Anita Pallenberg was born on 6 April 1944 in Rome, the daughter of Arnold "Arnaldo" Pallenberg, a German-Italian sales agent, amateur singer, and hobbyist painter, and Paula Wiederhold, a German embassy secretary. The family was separated because of World War II, and she did not see her father until she was three years old. Her father later sent her to a boarding school in Germany so that she would learn the language. She became fluent in four languages at an early age.
Pallenberg was expelled from school when she was 16, after which she spent time in Rome with the Dolce Vita crowd, and then went to New York City to hang out with Andy Warhol's Factory. She then began her career as a fashion model in Paris. She studied medicine, picture restoration and graphic design without ever completing a degree. Before settling in London, she had lived in Germany and her native Rome, as well as in New York City, where she was active in the Living Theatre, starring in the play Paradise Now, which featured onstage nudity, and Andy Warhol's Factory.
Pallenberg appeared in over a dozen films over a 40-year span. One of her first appearances was as the Great Tyrant in Roger Vadim's science fiction film Barbarella (1968); the character's voice was dubbed by Joan Greenwood. She played the sleeper wife of Michel Piccoli in Dillinger Is Dead (1969), directed by Marco Ferreri. Pallenberg also had roles in the German crime thriller A Degree of Murder (1967), which featured music by Brian Jones; the cult film Candy (1968) as James Coburn's possessive nurse; Volker Schlöndorff's Michael Kohlhaas – Der Rebell (1969), which was filmed in Slovakia; and the avant-garde Performance (1970), in which she played the role of Pherber. Performance was shot in 1968, but a nervous studio delayed its release.
Pallenberg appeared in a documentary about the Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil (1968), directed by French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. In a March 2007 interview, she related her encounters in Rome while La Dolce Vita (1960) was being filmed, with its director Federico Fellini, other filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and with the novelist Alberto Moravia
In 1985, for the video of "Wild Boys", Duran Duran used a clip of Pallenberg from Barbarella. She portrayed "The Queen" in the comedy-drama Mister Lonely by Harmony Korine, and played a character named Sin in Go Go Tales (both 2007).
In the 1990s, Pallenberg returned to education to study fashion. She graduated from Central Saint Martins in London in 1994 with a fashion and textile degree. However, she decided not to forge ahead with a career in fashion, finding it too cutthroat and cruel.
Pallenberg has been portrayed several times by other performers. Monet Mazur played a young Pallenberg in the film Stoned (2005), a biographical film about the last year of Brian Jones' life, while the NBC television show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006) included a story arc in which the character Harriet Hayes was hired to play Pallenberg in a film.
Pallenberg is known for her romantic involvement with Rolling Stones band members Brian Jones and later Keith Richards. Pallenberg first met the band in 1965 in Munich, where she was working on a modelling assignment, and before they had made it big. Jones spoke German and they began a friendship that turned into two-year relationship. She later recalled that they took a lot of acid during this time, but it caused Jones to have nightmares. She ended her relationship with Jones in 1967 after he became violent toward her during a vacation in Morocco, where he was then hospitalised. He died in 1969.
In Morocco, Keith Richards saw Jones assaulting Pallenberg, and pulled her away and then took her back to England, where she moved in with him. She and Richards began a relationship that lasted until 1980, although they never married. Richards' lifestyle was not conducive to fatherhood, Pallenberg later explained. She was trying to raise their two young children but Richards was up all night and slept all day. Richards eventually was able to detox himself from drugs and stay clean, but Pallenberg continued to use. This was what ended their relationship, according to Richards' 2010 autobiography. In 1981, after Richards and Pallenberg had split up, Richards stated that he still loved Pallenberg and saw her as much as he ever did, although he had already met his future wife, Patti Hansen.
There were rumours that Pallenberg also had a brief affair with Mick Jagger during the filming of Performance, and Keith Richards states in his autobiography Life that it happened. Pallenberg denied the affair, however, in March 2007 when Performance was released on DVD and again during an interview in 2008.
Pallenberg played an unusual role in the male-dominated world of rock music in the late 1960s, acting as much more than just a groupie or partner of a band member. Jagger respected her opinion enough that tracks on Beggars Banquet were remixed after she criticised them. In the 2002 compilation release of Forty Licks, Pallenberg is credited as singing background vocals on "Sympathy for the Devil".
Tony Sanchez's account of his time as Richards's bodyguard and drug dealer mentions Pallenberg's strange spiritual practices: "She was obsessed with black magic and began to carry a string of garlic with her everywhere — even to bed — to ward off vampires. She also had a strange mysterious old shaker for holy water which she used for some of her rituals. Her ceremonies became increasingly secret, and she warned me never to interrupt her when she was working on a spell." Sanchez goes on to describe Anita as having been "like a life-force, a woman so powerful, so full of strength and determination that men came to lean on her". Jo Bergman, who was the band's personal assistant from 1967–73, said of Pallenberg: "Anita is a Rolling Stone. She, Mick, Keith and Brian were the Rolling Stones. Her influence has been profound. She keeps things crazy."
Richards says she shared his addiction to heroin; she was charged first in the 1977 Toronto heroin arrest that led to Richards being arrested on charges that could have led to a lengthy prison sentence. A warrant for Pallenberg's arrest was the reason police came to search the pair's hotel rooms; she pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and was convicted and fined several weeks after Richards's arrest.
Pallenberg spent a lot of time with singer Marianne Faithfull, Jagger's girlfriend in the late 1960s, who remained a friend of Pallenberg's. They appeared together in the fourth series (2001) of the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous in episode four, "Donkey", with Faithfull playing God and Pallenberg the Devil.
In 1979, a 17-year-old boy, Scott Cantrell, shot himself in the head in Pallenberg's bed with a gun owned by Keith Richards, while at the South Salem, New York, house shared by Richards and Pallenberg. The youth had been employed as a part-time groundsman at the estate and was involved in a sexual relationship with Pallenberg. Richards was in Paris recording with the Rolling Stones, but his son was at the house when the teen killed himself. Pallenberg was arrested; however, the death was ruled a suicide in 1980, despite rumours that she and Cantrell had been playing a game of Russian roulette. The police investigation stated that Pallenberg was not on the same floor of the house at the time the fatal shot was fired.
Pallenberg and Richards together had three children: son Marlon Leon Sundeep (born 10 August 1969), daughter Dandelion Angela (who goes by her middle name; born 17 April 1972), and a son Tara Jo Jo Gunne (26 March – 6 June 1976). Tara Jo Jo died in his cot 10 weeks after birth; the cause of death has been stated as SIDS or pneumonia.
Pallenberg later stated that she first became pregnant in 1968, but that she was pressured to have an abortion so she could take part in the film Performance, which caused her to feel extremely resentful. She became pregnant again with Marlon during the filming.
After Tara Jo Jo's death, Keith's mother blamed Pallenberg and said she was an unfit mother, and took Angela to live with her. Pallenberg raised Marlon mostly on the road with the band, teaching him to read and write. When Marlon was eight, she moved into a house in Westchester, New York, so he could have a more routine life and go to school. In later years, she lived in Chelsea, London, but spent the winters in Jamaica.
At one point she expressed interest in writing a memoir but decided not to go ahead with it. "The publishers want to hear only about the Stones and more dirt on Mick Jagger and I'm just not interested", she said in 2008. "I had several publishers and they were all the same. They all wanted salacious. And everybody is writing autobiographies and that's one reason why I'm not going to do it. If young Posh Spice can write her autobiography, then I don't want to write one!"
Pallenberg suffered from hepatitis C, and had two hip surgeries, including a hip replacement, which caused her to walk with a limp.
After detoxing in the early 1980s, Pallenberg abstained from drug use but later had a relapse. In 2014, she said she had been 14 years sober from drugs. She stopped drinking in 1987, but had a relapse with alcohol in 2004 after her second hip surgery. She regularly attended AA meetings. In August 2016, she told Alain Elkann in an interview when asked about growing old: "I am ready to die. I have done so much here. My Mum died at 94. I don’t want to lose my independence. Now I am over 70 and to be honest I did not think I would live over 40."
Pallenberg died on 13 June 2017, aged 75, due to complications from hepatitis C. She is survived by her two children and five grandchildren.A Degree of Murder (Mord und Totschlag, 1967)
Dillinger Is Dead (Dillinger è morto, 1969)
Michael Kohlhaas – Der Rebell (1969)
Umano non umano (1969)
Le berceau de cristal (1976)
Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998)
Absolutely Fabulous – Episode: "Donkey" (2001)
Mister Lonely (2007)
Go Go Tales (2007)
Stones in Exile (2010)
4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011)