Diane Cilento

Her Nine Lives

Diane as Helen of Troy in Tiger at the Gates.

Born in Queensland in 1932 Diane was the second youngest of six children of prominent doctors Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento.

It was a typical childhood growing up in Annerley, but by the time she was 14, Diane had been booted out of two high schools. The solution was to send her to live in New York with her father who was working for the World Health Organisation.

Classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts introduced Diane to acting. This led to the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London where she excelled.

After scoring starring roles in films like The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp and the Broadway musical Tiger at the Gates, Diane met and married her first husband Andrea Volpe. Their daughter Giovanna was born in December 1957.

Diane met her second husband Sean Connery on the set of television play Anna Christie in 1957. They were married in 1962 and with Sean, Diane had her second child Jason in 1963.

This same year Diane was cast in the screen adaptation of Tom Jones. For her role as Molly Seagrim, Diane was nominated for an Academy Award for Best supporting Actress.

By the early 1970s though, Diane's marriage to Sean Connery was breaking down and they divorced in 1972.

Shortly after Diane appeared in the film The Wicker Man. On set a relationship developed with the writer of the script, Anthony Shaffer.

Diane and Anthony married in 1985 and in 2006 Diane released her autobiography My Nine Lives.

Karnak and Far North Queensland

Diane Cilento at the 500-seat theatre at Karnak.

In 1975 Diane returned to live in Far North Queensland with Anthony on a run-down farm outside Mossman. Here Diane set up a theatre and rainforest sanctuary called Karnak which was her home until her death in 2011.

Life and career highlights

The Australian Women's Weekly originally published this photo of Sean Connery, Giovanna Volpe, Jason Connery and Diane Cilento, arriving in Australia for a family Christmas in 1968.

  • First starring film role - The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (1956)
  • Nominated for a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) - Tiger at the Gates (1956)
  • Awarded Variety Club's Best Newcomer of the Year - Tiger at the Gates (1956)
  • Married Andrea Volpe, her first husband in 1956 and in 1957 had their first child, Giovanna Volpe.
  • Married her second husband Sean Connery in 1962 and had her second child, Jason Connery in 1963.
  • Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress - Tom Jones (1963)
  • Starred alongside Charlton Heston in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and Paul Newman in Hombre (1967)
  • Published her novels, The Manipulator (1967) and Hybrid (1970).
  • In 1985 Diane married Anthony Shaffer, writer of the script, The Wicker Man whom she met when appearing in the film in 1973.
  • Diane and Anthony built an outdoor theatre and sanctuary known as 'Karnak' after settling in far north Queensland in 1975.
  • In 2001 Diane was recognised for distinguished service to the arts and theatre with an Australian Centenary Medal.
  • Diane published her autobiography, My Nine Lives in 2006.
  • In 2010 Diane teamed with QUT Acting Graduate Gyton Grantley to launch QUT's Artist in Residence program.