Keeping the fire alive

Hollywood diaries

Keeping the fire alive

Midday in South West London, and Jane Seymour is holding court. It’s day one of rehearsals for her latest play — her first since the 1979 Tony-winning production of Amadeus almost 40 years ago — and, despite the venue’s scuffed flooring and cardboard box props, the 65-year-old actress is in her element.

While most Bond girls have a habit of evaporating into the microcosm, Seymour — who played Solitaire in 1973’s Live and Let Die — has not only stayed the course but is something of a national treasure, both in the UK and in the US, where she currently lives in Malibu. She has an OBE, an Emmy, two Golden Globes and a back catalogue as long as it is varied, with roles in The Onedin Line (1971-1980), Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998) and Wedding Crashers (2005).

“When you get older, as a leading lady it gets harder,” says Seymour. “You try not to have someone else upstage or take the shine. When I play character roles I am usually playing people who are slightly over the top, so that goes fine.”

Shine is something she has long emanated, even if she wasn’t always aware of it. In The Vortex, a Noel Coward play originally staged in London in 1924 that will open at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Seymour plays Florence Lancaster, an older woman socialite, cougar and narcissist, consumed by her looks and, as Seymour puts it, “the fact that she is going to stay young no matter what”.

While she draws the line at narcissism, she can see some parallels between life and art. “The whole thing of being the star of her show and of Florence believing that people are jealous of her, I can identify with that.”

Born in Hillingdon, London, she grew up in Wimbledon. “I was always left out when I was a little girl. I was different from everyone,” she says. “People were jealous but I didn’t realise.

When it comes to cougarism, if Seymour sees the benefit of dating a younger man — “She gets someone to enjoy her life with that isn’t spending all his time moaning and groaning about lumbago” —  it isn’t for her. Her current partner is 67-year-old British director and producer David Green.

Seymour’s own love life has been varied. She has had 4 husbands: theatre director Michael Attenborough, her sweetheart who she married in 1971; artist Geoffrey “Geep” Planer, a union that lasted for a year; businessman David Flynn, who she married in 1981 then divorced amid allegations of cheating, and the actor and producer James Keach who she wed in 1993.

Seymour and her new partner, David, had crossed paths occasionally over the decades. Then at a breakfast with mutual friends 2 years ago, sparks flew. They arranged to meet for lunch — “it was one of those lunches where you realise you could talk together for the rest of your life” — and the relationship was made official on holiday in the Bahamas.

“That was it,” she explains, the mood lifting like a blimp. “We work very well together. We both like to work hard, have our own careers, children and exes who we care about enormously.”

Would she ever marry again? A pause.

“You never know.

“Right now there is no reason to get married. We are of a certain age where it is more a case of enjoying spending our time together. He is obviously going to look after his kids and I am going to look after mine.”

This year Seymour appears in new Sky 1 series Hooten & The Lady, an adventurous romp around Siberian wastelands and Amazonian rainforests in the hunt for lost treasure, and Bereave Me Not, a startlingly deep and dark film about a couple self destructing on their 40th wedding anniversary. Co-starring Malcolm McDowell, it is about as far from Wedding Crashers as you can get, and was filmed in the aftermath of her separation from Keach.

Of the latter she says: “Everyone who has seen it says it is the best performance I’ve ever done.”

It’s hard to interview Seymour and not bring up Bond, something she pokes fun at — “I have had 45 years of other work but in England it is all you ever ask about”.

Still, she dutifully recounts meeting Daniel Craig for the first time last year during the Spectre release.

“He said, ‘Oh, Jane, I tell everyone that you are my favourite Bond girl. You were in my favourite Bond ever.’ He goes on and on and on. He is lovely.”

She was equally enamoured by The Night Manager and Tom Hiddleston.

“Oh my god. I think he would be a brilliant Bond. He looks like the front runner.”

With that, a member of cast signals the return to rehearsal and Her Ladyship is up and away.

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