Why Jane Seymour is the “Most Unusual Sex Symbol of All Time”

The award-winning 67-year-old actress talks beauty secrets, breast implants, and posing for Playboy in front of a priest

Millennials probably know Jane Seymour as Wedding Crashers’ Kathleen “Kitty Kat” Cleary, the seductive, married mother with a taste for younger men (namely Owen Wilson). However, it was her 1973 turn as a virginal (at least initially) Bond Girl in Live or Let Die that jumpstarted her career—and made her into a universal sex symbol. In reality, the 67-year-old Emmy Award-winning actress is perhaps most similar to Dr. Michaela Quinn, the trailblazing “woman doctor” she played from 1993 to 1998 in the western-themed drama series, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

Sitting in a suite in New York’s Smyth Hotel, her toned five-foot-three frame hugged by a burgundy sheath, Seymour radiates the same confidence and poise as her former TV persona. (Then again, it might just be her flawless skin, which makes her the perfect spokeswoman for Crepe Erase, Ulta’s deeply hydrating system that improves dryness and wrinkles.) “I’m still working,” she says proudly. “I’ve got four movies in the can, one with De Niro. I’ve got another movie I’m starting in a couple of weeks, and another one in the fall. I have a series, [Let’s Get Physical], that just finished. I’m a painter, I’m a designer, I write books, I do sculpture, I have grandchildren, and I run a nonprofit.” Oh, and this past February, she appeared in Playboy for the third time, proving that her sex-symbol status endures. Here, Seymour talks plastic surgery, #MeToo, not posing nude, motherhood, and so much more. Believe you me—by the end of this interview, your new mantra will be “What Would Dr. Quinn Do?”

Katharine K. Zarrella: You’re one of the few women in Hollywood who has not had plastic surgery. Why did you make that choice?

Jane Seymour: Some magazines keep saying I’ve never done anything. To set the record straight, when I was 40, and I’d gone through a horrible divorce, I had breast implants. I did it because I breast fed my babies and there was nothing left. I was working as an actress, and though I was against it, it seemed the right thing to do. My plastic surgeon said to me, “You’re making a terrible mistake. We don’t make [implants] that small.” And I said, “I don’t want anything other than what I was born with, I just want what I was.”

KKZ: And you still have them?

JS: Yes—for 27 years! The only reason that was ever asked to me—and questioned—was because I did Wedding Crashers, and there’s a scene where [Owen Wilson] holds [my breasts] and I’m saying, “I’ve had my breasts done and my husband doesn’t appreciate them,” so I had to come clean about that.

KKZ: Was he a gentleman? Did he behave properly?

JS: Owen did have his hands on my boobs, and he was far more stressed by it than I was. I wore those little pasties, but that was for his comfort more than anything. It was a closed set, and the first time we did it, the director said, “Excuse me, Owen, could you relax your hands a bit?” He looked at me, and I said, “Look, currently, I am Kitty Cleary. I am Kitty Cat, okay? I’m not Jane Seymour. Jane Seymour would definitely have a problem with this. Kitty Cat is asking you to do this, so it’s fine. Let’s just go for it.” It was absolutely hilarious. And of course, Vince Vaughn didn’t make it any easier by teasing him all of the time. He said, “Are you ready to see more of Seymour?” I was like, really? You really think that’s an original joke?

KKZ: So, aside from the breast implants, no plastic surgery?

JS: I tried Botox once and I didn’t like it at all. The real problem was, just as an actress, I couldn’t use my facial muscles. I’ve not done that since.

KKZ: In 1973, you played a Bond girl, Solitaire, in Live and Let Die, and then went on to do two Playboy spreads—the first following the Bond film, the second in 1987. Did you find those experiences empowering or objectifying?

JS: First of all, I played a virgin in Live and Let Die. I was not playing “sexy.” I was 20 when they found me and I pretty much was a virgin. And in the original Playboy, I had no say in it. It was a photograph from the movie. When I did the actual Playboy spread in 1987, I was the first woman to be in Playboy with her clothes on—albeit not many, but nothing showed. We shot at my home in England, which was a 1,000-year-old manor house right next to a church. The vicar came by and said, “What are you doing?” I was splayed back like this with my stockings up to here and it was, hello, vicar! But no, far from being objectified. I felt that being a feminine woman was sensual, and being sensual was honest to who I am. I felt good about that.

KKZ: And you just did Playboy again in February! How was that experience different from the 1987 shoot?

JS: When they asked me at 67 to do it, first I went, “No, no. That’s crazy.” And they said, “We don’t want you to be naked.” So I thought, this is actually empowering. They shot it at my house, I was thrilled with the pictures, and the most amazing thing happened—it got over a billion impressions, whatever that means, globally in one day. I thought it was very beautiful, and I hope it makes people realize that age is just a number. I think it was more fun this time. It was exciting because I feel like a sensual woman. I am a sensual woman. I’m in a relationship. I feel more comfortable in my own skin now than I did when I was younger. I was more worried about it then. Now, I’m me.

KKZ: Would you have posed nude this time if they’d asked?

JS: I’ve never done anything nude. I’m the most unusual sex symbol of all time. I’ve managed to do all these sexy roles—and I’m still doing them at 67—and I’ve never actually been naked. I think in Lassiter (1984), you see my bare backside, and I did a movie called The Story of David (1976), and in the distance, you’ll see me naked from behind, bathing. But I always felt it wasn’t necessary. In real life, I’m happy to wander around naked, but I think mystery is quite a good thing.

KKZ: You have two different colored eyes. Is that something that you’ve always embraced? And if not, how did you learn to love it?

JS: I had no problem with it. It never occurred to me that it was anything odd until I got my first film role and my agent called me and said they didn’t want to hire me because I didn’t look “normal.” When I did the Bond film, they told me I was going to have to cut my hair, dye it black, and have contact lenses—I could either have green eyes or brown. I didn’t do any of it. I ended up with my own eye color, but I did lose a job and I almost lost the Bond film because of it.

KKZ: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. What drew you to that role, and did you know at the time that you’d become a symbol of female empowerment?

JS: I had just gone through the worst divorce ever. I’d lost everything, financially and emotionally. I was at the lowest I could ever be. I had two small children and I was penniless and homeless. I had an addict, alcoholic husband, now ex-husband. I called my agent and said, “I will do anything.” And anything turned out to be a movie of the week that was going to be a pilot. They told me, “You can sign for five years, but you don’t have to worry—it will never make it because it’s a woman in the lead.” I read it and I loved the story—it made me cry. At that time in my life, I needed something hopeful, so I did it. Of course, I made the classic mistake of falling madly in love with my leading man, [Joe Lando], who was 12 years younger than me.

KKZ: I think everyone was madly in love with him.

JS: Well, I actually got to experience it. And then, they picked up the series after it tested higher than anything else CBS had. It’s still playing in 98 countries. And Sully—Joe Lando—and I are still the closest of friends. He’s my closest friend in the world.

KKZ: What beauty advice would Dr. Quinn give?

JS: I think she’d probably consult with Cloud Dancing as to what was available in natural medicine. They didn’t have sunblock, but she wore hats all the time. She would be eating berries, the great antioxidants, which is what I do. I grow blueberries in my garden organically. I think she’d probably have some sort of oil. As we know, all she had was morphine—morphine and whiskey. I did a spoof about this for Funny or Die. I would not suggest morphine and whiskey.

KKZ: You recently came forward on Australian TV show Sunrise 7 to reveal that, early in your career, you were sent to a producer’s home and he propositioned and then threatened you. Why was it important for you to tell your story?

JS: That was the first time I had really spoken about it publically. The perpetrator, my agent, and another producer all knew. The reason for telling the story was not, “Oh, poor me.” This goes on in medicine, if you’re on Wall Street, if you’re in business, if you’re a lawyer. And some women use it to their advantage. Fine. I have no problem with that. The only problem I had was that I had a skill set and I was told that, unless I perform an act, I would not be allowed to perform my skill set. I was an established actress. I’d already rehearsed, the deal had already been made. And then, the fact that my agent and the other producer both knew that this could happen to me meant that they must have expected that I’d go there and do it.

KKZ: This is still happening. What would your advice be to young women who are put in that situation?

JS: I can only speak for myself. I believe that if you can be honest with yourself and you can be authentic and feel good about who you are and what your borders are in life, what’s acceptable to you, that’s what you should do. But I’m not going to tell somebody who is that gung-ho about getting their shot what to do. I know a million people who have been very happy to do whatever it took. With the #MeToo movement…[it’s clear that] sexual harassment’s been going on everywhere. And it happens to men, too. So if somebody says [something inappropriate] to me, I just say, “Aww, thank you. What a compliment that you would want to do that, but you know what? In another life! Somewhere in time.” You know, I just make a joke out of it and move forward.

KKZ: Speaking of Somewhere in Time (1980), if you could go back in time and change anything, what would it be?

JS: I wouldn’t have gotten married. I would have lived with the first two husbands. But, back in those days, you weren’t supposed to have sex until you got married. I think deciding who you’re going to be with for the rest of your life when you’re 20 is pretty much impossible. I also wouldn’t have fried my skin. I used to tan with olive oil. I remember once actually getting sunstroke and collapsing.

KKZ: Even so, you have incredible skin.

JS: I just try to keep the best skin I can and to be as healthy as I can. I don’t have time to do endless treatments. I’m a do-it-yourself type person, which is why I feel good about Crepe Erase. I tried it and I had immediate results. I won’t do anything unless it’s authentic, and I won’t do anything unless I use it every single day. I loved it off the bat, and I tested it on my new baby granddaughter, and slathered it all over her, and she did just great!

KKZ: She looks younger than ever! You have four children. How did motherhood change your view of your sensuality, your appearance, and yourself?

JS: At first, I was afraid of having children because I thought I wouldn’t be slim. But actually, I was slimmer and in better shape after I had children. I think having children is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Having grandchildren is even more extraordinary.

KKZ: Because you can use Crepe Erase on them.

JS: Yes, I can. And I have a daughter who is almost a clone of me, but an amazing, wonderful young woman. Having children is better than any award. I had a near death experience back in the day and was resuscitated. I was playing Maria Calls in Onassis (1988) and I got bronchitis, and a nurse came and gave me an injection of antibiotics, missed the muscle, and hit the vein, and I went into anaphylactic shock. I remembered there are only two things you take with you when you die. One is the love you’ve shared and the other is the difference you’ve made. If I have any secret trick apart from Crepe Erase, I would say beauty comes from within. It comes from your attitude toward life and what you can do to help others. Having a purpose in life feeds your soul. And if your soul is fed and you’re open hearted, you can give and receive love. If you close your heart, no amount of knocking will open that door, so just get out of your own obsessive party.

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