Diane Cilento

Diane Cilento
Diane Cilento, 1954.jpg
Cilento in 1954
Born(1932-04-02)2 April 1932[1][2]
Died6 October 2011(2011-10-06) (aged 79)
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
  • Actress
  • author
Years active1950–2011
Andrea Volpe
(m. 1956; div. 1962)

(m. 1962; div. 1973)

(m. 1985; died 2001)
Children2; including Jason Connery
Parent(s)Raphael Cilento
Phyllis Cilento
RelativesMargaret Cilento (sister)

Diane Cilento (2 April 1932 – 6 October 2011) was an Australian actress and author.[3] She is best known for her film roles in Tom Jones (1963), which earned her an Academy Award nomination, Hombre (1967) and The Wicker Man (1973). She also received a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Helen of Troy in the play Tiger at the Gates.

Early life

Cilento was born in Mooloolaba, Queensland, the daughter of Phyllis (née McGlew) and Raphael Cilento, both distinguished medical practitioners in Queensland.[3][4][5] She was the fifth of six children; four of her siblings became medical practitioners, while her sister Margaret was an artist.[6][7] Cilento's paternal great-grandfather was Italian. Her maternal grandfather was merchant and exporter Charles Thomas McGlew.

At an early age she decided to follow a career as an actress and, after being expelled from school in Australia, was schooled in New York while living with her father. She later won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and moved to Britain in the early 1950s.[6]


Cilento with Peter Finch in Passage Home (1955)

After graduation, Cilento found work on stage almost immediately and was signed to a five-year contract by Sir Alexander Korda. Her first leading role in a film was in the British film Passage Home (1955), opposite fellow Australian Peter Finch.[8]

She soon secured roles in British films and worked steadily until the end of the decade. In 1956, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) for Helen of Troy in Jean Giraudoux's Tiger at the Gates. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Tom Jones in 1963[9] and appeared in The Third Secret the following year.

She starred with Charlton Heston in the 1965 film The Agony and the Ecstasy, and with Paul Newman in the 1967 western film Hombre, and The Wicker Man (1973).

Cilento continued working as an actress, in films and television. In the 1980s, she settled in Mossman, north of Cairns, where she built her own outdoor theatre, named "Karnak", in the tropical rainforest. The venture allowed her to participate in experimental drama.[10]

In 2001, she was awarded the Centenary Medal for "distinguished service to the arts, especially theatre".[11]

Personal life

In 1956, Cilento married Andrea Volpe, an Italian aristocrat. She gave birth to their daughter Giovanna in 1957. Cilento and Volpe divorced in 1962.[12][13]

In 1962, Cilento married actor Sean Connery. They had a son, Jason (born 1963), before divorcing in 1973.[13][14][15] In her autobiography My Nine Lives, Cilento alleged that Connery was emotionally and physically abusive during their marriage.[16][17][18]

In 1985, Cilento married playwright Anthony Shaffer, whom she met in 1972, while working on the film The Wicker Man. They remained together until his death in 2001.[19][20]


Cilento died of cancer at Cairns Base Hospital on 6 October 2011.[21][22][13] A collection of items from her estate was donated to the Queensland University of Technology and is housed in the library.[23]



Year Title Role Notes
1951 Captain Horatio Hornblower Maria Hornblower (voice) Uncredited
1952 Wings of Danger Jeannette
1952 Moulin Rouge Midinette Uncredited
1953 All Hallowe'en Harriet Short film
1953 Meet Mr. Lucifer Woman on the street Uncredited
1954 The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp The Angel
1954 The Passing Stranger Jill
1955 Passage Home Ruth Elton
1955 The Woman for Joe Mary
1957 The Admirable Crichton Tweeny
1957 The Truth About Women Ambrosine Viney
1959 Jet Storm Angelica Como
1960 The Full Treatment Denise Colby
1961 The Naked Edge Mrs. Heath
1962 I Thank a Fool Liane Dane
1963 Tom Jones Molly Seagrim Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (4th place)
1964 The Third Secret Anne Tanner
1964 Rattle of a Simple Man Cyrenne
1965 Once Upon a Tractor Geraldine Short film
1965 The Agony and the Ecstasy Contessina de'Medici
1967 Hombre Jessie
1968 Negatives Reingard
1972 Z.P.G. Edna
1973 Hitler: The Last Ten Days Hanna Reitsch
1973 The Wicker Man Miss Rose
1975 The Tiger Lily Charlotte Brain
1982 Duet for Four Margot Mason
1985 The Boy Who Had Everything Mother


Year Title Role Notes
1951 A Tomb with a View Amy Heron Television film
1955 The Alcoa Hour Small Servant Episode: "The Small Servant"
1956 The Taming of the Shrew Bianca Television film
1957–1961 ITV Television Playhouse Various roles 2 episodes
1958 Television World Theatre Nina Leeds Evans Episodes: "Strange Interlude: Part 1 & 2"
1959–1964 ITV Play of the Week Various roles 2 episodes
1959 Sunday Night Theatre Anne Episode: "The Concert"
1960 Armchair Theatre Sadie Thompson Episode: "Rain"
1961 Vanity Fair Becky Sharp Episode: "Part 1"
1963 Espionage Lina Episode: "Festival of Pawns"
1964 Festival Lysistrata Episode: "Lysistrata"
1965 Blackmail Euphrasia Jones Episode: "Cut Yourself a Slice of Throat"
1966 Court Martial Episode: "La Belle France"
1967 Thirty-Minute Theatre Penelope Episode: "Another Moon Called Earth"
1967 Dial M for Murder Margo Wendice Television film
1968 Late Night Horror Lady Sannox Episode: "The Kiss of Blood"
1969 ITV Sunday Night Theatre: Rogues' Gallery Lady Sarah Bellasize Regular role, 6 episodes
1972 The Persuaders! Kate Sinclair Episode: "The Kiss of Blood"
1973 Thriller Clara Episode: "Spell of Evil"
1975 Affairs of the Heart Elizabeth Damerel Episode: "Elizabeth"
1978 Tycoon Diana Clark Regular role, 13 episodes
1980 Big Toys Mag Television film
1983 For the Term of His Natural Life Lady Elinor Devine Recurring role, 2 episodes
1993–1994 Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left Authoritax / Principa Recurring role, 6 episodes


Year Title Role Location Notes
1955 Tiger at the Gates Helen Helen Hayes Theatre Theatre World Award
Nominated — Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
1959 Heartbreak House Ellie Dunn Billy Rose Theatre
1960 The Good Soup Marie-Paule II Plymouth Theatre


  • 1968: Manipulator. Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • 1972: Hybrid. Dell Publishing.
  • 2007: My Nine Lives. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780143006077


  1. ^ Kanopy (Firm) (2015), Australian Biography Series 8: Diane Cilento, Kanopy Streaming, retrieved 15 June 2020
  2. ^ Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Library. Diane Cilento Retrieved June 15, 2020
  3. ^ a b "Brief Biography: Diane Cilento". Australian Biography (SBS TV). 2000. Archived from the original on 3 October 2009.
  4. ^ Finnane, Mark (2007). "Cilento, Sir Raphael West (Ray) (1893–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. pp. 216–17. Archived from the original on 4 March 2011.
  5. ^ Mahoney, Mary D. (2007). "Cilento, Phyllis Dorothy (1894–1987)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. pp. 214–15. Archived from the original on 4 March 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Diane Cilento – Full tnterview transcript". Australian Biography (SBS TV). 2000. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Margaret Cilento". 19 January 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  8. ^ "MARIAN MARCH PAGE". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 23 November 1954. p. 16. Retrieved 11 February 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ The Official Academy Awards® Database, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1963
  10. ^ Vallance, Tom (24 October 2011). "Diane Cilento: Actress who won Oscar and Tony nominations and was married to Sean Connery and Anthony Shaffer". The Independent. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Cilento, Diane". It's An Honour – Australia Celebrating Australians. 1 January 2001. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  12. ^ "How they live: Comfort for the Cilentos". The Australian Women's Weekly. 2 July 1958. p. 21.
  13. ^ a b c Keepnews, Peter (8 October 2011). "Diane Cilento, Oscar-Nominated Actress, Dies at 78". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Surprise gift for Diane The Australian Women's Weekly 25 December 1968 p. 2 – Contains photo of Sean, Gigi, Jason and Diane
  15. ^ "Australian actress Diane Cilento dies aged 78". BBC News. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 2 November 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  16. ^ McFarlane, Brian (29 April 2006). "My Nine Lives". The Age. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Jealous Connery beat me, says ex-wife". The Scotsman. 26 September 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  18. ^ Neal, Aly (12 February 2012). "No more free passes to famous men who abuse women". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  19. ^ "Obituary: Anthony Shaffer". The Guardian. 8 November 2001. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Playwright's family fight off mistress's claim to share legacy". The Guardian. 10 February 2004. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Actress Diane Cilento dies". ABC News Australia. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011.
  22. ^ Bergan, Ronald (7 October 2011). "Diane Cilento obituary". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  23. ^ "The Collection". QUT – Library. Archived from the original on 12 March 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013.

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