In roles from Bond Girl to Medicine Woman, Jane Seymour’s luxuriant hair has almost become a star in its own right.
Now the actress has shared the secrets of how she keeps her long, chestnut locks looking so fabulous – especially for a grandmother who recently turned 70.
She says she washes and conditions it every day – but, perhaps reassuringly for mere mortals, there is a little more to her regime than that. Ms Seymour, who barely seems to have aged during 50 years in the limelight, does admit that she needs a little help from the colour bottle.
‘I do have some grey there but I’m not fully grey,’ she reveals in The Mail on Sunday’s You magazine today.
Jane Seymour has shared the secrets of how she keeps her long, chestnut locks looking so fabulous – especially for a grandmother who recently turned 70
‘It needs colouring… I get my hair coloured with Goldwell products every three or four weeks by my hairdresser.’
Ms Seymour has been getting her hair enhanced by Marie Ferro of Malibu, California, for almost a quarter of a century. ‘She uses a natural weave of three different colours,’ the actress says.
In other tips, she tries to avoid heated styling tools; says she could not live without her £95 Mason Pearson hairbrush; and uses Phyto shampoo and volumiser, priced at a surprisingly affordable £14 and £22 a bottle respectively; a £27-a-bottle daily hair mask; and Ouai leave-in conditioner, priced at £19 a bottle.
And there’s certainly no sign of her exchanging those long locks for the easy-to-keep pixie cut or tight bob favoured by many women of her age, hard as it is to believe she’s in her eighth decade.
She attributes her youthful complexion to not having a facelift and abandoning a short-lived dalliance with Botox.
‘I don’t want to do anything permanent,’ she says. ‘I’m a sculptor, so I know that once you change one thing, you want to change another and then you’re chasing some kind of Barbie-doll illusion.’
The actress, born in Middlesex, pictured in 1973 – the year of her breakthrough movie ‘Live and Let Die’
Perhaps implausibly, she insists: ‘Anyway, my face is crooked. I have two completely different coloured eyes, crooked smile, crooked whatever… And I’ve got some wrinkles.’
The actress, who starred in Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman throughout the 1990s, is enjoying a career renaissance with two films, a comedy and a drama series in the pipeline.
Yet she almost gave up acting soon after appearing in the 1973 Bond film Live And Let Die when a powerful producer tried to force himself on her.
When she spurned him, he threatened to destroy her career. ‘The person had that power,’ she says. ‘It was so traumatic for me that I gave up acting for a year.’
Jane wears dress, John Paul Ataker. Necklace, Bulgari
It may be the role that made her a star, but don’t call Jane Seymour a Bond girl. Why? Because, as she tells Cole Moreton, having faced down Hollywood predators, financial ruin and near death – and had a career that is hitting new highs at 70 – she is first and foremost a survivor
The view from Jane Seymour’s beachside villa in Malibu is glorious. ‘Staying home was never an issue,’ she says, showing off an infinity pool with the shimmering ocean beyond. ‘I had a little chat every once in a while with the seabirds, the whales and the dolphins we see here. “Hi! We’re in lockdown!” They just spouted and went on their way.’
This all sounds very Californian for someone who was born in Uxbridge, West London, still has the cut-glass accent she acquired at drama school here and is regarded by many Americans as the quintessential English rose, but that’s just the first and tiniest surprise of many in my conversation with Jane Seymour. She has lived an extraordinary life and is ready to talk freely and frankly about everything from playing a Bond girl at 20 to posing for Playboy at 67 – ‘I just thought they were crazy to ask!’ She’ll also reveal the heartbreaking secrets her parents kept, the startling out-of-body experience that changed her life and how she found the courage to confront a Hollywood predator. ‘That was the best acting I ever did in my life.’ Oh, and the spat she had with Robbie Williams about a country manor house, obviously. ‘His wife keeps telling me he’s very, very sorry.’
Left: Jane starring in her hit TV show Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman, 1995. Right: With Denise Richards in new series Glow and Darkness
But for Jane herself, the biggest surprise is what’s happening now as she celebrates her milestone 70th birthday. ‘Who knew I would suddenly have a whole new career? It’s unbelievable.’
Jane is starring opposite Robert De Niro in the new Amazon Prime movie The War With Grandpa and is also about to return with Michael Douglas in his highly acclaimed Netflix comedy series The Kominsky Method, which was filmed at the height of Covid. ‘They test you so many times your nostrils have new holes in them that go right up to your brain. You’re not allowed to talk to anyone, they rush you in to do the take then rush you out again.’
Jane has also been to Spain to play Eleanor of Aquitaine in the medieval series Glow and Darkness and to Australia to make a movie about dementia called Ruby’s Choice. ‘No one really explained that I was going to be locked in a room in quarantine and delivered a paper bag with food in it, three times a day. So that was very interesting.’
Left: Congratulating former father-in-law Richard Attenborough on his Best Director Oscar, 1983. Right: With Elton John at his post-Oscars party, 2018
After all that running around, winter was spent in lockdown. ‘My twin sons Kris and Johnny and their best friend and my new daughter-in-law all managed to get Covid here at the house,’ she says of her 25-year-old boys. ‘Not from me, but from a random young man visitor who also spread it liberally to his mother, who sadly was in the hospital for a very long time.’ Somehow the star managed to avoid becoming ill. ‘I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, so I stuck it out and did the mothering thing. I left the food outside their rooms and talked to them by Zoom.’
Jane and her partner, the producer and director David Green, have both since had the vaccine. Her sons recovered, but her big birthday on 15 February had to be low-key. ‘I’ve told my friends I am going to try to catch up, by Zoom or physically, over the entire year of being 70 with everyone who has been so magical in my life.’
And what a life it has been. For a start she was born Joyce Frankenberg to parents who had both known the horrors of concentration camps during the war. Her father John was a Polish Jewish RAF doctor who was ‘asked to open the gates of Bergen-Belsen where a number of his relatives had been murdered. Some had survived.’ Her Dutch mother Mieke had been in Japanese internment camps in Indonesia. Neither of her parents talked about their experiences much until they visited Jane on the set of the hugely ambitious series War and Remembrance in which she starred with Robert Mitchum and Sir John Gielgud. Some of the most harrowing scenes were shot at four in the morning on location at Auschwitz.
‘My father was very impacted by watching scenes that were just too real for words. My mother turned to me and said: “I’m ready to go back. I want to face where I was.”’ So the family visited the camps in Indonesia, which were still standing. ‘We saw the tiny house where she had lived with 20 other people, women and children. Nothing had been changed. She wept and wept. All the stories started coming out: how she managed to find an old discarded iron and somehow plug it in to the Japanese electricity and sort of cook. Mostly snakes and bugs and ants. Flying ants. That’s how they stayed alive.’
Left: In Live and Let Die, 1973. Right: With Robert De Niro in The War with Grandpa, 2020
For the first time, Jane began to understand what her mother had been through. ‘I came from survivors. A lot of people have said I am very driven. I don’t think of it like that at all, but I do know my parents were just so thrilled to be alive and to be able to share whatever they had with anyone.’
Her first big break was getting a role as a dancer on the Richard Attenborough movie Oh! What A Lovely War at the age of 17. She fell in love with the director’s son Michael. ‘We got married way too young. I was 20, he was 21. He went off to become a great theatre director and I got the lead in a Bond film, so we parted ways.’
The marriage lasted little more than a year. So did the next one, to his best friend Geoffrey Planer. ‘All three of us are still close friends.’
Left: Wedding Crashers, 2005. Right: Her Bath manor house, 1998
Young Joyce then changed her name to that of Henry VIII’s most beloved wife in order to try to make it as an actor and was cast as Solitaire in Roger Moore’s first 007 film Live And Let Die at the age of 20. Her character was a psychic whose powers apparently depended on never having had sex. ‘I was hired to play a virgin. It was the early 70s, virgins were very thin on the ground! I was very green, though. I’d gone from one very safe little marriage to another. I didn’t know anyone or anything, I had never even been to a nightclub. I really was that innocent.’
Live and Let Die made her a star but it has not aged well. Didn’t she once say Roger Moore was much like the spoof Austin Powers as James Bond? ‘Oh my god, yes. You could not make that movie now. You wouldn’t even be allowed to read the script. You couldn’t call the characters by those names. It is so not politically correct.’ However, she’s not embarrassed by the film: ‘It’s a time capsule.’ But Jane is visibly irritated that some people on this side of the Atlantic think of her primarily as a Bond girl. ‘You go to England and as far as everyone there is concerned I only ever did one thing. They seem to stop at Bond!’
That’s to forget hugely successful movies and series such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, East of Eden and Wedding Crashers and the way her career is flourishing again lately. But the hidden truth is that it nearly all stopped back in 1973.
Even as the world fell in love with her as Solitaire, Jane Seymour was having to hide a secret. A very powerful Hollywood producer invited her to his house to discuss a screen test she’d done. He suggested others would be in attendance but when Jane arrived she was the only one there. During their meeting, Jane says he repeatedly placed his hand on her knee – which she would move away from – and made it clear sex was expected. When she rejected his advances, the producer told her not to tell anyone she had been at his house, nor to mention what had taken place or he would destroy her career. ‘The person had that power. It was so traumatic for me that I gave up acting for a year and may never have acted again.’
Left: With Christopher Reeve for Somewhere in Time, 1979. Right: with her children (from left) Johnny, Kris, stepdaughter Jennifer Flynn, Katherine and Sean, 2020
Incredibly, Jane had the courage to face the man again at his house a few years later when he gave a private dinner for Princess Margaret and invited Hollywood Brits. ‘He thought he knew me but couldn’t say how.
I looked him in the eye and just said: “Well, if you don’t remember me, then obviously you haven’t met me.” Then I walked away quickly to get a glass of wine.’
What happened? ‘He pursued me like crazy. Told me I had to star in his next movie. I called my agent and just said: “Look, I’m not seeing this man alone, ever.” So somebody came with me, we all met for lunch, the next thing I knew there were lots of meetings with other people and I got the lead in the movie.’
She actually took it? ‘I never saw him or spoke to him again, ever. I don’t think he was any the wiser. That was normal for him.’ Having searched for clues online I ask if the movie was Somewhere In Time, a romantic fantasy with Christopher Reeve released in 1980? ‘You said that,’ she says reluctantly, but when I point out that she once hinted as much in an American daytime TV interview, she adds: ‘It was.’
Dress, Jovana Louis. Necklace, Bulgari. Picture Director: Ester Malloy. Producer: Joe Daley at A+ Productions. Styling: Oretta Corbelli. Make-up: Adam Breuchaud at The Wall Group using tom ford soft radiance foundation. Hair: Paul Norton at Tracey Mattingly using Aiir Professional
Jane finally felt able to go public when the #MeToo movement first began sweeping through Hollywood four years ago. ‘My hope was that people would say to themselves: “OK, that was par for the course then, it has been very recently and probably is in some places, so you have to be street smart.’” Are things better for female actors now? ‘I’ve heard millions of stories from people who have not spoken about it publicly. But I do think the situation is probably better than it was. Everybody is much more aware now.’
Having overcome that challenge, she faced another in 1988 while filming the movie Onassis: The Richest Man in the World. A doctor said she had bronchitis and needed rest, but some members of the production team had other ideas. ‘They decided I should be injected with five times the dose of an antibiotic to get me better quickly. I immediately knew something was wrong. My throat was closing. Everything was going dim.’ She came close to death. ‘The next thing I knew I was out of my body, very peaceful, looking down from the corner of the room.
I could see myself lying there with a naked backside, two syringes in my buttocks, this guy on the phone screaming for an ambulance.’
It sounds like a movie, but she’s serious. ‘I looked up and saw this white light, which seemed very followable. But I went: “No! I want to get back in my body. I want to raise my kids. I’m not ready to go!”’
Jane found herself praying. ‘I have never been remotely religious but I said to whoever, wherever: “If I can go back I will never waste my life.’” She did recover, obviously. ‘There was a big change in my life after that. I realised that when you die, you take with you the love you’ve shared in your life and the difference you’ve made – and that’s it. Nothing else. I’m so grateful for every single day. I know it can be over just like that.’ Does she find the experience reassuring, in terms of what might come next? ‘Yes. I believe when the body switches off all the pain and the panic stops – you go into a state close to bliss.’
Jane married David Flynn in 1981 and they had two children together, Katherine and Sean, but the couple divorced a decade later when he lost all her money on bad investments. Broke, she told her agent to accept any work going – and that led to a pilot for a modest Western the US TV channel CBS did not really think would work. Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman ran for six seasons and two movies, brought worldwide fame and restored her wealth. Jane felt her late father the doctor had somehow been responsible for this revival in fortunes from beyond the grave and would say each day as she went on set: ‘Thanks, Dad!’
Dr Quinn was just about to launch when she married the actor James Keach in 1992, a partnership that produced their twins Johnny and Kris and lasted more than 20 years.
Her popularity soared again in 2005 thanks to Wedding Crashers, a huge hit of a comedy in which she played Kitty Cat, the politician’s wife who attempted to seduce Owen Wilson by taking her top off and making him hold her breasts. ‘I would be on aeroplanes when it came out and people would be watching it on the screen and do a double take, looking over at me. Hilarious.’
American men in their 30s and 40s still get very excited at meeting her to this day, but they’re often misguided. ‘People are convinced they’ve seen my boobs in Wedding Crashers but they haven’t. That was all about Owen Wilson’s brilliant acting and his crazy hands. I was never actually naked, because it was never necessary. I haven’t actually ever shown anything other than the back side of my body. The front has been kept very private.’
That was even true when she posed for Playboy for a third time, at the age of 67. ‘I had the opportunity to be shot by one of the best photographers around. I thought maybe I could empower other women to feel that just because you’ve turned 40, it doesn’t mean you don’t exist any more. And since I didn’t even need to take my clothes off, I just thought: “Why not?”’ She was shot in a silk camisole and a wrap. ‘I’m the only woman I know who has been in Playboy three times and never been naked. They were absolutely beautiful shots. I was incredibly proud of them.’
There’s no doubt Jane looks years younger than 70, so how does she manage that? ‘By not having a facelift. That’s it. I don’t do Restylane [fillers]. I’ve tried the Botox thing.’ It doesn’t work for her because an actor’s face needs to be expressive, apparently. ‘I don’t want to do anything permanent. I’m a sculptor, so I know that once you change one thing you want to change another and then you’re chasing some kind of Barbie-doll illusion. And anyway, everything about my face is crooked.’
Dress, Alaïa. Necklace and bracelet, Bulgari.
Pardon? ‘I have two completely different coloured eyes, crooked smile, crooked whatever.’ If she’s all crooked, what hope for the rest of us? ‘I still look like me. Everything is still in proportion. So, it’s a little bit hangy here, and I’ve got some wrinkles. I can play angry and mad and sad.’
Her long, chestnut hair continues to fascinate many people. ‘What do I do? I wash my hair and condition it every day. It needs colouring. I’m going tomorrow. I do have some grey there, but I’m not fully grey. So I’ve kept my own hair.’
There’s a bit more to it than that. ‘I get my hair coloured every three to four weeks with Goldwell products by my hairdresser Marie Ferro. She uses a natural weave of three different colours. I try to stay away from heated styling tools as much as I can.’
For those who want to know, she uses Phyto shampoo and volumizer, a daily hair mask and a leave-in conditioner from Ouai, then always the same kind of Mason Pearson nylon and bristle hairbrush. ‘I cannot live without it.’ Jane also always wears a hat in the Californian sun to protect her hair and skin.
‘I personally feel that beauty is the essence of your authentic self,’ she says, which makes me wonder if that’s easier to say when you’re as beautiful as she is. But for all the honours and acclaim, she remains surprisingly unsure of herself. ‘Every single role I do, I literally feel like I have to push myself into the first take. I’m terrified. Oh my god. But once they’ve got that, then I’m, “Hey, let’s have some fun.”’
As restrictions ease, she is heading to Dublin to film a murder mystery series for Acorn TV called Harry Wild, playing the title role of a recently retired English professor who can’t help getting involved in the cases her detective son investigates. There will also be a comedy to shoot in England and an episode of Channel 4’s Grayson Perry’s Art Club. Will there be any sense of her coming home when she’s back on this side of the Atlantic? ‘Malibu is home,’ she says quickly. ‘I don’t have anywhere else.’
She did used to own the Grade I-listed St Catherine’s Court in Bath but rented it out while in America, which brings us unexpectedly to Robbie Williams. A year ago he suddenly announced on a radio station that he was sorry to Jane for pretending her manor house was his while filming MTV Cribs when he was 23. She didn’t respond at the time, but now says there was much more to it than that.
‘When people were staying there I would always put my personal jewellery and some of my clothes in one room and lock it up. Of course, the girl who looked after the house let MTV come in and they wore all my clothes and my jewellery and had a big old party.’
The first Jane was aware that this had happened was when MTV put out previews of the episode featuring Robbie. ‘He was claiming this was his house, which was wrong. But what was even more wrong was that next to my bed – where he was clearly sleeping, or whatever he was doing – were my personal photographs of my children in the gardens with bare butts, seen from behind. Inappropriate. Right? So I had to stop it. I said: “You’ve got to cut out anything visual that’s to do with my family or me.” I think they at least cut some stuff.’
Jane sold the house in 2007, but Robbie and Ayda Williams now have an Italian-style villa near her in Malibu, which must be a bit awkward. ‘I’ve seen Robbie since. And his wife. Apparently, he quite famously also stole a hat from me. His wife keeps telling me that he’s very, very sorry and he’s going to find some way to repay me and give me back my hat.’ She still sounds very cross. ‘No, we’re all right. We’re buddies. We’re friendly.’
I’m not sure I believe her, but the scowl is quickly gone. She’s an actor, after all. A great one, with an Emmy and two Golden Globes as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And perhaps it’s the sun or the late re-flowering of her career – or maybe the dolphins just spouting to say hello – but, like her parents before her, Jane Seymour seems pretty thrilled to be alive.