She may be one of France's biggest film stars, but Isabelle Adjani admits she was too shy to record in the same room as celebrity collaborators like Seal and Simon Le Bon as she returned to music with her first album in 40 years.

The Oscar-nominated star of "Possession" and "Queen Margot" has won many awards for her film roles.

But she is also remembered fondly for her collaboration with late troubadour Serge Gainsbourg on the 1983 album "Pull Marine", which spawned a strange and unsettling hit single of the same name.

Her new album "Bande Originale", which is out Friday, has been in the works for no less than 17 years, and features a packed line-up of big name guests, including international stars like Seal, Le Bon (of Duran Duran) and Senegalese legend Youssou N'Dour.

But Adjani, who modestly refers to herself as merely "an actress who sings", says she was too "intimidated" to actually perform alongside them, and recorded her parts separately.

"I was afraid of wasting the time of these professionals who have better things to do than help an amateur find her voice," the 68-year-old told AFP with a laugh.

The playful, often self-mocking lyrics on "Bande Originale" carry several winks to Gainsbourg and she mentioned his name often during the interview with AFP.

She was happy Gainsbourg's daughter Charlotte has recently opened his Paris home to the public.

But she won't be visiting.

"I can't go into that house which I knew when it was so alive," she said. "I prefer to go to the Montparnasse cemetery and tell him: 'I've made another album, I hope that's ok!'"

- 'Protect myself' -

The lyrics also include a reference to hiding behind her ever-present sunglasses.

"I've been wearing them since I was 16," she said.

"I was raised with the idea that you should never look people in the eye. I protect myself with glasses. And a hat to stop the sky falling on my head."

"Bande Originale" shows her broad tastes, ranging from baroque classical composer Henry Purcell to US folk legend Joni Mitchell to modern electro-pop.

Its 14 songs form a "cinematographic" concept album -- the title means "soundtrack" in French -- and is meant to trace "a fictional year of a woman through her relations with men," Adjani said.

She dreams of making a musical film, but again the shyness gets in the way.

"I don't like to go knocking on doors. That's a mistake -- I never learned to go asking things from other people," she said.

As for the album, it is not yet clear if she will take it on tour.

"Oh la la... it would mean a lot of work," she said with another giggle.