Diane Cilento
Cilento in 1954
Elizabeth Diane Cilento

(1932-04-02)2 April 1932
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Died6 October 2011(2011-10-06) (aged 79)
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Years active1950–2011
  • Andrea Volpe
    (m. 1955; div. 1962)
  • (m. 1962; div. 1974)
  • (m. 1985; died 2001)
Children2, including Jason Connery
RelativesMargaret Cilento (sister)

Diane Cilento (2 April 1932 – 6 October 2011) was an Australian actress and writer. She is best known for her film roles in Tom Jones (1963), which earned her an Academy Award nomination, Hombre (1967) and The Wicker Man (1973). She also received a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Helen of Troy in the play Tiger at the Gates.

Early life

Elizabeth Diane Cilento[1][2] was born on 2 April 1932[3][4][5][6][7][8] in Brisbane,[4][5][7][8] Queensland, the daughter of Phyllis (née McGlew) and Raphael Cilento, both medical practitioners in Queensland.[9][10][11] She was the fifth of six children; four of her siblings became medical practitioners, while her sister Margaret was an artist.[9][12] Cilento's paternal great-grandfather, Salvatore Cilento, arrived from Naples, Italy, in 1855.[13]

It was from a young age that Cilento decided to follow a career as an actress. After being expelled from school in Australia, she was schooled in New York while living with her father. Cilento later won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and moved to Britain in the early 1950s.[9]


After graduation, Cilento found work on stage almost immediately and was signed to a five-year contract by Alexander Korda. Her first leading film role was in the British film Passage Home (1955), opposite fellow Australian Peter Finch.[14]

With Peter Finch in Passage Home (1955)

She soon secured roles in British films and worked steadily until the end of the decade. In 1956, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) for Helen of Troy in Jean Giraudoux's Tiger at the Gates. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Tom Jones in 1963[15] and appeared in The Third Secret the following year.

She starred with Charlton Heston in the 1965 film The Agony and the Ecstasy, and with Paul Newman in the 1967 western film Hombre, and had a supporting role in The Wicker Man (1973).

Cilento continued working as an actress, in films and television. In the 1980s, she settled in Mossman, north of Cairns, where she built her own outdoor theatre, named "Karnak", in the tropical rainforest. The venture allowed her to participate in experimental drama.[16]

In 2001, she was awarded the Centenary Medal for "distinguished service to the arts, especially theatre".[17]

Personal life

In 1955, Cilento married Andrea Volpe, an Italian aristocrat.[18] She gave birth to their daughter Giovanna in 1957.[19] Cilento and Volpe divorced in 1962.[20] Later that year, Cilento married actor Sean Connery, with whom she had a son, Jason (born 1963).[21] Cilento and Connery separated in 1971 and divorced in 1974.[22][23] In her autobiography My Nine Lives, Cilento said that Connery was emotionally and physically abusive during their marriage.[24][25][26] In 1985, Cilento married playwright Anthony Shaffer, whom she met in 1972 while working on The Wicker Man. They remained married until his death in 2001.[27][28]


Cilento died of cancer at Cairns Base Hospital on 6 October 2011.[29][30][20][31]



Year Title Role Notes
1951 Captain Horatio Hornblower Maria Hornblower (voice) Uncredited
1952 Wings of Danger Jeannette
1952 Moulin Rouge Midinette Uncredited
1953 All Hallowe'en Harriet Short film
1953 Meet Mr. Lucifer Woman on the street Uncredited
1954 The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp The Angel
1954 The Passing Stranger Jill
1955 Passage Home Ruth Elton
1955 The Woman for Joe Mary
1957 The Admirable Crichton Tweeny
1957 The Truth About Women Ambrosine Viney
1959 Jet Storm Angelica Como
1960 The Full Treatment Denise Colby
1961 The Naked Edge Mrs. Heath
1962 I Thank a Fool Liane Dane
1963 Tom Jones Molly Seagrim Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (4th place)
1964 The Third Secret Anne Tanner
1964 Rattle of a Simple Man Cyrenne
1965 Once Upon a Tractor Geraldine Short film
1965 The Agony and the Ecstasy Contessina de'Medici
1967 Hombre Jessie
1968 Negatives Reingard
1972 Z.P.G. Edna
1973 Hitler: The Last Ten Days Hanna Reitsch
1973 The Wicker Man Miss Rose
1975 The Tiger Lily Charlotte Brain
1982 Duet for Four Margot Mason Feature film, AUSTRALIA
1985 The Boy Who Had Everything Mother Feature film, AUSTRALIA


Year Title Role Notes
1951 A Tomb with a View Amy Heron TV film
1955 The Alcoa Hour Small Servant TV series, Episode: "The Small Servant"
1956 The Taming of the Shrew Bianca TV film
1956 Film Fanfare Herself TV series, 1 episode
1957 Rich and Rich Guest TV series, 1 episode
1957–61 ITV Television Playhouse Various roles TV series, 2 episodes
1958 Television World Theatre Nina Leeds Evans TV series, Episodes: "Strange Interlude: Part 1 & 2"
1959–64 ITV Play of the Week Various roles TV series, 2 episodes
1959 Sunday Night Theatre Anne TV series, Episode: "The Concert"
1960 Armchair Theatre Sadie Thompson TV series, Episode: "Rain"
1961 Vanity Fair Becky Sharp TV series, Episode: "Part 1"
1963 Espionage Lina TV series, 1 Episode: "Festival of Pawns"
1964 The 36th Annual Academy Awards Nominee TV special
1964 Festival Lysistrata TV series, 1 Episode: "Lysistrata"
1964 Juke Box Jury Panellist TV series, 1 episode
1965 Blackmail Euphrasia Jones TV series, 1 Episode: "Cut Yourself a Slice of Throat"
1966 Court Martial TV series, Episode: "La Belle France"
1966 The Eamonn Andrews Show Guest TV series, 1 episode
1967 Thirty-Minute Theatre Penelope TV series, 1 Episode: "Another Moon Called Earth"
1967 Dial M for Murder Margo Wendice TV film
1967 Whicker's World Guest TV series, 1 episode
1967 Good Company Herself TV series, 1 episode
1967 The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson Guest TV series, 1 episode
1968 Late Night Horror Lady Sannox TV series, Episode: "The Kiss of Blood"
1968 The Frankie Howerd Show Guest TV special
1968 Sydney Tonight Guest TV series, 1 episode
1969 ITV Sunday Night Theatre: Rogues' Gallery Lady Sarah Bellasize TV series, Regular role, 6 episodes
1970 Morecambe & Wise Guest TV series, 1 episode
1971 The Mike Douglas Show Guest TV series, 1 episode
1971 The David Frost Show Guest TV series, 2 episodes
1972 The Persuaders! Kate Sinclair TV series, Episode: "A Death in the Family"
1973 Thriller Clara TV series, Episode: "Spell of Evil"
1974 The Book Programme Guest TV series, 1 episode
1975 Affairs of the Heart Elizabeth Damerel TV series, Episode: "Elizabeth"
1975 The 17th Annual TV Week Logie Awards Presenter TV special
1975 Celebrity Squares Contestant TV series, 2 episodes
1978 Cappriccio! Herself TV series, 1 episode
1978 Everyman Narrator TV series, 1 episode
1978 Tycoon Diana Clark TV series, Regular role, 13 episodes
1979 Call My Bluff Herself TV series, 2 episodes
1979–1984 The Mike Walsh Show Guest - Herself TV series, 4 episodes
1980 The British Greats Guest TV series, 1 episode
1980 Big Toys Mag

TV film

1981 Parkinson in Australia Guest TV series, 1 episode
1981 Diane Cilento: I Love Music Host TV special
1981 1981 Australian Film Institute Awards Presenter TV special
1982 Diane Cilento Festa Italiana Presenter TV special
1983 For The Term of His Natural Life Lady Elinor Devine TV miniseries, Recurring role, 2 episodes
1983 Willesee: Survival Herself TV special
1984 The Mike Walsh Show Guest - Herself TV series, 1 episode
1985 Fountain of Youth Herself Film documentary
1985 Out of Shot Narrator Film documentary
1986 The 1986 Australian Film Institute Awards Presenter TV special
1987; 1992 Sunday Afternoon Herself TV series, 2 episodes
1988 Queensland Day Royal Expo Concert Host TV special
1989 Burke's Backyard Celebrity gardener TV series, 1 episode
1993–94 Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left Authoritax / Principa TV series, Recurring role, 6 episodes
1994; 1995: 1998 Good Morning Australia Guest TV series, 3 episodes
1994 Ten Eyewitness News Herself TV series, 1 episode
1999 Laws Guest TV series, 1 episode
2003 The Brits go to Hollywood Guest TV series, 1 episode
2004 Australian Story Herself TV series, 1 episode
2006 Enough Rope with Andrew Denton Herself TV series, 1 episode
2006 Mornings with Kerri-Anne Herself TV series, 1 episode
2007 Ken Adam's Production Films: You Only Live Twice Herself Video


Year Title Role Location Notes
1955 Tiger at the Gates Helen Helen Hayes Theatre Theatre World Award
Nominated — Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
1959 Heartbreak House Ellie Dunn Billy Rose Theatre
1960 The Good Soup Marie-Paule II Plymouth Theatre



  1. ^ The Concise Encyclopedia of Australia and New Zealand. Horwitz Publications. 1982. p. 286.
  2. ^ "Elizabeth D Cilento". England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005.
  3. ^ "Diane Cilento". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 24 January 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Cilento, Diane (1932–2011)". snaccooperative.org. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  5. ^ a b Australian Biography Series 8: Diane Cilento, Kanopy Streaming, 2015
  6. ^ "Diane Cilento". Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Library. Archived from the original on 4 December 2013.
  7. ^ a b Moran, Albert; Keating, Chris (2009). The A to Z of Australian Radio and Television. Scarecrow Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780810870222.
  8. ^ a b Famous People Born in April 1932 - On This Day
  9. ^ a b c "Australian Biography: Diane Cilento". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  10. ^ Finnane, Mark (2007). "Cilento, Sir Raphael West (Ray) (1893–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 17. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. pp. 216–17. ISSN 1833-7538. Archived from the original on 4 March 2011.
  11. ^ Mahoney, Mary D. (2007). "Cilento, Phyllis Dorothy (1894–1987)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 17. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. pp. 214–15. ISSN 1833-7538. Archived from the original on 4 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Margaret Cilento". 19 January 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  13. ^ Desmond O'Connor, Italians in South Australia: The first hundred years Archived 20 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, In D. O’Connor and A. Comin (eds) 1993. "Proceedings: the First Conference on the Impact of Italians in South Australia, 16–17 July 1993", Italian Congress: Italian Discipline, The Flinders University of South Australia: Adelaide, pp.15–32.
  14. ^ "MARIAN MARCH PAGE". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 23 November 1954. p. 16. Retrieved 11 February 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ The Official Academy Awards® Database, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1963
  16. ^ Vallance, Tom (24 October 2011). "Diane Cilento: Actress who won Oscar and Tony nominations and was married to Sean Connery and Anthony Shaffer". The Independent. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Cilento, Diane". It's An Honour – Australia Celebrating Australians. 1 January 2001. Archived from the original on 23 February 2019. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Mother Did Not Know Diane Cilento Wed". Leicester Mercury. 15 February 1955.
  19. ^ "How they live: Comfort for the Cilentos". The Australian Women's Weekly. 2 July 1958. p. 21.
  20. ^ a b Keepnews, Peter (8 October 2011). "Diane Cilento, Oscar-Nominated Actress, Dies at 78 [sic]". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Surprise gift for Diane The Australian Women's Weekly 25 December 1968 p. 2 – Contains photo of Sean, Gigi, Jason and Diane
  22. ^ "Sean Connery, Wife Reveal Separation". The La Crosse Tribune. Associated Press. 17 February 1971.
  23. ^ Gardner, Hy (3 August 1974). "Personal Postscripts". Lansing State Journal. Sean Connery finally got his divorce from lovely Diane Cilento
  24. ^ McFarlane, Brian (29 April 2006). "My Nine Lives". The Age. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010.
  25. ^ "Jealous Connery beat me, says ex-wife". The Scotsman. 26 September 2005. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  26. ^ Neal, Aly (12 February 2012). "No more free passes to famous men who abuse women". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  27. ^ "Obituary: Anthony Shaffer". The Guardian. 8 November 2001. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017.
  28. ^ "Playwright's family fight off mistress's claim to share legacy". The Guardian. 10 February 2004. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016.
  29. ^ "Actress Diane Cilento dies". ABC News Australia. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011.
  30. ^ Bergan, Ronald (7 October 2011). "Diane Cilento obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Australian actress Diane Cilento dies aged 78 [sic]". BBC News. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 2 November 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.