Jane Seymour spent most of her teens as a dancer in London, until a series of fortunate events led her to Bond, James Bond.
Seymour, who recently recounted her career highlights in a Role Call interview with EW, had come up as a ballerina before making her film debut as a "squeaky-voiced" chorus girl in director Richard Attenborough's 1969 film Oh! What a Lovely War, which led to roles on The Strauss Family and The Onedin Line.
"I was replacing another actress," Seymour says of playing Emma Callon, who inherited a coveted shipping business on Onedin. "I was given one shot at it, one episode. And halfway through the episode, the producer — who was also directing that episode — went to my agent and said, 'We want her for the full series.' That was the series that the James Bond producer saw me in. I never auditioned for James Bond, they just saw me in the first two episodes and called my agents and said, 'We want her to play the lead in Live and Let Die.'
"I was the only woman on the planet that was not trying to be a Bond girl, literally," she continues. "That was not the trajectory I was looking for. I was going to go and do Shakespeare and Ibsen and all the classics. They were looking for a virgin to play the High Priestess of Tarot, and I was playing a virgin on television [on Onedin], so I'm assuming they thought I had some memory of that experience. I just remember Roger Moore was lovely. He realized I was so green and didn't know what was going on. I took the whole thing terribly seriously, like it was a major acting role — and they were probably more concerned about how I looked and how my figure was."
Seymour says it was an "amazing experience" shooting in New Orleans and Jamaica. "I stayed in fancy hotels. I had the most amazing costumes," but she most enjoyed spending time with Geoffrey Holder, who starred in the film as the villainous Baron Samedi. "He was a choreographer, and he was rehearsing all the dances for the voodoo sequences," says Seymour. "So whenever I wasn't on one set, I ran over to the other [stage] and joined in the dance. I always felt much more comfortable dancing than I did acting, so it was a perfect combination for me. I'd sort of run off. They'd say, 'Where's Jane?' And someone would say, 'Oh, she's off rehearsing with the voodoo guys.'"
In fact, her downtime with Holder resulted in an iconic image associated with the film. "One day, we went down to the beach in our costumes and we did a sort of dance kind of improvisation on the beach. Someone took photographs of it, and that ended up on all the posters," she says (image below). "It had nothing to do with the movie at all. It was just Geoffrey and I dancing in our costumes."
While in Jamaica, Seymour — who'll be celebrating her 1980 film Somewhere in Time as part of the TCM Film Festival this weekend — says Holder also served as tour guide. "He took me to a real voodoo celebration in the middle of Jamaica where clearly no white person had ever been. I was looked at like, 'What has just been brought in here?'," she recalls. "It was absolutely mesmerizing. He wanted me to see what it was really like. He was from Haiti, and he wanted me to understand how important it was to do it all properly and to understand it, who [my character] was."
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