JEAN SEBERG: BLACK PANTHER SUPPORTER
Seberg made her film debut in 1957 in the title role of Saint Joan, from the George Bernard Shaw play, after being chosen from 18,000 hopefuls by director Otto Preminger in a $150,000 talent search. Her name was entered by a neighbor. When she was cast, on October 21, 1956, her only acting experience had been a single season of summer stock performances. The film was associated with a great deal of publicity about which Seberg commented that she was "embarrassed by all the attention". Despite a big build-up, called in the press a "Pygmalion experiment", both the film and Seberg received poor notices. On the failure, she later told the press:
Preminger, though, had promised her a second chance, and he cast Seberg in his next film Bonjour Tristesse the following year, which was filmed in France. Regarding his decision, Preminger told the press: "It's quite true that, if I had chosen Audrey Hepburn instead of Jean Seberg, it would have been less of a risk, but I prefer to take the risk. [..] I have faith in her. Sure, she still has things to learn about acting, but so did Kim Novak when she started." Seberg again received atrocious reviews and the film nearly ended her career. But her next role was in the successful 1959 comedy, The Mouse That Roared, starring Peter Sellers.
During the filming of Bonjour Tristesse Seberg met François Moreuil, the man who was to be her first husband, and she then based herself in France, achieving success as the free-love heroine of French New Wave films. Most notably, she appeared in 1960 as Patricia in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (French title: À bout de souffle), in which she co-starred with Jean-Paul Belmondo. The film became an international success and critics praised Seberg's performance, François Truffauteven hailing her "the best actress in Europe". Despite her achievements in this genre, Seberg did not identify with her characters or the film plots, saying that she was "making films in France about people [she's] not really interested in." The critics did not agree with Seberg's absence of enthusiasm, and raved about her performances, inspiring Hollywood and Broadway to make her important offers.
In 1961, Seberg took on the lead role in her then-husband François Moreuil's directorial debut, La recréation. By that time, Seberg had been estranged from Moreuil, and she recollected that production was "pure hell" and that he "would scream at [her]." In the United States, she starred opposite Warren Beatty in Lilith (1964), which prompted the critics to acknowledge Seberg as a serious actress.
In 1969, she appeared in her first and only musical film, Paint Your Wagon, based on Lerner and Loewe's stage musical, and co-starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. Her singing voice was dubbed by Anita Gordon. Seberg also starred in the disaster film Airport (1970) opposite Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin.
Seberg was François Truffaut's first choice for the central role of Julie in Day for Night but, after several fruitless attempts to contact her, Truffaut gave up and cast British actress Jacqueline Bisset instead. Her last US film appearance was in the TV movie Mousey (1974). Seberg remained active during the 1970s in European films. She appeared in Bianchi cavalli d'Agosto (White Horses of Summer) (1975), Le Grand Délire (Die Große Ekstase) (1975, with husband Dennis Berry) and Die Wildente (1976, based on Ibsen's The Wild Duck).At the time of her death she was working on the French film La Légion saute sur Kolwezi. She had scenes filmed in French Guiana and returned to Paris for additional work in September. After her death, the scenes were reshot with actress Mimsy Farmer.