Mollie Peters (1939-2017)
30th May 2017
MI6 pays tribute to the late actress and co-star of 'Thunderball' who passed away this week age 78
Mollie Peters (incorrectly credited as "Molly"), who appeared alongside Sean Connery as nurse Patricia Fearing in 'Thunderball', has died at the age of 78. The former glamour model, turned actress, was born Vivien Humphrey, but was more commonly known by her stage name. “I was baptised Vivien Mollie and Peter is my brother’s name.” The cause of her death is unknown, however, she had previously suffered a stroke in 2011.
Peters who grew up in Suffolk, England said while promoting Thunderball in 1965; “When I first left my parents farm to come to London five years ago, I was quite happy working as a shop girl.” She began modelling, which led to a brief career in film, “I had done a cough and a spit as they say in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965) and Terence Young was directing that.”
Peters’ agent knew Eon Productions were casting the next James Bond movie and put her forward for an audition. When interviewed by Ajay Chowdhury and I for our book Some Kind of Hero Peters recalled, “I was there because I looked good. I remember going down to the studios. I was nervous as anybody could be. I went in with a naivety about the whole thing. I do remember after I had completed the scene there was a spontaneous applause. I don’t know if they did that for everybody. I didn’t really realise the importance of that film and how many people were testing. All I knew was that Sean Connery was in it. After the test I realised this was something bigger than I had contemplated. McClory and Broccoli asked me if I would go blonde for the part. I was brunette. I said I would go green, pink whatever they wanted.” Later Associate producer Stanley Sopel called and offered Peters the role, “I just remember shrieking. It was an affirmation for me.”
Patricia Fearing was an Ian Fleming creation. In the novel he described her as possessing ‘a hint of authority that would be a challenge to men.’ Peters thought the character, “Very English. She was efficient. Her melting into his arms as easily as she did…well…she is a woman.”
Peters found director Terence Young reassuring; “I felt he was fatherly. I would have given him my full trust. I remember he was very patient, very kind. He was an elegant debonair type of man. He had a good sense of humour.”
Young cleared the set for her now famous scene in which James Bond leads Patricia into the shower, “In fact I was billed as the first nude in a Bond film. I wasn’t embarrassed. I remember in those days you had to cover your nipples with flesh coloured plasters. I took them off. I went nude. I thought that was so stupid…but there wasn’t much to see,” she said laughing.
She recalled Sean Connery fondly, “He was very much in his prime physically. He could be quite funny. Here we are trying to do the kissing scene and Sean is fooling around, enjoying himself, with Oddjob’s hat that was lying around. With a towel around him he was walking about like Groucho Marx. As for passion, there wasn’t any.”
While her fellow Bond girls got to travel on location to the Bahamas, Peters still found the confines of Pinewood Studios glamorous, “I remember meeting Gregory Peck at the milk machine. I was star struck. Later we were driving home and I passed him on the Hammersmith flyover and I remember he waved to me.”
Released at the very height of Bondmania, Peters did travel the world extensively promoting Thunderball, most notably South America, “Martine [Beswicke] and I were walking into the premiere in Rio de Janeiro. I was blonde with a tan and wearing a white dress. The crowds wanted to touch me. Whether they envied me as if I was someone out of this world, living a different life…which I was I suppose...I don’t know? I found that very strange.”
Peters gave up acting shortly after Thunderball. She blamed the demise of her screen career on a dispute she had with her agent. By the time the matter was resolved, “The impetus had gone. I did a film in Yugoslavia, Target For A Killer again with Adolfo Celi and Stuart Granger.”
Following her retirement in the 1970s Peters married and gave birth to a son, Aaron, who sadly died in in 2013; “That has shattered my life,” she admitted. “He used to take the mickey out of me, ‘Oh My Bond,’ he would say. He was in the Royal Marine Commandos. They write letters in case they die in service. He had written one for me in case anything happened to him. In it he said how proud he was that his mother had been in a Bond film. That brought floods of tears.”
Peters appeared occasionally on the autograph circuit and took great delight in meeting Bond fans; “I thought they were great fun. The people who wanted an autograph were genuine and they really did love Bond.” She spent the last years of her life living in Somerset to be near her granddaughter.
With thanks to Ajay Chowdhury and Brian James Smith