Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Brief but Very Candid Conversation with Caroline Munro

Caroline Munro and myself, Chiller Theatre—Oct. 2013


Caroline Munro was a memorable presence in 70s and 80s fantasy and horror cinema. She started  her career in Britain, her native land. Hammer Films,  a studio versed in horror and fantasy film, hired  her as an actress. You couldn’t take your eyes off her great beauty. In the Hammer films, she played either a gypsy or a former slave girl beside the hero as he battled villains, evil men, vampires, or monsters. Besides Hammer, other studios found roles for her in British horror or fantasy films.

She first became noticed by American audiences when she played the villainess Bond girl, Naomi, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).  Her first American film was Maniac (1980), a groundbreaking horror film in which her character, Anna D’Antoni, befriends a serial killer played by Joe Spinell. Also around the time, Caroline had her first starring role as Stella Star in Starcrash (1979). Caroline’s character is a Barabella-like heroine who battles against the bad guys in a Star Wars-like universe.  She would continue to do more American productions such as The Last Horror Film (1982) and Slaughter High (1986) . She also appeared in an Adam Ant video around the time. By the 90s, her appearances had become brief and would slowly come back into the films by 2006.

I met Caroline recently at the Chiller Theatre, and as she is friendly as she is beautiful, and super nice. I was able to conduct a brief interview with her. I agreed to her agent Jane’s request, which was to ask her four questions only, and not interfere with the fans who wanted her autograph. Although I wasn’t able to ask her all the questions I wanted, I did get some good replies from her. One of the things we talked about in this interview is something most fans of Caroline don’t realize— she is a singer, and Adam Ant is not the only famous musician she collaborated with.

Caroline’s answers were so interesting that I would have like to conduct a bigger interview than the one I got. (If Jane or her stepdaughter, Tami, is reading this, please let Caroline know I would like to conduct a more-extensive interview if she ever has the time.) Nevertheless, I am happy to have taken the time to interview Caroline. I want to thank Jane for giving me permission to interview Caroline on a day she was there to greet other fans and sign autographs. And most of all, I want to thank Caroline.

Jeff Cramer:How did you get started in the industry?

Caroline Munro:A very long time ago, for one thing. I started accidentally, really. I was at art school, and there was an art student—a chap—who wanted to take some photographs of me, which I did. And he asked my mother, took the photographs, and then showed my mother. I was only sixteen. He showed my mum and asked if he could send photographs to a very, very famous English photographer at the time in the 60s called David Bailey. And he wanted to send these photographs out. David Bailey had a competition, and they sent the photographs out, and by some fluke it won the competition. The photograph won, and I won what’s called the Face of the Year. So I became the Face of the Year in ’66. And that was my first foray into modeling.

I did modeling for a good few years. I worked for American Vogue and product commercials and print work. And then I started—I think my first films—oh, I was an extra in the original Casino Royale.

JC: Yeah.

CM: So no lines, no dialogue. So I started doing a little bit of extra work, and gradually I got more work and I got a part playing Richard Widmark’s daughter in a western, which was amazing. I got to work with Richard, and Cesar Romero played my grandfather. So that was an incredible time. I did more films, more films. And then I got a contract from Hammer. I had to screen test, and they contracted me for the year. I did two films, Dracula A.D. and Captain Kronos. So I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with some amazing people and traveled to some lucky places.

Caroline bitten in Dracula A.D. 1972


JC:Now I don’t have time to go into all of your movies, but have you done many. What was a memorable time during your acting career? 

CM: Yeah, I think Dracula A.D. was one of the turning points. And then from there I did Kronos, and then Brian Clemens wrote and directed Kronos. He had written a screenplay for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and he felt I was right for the role of Margiana in Sinbad. And he took Ray Harryhausen and Charles Schneer, ’cause they wanted a big American name, and he said, “No, I think Caroline is more right for what you’re looking for, for the role of Margiana.” And they supposedly liked what I did, and therefore I got the role. I got to work with Tom Baker and John Phillip Law.

Caroline in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad 

JC:You’re obviously an actress and a model, but one thing that’s rarely talked about is that you sing. 

CM: I did a bit of singing. I did.

JC: Yeah, let’s talk about that.

CM: I used to sing in a church choir when I was in school. Not very well, mind you. And my dad’s friend was head of Decca at the time; they had the Rolling Stones. They had the really good people in the 60s, and they were looking for a female singer, a young female singer. And he said, “Would you like to have a go?” so I sang a bit for him, and he decided to put a really good producer with me and he took me to Abbey Road. So I was singing in Abbey Road Studios. I sang a song called, “Tar and Cement,” which was my first. [To hear “Tar and Cement,” click here.] A really good producer. And I had a few hits. And then my backing band, my amazing backing band, we had Eric Clapton, we had Steve Howe of Yes, we had Jack Bruce, and we had Ginger Baker.

JC: Oh, awesome.

CM: I had a pretty cool band.

JC: Yes.

CM: And they were session musicians before Cream, the band.

JC: Yes.

CM: So that’s how I started singing. And then, you know, I’ve done various bits and pieces with singing and Gary Numan. He produced a song I sang called “Pump Me Up,” which was a big hit in Italy. [To hear “Pump Me Up,” click here.]

Caroline’s “Pump Me Up” single
                                                

I also appeared in music videos with Adam Ant and Meatloaf, so I have gotten to work with quite a lot of people in music.

Adam Ant and Caroline


JC:So what have you been up to these days?

CM: I’m keeping fairly busy. I have two daughters; Tami, my stepdaughter, lives in Seattle, and my two daughters live in London, who are both doing art. One is pursuing acting, and the other one is pursuing singing—she has a great voice. But I’m still busy. I’ve starred in three independent films in England: two cameos and one role as the main lady. It’s just been shown in England this week, called The Landlady. It’s a short film—twenty minutes long’s that’s what I’ve been doing. My dream is to work with Rob Zombie . . . love him. Obviously, Quentin Tarantino, too. I admire them very much.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! It's great to know what Ms. Monroe is up to these days- she's in some of my favorite films (At The Earth's Core; The Spy Who Loved Me; Captain Kronos; Golden Voyage of Sinbad).

Sparky said...

Thanks for posting this! It's great to know what Ms. Munro is up to these days- she's in some of my favorite films (At the Earth's Core; The Spy Who Loved Me; Captain Kronos; Golden Voyage of Sinbad).