Harry Redknapp: “Sandra forgave me when I ran over her foot”
Jane Seymour is not the woman you think she is. At the age of 72, this demure English rose of an actor is breaking every rule in the book when it comes to getting older.
In the weeks before we meet, she’s zip-wired in Costa Rica with her grandchildren, boogied the nights away with her two sisters in Greece, and posed in an array of swimwear looking sensational (she appeared in Playboy aged 67). She does her own stunts and is currently starring in the lead role in Harry Wild Investigates, which is back for a second series.
In America, where she has lived for the past four decades, Jane has received two Golden Globes and an Emmy to mark her acting achievements. Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman, which ran for six seasons from 1993, remains one of the country’s most popular shows, with Jane as the gutsy Wild West doctor.
In Britain, she has received fewer plaudits. Unlike her friends, Helen Mirren and Joan Collins, she has never been made a dame, although she did receive an OBE in 2000.
“I’m under no illusions about how a lot of people think about me. Bond girl [aged 20, she was the virginal Solitaire in Live and Let Die]. Married four times. Lives in Los Angeles. Seventy-two years old. Must have had surgery… And that’s about it,” she smiles. “There is so much more to me than that. And at the age I am, I have never felt more sure of who I am, and more ready to absolutely make the most of the life I have.”
We are sitting in a modern townhouse in West London, a few miles from the home of her younger sister, Annie, 69, where she is currently staying (and just a short distance from her other sister Sally, 71). She is here to talk about the latest series of the compellingly wonderful “cosy crime” drama Harry Wild Investigates, screened here on Channel 5 and Acorn TV.
Harry Wild (Jane) is a retired English professor turned super-sleuth living in Dublin. Along with her intimate knowledge of classical literature (many of the criminals’ clues are surprisingly literary), Harry is a free spirit – a big drinker who is fond of casual flings and speaking in expletives – not in any way the character you would expect the fragrant Jane Seymour to play.
“Well,” she laughs. “I do drink. I do occasionally swear, but I don’t have flings. But I am, as I get older, very much a free spirit and I loved Harry as soon as I read the script. Before I took the part, I met the writer, David Logan. We drank a bottle of wine together and I asked him who he had in mind when he wrote it. He said, ‘You. Just you.’ For an actor of my age that felt very special. It’s pretty unheard of to star in your own series at 72.”
Not to be shallow, but it is pretty impossible to sit less than a couple of feet away from Jane and not comment on the way she looks. Dressed in white jeans, a red silk top and a multicoloured scarf (her own design), Jane exudes an absolute life force. She is stunning and, yes, up close she does look like a woman in her late forties.
There has to be some secret of eternal youth and beauty she has discovered.
“I clean my face religiously morning and night. I use baby shampoo. Any baby shampoo – it doesn’t have to be Johnson and Johnson. That’s about it in terms of the one thing I do religiously,” she says.
“I happen to like healthy, Mediterranean food. I don’t eat much meat. I exercise, but I don’t exercise every day. I have a Pilates reformer machine at my home in Malibu, but maybe twice a week if I’m there, I go to a lady across the road who has the same machine, as I’d never do it myself.
“I have never felt more sure of who I am, and more ready to absolutely make the most of the life I have”
“I grow my own vegetables. I like to do ballet exercises every now and again, like pliés and leg stretches, but nothing dramatic. I use Crepe Erase products [she is an ambassador] and retinol on my face. Every now and again, I fast because it resets the body.
“I dye my hair every three weeks and I have had Botox, but it doesn’t really work for me as an actor because it limits expression. And I had bags removed from my eyes 32 years ago. That’s it.” (She also admits to a boob job when she was 40.)
She pulls her hair from her face, turns to show me that the back of her ears are unscarred by surgery. “No facelift. This is just me.”
On the Dublin set of Harry Wild, Jane – or Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg, as she was born – has proved herself to be a trooper. In the second week of filming in Dublin, she smashed her knee to pieces after an action scene.
“As I ran on wet leaves, I just went splat on my face. My leg went completely. When I looked up, I saw this look on everyone’s faces. They were all thinking, ‘That’s the end! We’re done.’”
Knowing there was a whole crew reliant on four months’ work, Jane rallied. The rest of the day she was carried from scene to scene, and then went to hospital, where her leg was immobilised. “So, we shot everything from the waist up, and again I’d be propped into place so we could make it work.”
Off set, her little cottage on the beach in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, was known as “the Clubhouse”.
“Everyone would come on Saturdays for walks and talks,” she says. Her partner for the past nine years, David Green, 74, the director and founder of September Films, came out to visit her too. “He’s been out and spent a few days here and there,” she says. “He didn’t stay with me throughout filming, but I’ve had so many friends over.”
It is no coincidence that the creators of Harry Wild and Dr Quinn saw Jane as a strong woman who ultimately wants to make the lives of others around her better. This is not simply a trait of this actor – whose charity Open Hearts Foundation helps everyone from abused women and children to gang members – but a mission.
As a child growing up the eldest of three siblings, her outlook was formed by her mother, Dutch-born nurse Mieke, who lived for three and a half years as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp after moving to Indonesia at the age of 20.
“My mother was a complete inspiration,” she says. “She’d been through some horrendous times, but her philosophy was to never be bitter and always help others. To see life as a gift.”
As glossy as it may seem on the surface, Jane’s own life has not always been a gift. She has been married and divorced four times: to the director Michael Attenborough in 1971 (they split after two years); to writer Geoffrey Planer in 1977 (the marriage ended a year later); and most recently to the actor James Keach, who she divorced in 2015 after a 22-year marriage and two children, twins John and Kristopher, now 27. She has been cheated on multiple times.
Her third husband and father of her children Katherine, 41, and Sean, 38, was businessman David Flynn, who she married in 1981. He not only cheated on her but left her a decade later bankrupt and penniless.
“That was one of the most awful periods of my life,” she says. “But it was the very next day after I discovered I was pretty much homeless that I was offered the role in Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. So, when terrible things happen, good things can happen too. I chose not to dwell on the negative.”
She has no bitterness towards any of her exes. She regularly hooks up with Michael, Geoffrey and James, along with their partners and children, and has recently helped David Flynn through a period of illness. I tell her this is not how many ex-wives behave after a traumatic divorce.
“That is all in the past,” she says. “He and James are the fathers of my children. They are family. Family is family. You cannot let anything make you bitter because that will destroy you.”
We talk about her current partner, also David, and whether she would ever consider walking down the aisle one more time.
“I’m not going to get married again,” she says emphatically. “David is more of a great friend and companion; someone I love and respect hugely. But the older I’ve got, the more independent I’ve become. There will not be another marriage.”
Jane is tremendous company. There is little of the star about her.
“I’ve always been a people pleaser, wanting everyone to like me,” she says. Indeed, when our photographer suggests she has some fun by pairing her Marchesa dress with rubber gloves and oversized sunglasses she’s happy to oblige and loves the resulting photos.
Joan Collins, she tells me, has never quite recovered from working with her on Glow & Darkness, filmed three years ago in London, Morocco and Italy, but yet to air in the UK. Joan played Marie Adélaïde of Savoy and Jane was Eleanor of Aquitaine in the historical drama.
“I was put on a horse with my dress completely covering the back of it and told to canter over on extremely slippery ground and then take the horse up these big stairs,” she recalls. “Joan was at the top. She couldn’t believe I rode the horse up those stairs. I couldn’t either. It was so dangerous. We did the scene with me sitting on the horse and afterwards Joan said, ‘I don’t do horses.’ Every time I see her now, she says to me, ‘Jane – that horse!’ and we laugh.”
Jane seems to be speeding up rather than slowing down in her seventies. She is writing a memoir, has turned her art and sculpture skills into a small cottage industry, and is set to appear in a string of films, including the romcom Irish Wish, in which she plays Lindsay Lohan’s character’s mother.
She believes the positive attitude her mother instilled in her and her sisters has given all of them the ability – and energy – to cope with anything life throws at them. Her sister Sally has recovered from both a brain aneurysm and more recently cancer. “So, we are going through our bucket list of adventures together, from Greece to Iceland, where we witnessed a volcano erupting!
“Time is precious, life is precious, family is precious, people are precious,” says Jane. “The important thing is to look for the good in everything and everyone. Do what you can and never be scared to keep going – just make the most of every moment.”
Give this woman a damehood.
Harry Wild series 1 is streaming now on Acorn TV. Series 2 will premiere later this year.
Written by Louise Gannon