Oldest actress
Jeanne Louise Calment
France ()

Jeanne Louise Calment (France, 1875 - 1997), portrayed herself at the age of 114 in the film Vincent and Me (1990) —a modern-day fantasy about a young girl who travels through time to the 19th century to meet Van Gogh.

Calment, the oldest person to have been fully authenticated, was thought to have been the last living person to have known Vincent van Gogh.

Working as a girl in her father’s shop in Arles, France, she said she had sold painting canvasses to Van Gogh. “He was ugly as sin, had a vile temper and smelled of booze,” she later recalled.

Jeanne remained in fine health for the majority of her life – she even took up fencing at the tender age of 85.

Her diet was good too, rich in olive oil (which she also rubbed into her skin), and she restricted herself to a modest glass of wine every now and then. But she also had a sweet tooth, with a particular fondness for chocolate: she ate almost 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) of it each week. And she loved her cigarettes: Jeanne had smoked from the age of 21 and only quit when she was 117.

She was able to walk on her own until one month before her 115th birthday, when she fell and fractured her femur; thereafter she needed a wheelchair to get around.

In addition to acting, Jeanne also went on to become a recording artist: aged 120, her voice featured on a four-track CD, Time’s Mistress.

Her tranquil state of mind probably contributed to her long, long life (“That’s why they call me Calment,” she quipped at her 121st birthday in 1996), and may have helped her stave off senility – she remained clear thinking right up to the day she passed away in 1997, aged 122 years 164 days.

Read more about Jeanne Calment's extraordinary life