08.11.2008 sier npsolberg: Julie Ege intervju fra 2002 på engelsk.
- Last of the Hammer Film glamour queens.
Copyright interview and photo from Bray: Niels Petter Solberg 2008
published in Psychotronic Video and Little Shoppe of Horrors.
You told me some years ago that you didn't think anyone still watched your films
It still is amazing to me that these films are still being watched. The sudden interest in the nostalgia of the 1970’s must have brought this on. During my days of making films I never felt that happy with the result. I suppressed all these feelings and left it in the past. Then all of a sudden the films became available on video and people started to write me for autographs. These letters were very complimentary and slowly I grew to accept that some of the films were ok. Then five years ago you arranged for the film festival in Oslo and that was a success.
It was really funny, because you had all the Norwegian press on your door step.
Well, to a new generation of journalist this was news to them. There I was on the front cover of so many newspaper as the forgotten diva of British horror and comedy films. So few of my films were seen here in Norway and most thought I had only done the small parts in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE.
Tell us a little bit of your childhood.
I grew up in the small town of Sandnes on the south west coast of Norway. My family consisted of my parents, myself and my brother. I was a bit of a tomboy when I grew up and loved adventures playing down by the seashore and the old boathouses. It was a very idyllic time and my childhood was a very happy one. I always loved the cinema and can remember the glamorous American films from the 1950’s with Jane Russell and Doris Day. I guess all girls had dreams of becoming moviestars growing up and it was a dream that I couldn't let go of.
How did you get started in showbusiness?
It began when I started out as a model. As a teenager I had my photos taken for local advertisement. Anything from dresses to sardins (laughs). It was fun, but could really not amount to much unless I moved to Oslo. But I got married and my husband, a major, had a farm to run. We shared house with his aunt and uncle so the living situation was unbearable for a young couple. The life on the farm was not for me and my marriage did not last. I loved the city life and was not prepared for that kind secludedness. So I moved to Oslo. That's when things started to happen. I won a beauty contest and was sent to Florida for the Ms. Universe pageant. My stay in England as an au pair was cut short and I was only too happy to make my first trip to the USA in 1962. The strict rules made up for all the contestants was not that easy to follow. We sneaked out at night and experienced some of the night life. It was such great fun even if I did not make the finals.
What was your first film all about ?
I played a German masseuse in a Norwegian film called THE SKY AND THE OCEAN (1967). It was about a young sailor's adventure travelling around the world. A small part and I had to be exotic and sexy while giving this sailor a back massage. They dubbed me in it and someone told me Liv Ullmann did the voiceover. I am not so sure about that. (laughs)
It was your second husband that pushed you towards the direction of Penthouse Magazine
Yes, he was way ahead of his time. We had a good life in Oslo and I was much in demand as a model. Perhaps he felt I had outgrown Norway. He arranged for a photo session with the European version of Penthouse. I was nervous at first, but they promised it would be done in good taste so I went ahead and did it. This was in the May 1967 issue, but the photos were not that good Today they look so innocent, but it was a major decision to make thirty years ago. Then I moved to London.
You are credited as doing a small part in the ROBBERY (1967). What was that all about ?
I cant recall any details about that film, but I can vaguely remember that I did something for a day together with a friend.
Was life in London different from Norway ?
I was an unknown in London, nobody knew me in and the competition was tremendous. I took my portfolio along to one agent after the other. Gradually I built up contacts and had work offers. My husband wanted me to move back to Norway, but I stayed on. London was swinging and it felt very glamorous. Had to wear make up just to visit the local deli. (laughs)
How did your role in OHMSS (1969) come about ?
When they were preparing for the film they were scanning the models of London for potential girls. I had also sent my photo to Albert Broccoli, the Bond producer. They had also noticed my appearance in Penthouse the year before the casting. I was so excited about the film and flattered to be asked. I knew being associated as a James Bond girl could lead to better things. We travelled to Switzerland and stayed there for the longest time. George Lazenby was very friendly and so was Joanna Lumley, always good humored and fun to be with. Switzerland was such a wonderful place to be on location. The shooting took nearly three months and I was doing publicity for the film continuously. When I saw the final print of the film I was very disappointed. I didn't appear on screen for more then a few short moments.
You were the only James Bond girl from this film that made the headlines
So incredibly much happened too fast that year. I met the producer Ned Sherrin and he wanted me to appear with Marty Feldman in EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE (1970). He wanted me to meet the director Jim Clark before a definite decision was made. I was very nervous upon meeting him, but he liked me. It was my first real part with dialogue and they wanted me to do some nudity as well. But it was all in good taste. I had just given birth to my first child and was rushed into the film not feeling 100% well. I worked so hard to hide the fact that I was uncomfortable, but I finished the film and was much more pleased with the result then my last film. Marty Feldman took his work very serious and was not that funny in real life. He was continuously rewriting the script till he thought it was ready to go in front of the camera. With no previous acting experience I had to do what I thought best. They wanted me to look and sound like a Scandinavian nanny so I gave them just that, it was really difficult (laughs).
What was the audience response to your debut ?
Once the film opened all the newspapers carried a photo of me with the captions ”every home should have one”. I was famous over night and was not prepared for all the decision making so crucial at that moment.
How did your contract at Hammer Studios come about ?
I had submitted my photo into a contest they were promoting: The Sex Symbol of the 70’s. When they saw all the publicity I received for EVERY HOME.. they jumped on the band wagon and gave me the title. Apparently over a thousand contestants was considered, but I don't know that for sure. Michael Carreras invited me to his office and said Hammer Films had big plans for me. They said Raquel Welch made such fame being featured in ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966). I always thought she was so glamorous and was only thrilled to learn of their similar plans for me. The publicity they generated from building me a new star was a clever idea.
Then there was Peter Sellers. Did he have a particular film in mind for you ?
He wanted me to do the part as Paola in THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP (1970). It was a small role, but eventually it went to Francoise Pascal. He said it would be a big opportunity for me. I had made up my mind about the deal with Hammer Films and Sellers thought I was absolutely crazy to turn him down in favor of a film about prehistoric times.
Did you have much say in the decision makings of Hammers plans for you ?
(laughs) I had no experience to prepare me for all this. Hammer convinced me they were trustworthy. I thought to myself: well, if they are spending all this money on me they must know what they are doing. I knew, upon learning the title of my film CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT (1971), that this would not be a glamorous adventure (laughs). Still, I was very exited. Going on location to Africa sounded wonderful. It came as a shock to learn that I the stone age women I was to portray had to look dirty with tangled hair. Nobody would ever believe this was the Julie Ege everyone talked about.
The poster art made you look so glamorous
I was unhappy when we first started filming. They made me wear this awful wig and my bikini was a far cry from the one Raquel Welch wore. I had dirt smeared all over me. My new born child was back in England and after a few days I got homesick. My body was not in best of shape for the physical strain of the long hot days in the Namib desert. The players and film crew knew how to party and stayed up long nights while I turned to bed early. The photographer misunderstood this and thought of me as a snob. His revenge was to keep me out of camera shot as much as he could. But when the daily rushes were looked upon back in London the producers were furious and told them to focus on me.
Did you do much publicity for the film ?
Hammer films already had a distribution deal with Columbia Pictures and sent me across the world on the most demanding publicity tour. I loved visiting all the major cities of the US and south America. They had me booked on the Johnny Carson show and Carson was so pleased with the first appearance that he invited me back the next evening. The newspaper clippings filled up several envelopes and must have amounted up to some good advertisement. I enjoyed the tour enormously, but wished there were more time to stay on in certain towns.
Did you receive any offers from Hollywood ?
I decided to wait and see what happened once I got back to England. This American producer came to London with ideas other then filming and it just didn't feel right. I was approached regarding a project with Steve McQueen and a meeting was set. Unfortunately I was too tall for his diminutive height.
So how was your reaction to CREATURES when you saw the finished film ?
I had mixed feelings because already while filming I felt the story was confusing. The film got bookings, but the critics were not favorable. I saw it again on a cinema screen five years ago and thought there was some really stunning visual scenes. CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT comes much better over in the cinema then video. Hammer Films re used some left over special effect scenes from ONE MILLION YEARS BC to spice it up, but it didn't save it.
Did Hammer Films have other projects for you ?
They did some years later with LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974). They tried to lure me into DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1972), but I was by then very reluctant about doing nudity. Many people think I did so much nudity in my films. I did a short scene in EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE and two bath tube scenes in NOT NOW DARLING and MUTATIONS. You would’nt believe all the film offers I received that required nudity. They were turned them down, including SALOON KITTY(1976).
But you did some memorable British film comedies
They were always so much more fun to work on and happen to have more spontaneity. I loved playing the role as Voluptia in UP POMPEII (1971) with Frankie Howerd. He was a hard working comedian, just like Marty Feldman. Very serious people, but they knew how to make people laugh. I later went with him to Cypress to entertain British military troops.
How about RENTADICK (1972) ?
I did three films for the producer Ned Sherrin, which still is a very good friend. RENTADICK was about this rented cop who was out to catch the makers of this nerve gas that made men impotent. An idea for a warfare weapon with slap stick comedy written by the Monty Python team John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Apparently the original script got so altered by Sherrin that Cleese/Chapham asked to have their names removed from any credit. The film has some good moments. I played the sexy wife of a mad scientist. I can remember Penelope Keith being in it. There was a lot of good actors in these films, but the material we had to work on was not always the best.
What is your favorite early films ?
I enjoyed THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN DEADLY SINS (1971) in the segment called Gluttony. I had the pleasure of working with Leslie Phillips in it. Later I did NOT NOW DARLING (1972) with him. These excellent actors added characters to these low budgeted comedies. We filmed NOT NOW DARLING in two weeks and it felt like we were filming a stage play. Apparently Barbara Windsor hated doing the film. She was a great lady to work with and Joan Sims as well. They should have called it CARRY ON DARLING. I didn't realize this film made good business in the US when released there in 76.
You did many guest appearances as well in films rarely seen today
I tell you, I ran from one film to the other without even knowing what the whole film was about. There was a dream sequence in THE ALF GARNETT SAGA (1972) as Warren Mitchell's fantasy girl and GO FOR A TAKE (1972) with Reg Varney. The segment in GO FOR A TAKE could very well had been a spoof on Hammer Films as I played an snobbish actress doing a vampire film with Denis Price as the aging count. Reg Varney was running from the mob and hid out in a film studio. He stood inn for me taking the place of a stunt man. It was all a laugh and I have never seen these films since.
Were you comfortable in comedies ?
Yes, I think they were more suited for my talent. They needed a pretty girl with a good attitude to play these parts. As my experience with films increased I started to feel more secure about acting. The roles did not require tremendous depth (laughs), but never the less, I had to better myself and took my work serious. Many of these films were never rehearsed properly, they were done in a hurry.
Then all of a sudden you turned to horror films. What brought on this change ?
Horror films were popular with the kids. Most of the comedies I made were very British. I am surprised they were released in the US. But horror films are universal, they have the same effect where ever they appear. I did these horror films because they were the best offers I had. The British film industry was not really booming with classic film making at the time. I think many of the great actors I worked with did these films because these were the only offers they had.
You had the opportunity to work with some of the best actors from the horror genre. How did you like working with Vincent Price and Donald Pleasance ?
They were both extremely nice. I played Vincent's private secretary in PERCY'S PROGRESS (1974). Once again the subject of impotency was handled with even worse result then RENTADICK. You should see the cast list to that dreadful film: Leigh Lawson, Elke Sommer, Denholm Elliot and Judy Geeson. Nobody could save it.
What about MUTATIONS (1974) with Donald Pleasance ?
Reading the script for that film was unbelievable. What a crazy story. Pleasance commented one day: ”I know a nice girl when I see one” and added : ”So what is a nice girl like you doing in this business?”. (laughs)
Did the film have real freaks in it ?
I don't like to use the word freaks. They were probably the last line of people exhibiting them selves like they did during the golden age of the side show. There was the bearded lady, pop eye, the skinny girl, the fat woman, short people, pretzel man and some freaks that were man made by the mad scientist portrayed by Pleasance. These people were very friendly and some had handicaps that must have caused them lots of pain. We sat around chatting between takes. I became a good friend of the actor Michael Dunn. The dialogue was in constant change and he could memorize his new lines by one look at the paper. I was so jealous (laughs), it took me forever to do that. I was saddened by his premature death. He lived under constant pain from his handicap. He really was an incredible man. The film would probably be impossible to make today. The scene where I am laying topless on the operating table is not me. Its me in close up, but from a far I had a stand inn. I had already given birth once and was not about to show my tits on film (laughs). For some reason all my young fans like my horror stuff and my older fans like my comedies.
Then there was CRAZE (1973) with Jack Palance and Diana Dors. The director Freddie Francis did that ?
I met Freddie Frances again at the Hammer at Bray event and someone said I should meet him. We got together but he could hardly remember me. I don't think he liked CRAZE too much. Jack Palance played this antique dealer who believed that an African statue had the power to bring him luck. Once he starts sacrificing humans his luck becomes endless. Not so lucky for me, because he picks me up in a bar, takes me to bed, kills me off and discards me by forcing me into a burning furnace. Jack Palance had an eye for me, but he had this creepy way about him. One day he stopped by my apartment and even waited for me on another occasion. No, I could never relax around him for some reason.
Finally Hammer Films came up with another project for you?
If I remember correct they had me signed for two films. This one was called THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974) and I was excited when I heard they had signed Roy Ward Baker as the director. It must have been a big fall from directing Marilyn Monroe during the fifties to a vampire film set in the orient. It was my first period set film with beautiful customes and location work set in Hong Kong.
The LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES seemed to be a step up from many of your other films.
Definitely, and it was filmed in co-up with the Shaw Brothers who were experts in martial art films. Apparently the project was excepted to be a new adventure into the international film marked for them. But it didn't take long after we arrived when all the culture difference between the crew became apparent. Anyone who were used to filmmaking by British standards would be shocked to find the studio facilities in Hong Kong a big step down. The sound proof stages were a joke and I think Ward Baker had fits of anger several times day.
How did all the actors get along ?
Peter Cushing was lovely and we all enjoyed him so much. He had recently lost his wife and there were rumours going around that he pretended dining with his wife in the hotel room by setting the table for two. Whenever he had some time off from filming he would visit many of the cultural sights of Hong Kong. The filming must have been hard on him. The days were long, hot and humid. We had all came down with food poisoning, but pulled through at the end. Some of us had fun with the exotic nightlife of Hong Kong. Talking about it makes it seem like yesterday. The oriental actors were fine people dedicated to the job they had to do. I had an unlikely romantic lead in David Chiang, but Robin Stewart got on real well with Shih Szu.
Did Roy Ward Baker allow the actors space to develop their characters ?
This film didn't exactly open up for high drama (laughs), but more on the visual effect with the mixture of martial art and western horror. I played the helpless blonde with enough guts to adventure into the journey of hunting down the seven golden vampires. Whenever there was a fight scene I stood helplessly to the side by leaning into a corner or wall. My suggestions to do some kicks myself were shuttered away and I was better off doing nothing but become the victim of the golden vampire. Roy Ward Baker was a gifted but very temperamental director. It probably wasn't the kind of film he had his heart in. Many of the famous people I worked with were at the end of their career and took a step down with the making of these films. Perhaps they were not that happy about it, but they made a serious attempt to make the films believable.
You appeared in films in Norway and the Netherlands as well. What kind of films were they ?
I did three film in Norway during the seventies. The first one was called THE CANARY BIRD and was filmed on the Canary Island in 1973. I played a flight attendant who meets this married business man and get engage in a small affair. Then I played a bitchy wife in a thriller called BORTREIST PÅ UBESTEMT TID (1974). My husband killed me and hid the body in the freezer. Both of the films were in Norwegian. My third one was easy as I did nothing but play myself. It was called THE LAST FLEKSNES (1974) which actually was a spin off from a Norwegian TV-series. Then in 1975 I was contacted by the Dutch director Nicolai van der Heide who never had forgotten my appearance in EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE ONE. He wanted me to play the villain in his new comedy starring Piet Bambergen called SHERLOCK JONES (1976). It was impossible for me to speak Dutch so they dubbed my voice.
Several Hammer Film actresses were dubbed in their films. How did you feel about that ?
There was no way I could learn Dutch overnight so I had no problem with it. Many times I had to record my voice on top of the orginal recordings but that was to better the sound quality.
But no dubbing was required when you recorded your singles ?
(laughs) I never proclaimed that I was a good singer. My first single was issued in 1971. My boyfriend then, Tony Bramwell, was a record producer with Apple Records and John Lennon's LOVE seemed to be the perfect victim (b side was ONE OF MY WEAKER MOMENTS). Jane Birkin had a hit with JE T'AIME and my record was suppose to be a sensual follow up. Then five years later a Norwegian producer convinced me to do another recording with TOUCH ME and STOP IT I LIKE IT (1971) for Sonet records. They wanted me to do an LP as well, but I thought enough was enough. It would have been a different ball game if I was a good singer.
Towards the end of your film career you seemed to appear in films with less enthusiasm?
By the end of five years all I was offered were scripts that required less acting and more nudity. I should have been more selective, but then again I had a family to support.
How about THE AMOROUS MILKMAN (1974) ?
Everyone who appeared in this film did it as a favor to Derrin Nesbitt who wrote, directed and produced the film. He was going through an ugly public divorce and the news papers had a field day. Derrin needed the money and Diana Dors, myself and several other British comedians offered our services to help him out. The CONFESSION OF… series was already a huge success and he thought the AMOROUS MILKMAN would benefit from the hype. I was only pleased to be working with Diana again who was a wonderful person. Once a sex-symbol herself she claimed to be my aunt when appearing on a talk show. I was so disappointed with the final film. Many years later I had a patient, in a hospital where I was working as nurse, to give me the film on video. It made my day (laughs)
Then all of a sudden you left showbiz. What happen ?
I had already done some theatre work in England and had an offer from Rogaland Teater in Norway. It was a challenging proposal so I went ahead and accepted it. I appeared in a Norwegian folk comedy called TØRRES SNØRTEVOLL, as a Marilyn Monroe type in KENNEDYS CHILDREN and in the Alan Ayckbourn comedy ABSURD PERSONAL SINGULAR. Later I went to Oslo to appear as Columbia in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. One evening, by accident, my breast fell out. I suppose it fit in with the storyline (laughs). I also appeared on many TV shows in Norway and England. I left show biz because it was the only natural thing to do. While in England I had taken an interest in photography which continued to fascinate me well into the late seventies. My kids were getting older and I loved being a busy mother. All in all my career in show biz came to a natural end. There was not one element I had not tried: theatre, film, records, photography, modelling. It was all extremely exciting years and I would do it all again if I had the choice, no regrets.
Was not nursing a big leap from film making ?
But more rewarding in the long run. I went back to school for several years before I had my certificate at hand. Now my kids are adults and I only work as much as I feel like doing.
How did you enjoy the Hammer at Bray event in 1999 ?
Had no idea what to except when I arrived. You told me to bring photos in case someone would ask my autograph. As soon as I appeared I was approached by so many friendly and enthusiastic people. I had no idea they arranged these wonderful get togethers. It was amazing to see the business Caroline Munroe, Ingrid Pitt and Suzanne Leigh was making selling autographs and memorabilia. People who I once had worked with at Hammer came up to me and was so happy to see me. Veronica Carlson was there and looked great. For a moment it felt like time had stood still. Some fans told me they liked this and that film and gave the most flattering remarks. So I thought, well, it all came to a good end after all.
Any plans for a come back ?
I am perfectly happy with my life as it is. Currently I have published my biography and I enjoy taking life one day at a time. (the book is in Norwegian only)