Jane Seymour was 'penniless' before she landed one of her most iconic roles. 30 years later, she's busier than ever.

Jane Seymour was 'penniless' before she landed one of her most iconic roles. 30 years later, she's busier than ever.

In the five decades since she was plucked from obscurity to be a Bond girl opposite Roger Moore in 1973's "Live and Let Die," Jane Seymour has lived dozens of lives.

From her breakout role in Bond as the psychic virgin Solitaire to playing one of the most iconic Western characters of all time to scandalizing audiences in "Wedding Crashers," Seymour is constantly reinventing herself.

Seymour's latest character is doing the same. On the Acorn TV series "Harry Wild," the 73-year-old plays the title character, a retired English professor who finds a second calling solving mysteries alongside the troubled teen who once mugged her in Dublin.

"I love it. I think it's a great role. And I'm so grateful," she says of the show, which recently premiered its third season. "I mean, who gets their own series in their 70s? No one."

While many older female stars have said it's tricky to find meaningful work as they age, Seymour tells Business Insider she's actually had no problem finding parts she loves. The key? She's not afraid to do small roles, like one in the Netflix romcom "Irish Wish."

"That thing took off like crazy," she recalls. "I only worked on it two days! I did it as a favor. Like, 'Oh, I'll play Lindsay Lohan's mom.'"

A lack of pretentiousness about the jobs she takes and a vibrant personal life keep Seymour's cup full. In addition to her acting career, she also writes books, paints, sculpts — she's got a sculpture about to go up in Calgary, in fact — and runs the Open Hearts Foundation, a nonprofit supporting charity work whose mission was inspired by her mother's experience as a survivor of a Japanese internment camp during World War II.

"I think if I have a trick, it's that I am excited about being creative and excited about loving and being loved," she says. "I just feel blessed every day."

For the latest interview in BI's Role Play series, Seymour talks about her breakthrough role as a Bond girl, falling in love with Christopher Reeve, and pivoting from the wholesome Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman to "the tit lady" in "Wedding Crashers."

On her Bond girl days

Roger Moore and Jane Seymour as superspy James Bond and tarot reader Solitaire in the Bond film 'Live And Let Die'
Roger Moore and Jane Seymour in "Live And Let Die."Milne/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Your breakout role was Solitaire in "Live and Let Die." In retrospect, how do you feel about Solitaire's storyline, and being a Bond girl in general?

You have to understand, when you think "Bond girl," you assume huge sexuality. Well, I was playing a virgin. I was hired for my lack of knowledge of sexuality!

I had to look and play a virgin — which I managed to do quite convincingly into my 40s on "Dr. Quinn," by the way. It was something I seemed to know how to play.

Anyway, it was fantastic at the time. I was 20. It was a very heady experience. But then after, I realized that for the kind of roles I wanted to play, and the kind of Shakespearean training I'd had in classical theater, I had to go back into the theater to prove to people that I could do something other than look pretty running three paces behind a man with a gun.

I am very happy about Bond. It's an extraordinary thing to be a Bond girl. But I'm really glad I got to be 10,000 other people in between. Of course, there are people who believe that's the only thing I've ever done!

Do you ever feel a little resentful of the fact that some people recognize you primarily for that, after all this time?

Well, everybody has a thing. There are some who know me for "War and Remembrance." For some it's "East of Eden." But I've only ever done two TV series, so now it's "Dr. Quinn" or "Harry Wild."

I was told a long time ago that I was a character actress in spite of myself. And I said, "What does that mean?" They said, "Well, you look like a leading lady, but you can morph into different characters."

Did you ever find it challenging to act against your leading lady looks or to get roles that didn't rely on them?

I've always found that the person hiring you is usually blind. As in, they can only see you as what they see right then in front of them. So, I have a basket full of wigs, I put makeup on, I get the right clothes on, I show up American or whatever it is. And then I literally bring the character to the meeting. And then they go, "Oh."

I have this wonderful gray wig that I've worn on at least three different shows now — "The Kominsky Method," "Ruby's Choice," "And You Are?." Whenever I want to be in my 80s and looking old and wrinkly, it works perfect. It's amazing.

So no, I create the character and show it to them. That's what I love to do, and I've been given that opportunity.

On falling in love with Christopher Reeve

Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve take a break during filming of 'Somewhere in Time' on the veranda of the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan in May, 1979
Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve while filming "Somewhere in Time" in May 1979.Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

"Somewhere in Time" is another of your best-known early roles. A few years ago, you revealed that you and your costar Christopher Reeve actually fell in love while filming.

I did not want to get involved with him. I mean, it's always such a cliché, but Christopher Reeve was the most amazing man, and there was a connection there between us that I will cherish till the day I die. And we remained really close friends until he died, and I was close with Dana [Reeve], too.

He was a very, very special man, and that was a very special movie. And our true love story, between Chris and I, I only spoke about recently because before he passed, he talked to his kids about it and everyone knew. Then I was allowed to tell it to some degree.

It was incredibly sad because we could have had a life together maybe, but I don't think we were meant to. He was meant to have the children he had, and he was meant to find Dana. And Dana was a remarkable woman, and what happened is what was meant to be.

"Somewhere in Time" has had a renewed appreciation — there's a whole fan base around it now. But at the time it was released, it got not-so-great reviews, right?


Right. What was it like dealing with this personal heartbreak while also having this career setback?

It was really particularly upsetting for Chris because Chris had just come off "Superman." And he chose to do this little movie, and he really believed in it, as I did. And when they got those reviews, he used to say to me, "Star for a day, star for a day." He thought his life, his career was over. But we both loved the movie.

And then, all of a sudden the movie took off. I mean, everybody found it. The critics didn't understand it, but the people loved it. And they didn't love it once — they watched it 10, 20, 30 times. I was taken out to Hong Kong at one point by Sir Run Run Shaw, who owned all the theaters there. He said, "For a year, I cannot take this movie off because people protest. They want to watch it over and over again."

I met General Colin Powell in New York at a wedding one time, and he went, "Oh my God, 'Somewhere in Time,' my favorite movie." OK. He's a four-star general! He likes this movie. This is amazing.

And by the way, I got the worst reviews ever on "Dr. Quinn" as well. I consider the worse the reviews are, the more likely the show I'm doing will succeed.

On being 'penniless' when she landed 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman'

Jane Seymour in the television series Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Jane Seymour starred as Doctor Quinn.Studio Seven Productions/NM/Sygma via Getty Images

I was going to bring up "Dr. Quinn" next — did you expect it to turn into such a beloved show when you initially signed on? There's a huge international fan base for that show, even today.

No. In fact, I was literally penniless, homeless, owing more money than you can imagine without knowing it to two banks and the FDIC. I had called my agent the day before the shoot of this thing and said, "Please, I will do anything. I need to put food on the table if I can find one job, for my children." It's that bad.

And he called all the networks and said, "Jane said she'll do anything." And CBS said, "Well, we've got this movie of the week. If she says yes by 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, then she can do it. But she has to sign for five years and start work two hours later." And they said, "But don't worry, it's a woman in the lead. That won't work. It's family values. It's a Western, it's a medical show and it's historical. Don't worry, it will never be a series." I went, "Yes, sure, fine."

And there I was at noon. I put the costume on. And by 6 a.m. the following morning, I was "Dr. Quinn." It happened that fast.


It was amazing because they tried to bury it. They put it on opposite the Orange Bowl, but apparently the score was such that people actually switched over channels and checked out "Dr. Quinn" instead. And then the following day, they put it on what was called the death slot, which was Saturday night at 8 p.m., and it won, it came in like the top 10 in the first week. They couldn't get rid of it.

People are still watching it everywhere. In fact, I'm now starting to watch it because I was too busy making it to watch it then. And when I watch it, I go, wow, this thing is so current. The themes are literally what's on the news.

On becoming known as 'the tit lady' thanks to 'Wedding Crashers'

Jane Seymour and Owen Wilson in "Wedding Crashers"
Jane Seymour and Owen Wilson in "Wedding Crashers."New Line Cinema

"Wedding Crashers" was your next big role after "Dr. Quinn." You've said before that you never really had to audition for roles too much at that point, but that was one of the few you did have to audition for. What was that experience like?

Well, it was terrifying because I was never trained to do auditions. And back in the day, you wouldn't have a little camera on you. You'd do a proper screen test with cameras so you are actually playing the role. And these auditions now, people do them as selfies on their phone. But back then, it'd be a middle-aged woman with a little teeny camera.

And I would have to play this sexy scene where I'm supposed to be opposite Owen Wilson with a woman who is almost my age, with a little teeny camera. Like, okay, well, I'll try that. And I did. And then they called and they said, "Could she come back tomorrow and amp up the sexuality?" I said, "Yes. If I'm not looking at another woman my age."

Not that I can't imagine that would be a wonderful thing, but I'm playing this opposite a hot younger man. And so they brought in a hot younger man, and then I went, "Oh, this has got to be illegal."

Just some random guy or an extra?

No, it was an actual actor. I should remember his name, he ended up playing the bridegroom right at the beginning. And he's gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, and lovely and really smart. And we rehearsed it a couple of times, went in and did it. And they literally pretty much hired me on the spot.

The funniest part was that they had never seen my work other than "Live and Let Die." They thought that I had done nothing in my life for 40 years — nothing. Like, unemployed. They had just discovered me. I was a discovery. "Yes, you did the Bond film!" I was 20, guys. I'm like, mid-60s now.

The other crazy part is that Owen, of course, was fantastic to work with. But there was the embarrassment factor of me pretending to be a lot nuder than I would like, but not completely nude.

That whole scene was hilarious. And every time I see him, I taunt him with, "Look what you've done to my career. I'm Kitty Cat, motorboat, all that stuff."

Even now, even recently?

Oh, yes. I mean, some people refer to me, "Oh, yes, the tit lady."

"The tit lady." Oh, man.

People love it. And 40-year-old guys would be hitting on me. Like, excuse me, I could be your mother, so please go back to your watering hole and find someone a bit younger!

On debunking fake 'factoids' about her career

Jane Seymour as Harry Wild and Rohan Nedd as Fergus in "Harry Wild"
Jane Seymour leads "Harry Wild" as the title character.Steffan Hill/AcornTV

Pivoting from your actual career to what might have been, I read that you auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in "Star Wars." Is that true?

No, actually, it was "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for Spielberg.

Ah, interesting — that Star Wars thing is all over the place!

I call them "factoids." In other words, they're not true at all. But because it's been printed somewhere, some assume it's a fact.

There's another factoid that when I did "Dr. Quinn," I only washed my hair in English rainwater that was flown in on a 747 every week. What? They actually believe it. They discussed it on national television, radio, that this was a fact.

Oh my god.

I was actually offered the lead in "Dune." I didn't do that. That was a million years ago, and that's because I'd just had a baby, and I would shoot in Mexico, and I was worried about my baby's health.

And I was turned down by Richard Chamberlain for "The Thorn Birds" because I accidentally, in the screen test, lactated on his chest.

Oh no.

Yeah. That was truly embarrassing. I did not intend to do that, but it does make for a good story. And I have yet to see "The Thorn Birds." I've never seen it because for heaven's sake!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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