A FOTF exclusive interview with the screen siren of At the Earth’s Core, Sinbad and The Spy Who Loved Me
She has wrestled with mythological monsters, attempted to exterminate James Bond and his underwater supercar, and has even sailed the seven seas with Sinbad on a Golden Voyage. She is the vivacious Caroline Munro, Hollywood legend, model and trustee of the Ray Harryhausen foundation.
The screen siren shot to fame in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the second of three incredible Sinbad fantasy films produced by screen veteran Charles H. Schneer and featured the genre-defining stop-motion creature effects of Hollywood titan, the great Ray Harryhausen. Munro was cast as the vivacious slave girl Margiana, a charming love interest to star alongside the heroic sailor. After her rescue from the one-eyed Centaur and the monstrous Griffin, Munro was cast as Princess Dia alongside both Star Wars and Hammer legend Peter Cushing and monster movie veteran Doug McClure in the superb adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel At the Earth’s Core.
The fantasy adventure found Cushing, a Victorian science professor and his American financier Doug McClure drilling into the earth and discovering a vast cavern below the earth’s crust. Once there, the duo finds themselves enslaved by the race of barbaric cavemen that rule the isolated world. During their incarceration, they meet Princess Dia, the rightful ruler of the kingdom who has also been enslaved by their prehistoric overlords. With the help of McClure and Cushing, Princess Dia overthrows their animalistic oppressors and restores peace and prosperity to the land of Pellucidar.
It was these incredible roles and a highly successful advertising campaign that attracted the producers of the James Bond franchise who swiftly offered Munro a part alongside Roger Moore in the 007 spy adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me. Rumour has it that Caroline Munro turned down the role of the villainess Ursa in Superman: The Movie and its resulting sequel to take the role of Naomi, Carl Stromberg’s personal pilot and a would-be assassin. A role that saw her pursuing 007 at the controls of her helicopter before it is destroyed by James Bond’s famous underwater Lotus Esprit/submarine. The role was small, but it secured her enduring legacy as one of the illustrious “Bond Girls” and enrolled her into the fraternity of the James Bond family.
A consistent string of horror movies with Munro appearing frequently in the British Hammer Horror franchise followed before she gradually moved into television work, and in later years became a patron of the Ray Harryhausen foundation. The charitable trust, which was founded in the latter part of the eighties, was established to preserve Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive collection. It was Harryhausen’s wish to establish a platform where young filmmakers could benefit from a scholarship system which is in the processes of launching both here in the UK, and at Ray’s high school in the United States.
It was her role in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad that inspired Munro’s love of Harryhausen’s work and prompted her to take up an active role with the charity of which she is now a committed trustee. At London Film & Comic Con 2018, I had the chance to catch up with Caroline and she was gracious enough to sit down with me for an exclusive interview which you can enjoy here:
Caroline Munro at London Film & Comic-Con
Phil: What does London Film & Comic Con mean to you?
Caroline: It’s extraordinary, enormous and wacky and everything we love about showbusiness and the wonderful people who come to see us. Comic-Con is extraordinary. It’s an experience and it’s lovely to be here.
Phil: What was it like performing alongside great actors like Peter Cushing and Doug McClure in At the Earth’s Core?
Caroline: I loved it. I used to go to work with a smile on my face because they were wonderful actors, also beautiful human beings and I had such a brilliant time. I worked with Peter (Cushing) twice, we did Dracula and At the Earth’s Core together, and Doug (McClure) was just the funniest, sweetest man to work with. His loss was terrible, we were like the three musketeers.
Phil: The comradery between you really shines through on film.
Caroline: I think it does, we got on really well and it’s a perfect family-friendly film. It’s lovely when you’re young and some of the little kids come to see us and they are a bit nervous of the creatures, but they still absolutely love them. It’s a special film.
Phil: Your role demanded you to wear a very revealing outfit, did that make you feel uncomfortable on set?
Caroline: Actually no, because in At the Earth’s Core most of my co-stars, the extras both male and female were all dressed similarly. But it was in the winter…which was tough.
Phil: What was your favourite moment working on At the Earth’s Core?
Caroline: One of the moments I remember was when Doug and I had to fight the fiery beastie…the one that squirted fire from its mouth. Peter was going to come in at the last bit of the shot, but the film crew said for this sequence…we’re going to get the stunt people in because it’s going to be quite physical. And we just looked at each other and said no we’ll do it.
The crew were like…are you sure? And we said…yeah!
So, what happened was, we did the flames and the fiery beastie, and the flames were so extreme that we yelled real screams, with a real fire that missed us by inches. So, I remember Peter steps in with his bow and arrow and shoots the fiery beastie.
Phil: You went on to star alongside Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me and instantly secured your place in history as a Bond girl. How does it feel to be a part of that exclusive club?
Caroline: I tell you what, I loved my time with Roger, and Richard (Kiel) and Curt (Jurgens) and Lewis Gilbert (director) and that was an amazing time, but I also love the fact that when there are various shows like this with the Bond women, the Bond women are amazing. They’re all individual and are just extraordinary strong women. It sounds cliché, but we have forged a bond and they are amazing women. We adore each other. We can’t get a word in edgeways when everybody’s together though.
Phil: Did you enjoy working with a cinematic titan in Ray Harryhausen?
Caroline: I loved it. I’m still involved with Ray even though he’s no longer with us. I’m involved in the foundation, the Ray and Diana Harryhausen foundation which has created sponsorship for young filmmakers and also promoting Ray’s enduring legacy and extraordinary career. They do a great deal of charity work and I’m delighted to be a trustee with Vanessa Harryhausen and Connor Heaney, who acts as the manager for the whole thing. We have a great big project in Scotland and they have just returned from an exhibition at the San Diego Comic-Con and it went really well.
Phil: And finally, which film from your list of credits is your favourite and why?
Caroline: I don’t necessarily have a favourite film, but the two I enjoyed working on the most were the Hammer films. The two Hammer films I loved working on because it was a team, a whole crew and again I got to work with Peter (Cushing) and Christopher (Neame), but I’d say Captain Kronos would be one of my favourites. I loved Captain Kronos, it was shot outside, naturalistic and Brian Clemens was directing. It was just brilliant. It was hard work but teamwork, and in truthfulness, it didn’t feel like work…it was just wonderful.
It was an absolute joy to stop and chat with Caroline at London Film & Comic-Con. Her passion for the fantastic movies in her catalogue of triumphs is refreshing, and she epitomises what Ray Harryhausen’s legacy means to the larger cinematic audience. Even though their paths crossed just the once, Harryhausen left a lasting impression on her and her love of his work has prompted her to become a trustee with his foundation. She is a consummate professional, a lovely person and a passionate supporter of what she believes in. It is professionals like her that we should treasure. Having been a fan of her work since childhood, I went into this interview with no preconceptions of how she would conduct herself and was blown away by her humbling honesty and charming personality.
Either by default or design, almost every one of us has caught her sparkling performance in the Spy Who Loved Me, but her most iconic roles can be found in At the Earth’s Core and the Golden Voyage of Sinbad. If you are yet to enjoy these stunning movies, I’d suggest you track them down without delay. Both are readily available on DVD with the latter also available on Blu-Ray.
And finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to both Caroline Munro for giving up her time and granting this exclusive Future of the Force interview, and to Showmasters who invited Future of the Force to attend their incredible London Film & Comic-Con event.
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