Diane Cilento – Star Portait

This information comes from an old newspaper article – from in fact The Thanet Times in Kent, and I thought it worth publishing bacause it gives some detail of Diane Cilento’s early career.

She was born in Queensland Australia in October 1933 daughter of Sir Raphael Cilento an expert on tropical diseases knighted for his services to medicine, and his wife Lady Cilento, a brilliant gynaecologist who practices in Queensland.

Diane was educated at a boarding school in Toowoomba before flying to New York at the age of 15 where her surgeon father had been assigned to U.N.O.  Her formal education was competed at Public School 83 in that city.Diane Cilento Thanet Times Newspaper ArticleAt that time Diane developed an interest in ballet and accordingly she regularly attended classes in Carnegie Hall. Her next step took her to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, from where she obtained her first true stage job – with Virginia’s Barter Theatre, playing small parts and performing odd tasks which were required of her, including assistant electrician

By now she had reached the age of 16 and, still with the Barter Theatre, she toured most of the U.S.A.s South and Mid West before returning to New York. Then in 1950 she packed her bags and came to London where she immediately enrolled with the Royal Academy forf Dramatic Art. Diane soon obtained professional experience – with London’s small Mercury Theatre at Notting Hill Gate. This led to repertory and to Manchester’s Library Theatre.

In ‘Romeo and Juliet’  Diane won rave notices. Theatre and film scouts appreciated her talents, and walk-on parts followed in a number of British films: ‘Wings of Eagles’, ‘All Halloween’ ‘ Meet Mr.Lucifer’ and ‘Top Secret’. Diane returned to London from the provinces and her serious carerr as a stage actress began in earnest.

Her appearances in the ‘live’ theatre included ‘Arms and the Man’   at the Arts Theatre ‘One Fair Daughter’ at the ‘Q’ and Clifford Odet’s play about Hollywood  ‘The Big Knife’.


Diane Cilento

Diane Cilento  –  As a young runaway she fell into acting, conquered Broadway, survived tuberculosis, abandoned a family of Italian aristocrats, married James Bond and built and ran her own Theatre .

Question:   You grew up in Brisbane, in quite an extraordinary household with two remarkable parents. Can you describe for us what that house was like?

DIANE CILENTO: Well, my mum and dad were both doctors. They had a lot of children, of which I was the, sort of, down the end, so it was a very volatile and mad household.

DIANE CILENTO I first got expelled from school in Toowoomba, where I was sent. I actually got expelled because I knew I was in the wrong place and I went out and I rang up the school and pretended to be my mother and asked myself out for a few weekends, and brought a lot of other girls out with me. Then, of course, one of them wrote it up in supervised prep and it was read. This was months after we’d been out on these jaunts and suddenly the headmistress called the school together and said, “Stand up those girls,” and I didn’t know what it was about. Then she said, “There’s one girl who’s the epitome of deceit here,” and then I got the message that it was me.

DIANE CILENTO: Well, at first I was terrified. New York was like oh – I didn’t know what anyone was talking about. They got angry with me because I couldn’t understand the money and it seemed so cold. My dad was in the United Nations and my mother wasn’t there and so I started walking around, and then I fell madly in love with New York, because you can. New York is so terrific.

DIANE CILENTO:  I went through three weeks of hell because I couldn’t stop giggling on the stage.

 Why were you giggling?

DIANE CILENTO: Well, Barbara Jefferd was playing Andromache and I was playing Helen of Troy and I had to stand on a rostrum. She had to kneel in front of me, asking me, begging me not to let the war happen, the Trojan War. She had to talk about the world and in the end she had to say, “But, Helen,” talking about the world, “fill it with pity.” One night she looked up to me and she said, “But, Helen, fill it with putty.” I stood there and I did like what you did, but she could go, “Oh, oh, oh,” like that, and I couldn’t. I stood there and then I, sort of, nearly fell off the rostrum with laughter and I couldn’t stop laughing. Every night, when we got to this place, she’d go, “But, Helen, fill it with …” and she’d start again and she’d get me going and I’d really – I couldn’t – I could hardly go into the theatre. I dreaded this moment coming up. Truly, I mean I really was frightened.

Question ref Meeting and marrying Sean Connery:-

DIANE CILENTO: Well, see, I met him when we doing a television show together and I was playing Anna Christie and he was playing Matt Bourke, and we just had a terrific time. I was pregnant with Giovanna at the time so I thought it was great that I could sell him my Vespa before I went to Australia. He was a great big Scottish bullyboy, I thought.

When I came back from Australia and brought Giovanna, and he was just there all the time and we just had a really good time. I really began to find him very attractive.

Question :  The status in your marriage with Sean changed dramatically once he became James Bond and he became one of the most famous figures of the 60s.


DIANE CILENTO: Well, I suppose England, which had been pay playing sort of second fiddle to America with pop stars and things, suddenly had Bond and the Beatles, and the fanaticism of the fans suddenly escalated, and of course everyone was really unprepared. Now people have security guards and they have people looking after them and they have big fences, but we lived in the middle of Acton Common and we had no fences. People would jump over – we had a ladder rental company next door and they’d get up ladders into your window and people would be outside your door shouting, and –

Question:   You had a second child with Sean, Jason, so you had two little kids. When did you realise it was time to go?

DIANE CILENTO: Well, as soon as you got well known and you the amount of money that the star was making was put in the paper, I mean it incites people to want to go and do something to them. One of the things people were doing at that time was kidnapping and I was really frightened.

Commenting on meeting Tony Schafer :-

Tony Schafer, playwright, Briton, sleuth, international superstar as a writer on the film ‘Wicker Man’ that you were acting in. In many ways he was your complete opposite. How did he charm you

DIANE CILENTO: Well, actually, I think he was one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met, and actually everybody knows that women adore being made to laugh.

He also had a very extraordinary desire to know things. He was a very, very clever-brained man, who – his great theory was the box within the box within the box within the box. I don’t know if any of you saw ‘Sleuth’, but that’s what that’s about. He surprised his audience. Just when they thought they knew what was going on, he’d bring out another. It wouldn’t be like that at all.

He always surprised you. He always had some amazing little excitement. Once, he decided to have a midnight picnic in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest, and we were sitting there, he’d got all the smoked salmon and the usual sort of things. Suddenly he said, “There’s someone over there,” and we shone this light round and there was a man with a gun, standing there like this. He said, “What are you doing there?” and he said, “I’m shooting cats. I’m a ranger.” But we did get a big shock.

Commenting on moving back to Queensland :-

DIANE CILENTO: Well, actually the Murdoch press said I’d started a nudist colony. That’s because they probably saw a few people jumping into the creek with nothing on, but, I mean, it is like that up there. It would be silly to wear bathing suits all the time. But anyway…

But what I was doing was trying to, sort of, not recreate, because you never do that, but make a sort of school like I’d been to in Australia. Try to bring people into an idea of the excitement that I’d felt by going on this journey of searching about what you were really doing here and knowledge and all that.

Question: You and Tony married in the in the mid-80s.

DIANE CILENTO: We married at Karnak, in the garden. 

Question:  You had a strong marriage, but one which was spread between Queensland and London, where he still worked, and he fell very ill around 2001. You went to London, you discovered that box you didn’t know about. You discovered a betrayal, didn’t you?

DIANE CILENTO: Well, I wasn’t expecting that somebody else was staying there, and, yes, I did discover that there was a rather strange lady’s goods sitting there.

I felt as surprised as I was betrayed, because it seemed so unlikely. With Tony, to expect the unexpected was a sensible way to go about things, and so in some ways I felt that it was surprising and that he was being pretty stupid actually.

However Tony, sadly, died before he could return.

DIANE CILENTO: He died before he had the operation.

Question:  And when you went over for the funeral his mistress, the other woman, was there and she made quite a show, didn’t she?

DIANE CILENTO: Oh, do I have to go into this? She carried a flower and she sort of sobbed all the time and kept pushing me in the back. I really thought it wasn’t a very inspiring situation for a funeral.

Not the right send off for that man.


Question:  Then, because she contested the will, to have to go through a court case and to officially have to prove your love for each other. I can only imagine that’s a very hard thing to do.

DIANE CILENTO: It is. It’s hard in that it keeps surprising you that it’s so bizarre. Do you know what I’m saying? It, sort of, seems like a funny scene out of a film that you’re sitting there saying, “Yes, but, you know,” and you can’t show movies of it. It is an odd situation and it was stressful.

Question:  You don’t speak with any anger. Have you forgiven Tony for what happened?

DIANE CILENTO: Oh God, yes. I mean, I do think that if I hadn’t been, let’s say done all the things that I’d done as far as meditational practices and working on myself, I think I probably would have had a lot of stuff to get rid of and that. But I didn’t really, because I just was in a different space from that. I think, I hope.

Commenting on her life and the future :-

DIANE CILENTO:   While I have this sort of energy in me and life is like it is, then I shall just continue being senseless. No, I mean the person that I hope I am, or the person that I think I could be.

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