EXCLUSIVE: Valerie Leon has her mark as a Bond girl twice – and she’s now spilling secrets.
The 77-year-old is now reflecting on her lasting success as a star during the online event “Up Front with Valerie Leon” on Sunday, March 14. Leon will detail her life and what it was like appearing in several British cult classes. The Zoom webinar will also highlight a live Q&A for fans.
Leon spoke to Fox News about how she was discovered, what it was really like working with Moore and Connery, as well as how she feels about her sex symbol status.
Fox News: What can audiences expect from “Up Front with Valerie Leon” and why now?
Valerie Leon: I have done this event previously in small theaters, which are all shut down now due to the coronavirus. And I wanted to do something during the lockdown. It’s entertaining. It’s about my life and how I came to be in show business.
Fox News: You had your first break in “Funny Girl” with Barbra Streisand at London’s Prince of Wales Theater. What was that like?
Leon: It was fantastic. I remember when I first saw the advertisement. They were looking for showgirls. So I went along to the Prince of Wales Theater. I went through not one or two auditions, but six. And I was finally offered a small speaking role.
It was really incredible because this was 1966 and it was the hottest ticket in town. It was very successful, but it only lasted three months because Barbra became pregnant with her son. But because of that show, I was able to get an agent who got me into television.
Fox News: What was Barbra Streisand like?
Leon: She really was extraordinary. I remember for a party celebrating our first night of the show, she had hamburgers flown in from America because she didn’t like British hamburgers. She was a superstar even back then. But she was very lovely. My God, I remember the fans she used to have. She would have to creep out in the back of the theater *laughs*. But it truly was a wonderful experience for me.
Fox News: How did you get discovered as a Bond girl?
Leon: In Britain, I did a series of commercials for Hai Karate, which was a man’s aftershave. It involved this really tall, buxom woman chasing a small man and smelling his aftershave. We got into all sorts of situations, which were very amusing. I think that opened a lot of doors for me.
My first Bond movie was “The Spy Who Loved Me.” All I asked was not to get killed off. It was a small role, but you know, it doesn’t matter if you have a small role or that of the leading lady. When you’re a Bond girl, you’re a Bond girl for life. And that in itself opened so many doors for me. It’s become bigger than life for me. Bond has become a magic word in my lifetime.
Fox News: What was your initial impression of Roger Moore?
Leon: I first worked with him on “The Persuaders!” in 1971. He gave me a completely unscripted kiss, which I’ve never forgotten *laughs*. But Roger was a lot of fun to work with. He was a really, really lovely man. He’s greatly missed. He was such a nice man. I can’t stress that enough.
Fox News: You worked with Roger Moore several other times after that Bond film. How did your relationship with him change over the years?
Leon: I don’t think it changed that much. I will tell you something that I’ve regret so much. I was incredibly shy when I came into show business. People used to think that I was perhaps standoffish. I wasn’t really good at relating to people then. It’s an awful thing to say because when I look back on my life, I do have a lot of regrets in that direction, which is quite sad actually.
But you know, Roger always welcomed me. He was always loving. For instance, we had this long gap of not seeing each other. We then reunited at a book launch. I took a lot of pictures of the two of us together. It had been years since we last saw each other. So I said, “Oh Roger, would you mind signing this for me?” He said, “Oh, don’t be silly.” And he wrote, “Dear Valerie, How slim I was then and you still are. Love, Roger.” I’ve got that on my wall.
Fox News: You also worked with Sean Connery in “Never Say Never Again.” How nervous were you to work with him?
Leon: “Never Say Never Again” was quite a difficult film. Sean hadn’t played the role of Bond in quite some time when he took on this film. So I think there were a lot of expectations. I guess I was nervous, but I remember we had some fun. I remember we were in the Bahamas and we were on a boat. There’s a picture of us just messing around together.
But it was a difficult film. Sean is much more of a perfectionist. Roger is more of a jokester who likes to have fun on set. I think there were certain aspects of the production he wasn’t happy with. Thankfully, it had nothing to do with me. I just thought it was brilliant that I had an opportunity to work on not one, but two Bond films.
Fox News: You and Sean shared a romantic bed scene. How did he put you at ease?
Leon: We had a drink beforehand and it was good *laughs*. But I remember how quickly he got out of the bed when his wife [Micheline] showed up on set. I remember we would have a lovely morning in bed filming. But then in the afternoon when his wife came, he couldn’t get out of there quickly enough *laughs*. But we had fun.
Fox News: Bond girl Barbara Carrera described having a similar experience.
Leon: That’s right, we actually worked on the same film together. You know, everyone thinks filming a Bond movie is glamorous, and it can be. But I do remember one day, I was at this beautiful hotel in the Bahamas, but there was no social aspect. I was wandering around the grounds. There was no one for me to have dinner with. But I bumped into Barbara and we ended up having dinner together. It was so wonderful because it can be quite lonely. She was very lovely, too.
Fox News: Why do you believe Bond films continue to have such a lasting impact in Hollywood?
Leon: I think it’s something in the psyche. Bond is possibly what every woman wants and what every man wishes to be. It’s this whole idea that one guy can save the world.
Fox News: Would you be open to a female Bond?
Leon: Ian Fleming created Bond as a man so I don’t think we should change something that’s been successful for years. That’s how he perceived the character to be. It doesn’t matter if the person is Black, White, whatever – but it should be a man. In my opinion, it should definitely be a man.
Fox News: As a Bond girl, how did you feel about being a sex symbol?
Leon: I supposed that over the years, I have been a sex symbol. I’ve never particularly felt like a sex symbol. But I sold it as a Bond girl. And how does one feel about it? Well, to be honest, I feel very lucky. Because somewhere along the line, I must have made an impact. Let’s face it, I’m still making a future about my past. It has kept me in the public eye and fans still reach out to me. I’m just grateful, really.
Fox News: You’ve worked with many other leading men in addition to Roger Moore and Sean Connery. Who was your favorite and why?
Leon: I don’t know whether he was my favorite, but Peter Sellers was the most extraordinary actor. We worked on 1978’s “Revenge of the Pink Panther.” It was sadly the last “Panther” film he made. And he wasn’t even well on that one. He passed away in 1989. But still, he brought this special quality on set that I never forgot. I felt very blessed that I had the honor to work with Peter Sellers.
Another person that comes to mind is Michael Caine. We worked together on 1969’s “The Italian Job.” Another wonderful talent. I’m very blessed that I’ve worked with such wonderful actors because I’ve never had any formal training.
Fox News: Dare we ask which was your favorite Bond to work with?
Leon: Roger was my favorite. Absolutely, without question. But we also had more history together.
Fox News: What’s your favorite memory of Roger Moore?
Leon: It has to be that unscripted kiss from “The Persuaders!” that I told you about. I remember I wrote to him [before he died] asking if I was able to discuss that memory. And he said, “I only ask you in return that you credit me with being a good screen kisser as that would undoubtedly do my street cred a lot of good.” I still have the letter! Oh, he’s so greatly missed.
Fox News: You’ve stayed busy over the years. What has kept you going?
Leon: I’m a certain age now and I think it’s really, really important to keep doing something positive. Life doesn’t end once you get older. I think it’s really important to try and do new things. I can’t just sit back quietly with a book *laughs*.