Diane Cilento, the Australian actress once married to Sean Connery and who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1963 for Tom Jones, has died aged 78. Cilento was reckoned to be one of the best actresses of her generation in the early 60s, but she had the misfortune to appear on the scene at a time when roles for young women in British cinema mostly consisted of either nurses or well-brought-up gals. Movie producers did not know how to use her lubricious sexuality, which director Tony Richardson caught when she played Molly, the sexy gamekeeper’s daughter Tom Jones. Hollywood tried to push her as a sex symbol opposite Charlton Heston in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and Paul Newman in Hombre (1967). But it was her marriage to Sean Connery during the 60s — then at the peak of his Bond fame — which took up most of her energy. They had one son together, Jason — who became an actor himself – and divorced in 1973. Cilento became increasingly involved with Gurdijeff spiritualism and mostly abandoned acting, apart from The Wicker Man (1973). She subsequently remarried Anthony Shaffer, screenwriter of Sleuth and The Wicker Man, and moved back to Australia, where she founded an experimental theatre in northern Queensland. The actress was classically trained at RADA and appeared on stage in a variety of Shakespearian roles as well as opposite Michael Redgrave in the play Tiger at the Gates, which won her a Critics Choice Award. I spoke to the actress last year on a crackly line to Australia, where she regaled me with some eye-popping stories of her time as a young actress in Swinging London, where she was close to the founders of the Royal Court Theatre, and appeared in several plays there.
R.I.P. Diane Cilento
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