Tuesday, 4 November 2008
The iconic James Bond girl speaks to 50connect about getting older and her new role as abassador in the prevention of osteoporosis.
In 1962 she was one of the most photographed women in the world, riding on the success of her role as Honey Ryder in the James Bond film Dr No.
Her opening scene, where she wades out of the Caribbean Sea in a bikini, carrying a shell and singing a calypso, has become iconic, and has been polled as one of the top two 'sexiest movie moments' in both the UK and Australia.
Today, at seventy-two years of age she hasn’t lost any of that film-star aura or her signature eye liner. And when we meet, looks stylish and slightly risqué in a black trouser suit and white ruffled shirt, undone enough to reveal a black bustier.
As she looks at her photograph from Dr No, she laughs and says with her distinctive accent;
"Forty-five years ago looking like that was easy, now it is hard. These days I prefer a little more darkness, and to keep the old photos going.”
An avid collector of art, today she says she will only do a film if it is in the name of art, and has collaborated with contemporary American artist Matthew Barney, in his film series The Cremaster Cycle.
“It has to be art or else I am not interested. There is no shortage of good actors, there is a shortage of good films because they are very costly, but I did my work, and now I only do things for art."
Today Ursula divides her time between family in Switzerland and her properties in Rome and America.
“I am a gypsy,” she jokes. “I have always been a gypsy, dreaming about curiosity and dreaming about travelling."
“The world has become so small today. It is so sad that everything is becoming the same, and different traditions and cultures are all disappearing. I want to see different cultures, and different traditions, and my favourite places are villages which do not have high-rise houses or cement-block flats, but villages that are confined in a wall with their traditions intact."
“I did enjoy London in the 60s. Everything was fun, it was a happy town, an English town, but now there are no English there!”
Ten years ago Ursula was diagnosed with osteoporosis, and she has now become an ambassador for the prevention of the disease.
She says that when she was diagnosed, she, like many women, did not understand the severity of the implications.
“It wasn’t a shock when I found out because I didn’t know enough about osteoporosis. I was ignorant about the disease. I thought that with calcium tablets and exercise, the bones would get healthier by themselves.”
“I bought a suitcase full of calcium tablets back from America to my home in Rome, because they were cheaper there than in Europe. When my doctor saw them he said Ursula, this alone will not work, so they are now hidden in the cellar of the chateaux.”
Even though she knew she had low bone density in her hip, initially, she took her medication lightly.
“I am the worst pill taker in the world; days would go by without me taking the medicine. Now I have a yearly medication and that is much easier for me.”
The problem, she says, is that it is easy to carry on and feel healthy with osteoporosis.
“Women don’t take it seriously enough because life goes on with osteoporosis very well. There is no pain, you don’t feel like you have a disease or sickness, so you do everything – until something cracks.”
“I want to be healthy because I am very active; I would be miserable staying in bed. I would also be embarrassed and uneasy if someone else had to take care of me."
"If I cannot be active, I want to go.”
Ursula says that getting older is something nobody can prepare you for.
“Age brings you very strange surprises. You know, everybody tells you when you are pregnant, to expect this and to expect that, and it is such a surprise when you discover it for yourself because it is completely different."
“It is the same with getting older; aging is a very difficult problem. I have experience, I have knowledge, I have the past - but health can be so problematic."
Ursula had her only child, a son, at the age of forty-three.
"Now there are a lot of mothers who have children at this age, but then it was a scandal."
"It was a surprise when I found out I was pregnant because I never thought it was going to happen. But it did, I went with it, and now my son is twenty-eight-years-old; it goes so quickly.”
“The only thing that matters when you have children is that of your children’s future, but what kind of a world are we leaving the children?"
She says she is fearful of the future and the world we have created, and when asked if she had ever considered taking up journalism, she emphatically declines.
“No! The injustices of the world are too hard to take in."
"I am not very confident at all about the present and future. We have done so many harmful things to nature with pesticides, and 50% of bees have already disappeared."
When asked about her personal philosophy, she says; "Maybe you should talk to my son; he majored in philosophy and is a very deep thinker. But my philosophy is to be honest, happy and live life."
Rachael Hannan: Interview October 2008
Published on 50connect.co.uk