Andie MacDowell has said an early experience with cocaine nearly ended her career in the spotlight before it began.

The Four Weddings And A Funeral star, who started out as a successful model, said she was desperate to return home to Gaffney, South Carolina from New York after spending time with the wrong people.

Recalling an incident in 1979 when she was 21, she told The Guardian: “There was a lot of cocaine around. I had a small experience at the very beginning and hated it. I hated it.

Andie MacDowell
Andie MacDowell in 1997 (Neil Munns/PA)

“It was only, like, a month. I really didn’t like the way it felt. It didn’t make me feel good and I couldn’t sleep.

“I actually went into my agency and said I wanted to go home, and they said: ‘You need new friends. You’re around the wrong people’.”

MacDowell said she cannot remember who the people were she was spending time with, adding: “I wasn’t around famous people at that point. It was not what I intended to do.”

She said things changed for her when John Casablancas, the founder of her modelling agency Elite, flew with her to Paris, “and this young man (Olivier Chandon de Brailles, the heir to Moet & Chandon) showed up at the agency who didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs, and it was like, I had a boyfriend.

“I don’t know if they prearranged the whole thing, but it sure did work out well for me.

“I started working non-stop and my whole life opened up. I was about to go home for a few seconds there.

“I’ve never told anybody that story so please don’t make it sound like I was a big druggy because I really wasn’t.”

MacDowell, 61, also spoke about the dearth of roles since she turned 40, saying: “You’ve heard every woman say it, because it’s the truth. We’re a very youth-oriented culture.

“In most movies, the leads are in their 30s and a great leading role for a mature woman is hard to come by. I have felt lulls. Since I was 40, I have felt particular lulls. I’ve been struggling since I was 40.

“Everyone said everything was going to change at 40 – and it was true.

“I did some shitty movies that I’ve never even seen!”

Asked how she coped with no longer having her pick of roles, she said: “I kept trying to be positive. I didn’t want to be a whiner because I knew that men were in control and I didn’t want it to be harder than it already was.

“I knew if you spoke out and whined, they hated you. So I just tried to project this positive attitude. Even in the back of my mind, I’m still trying to please them, because they’re in control.”