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‘Emmanuelle’ Star and Erotic Film Pioneer Sylvia Kristel Dead at 60

Sylvia Kristel, who starred in the groundbreaking soft-porn film "Emmanuelle," had been battling throat and liver cancer

Sylvia Kristel, who played the title character in the groundbreaking erotic film "Emmanuelle," has died at the age of 60, the AFP reports.

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Kristel, who had been suffering from cancer and was hospitalized earlier this year following a stroke, died in her sleep  Wednesday night in the Hague, her talent agency said.

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The actress was thrust into the spotlight in 1974 with the release of her big-screen debut "Emmanuelle," which chronicled the sexual exploits of a young woman traveling in Asia. The film became a worldwide success that has been seen by at least 350 million people across the globe, and helped legitimize the soft-porn genre. Kristel was 22 years at the time of its release.

Kristel would go on to star in a number of "Emmanuelle" sequels, including "Emmanuelle 2" and "Goodbye Emmanuelle," Typecast in erotic films, she also starred in sexually charged titles such as "Private Lessons" and "Lady Chatterley's Lover."

Kristel eventually developed a drug habit, and spent years fighting addiction.

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Born in Utrecht, Holland, Kristel was sent to a religious boarding school as a preteen but launched a career as a model in her late teens. After winning the Miss TV Europe competition in 1973, she caught the attention of "Emmanuelle" director Just Jaeckin, who cast her in the film that would define her career, for good and for ill.

Kristel was "a wonderful woman, very pure, very innocent," Jaeckin told the AFP. "But the mark that Emmanuelle left on her was very hard for her."

Kristel had a stroke earlier this year after being treated for throat cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2002. She had also been battling liver cancer.

"Unfortunately, I was expecting [her death]," Jaeckin said. "I'm also relieved that she no longer has to suffer."

Kristel is survived by a son, Arthur.