Magazine article The New Yorker

GIGI IN JERSEY; COMEBACK DEPT.; COMEBACK DEPT. Series: 3/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

GIGI IN JERSEY; COMEBACK DEPT.; COMEBACK DEPT. Series: 3/5

Article excerpt

The actress Leslie Caron, whom Gene Kelly plucked, in 1948, when she was seventeen, from the Ballets des Champs-Elyses and then shipped to Hollywood, where she pirouetted and pouted her way through several M-G-M classics, has grown accustomed, in recent years, to the silence of her telephone. "I was absolutely convinced that I couldn't act anymore," she said not long ago. "I thought, I'm this old Gigi and Lili, and I suppose I can't pretend anymore. Nobody's going to hire me."

But, recently, the call came, summoning her from her Paris homenot to Hollywood but to North Bergen, New Jersey, where the TV crime drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is filmed. A tiny woman with high cheekbones, Caron was on the set the other day, sitting for the show's hair stylist. She conveyed dignity and a slight hauteur, even in a T-shirt that read "Boston" in bright bubble letters. Over the loud hum of a hair dryer, she recalled receiving urgent messages from her agent between trips to Burgundy, where she runs an inn, and Sardinia, where she is building a cottage.

"I arrived in Sardinia," she said, "in that place which is nothing but rockswhere forty years ago people didn't know what it was to sleep on a bed, where they didn't know what an electric iron was! Now they're so up-to-date. The script came e-mailed to mywhat do you call itmy surveyor. Seventy pages spewed out, in that forsaken place!"

Caron knows "Law & Order," because it also airs in France. "I watch the other one, with Sam Waterston"a friend from the 2003 Merchant-Ivory film "Le Divorce." She went on, "And I adore anything that has to do with police and murders, or detective series. I find them so reassuring, because the baddie always gets caught!" The hairdresser was now spraying Caron's chignon into place. "Oh, you've made me very neat," Caron said with a sigh.

In the episode in which Caron appears, which will air in October, she plays a French migre whom the S.V.U. detectives persuade to testify against the man who raped her forty years earlier. Two of the show's executive producers, Neal Baer and Ted Kotcheff, had secured Caron a visa in a mere two weeks. ("We called senators' offices!" Baer said.) But to most of the crew Caron's presence didn't exactly constitute a celebrity sighting. …

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