Tuesday 19 June 2018

'Beautiful young actresses? We all were touched up' - Bond actress Britt Ekland

Britt Ekland was in Dublin this weekend to talk Bond and attend a glitzy night at the ballet, writes Niamh Horan

She’s so vain: Britt Ekland. Photo: David Conachy
She’s so vain: Britt Ekland. Photo: David Conachy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Britt Ekland sweeps into the Fitzwilliam Hotel in oversized shades, leather pants and a black fedora hat. But most striking of all, she still has the tiny frame that made her a world-famous Bond Girl.

At 75, with all the confidence of a Hollywood diva, she looks me dead in the eye when I ask about her diet. And in her vampy accent announces: "Vanity is your greatest friend!"

Famous for her roles in The Man with The Golden Gun and The Wicker Man and for her long list of high-profile lovers - including Rod Stewart, Peter Sellers and Warren Beatty - the Swedish actress and model was in town as guest of honour at the Romeo & Juliet ballet last night in the Gaiety Theatre.

Vanity, she says, "is the reason I am not a druggie, I am not an alcoholic and I am not - how do I say without hurting anyone? - overweight. You have to be careful today."

She shuns sugar and wheat, drinks vegetable juice three times a week and has practised Pilates since 1974. (She pulls up her jumper to prove the rock hard core is still there).

She also credits her physique to an unusual move she learned from a dancer. This involves sitting against the wall and thrusting her pelvis back and forth, which she dutifully demonstrates. (I'll stop short of repeating the name of this position in a family newspaper.)

Britt Ekland in her early days as a leading lady in Hollywood
Britt Ekland in her early days as a leading lady in Hollywood

She made it her rule after Peter Sellers not to get into relationships with leading men - "I would never date an actor again because there can only be one face in the mirror."

She says that Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s was a hot-bed of inappropriate behaviour and it was no different for her. "For any young, beautiful, innocent actress in those days… all of us has been touched inappropriately," she says. "When I was very young, it was constant."

Without wishing to expand on her experience, it seems there is trauma there: "If there has been a person who has been inappropriate sexually with me, when I was younger, those are names I cannot mention because those people are dead and it wouldn't mean anything."

She says that as you get older, "you forget a lot of things" but she kept an account around the time of the incident: "I have diaries since I was 15 years old and it's all in there."

Does she think some day she will talk about it? "Maybe. I don't need to be another famous person who goes out and offers [their story]. But when I feel ready and it's important for me to do it for myself, I will."

For years, she put it to the back of her mind: "What happened to me, I had no idea [what it was] it was just so sudden. I had no idea it happened. And then like so many others, you just put it away.

"If you want to be an actress, you just get on with it. And I think if you asked any actress that was around in the late 1950s or early 1960s, they would say the same. They wanted to be great actresses and they wanted to be in great films and so, if there was something that might stop them from doing that, they would put it in the 'file of forgotten'."

She has yet to tell even close friends: "No one knows. Not even my best friend," she says.

She confided in Peter Sellers, but he took her secret to his grave. Of her most high profile romance, she says he had his own "peculiar habits".

"I thought it was normal to turn someone [a wife] over at six in the morning because he was aroused," she shrugs.

"You know, that's what marriage is about, I assumed! I had never been in a marriage before and I didn't have that many boyfriends."

When she started out in acting, she was still in school and looked so innocent she was almost like "a little pink bun". But she was astute enough to employ a move that protected her modesty on set: "In quite a lot of films I was semi-dressed so I used to put black camel tape on my breasts and black camel tape here [she points to her groin]. So if they shot beyond there and went any further, all they would see is camel tape. I was smart. I didn't allow them to do those things."

Twice married, she is in no rush to do it again.

"I couldn't live with someone," she says waving the idea away, but there is another way.

When I was young we had a thing called a 'bachelor' and the bachelor could be 50 years old and he had a fabulous life. He ate and drank and travelled and he had the best cars, the best apartments, and he had all the girlfriends in the world. And I said to myself, 'Oh that is interesting!' It just means that you don't want to be tied down."

This Swedish model is "a very practical person" to have around the house. "If you want me to change the bulbs in your house or help you with a stopcock in your loo - although you're not allowed call it a stopcock any more - I can do all of it."

"You sound like the perfect wife," I offer.

"I am. I am. I always only had husbands. Why didn't I have a wife myself?"

With so much packed into her life, I wouldn't put anything past her.

Directed by Anne Maher, Romeo & Juliet is touring Ireland and will visit more than 20 locations including Galway, Kilkenny, Thurles, Cork, Wexford, Sligo and Enniskillen. Hosted by Ballet Ireland, it is funded by the Irish Arts Council and runs until December 23. For tickets and dates visit www.balletireland.ie

Sunday Independent

Style Newsletter

Stay on top of the latest fashion, beauty and celeb gossip in our Style newsletter.

Also in this section