Bond actress Madeline Smith gets upfront about the past

In advance of her visit to Co Cork, former Hammer and Bond actress Madeline Smith tells John Daly about a very different era of film-making.

Bond actress Madeline Smith gets upfront about the past

In advance of her visit to Co Cork, former Hammer and Bond actress Madeline Smith tells John Daly about a very different era of film-making.

When Madeline Smith, former Bond girl and Hammer Horror legend, arrives in Clonakilty for the Spook Screen film festival next week, she’ll be adding a personal quest to her Irish shopping list.

“I have long been in search of my Irish family roots, but without any real success, and hope there might be someone who can help me to discover more,” she says.

Her great great grandfather, Robert Dewar, a career army man, married one Mary Sweeney at St Michan’s Church in Dublin sometime around 1854.

“He went off to fight in the Crimea, and I guess she went as well. And sadly, that’s where the trail ends.”

But whatever clues may yet emerge about her ancestors, the crowds clogging Clonakilty to partake of this first ever festival devoted to horror films will get a chance to hear Madeline talk about her long career, as well as viewing a screening of her more famous roles in Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.

“It is certainly the Hammer film I’m more proud of, and was a challenging early role for me playing a deaf mute.”

Her first horror film was Taste The Blood Of Dracula with Christopher Lee, followed by The Vampire Lovers where she shared the screen with another master of the macabre, Peter Cushing.

“I did learn so much working with icons like Chris and Peter, and while horror was clearly good for my career, I actually preferred comedy.

"Horror movie sets are, by their nature, very serious, rather grim places, not a lot of fun going on behind the scenes,” she says with a laugh.

“I had much more joy in things like Up Pompeii, Carry On Matron or The Two Ronnies.”

She still rates her episodes on the Doctor At Large comedy series with Arthur Lowe as an early highpoint: “I just adored the man. He was so kind and smart, and taught me so much about acting.”

While Madeline still attends Hammer gatherings around the world, her other famous role as a Bond girl continues to define her.

Playing Miss Caruso in 1973’s Live and Let Die, she shared screen time with the longest-serving 007, Roger Moore.

“Again, it was down to timing. I’d had a role in early ’70s television series The Persuaders with Roger and Tony Curtis, and he actually suggested me for the part of Miss Caruso in his first movie as James Bond. And clearly Roger’s recommendation carried weight.

“I didn’t even have to do an audition,” she recalls.

Roger was an absolutely delightful gentleman — there was no ego at play there, he was always interested in every aspect of a film set, always talking to the lighting guys, the sound technicians. But, in fact, he was actually shy and quite insecure about his acting.

Madeline especially remembers the iconic scene where Bond slowly unzips her dress using his magnetic wristwatch.

“That was the first scene that was shot in the film, and how could I forget that blue dress,” she smiles.

“Of course, what nobody saw was the special effects man lying underneath between my legs, and pulling on a thread attached to the zip.

"We spent three days filming that scene, and after the twentieth take I can assure you it wasn’t that romantic. It didn’t help that I hated the dress,” she laughs.

Madeline grew up near Kew Gardens in south-west London, with an art restorer father who also wrote children’s books, and a Swiss-born mother who worked as a translator.

Finishing convent school in 1967, just as the flower power ‘summer of love’ was in full flight, she got a job at Biba, the legendary fashion shop in Kensington.

“At 18 you think you own the world, so I then knocked on the door of the Lucie Clayton Modelling Agency and they took me on for 18 months.

"I had also answered an advert in The Stage newspaper and auditioned for a small film part — and got it.

"I was off and running, got an acting agent and kept the two careers running parallel until I decided to pursue acting full-time.”

Throughout her acting career, Madeline was known for her figure, and particularly her memorable décolletage.

But it wasn’t always that way, she confides.

“As a teenager I was actually anorexic and frequently on various medications — which was one of the reasons why I never did drugs during that era when everybody was at it.”

When she got the part in 1970s The Vampire Lovers, she remembers a producer telling her that her lack of bosom was a concern.

“He said, ‘We like you a lot, but we don’t think you’re voluptuous enough.’ I reassured him that this was not a problem, and immediately ran to our local Hornby & Clarke dairy shop round the corner and bought every yoghurt I could find.

"I stuffed myself for an entire weekend just like you might fatten cattle, and it actually worked.”

Does she look back from the vantage of maturity today with any embarrassment and regret at being put in such a position?

“Not a bit of it, I was a very willing exploitee and didn’t mind at all.

"In all my films — comedy, horror and Bond — I was able to use those bosoms and I have absolutely no regret about being ‘sexploited’ or whatever they’re calling it these days.”

Still working at 68, Madeline Smith has no regrets about a career built on good fortune and her natural assets.

“I’m so blessed to have appeared in films like Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, the fact that they are now seen as classics is tremendously satisfying.”

Clonakilty ready to get spooky

Taking place at the town’s Park Cinema and Quality Hotel from September 6-9, Spook Screen will be of interest for horror aficionados and film fans, with screenings, workshops, discussions and the inaugural Spook Screen awards.

The festival will showcase Q&A sessions from horror luminaries like Meg Foster, following the

screening of her starring role in They Live, and Nicholas Vince from 1990s seminal Nightbreed.


“We just felt there was room in the Irish calendar for a horrorthemed festival and the beautiful

environs of Clonakilty seemed a perfect choice for our inaugural year,’ said festival director Emmet O’Brien.

The festival will also have an exhibition by Melissa Trotter, a specialist in ’horror photography’ whose blood dress with model Anja Love been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

There will also be a ‘prosthetics & blood’ workshop with special effects artist Ali Gordon, as well as the launch of horror comic Monochrome Menace Issue 2, timed to tie-in with Spook Screen.

“The festival is a way for us to showcase some of the best independent horror films from around

the world at home in Cork,’ said festival co-director Steve Broekhuizen.

The trio are particularly pleased that the opening film for Spook Screen will be the fully restored 4k version of the 1977 Dario Argento classic, Suspiria.

“This will be a fantastic opportunity to see this film fully restored and on the big screen.”

More in this section

ieParenting Logo
Writers ieParenting

Our team of experts are on hand to offer advice and answer your questions here

Your digital cookbook

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd