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Diane Cilento
File:Diane Cilento, 1954.jpg
Cilento in 1954
Born(1933-10-05)5 October 1933
Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia
Died6 October 2011(2011-10-06) (aged 78)
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
OccupationsActress, author
Years active1950–2011
SpousesAndrea Volpe
(m. 1956–1960; divorced)
Sir Sean Connery
(m. 1962–1973; divorced)
Anthony Shaffer
(m. 1985–2001; his death)
ChildrenGiovanna Volpe
Jason Connery
ParentsSir Raphael Cilento
Lady Phyllis Cilento

Diane Cilento (5 October 1933 – 6 October 2011)[1] was an Australian theatre and film actress and author.[2]


Early life and education[]

Cilento was born in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia. Her parents, Sir Raphael Cilento[3] and Phyllis, Lady Cilento (née Phyllis Dorothy McGlew),[4] were both distinguished medical practitioners in Queensland.[2] 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 England in the early 1950s.[5]


File:Diane Cilento with Peter Finch.jpg

With Peter Finch in Passage Home (1955)

File:Laurence Harvey Diane Cilento The Small Servant Alcoa Hour 1955.jpg

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 movie was in the British film Passage Home (1955), opposite fellow Australian Peter Finch.[6]

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[7] 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. Cilento stated that she was beaten unconscious by Connery in their hotel room during the filming of The Hill.[8]

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.[9]

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 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.[10]

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

In 2006, Cilento released her autobiography, My Nine Lives.[12]

Personal life[]


  • Sir Raphael Cilento (1893–1985)[3]
  • Lady Phyllis Cilento (1894–1987)[4]

Diane Cilento was the fifth of six children, four of whom became medical practitioners; the other, Margaret, was an artist.[5][13]

Husbands and children
Husband Children
1956–1960 Andrea Giovanna (Gigi) Volpe (10 December 1957–)[14]
1962–1973[15] Sir Sean Connery (1930–) Jason Connery (11 January 1963–)[16]
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.[17][18]

In her 2006 autobiography My Nine Lives and elsewhere, Cilento said that Sean Connery physically abused her.[19]


Diane Cilento died of cancer[20] at Cairns Base Hospital on 6 October 2011, the day after her 78th birthday.[21] She is survived by both her children.[20] A collection of items from her estate was donated to the Queensland University of Technology and is housed in the library.[22]


  • Wings of Danger (1952)
  • Moulin Rouge (1952)
  • Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953)
  • The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1954)
  • Passing Stranger (1954)
  • Passage Home (1955)
  • The Woman for Joe (1955)
  • The Passionate Stranger (1957)
  • The Admirable Crichton (1957)
  • The Truth About Women (1957)
  • Jet Storm (1959)
  • The Full Treatment (1960)
  • The Naked Edge (1961)
  • I Thank a Fool (1962)
  • Tom Jones (1963)
  • The Third Secret (1964)
  • Rattle of a Simple Man (1964)
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
  • Hombre (1967)
  • Negatives (1968)
  • Z.P.G. (1972)
  • Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Duet for Four (1982)
  • For the Term of His Natural Life (1983)
  • The Boy Who Had Everything (1984)


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


  1. Peter Keepnews (8 October 2011). "Diane Cilento, Oscar-Nominated Actress, Dies at 78". The New York Times.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Brief Biography: Diane Cilento, Australian Biography (SBS TV), 2000.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mark Finnane, 'Cilento, Sir Raphael West (Ray) (1893–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, Melbourne University Press, pp. 216–17.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mary D. Mahoney, 'Cilento, Phyllis Dorothy (1894–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, Melbourne University Press, pp. 214–15.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Interview transcript tape 1: Diane Cilento, Australian Biography (SBS TV), 2000.
  6. "MARIAN MARCH PAGE". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 23 November 1954. p. 16. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  7. Academy Awards Database, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1963
  8. "Yes, Connery did beat me unconscious". Mail Online.
  9. Lisenti, Tom; Louis Paul (2002). Film fatales: women in espionage films and television, 1962–1973. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 144. ISBN 0-7864-1194-5.
  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. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  11. "It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours".
  12. McFarlane, Brian: Book Review: My Nine Lives, The Age, 29 April 2006.
  13. The Telegraph, 19 January 2007; Retrieved 3 April 2013
  14. How they live The Australian Women's Weekly 2 July 1958 p.21
  15. "Australian actress Diane Cilento dies aged 78". BBC News.
  16. Surprise gift for Diane The Australian Women's Weekly 25 December 1968 p.2 – Contains photo of Sean, Gigi, Jason and Diane
  17. Obituary: Anthony Shaffer, 8 November 2001, The Guardian
  18. "Playwright's family fight off mistress's claim to share legacy", 10 February 2004, The Guardian
  19. Scott, Paul. "Sean Connery: The story of a brilliant but deeply flawed man". Daily Mail. London.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Ronald Bergan. "Diane Cilento obituary". the Guardian.
  21. Actress Diane Cilento dies, 7 October 2011, ABC News
  22. "QUT - Library - The Collection".

External links[]