Somebody said -- recently, which rules out Aristotle and Bernard Shaw -- that if your name is mentioned three times in five days, you're hot. The name to count on today is Jane Seymour.
She has recently passed through town, as they say, in two movies: "Oh Heavenly Dog," with Chevy Chase, and "Somewhere in Time," with Christopher Reeve. She is now appearing nightly on the stage of the National Theatre in a play about Mozart called "Amadeus." And in February, she commences a starring role in "East of Eden," an eight-hour television treatment of John Steinbeck's novel.
Perhaps in testimony to its occupant's imminent hotness, the windows in Jane Seymour's hotel room were wide open yesterday morning, admitting a 20-knot, 50-degree breeze. A vase of flowers adorned her table. She admired the windy view with large eyes, her features perfect in repose, her brown hair, spilling down well past the small of her back, ruffled slightly in the draft. Outside, Georgetown lay spread out for her like a lap dog waiting to be scratched.
In addition to being talented and having spent 17 of her 30 years performing, Jane Seymour is remarkably beautiful. After her intended career as a dancer was halted at age 13 ("A tragedy. I injured my knees."), she had that to fall back on.
"Yes," she conceded, "being considered beautiful causes problems. That's why I came to America five years ago. In England, they kept casting me as a princess. I became quite princessed out. That, and wearing gowns and corsets on 'The Oneidin Line.' Being a character actress is more important to me than being hot. I want to play characters that are unlike me."
Seymour is at the moment more a household face in American than a household name, though that seems destined to change. She played a tarot-card-reading lovely named Solitaire in the James Bond picture "Live and Let Die." Yaphet Kotto dragged her from Jamaica to New Orleans and back before Roger Moore came to the rescue. That, however, was one of those voo-doo princess roles.
"I was 20 years old," she explained. "James Bond movies are never very demanding. Except that you have to live them down for the rest of your life. After Solitaire, I was told I wasn't an actress anymore, because I'd been in a James Bond movie -- and Bond girls can't act." But of course the luscious and vulnerable Bond girl was remembered by many more people than was Pamela Plowden, Winston Churchill's first love, whom she portrayed in the film "Young Winston."
America, however, she found to be a "land of opportunity," and one of the first opportunities was to play the role of an Israeli tank driver in an episode of the television series "McCloud." However, in the TV mini-series "Captains and the Kings," she received official public Americanization.
"That was my first role as an American," she said, "with an American accent. The producers liked the parts with Perry King and me so much that they ordered an extra hour written in, just so we could have more screen time." tShe received an Emmy nomination, which delighted her lawyer, who was trying to get her a work permit. "He said, what you have to do is win an honor of some kind, and that was it." She played in other mini-series, too: "Seventh Avenue" and "The Awakening Land."
As it happened, Seymour made "Somewhere in Time," before she made "Oh Heavenly Dog," although the movies played Washington in reverse order. "Somewhere in Time," is a fantastically dreamy tale of a young playwright who falls in love with an actress old enough to be his greatgrandmother, then wishes himself back to 1912 to be with her.
"It was the most enjoyable film I ever made," she said. "Chris Reeve was very nice, and even though he's so tall they felt the actress had to be at least 5-5, and I'm only 5-4. When we first met, he towered over me -- yes, I was aware he'd played 'Superman.' 'Don't worry,' he said, 'I'm just big.' That movie was made on Mackinac Island in July and August. There are no cars on the island, and they carried the equipment around on horses and carts. I'm a complete romantic myself, and I loved it. Also, they have a wonderful fudge on Mackinac Island. But unfortunately, fudge and movies don't mix."
Her memories of "Oh Heavenly Dog" are somewhat different. In that timeless tale, she falls in love with Chevy Chase, who gets killed and reincarnated as a dog, with the result that Seymour wound up playing opposite Benji instead of Chevy. "It could have been a funny movie," she said. "The script read fine. But the people who made it couldn't decide whether to appeal to children, or adults, or what. I had wanted to do a girl-next-door part, someone that's really like me. But I wound up speaking my lines with a piece of meat in my hand."
She was, however, undeniably beautiful. As she is in "Amadeus," scheduled to play here through Dec. 6 before moving on to New York. In "Amadeus," she is the playful wife of Wolfgang A. Mozart, and plans -- God and audience willing -- to keep it up until next summer.
"I really have felt cut off from audiences for almost six years," she said. "TV and movie films are much the same, except that in movies you're lucky to shoot one page of script a day, and in TV you do 10 pages a day -- with no rehearsals. In a play with good actors and a good director, it changes every night, just the audiences. And you have control of the part, instead of some camera having the control."
Seymour, however, is also determined to have control over even her own beauty. And so she has fixed it so that image will suffer a jolt come February, when her next TV series hits the 17-inch screen, and really renders her hot.
"In 'East of Eden' I play Kate, the mother. It's a different role for me, and I play her for almost the whole eight hours, from age 15 to about age 50. Most people know the story from the James Dean movie, but that was just the final third of John Steinbeck's book. This is the whole thing, and I read it about a thousand times. Steinbeck kept a journal, so we know how he felt about Kate. In many ways she's amodern woman caught in a different time slot, but Steinbeck himself said she's someone you have to hate. He referred to her as a 'monster -- a woman incapable of understanding the concept of love.'
"The idea is that you can choose whether you want to be good or evil, and you can see her choice when she shoots her husband right after she had the twins that she'd really wanted to abort. Yes, I did the shooting scene myself. With a pistol. And I hate guns."