An Interview with Britt Ekland
Showbiz legend Britt Ekland is touring the UK in renowned stage play The Cat and the Canary. Ahead of the November leg in Leeds, she chats to @Roger Crow about that new production; classic films The Wicker Man, Get Carter, and The Man with the Golden Gun, and advice she would offer to her younger self.
Hi Britt. Tell us about your role, Mrs Pleasant, in The Cat and the Canary.
Well, I play the old housekeeper. I’ve lived in this mansion on Bodmin Moor alone for the last 20 years, and probably before that with a master for maybe 30 years. And she’s just waiting for the heiress to arrive and the lawyer. They do… and then it starts to become a little complicated.
The play has been performed a few times on stage and screen…
Yes. It was written by John Willard in 1920, and it was a silent movie. It was a movie with Bob Hope in 1933, and then it was a movie with one of the Foxes (Edward Fox in 1978).
The tour was on hold for a while, so it must be great to be back on stage.
Well we started rehearsals in 2019, and then we started in 2020. We managed to do maybe half a dozen shows and then suddenly we were shut down. Lockdown. So now after 18 months we’re back. It’s a fabulous feeling and just amazing that people… they really want to go out.
“It was a little problematic”
It’s a fine cast, and great to see Coronation Street veteran Tracy Shaw in it as well.
Yes, it’s an ensemble. We like each other so from that point of view it’s fantastic.
The Man with the Golden Gun is one of my favourite Bond movies. Was it amazing to work on that classic?
Oh yes, it was such a privilege to be part of that kind of movie. I never truly understood at the time that it would have this kind of massive following still, and interest. It’s fantastic that it has this kind of following all over the world! What is endearing about particularly the films that were done in my time is that we didn’t have access to all the virtual experiences (CGI). Everything that happened was real. When the car flew over the river… They trained with an AMC car back in Detroit for months and months and months. If they were to do that today they would probably use a crane or something. That’s what I like. That they were so real.
And you were nearly caught in a massive explosion during the finale?
Well, before you do anything like that, the team goes through it with you and points out every single case where there is an explosive. You rehearse and rehearse. But then it gets too real, and I just did what any normal person would do. Throw myself on the ground and put my hands on my head. But I never managed to do that because Roger (Moore) pulled me up and dragged me along.
The Wicker Man is another favourite movie. What are your memories?
Well it was a little problematic because halfway through I discovered I was pregnant, and they took in a double and shot the things I wouldn’t do. It wasn’t my most joyous experience, let’s put it that way. Having looked at it now, and the new version that came out, what was it, five years ago? It was remastered, and I took my youngest son to see it – he was 26 or 27. He loved it. He thought it was great. Whenever there is a “Best Horror” or “Scariest Horror”, it always, always, always comes up.
“I thought it was brilliant”
How was it working with Michael Caine on Get Carter?
I never did. I mean we knew each other since the 60s. But everything I did, I shot in another room.
Of course, because it’s mostly a phone chat! The magic of editing.
Yes, I saw it about six or seven years ago. You know when they took the garage down? (Trinity Square Car Park in Gateshead was demolished in 2010). And I thought it was brilliant. Apart from the sideburns, it could’ve been today.
Which has been your favourite project?
Oh it’s very hard. I’ve diversified so incredibly much. I’ve never really followed one path. I’ve gone from films to TV to reality and back to theatre and more reality. I just think it’s wonderful to be able to work. To be still here and still doing it. And people will still come and see me. Which is the greatest honour and reward anyone can ask.
Finally, if you could offer yourself a piece of advice at 20, what would it be?
Not to be so hard on myself and not to always, always seek perfection.
Thanks for your time
The Cat and the Canary can be seen at Leeds Grand Theatre, from 23-27 Nov 2021