, together with my actress friends Bernadette Lafont, Anna Karina, Alexandra Stewart, Françoise Brion etc. we created an Association Les cinquantièmes jubilantes to protest against the obsolete image of women in their fifties given by cinema, press and advertising. We received 3000 applications for membership. (see other activities).
I now write a column in a weekly magazine CÔTÉ FEMME, which tries to answer to my generation's questions. A collection of articles was published in book form under the title: Patati Patata (Albin Michel. 2001.
Other publications include: J'aime pas (Cherche-Midi 1997), Love .Baba (Albin Michel 2000), Biographie d'un sexe ordinaire (Albin Michel 2003).
My show Feu Sacré, a duet of texts by George Sand and Chopin's musics played by the concert pianist Jean-Marc Luisada, is currently on tour internationally . (Perpignan, Deauville, Lisbonne, Bruxelles, Tokyo etc...)
In the last ten years, I was awarded the following decorations : Officier des Arts et Lettres, Officier de l'Ordre du Mérite, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, Chevalier du Mérite Agricole.
I recently bought a small farm in the Gers region (South West of France) where I write, and where I love to cook for my friends. But I shall never leave Paris, especially the Marais where I live, and wander about the small streets on my bicycle.