The last years of Marlene Dietrich's life "were very lonely and secluded in Paris," said German painter and photographer Gottfried Helnwein, who collaborated with the legendary actress on a book published last year.
"So many of her friends were dead, There was almost nobody left to talk to. She trusted very few people. For some reason she trusted me and my wife." In an interview Wednesday from his home in Cologne, Germany, Helnwein said he met the actress when he painted her portrait for the poster of Maximilian Schell's Oscar-nominated documentary, "Marlene" "She thought it was the best portrait of her ever done".
Dietrich wrote the commentary for a book titled "Some facts about myself", a limited edition, published by Helnwein in Europe last year. The book featured Helnwein photographs of Berlin, a city synonymos with Dietrich in the minds of most Germans.
Because she herself hated to be photographed - "I was photographed to death," she would say - she was forced to hide from news photographers, said Helnwein. "She had to keep her apartment curtains closed at all times.
"But she read a lot of newspapers and magazines from Germany and the U.S. She was extremely well informed and loved to talk on the phone for hours." Her commentary for the book,Helnwein noted, was in English. She always wrote in English and preferred to talk in English or French. But with us she spoke German." Helnwein said that in her later Years Dietrich expressed little interest in her old films. "She was much more interested in people. People she considered very important, and I think (Ernest) Hemingway was one of the important persons for her (in her life)."