French superstar Catherine Deneuve (The Hunger, The Last Metro) doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticizing ageism in Hollywood.

"It's very difficult to grow old here in America, not only for actresses [but] for everybody," the 56-year-old thesp tells TV Guide Online. "There is no respect for experience and people who know more or say more with their face. It's very hard to think that if you're not young you don't exist any more."

Deneuve admits that she finds herself taking on more and more roles these days as "the mother" or "the best friend" but she somehow still manages to bring her trademark sexiness to her work. Last year, she played a woman who has an affair with her daughter's husband in the French comedy Belle Maman.

But despite an impressive body of work — she's appeared in about 80 films — the actress-model resists attempts by many film critics to label her as an icon. "I find it a little boring, because it's a way of putting me away, of putting me on a pedestal," she says. "I try always to break that sort of strange idea."

Her latest film, the grim musical drama, Dancer in the Dark, may not be an easy pill for many audiences to swallow, Deneuve points out. In fact, even she has not been able to watch one particular sequence involving an execution. "It was a very hard scene to do," recalls the actress. "I did it, that was enough. But I cannot watch it."