She left him for Ian McShane, 10 years her senior, whom she met on the set of the 1977 film Man Behind the Mask. They moved in together in Los Angeles where he had promised to help her launch her American career. However their five year affair would lead to no significant career break for Kristel but a relationship she describes in her autobiography as `awful - he was witty and charming but we were too much alike.` About two years into the relationship she began taking cocaine. This proved to be her downfall, though at the time she thought of it as a `supervitamin, a very fashionable substance, without danger, but expensive, far more exciting than drowning in alcohol - a fuel necessary to stay in the swing.`
Interviewed in 2006 for Firecracker Films` Documentary "Hunting Emmanuelle", she describes how, nurturing an expensive cocaine habit, she made a number of poor decisions, including agreeing to sell her interest in the film to her agent on a whim for $150,000. With a domestic gross of over $26 million, she laughs at how much of her agent`s mansion her percentage probably paid for.
Her relationship with McShane continued to be turbulent. One night before a gala event in Malibu they were to attend together he walked in on her after she`d had her make-up and hair done and was surveying the results before departing. He gave her a hostile look and then threw a champagne bucket at her head. They fought furiously and neither attended the gala. The following morning Kristel fled back to Utrecht. But the relationship wasn`t over and soon they were living together again in London where McShane was working on a film. Here she fell pregnant, much to McShane`s chagrin. He continued drinking, encouraging her to do likewise. Their arguments continued and after a fall Kristel was admitted to hospital where she had a miscarriage. McShane sent word he was unable to attend as he was at a wrap party that night. This proved to be the final straw for her. After checking out of hospital a couple days later she flew to Paris, her partnership with McShane over for good.