Jane Birkin’s ‘jealousy’ over Brigitte Bardot led to her most notorious song

Jane Birkin has spent years honoring the musical legacy of her late romantic partner, Serge Gainsbourg. But she says the first time she met him she was completely turned off.

“He looked at me like I was the last thing he wanted to see,” Birkin, 73, tells The Post of her audition with Gainsbourg for the 1969 French film “Slogan,” where he’d already been cast as the male lead. The London-born Birkin, meanwhile, says that at 20 years old she was “gawky,” inexperienced as an actress and didn’t even speak French. In her mind, Gainsbourg wasn’t having it: “I got the impression that he was sarcastic, a tiny bit cool and not particularly welcoming,” she says of her would-be co-star.

But to her “astonishment,” she got the part, which kicked off her Gallic film career — as well as the romance of her life.

On Friday, the actress, model, singer and English OBE (officer of the order of the British Empire) will take the stage at the Beacon Theatre, performing a selection of Gainsbourg’s songs with a live orchestra (tickets range from $75-$125). The celebratory concert tour, called “Birkin Gainsbourg The Symphonic,” is a family affair, highlighting songs that Gainsbourg — who died of a heart attack in 1991, at the age of 62 — wrote about Birkin, and featuring a guest performance by their daughter, actress and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Birkin says that Gainsbourg — who was older than her by almost two decades — remained “unpleasant” throughout the shoot for “Slogan,” but he warmed up afterward. Out one night at a Parisian nightclub with the film’s director, she pulled Gainsbourg onto the dance floor: “To my amazement, he couldn’t dance, he walked on my feet and I thought, ‘How charming!’ This man who has been so arrogant, and so full of himself … I could see that it was all a sham, he was really terribly shy.”

They hopped from club to club, and by morning, Birkin says she agreed to go home with him. But she second-guessed herself when he took her to a Hilton hotel, and the concierge asked if he’d like his “usual room.” “I thought ‘Oh, no, oh no, how awful.’ Obviously this happens every time!” When they made it upstairs, Birkin slipped into the bathroom — and Gainsbourg fell asleep.

Gainsbourg was already divorced twice, had dated Brigitte Bardot and had a reputation as a cad. Nevertheless, Birkin fell for him. She says everyone thought he was “frightening and dangerous,” which she actually found “lovely:” “It was like having a secret person just for me.”

Even her parents adored him. When they met, Birkin had a 2-year-old daughter, Kate, from a short, “disastrous” marriage to composer John Barry. She says Gainsbourg won over her mother right away. They met for dinner at a traditional Chinese restaurant and were asked to remove their shoes. “There was a hole in his black socks,” she says, “so he filled in his toe with his black pen. I think my mom thought that was extremely humorous.”

Birkin says her parents were even supportive of her most notorious collaboration with Gainsbourg, the sensual 1969 track “Je t’aime… moi non plus.”

In the song, the pair coo softly at each other until it sounds like Birkin reaches climax. It’s explicit enough that the recording was condemned by the Vatican and banned by the BBC — much to provocateur Gainsbourg’s delight, says Birkin. But she confesses she only did the song because she was afraid he’d release a previously recorded version, with his former lover Bardot. “He sang it with the most beautiful girl in France, in the world, actually,” she says. “I just did it entirely out of jealousy.”

Birkin — who as a child dreamed of being a nurse or a missionary — says she has no regrets. “If I’m going to be known for something, why not?” (The song is not, however, on the lineup for “The Symphonic”.)

Of course, Birkin is known for plenty more than the infamous recording. The now-grandmother is a worldwide style icon, immortalized on social media for her swinging ’60s, gamine look. She’s also the inspiration for one of the world’s most coveted luxury items: the Hermès Birkin bag. She says the idea grew from a chance, 1980s meeting with Hermès’ then-CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on an airplane. After dropping some papers on the floor, she remarked to the man sitting next to her that her Hermès-designed leather agenda book needed pockets.

“He said, ‘Well, I am Hermès!” By the end of the flight, the seatmates had a different creation — “a vast handbag” — in mind.

Today, a Birkin bag is the ultimate status symbol, costing up to $500,000. But Birkin doesn’t collect them herself. “I don’t keep bags,” she says. “I’ve got one bag, then I give it to charity then [Hermès] gives me another.”

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