Ekland changes mind over Sellers film, and shows off her new date

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The Independent Culture

The Swedish actress Britt Ekland buried the hatchet with the makers of a film about her former husband Peter Sellers in time to attend its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last night.

The Swedish actress Britt Ekland buried the hatchet with the makers of a film about her former husband Peter Sellers in time to attend its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last night.

Ekland, who was married to the mercurial British star for four years in the 1960s, had objected to the movie because she did not like the biography The Life and Death of Peter Sellers by Roger Lewis, on which the film is based and takes the same title.

But she decided to take a look for herself and walked down the red carpet alongside the Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, who plays her, and Geoffrey Rush, the Australian depicting Sellers.

The film is a co-production between the BBC and the American company HBO and was filmed at the Shepperton Studios and locations in Britain. It is a contender for the top prize at the French festival.

Until now, Ekland, 61, opposed the project and had not met Theron or seen the movie. Michael Sellers, the actor's son by his first wife Anne Howe (played by Emily Watson), was also unhappy but is expected to attend a private screening in London next week.

Ekland had said that casting Theron was a "nonsense". The actress, who won an Oscar for Monster earlier this year, is six feet tall while Ekland is 5'5". At 28, Theron is also several years older than when Ekland became Sellers' second wife after a whirlwind romance in 1964.

But before the premiere yesterday, Theron announced the two women would attend together. "She's my date," she said.

Theron warned that she had not tried to present a perfect impersonation of the Swedish star. "The thing for an actress playing a real person is that if you think about that primarily, it becomes a lot of pressure. There's only so much that's going to be 100 per cent accurate," she said.

The book was felt by many to present an unsympathetic picture of the troubled tantrum-prone comic genius who first won fame on the radio with the Goon Show. He went on to make films including The Pink Panther series, Dr Strangelove and The Party. He died of a heart attack in 1980 at the age of 54.

But the portrayal of Ekland was also based on her own autobiography, it emerged yesterday. Stephen Hopkins, the film's director, said: "I have met with Britt but we didn't go into any detail with her about the role. A lot of it is taken from her own book."

The film is not a straight biopic but mixes fact with fantasy in a reflection of Sellers' mind. Hopkins said: "I don't think we debunked the myth of Peter Sellers. The film is a reasonably compassionate view of someone who had a very difficult life."

"If you really want to find out about Sellers you have to watch his movies a lot, because that's the only way he really spoke."

The actress Goldie Hawn once said that being in the company of Sellers was "like watching a man balanced on a pin".

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