U.S. TV boosts French actress

Leslie Caron back in spotlight thanks to producer

Leslie Caron’s life changed forever when Gene Kelly cast her in 1951’s “An American in Paris.” More than 50 years later, Caron’s life has been greatly influenced by another admirer with a keen eye for talent.

Neal Baer, exec producer of “Law & Order: SVU,” helped spur renewed appreciation for the French thesp in Hollywood by casting her in a meaty guest star role on his NBC drama series. Caron, who lives in Paris and runs a bed and breakfast part of the year, won an Emmy in 2007 for her work as a rape victim who comes forward to convict her attacker after decades of suppressing the truth.

After “SVU” put her back in the Stateside spotlight, Caron was feted by the Motion Picture Academy with a tribute event, and in October she received “Star of the Month” treatment from cabler Turner Classic Movies. Her memoir, “Thank Heaven,” was released Nov. 25 by Viking Adult. As part of her promo tour, Caron will be back in Hollywood Dec. 8 for the unveiling of her star on the Walk of Fame.

Baer reached out to Caron for the “SVU” role because he had long considered her an overlooked thesp and a vital last link to Golden Age Hollywood. But most important, he knew she would deliver in the role he wrote for her.

“I just thought it was crazy that she’s not working in America anymore,” Baer says. “I’m lucky in this job I get to write the parts and cast the show with people I’ve always wanted to work with.”

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