Arts & Entertainment

Jacqueline Bisset’s Thriving Career

8. Jacqueline Bisset recent photo from publicistNow in her seventh decade as a film actress, British beauty Jacqueline Bisset first hit the big screen in the mid-1960s. She became a household name after dramatic roles in films such as “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen.

Although Bisset’s role as McQueen’s love interest was small, she was on set to witness some of the legend­­ary driving scenes performed by McQueen, who was also a keen race car enthusiast.

“Watching those cars jumping in the air on the streets of San Francisco was amazing,” Bisset said. “There were also some scenes where I had to drive Steve around in a yellow convertible and remember thinking, ‘God Almighty, I don’t want to mess this up with a race car driver next to me!’”

She described McQueen, a major star at the time, as very patient.

“We would go out for meals with the ­director and producer when we’d break for lunch,” she said. “He didn’t like getting caught in crowds and would often just jump on his bike and get the hell out of there.”

Also memorable for Bisset — and audiences — was “The Deep,” released almost a decade later. Noted for its stunning underwater sequences, the actress still has mixed feelings about the film more than 40 years later.

“As a child, some stupid kids tried to dunk me and ever since I’ve been fearful of the water and swimming around others,” she said. “But the diving crew on The Deep were amazing and I found it a beautiful experience, even though the thought of drowning was still a daily worry. I had a stunt double for some underwater shots, but she looked nothing like me. [So] I attempted more stunts that I would have liked. When you’re 90 feet underwater you have to solve any problem right there. You can’t just shoot to the surface.”

In one scene, her character attempts precisely that after encountering a moray eel (although her stunt double performed the eel sequence).

“It was complicated to film and very frightening,” Bisset said. “I actually thought I was going to drown. The others didn’t know if I was acting or in real trouble, which I was. I got through it, but even as I speak of it now, my throat tightens!”

With several films in post-production for 2021, Bisset has remained a busy actress throughout her career.

Recently she has tackled more personal roles, such as 2018’s “Head Full of Honey” with its Alzheimer’s theme.

“My mother got dementia in her early 50s and lived with it for 35 years, so it’s something I knew a lot about,” she said. “The film approaches the subject with a little humor because that can sometimes help families dealing with it.

It’s painful humor but can make it more bearable.

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Nick Thomas

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, and has written features, columns, and interviews for numerous newspapers and magazines. See getnickt.org

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