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Being Princess Shams

An Interview By Tele Star Sylvia De Abreu
Translation and Introduction By Darius Kadivar

French Star Mathilda May Talks about her portrayal of Princess Shams the Shah's elder sister in successful European TV production Soraya

Mathilda May plays the Shah's elder sister Shams
who befriends the princess in mini series Soraya.

The Mini series Soraya shot in 2003 as a European co-production by LUX VIDE was aired on German and French TV this Christmas. Starring Italian Anna Valle and German Erol Sander respectively in the title roles of Soraya and the Shah of Iran. The two part TV series was shot in Morocco, Turkey and Eastern Europe tells the tragic love story between the princess with sad eyes and the Shah of Persia. Unable to give a heir of the peacock throne, the royal couple is forced to divorce amidst the countries political intrigues and international crisis due to the nationalization of the Iranian Oil. French Stars Mathilda May and Claude Brasseur complete the cast in the respective roles of Princess Shams the eldest sister of the Shah and Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeg.

Beautiful and promising young french lead, a former ballet dancer who starred in films by Tobe Hooper (life force 1985), and Claude Chabrol (le cri de l'hibou, 1987), and Werner Herzog ( Screem in Stone, 1991). May has often played in biographical roles by portraying French singer Edith Piaf in Jacques Demy's final Musical film Trois Place pour le 26 which she co-starred with Yves Montand and young Colette in Danny Huston's Becoming Colette in 1991.

Translation of article published in TéléStar for the Christmas airing of Soraya :

In Soraya, she plays Shams the sister-in-law of the princess

Mathilda May: " They used my Sexy image "

She arrives a little annoyed by the Paris traffic, but a nice tea calms her down. At 38, Mathilda May seems to finally accept herself and her image.

TELE STAR : In this TV film we would have expected you in the role of Soraya but you were chosen to play the part of Princess Shams the elder sister of the Shah.


Mathilda May: Really ? (She laughs.) If they had proposed me this role I would have been suspicious : I am no longer a very young Lady. However a 50 year old Shams with an old wig and a lot of make up, well it works ! (She says ironically)

TS  : What do you think of Soraya's destiny ?

MM : Its a Fairy tale that ends sadly. The Shah married a women (Farah) who gave birth to a child only years later ...

TS : Are you a woman who could give up everything by love ?

MM : No, but I think we all do sacrifice something be it unconsciously and not always for love. As a child I sacrificed a great deal of things for classical dance.

TS : You used to be annoyed of being reminded of your past as a ballet dancer but you seem to come back on the subject ...

MM : One does not get rid of this discipline entirely. I will be actually directing a documentary on the world of dance for French channel France 5. One looks for perfection to such extremes which is not natural. Each position is a victory over one's body. And each victory brings its share of Joy.

TS : Who do you see when you watch yourself on TV or in the Cinema ?

MM : A brave obedient young girl ... Including being manipulated. I recall this photo session with Bettina Rheims the great photographer who made me wear a very suggestive and sexy décollete and said I would look pretty. I liked to seduce but it was an error. People did not like me but only my image. That image did not reflect my true personality.

TS : Is your look today more natural than sophisticated ?

MM : I don't put make up anymore so now I have more free time !

TS : You seem to be reborn again. To what or to whom do you owe this ?

MM : Certainly my motherhood. My two kids ( Sarah and Jules) forced me to take some distance and question myself. If I have an advice for them , its that they lose less time than me and have confidence in themselves.

Télé Star Interview with Mathilda May ©

Insert : Soraya, the princess with Sad eyes .

Chosen by a photograph at the age of 16 to perpetuate the Pahlavi Dynasty, Soraya marries the Shah of Iran in Teheran in 1951. She is repudiated by the Shah for not having an heir to the Peacock Throne. Exiled, she shares her life between Rome, Paris and Munich, and falls in love with a young Italian who dies tragically 5 years after their love affaire. Grief stricken, Soraya died in 2001 at the age of 69.

Torn between Love and Duty : The Shah (Erol Sander) and
Soraya (Anna Valle) © LUX VIDE



The French DVD of the Film can be purchased on


About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a freelance journalist and film reviewer born to an Iranian father and French mother. He works and lives in France


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