PARIS — Despite a sore throat and soggy weather, screen icon Claudia Cardinale is energized about her latest projects.

Her second autobiography, “Mes Etoiles,” which translates to “My Stars,” came out in Paris last week and she’s rehearsing her forthcoming Tennessee Williams play at the Theatre de la Madeleine several hours each day.

“The book wasn’t my idea,” she explains in her deep, smoky voice at the plush Hotel Costes here. “My editor talked me into it.”

Yet the actress has many stories to tell from her eventful career. The new book shares some intimate details about her loves and personal challenges, but it is largely about her encounters with film legends such as Luchino Visconti, Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando, Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon and Rita Hayworth, to name but a few.

“They were all great moments,” she recalls. “Unfortunately, most of the people I talk about in the book are dead.”

At 66, the actress is still the epitome of style and elegance. No wonder women have been influenced by her look since the Sixties.

“I was buying my miniskirts at Mary Quant in London then, and I went to Russia dressed in a very, very miniskirt. Women were wearing long skirts there and the next day, I noticed a lot of girls had cut off the hem of their dresses. It was really funny!” she recalls with a laugh.

Come Feb. 8 through July in Paris, she’ll portray Princess, the lead character in “Sweet Bird of Youth,” the 1959 Williams play. She concedes the text is hard, but she likes the challenge. “I was fascinated by the role and I find it really interesting to play a star whose success depends on her youth and beauty,” says Cardinale.

In the play, an aging actress flirts with drugs and alcohol and risks being forgotten, then makes a comeback with a successful movie. “I do not identify with the character,” she adds, anticipating the question.

Despite 45 years experience in show business, Cardinale is still anxious and tense before the premiere. But one aspect of the play makes her long for the opening: the chance to slip into the glamorous wardrobe her character wears. “There will be timeless Fifties dresses, long cocktail dresses with lots of jewelry,” she purrs.

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For a rare moment, she’ll have to pry herself away from her Giorgio Armani wardrobe. An ambassador for the designer since the Eighties, Cardinale still relishes that role. Needless to say, never in the world would she miss his debut showing during couture week today in Paris.

“I think fashion is very important,” she explains. “I hate to see women wearing torn jeans, with an exposed belly button and undone hair.”

She elegantly exhales smoke from her slim cigarette, as if in a gesture of rebuke.

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