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
OccupationActress, author
Years active1950–2011
Andrea Volpe
(m. 1956; div. 1960)

(m. 1962; div. 1973)

(m. 1985; died 2001)
Children2, including Jason Connery
Parent(s)Sir Raphael Cilento
Phyllis, Lady Cilento

Diane Cilento (2 April 1932[1][2] – 6 October 2011)[3] was an Australian actress and author.[4] She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1963 film Tom Jones.


Early life and education

Cilento was born in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia. Her parents, Sir Raphael Cilento[5] and Phyllis Cilento (née Phyllis Dorothy McGlew),[6] were both distinguished medical practitioners in Queensland.[4] Her 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 (RADA) and moved to Britain in the early 1950s.[7]


Cilento with Peter Finch in Passage Home (1955)
With Laurence Harvey in the television play The Small Servant. Both made their US television debuts in this production for The Alcoa Hour (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. However, she allowed her film career to decline following her marriage to actor Sean Connery, the second of her three husbands and to whom she was married from 1962 to 1973. They had one son, the actor Jason Connery. She had previously had a daughter, Giovanna, with her first husband.

In Connery's James Bond film You Only Live Twice, she doubled for her husband's co-star Mie Hama in a diving scene because Hama was indisposed.[10]

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

In 1985, Cilento married playwright Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the script of The Wicker Man; she met him when she appeared in that film as Miss Rose in 1973, and he joined her when she returned to Queensland in 1975.

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.[11]

In 2001, she was awarded the Centenary Medal for "distinguished service to the arts, especially theatre".[12]

In 2006, Cilento released her autobiography, My Nine Lives.[13]

Personal life




Diane Cilento was the fifth of six children, four of whom became medical practitioners; the other, Margaret, was an artist.[7][14]

Husbands and children

Husband Children
1956–1960 Andrea Volpe Giovanna (Gigi) Volpe (1957–)[15]
1962–1973[16] Sir Sean Connery (1930–2020) Jason Connery (1963–)[17]
1985–2001 Anthony Shaffer
In 1975 Shaffer made his home in Queensland with Cilento. They married in 1985.
Cilento was Shaffer's third wife; he had two daughters from a previous marriage.[18][19]

In her 2005 autobiography My Nine Lives, Cilento alleged that Sean Connery had abused her mentally and physically during their relationship; Connery had been quoted as saying that occasionally hitting a woman was "no big deal".[20][21] In 2006, Connery cancelled an appearance at the Scottish Parliament because of the controversy, and said he had been misquoted and that any abuse of women was unacceptable.[22] However, there is a video interview with Barbara Walters where Connery said he has not changed his opinion and if it is merited, it's okay to slap a woman.[citation needed]


Cilento died of cancer[23] at Cairns Base Hospital on 6 October 2011.[24] A collection of items from her estate was donated to the Queensland University of Technology and is housed in the library.[25]


Cilento in I Thank a Fool (1962)


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


  1. ^ a b Kanopy (Firm) (2015), Australian Biography Series 8: Diane Cilento, Kanopy Streaming, retrieved 15 June 2020
  2. ^ a b Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Library. Diane Cilento Retrieved June 15, 2020
  3. ^ Peter Keepnews (8 October 2011). "Diane Cilento, Oscar-Nominated Actress, Dies at 78". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 11 July 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Brief Biography: Diane Cilento". Australian Biography (SBS TV). 2000. Archived from the original on 3 October 2009.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ a b 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.
  7. ^ a b "Diane Cilento – Full tnterview transcript". Australian Biography (SBS TV). 2000. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011.
  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. ^ Lisenti, Tom; Louis Paul (2002). Film fatales: women in espionage films and television, 1962–1973. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 144. ISBN 0-7864-1194-5.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Cilento, Diane". It's An Honour – Australia Celebrating Australians. 1 January 2001. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  13. ^ McFarlane, Brian (29 April 2006). "My Nine Lives". The Age. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010.
  14. ^ "Margaret Cilento". 19 January 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  15. ^ "How they live: Comfort for the Cilentos". The Australian Women's Weekly. 2 July 1958. p. 21.
  16. ^ "Australian actress Diane Cilento dies aged 78". BBC News. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 2 November 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  17. ^ Surprise gift for Diane The Australian Women's Weekly 25 December 1968 p. 2 – Contains photo of Sean, Gigi, Jason and Diane
  18. ^ "Obituary: Anthony Shaffer". The Guardian. 8 November 2001. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017.
  19. ^ "Playwright's family fight off mistress's claim to share legacy". The Guardian. 10 February 2004. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016.
  20. ^ "Jealous Connery beat me, says ex-wife". The Scotsman. 26 September 2005. Archived from the original on 28 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  21. ^ Neel, Aly (12 February 2013). "No more free passes to famous men who abuse women". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 28 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  22. ^ "Sean Connery: 'Abuse is never justified' Actor speaks out after cancelling Holyrood festival appearance". The Herald. Scotland. 24 June 2006. Archived from the original on 28 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  23. ^ Bergan, Ronald (7 October 2011). "Diane Cilento obituary". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  24. ^ "Actress Diane Cilento dies". ABC News Australia. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011.
  25. ^ "The Collection". QUT – Library. Archived from the original on 12 March 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013.

External links


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