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The Ingrid Pitt interview

Published: WED - Unofficial homepage
Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Q: How did you get the role to play Heidi in "Where Eagles Dare"?

A: I was at a card party at the home of stunt legend, Yakima Canutt. John Wayne was there and being very condescending. I had a bad cold, caught in the swimming pool when I was playing a Russian dissident in an Ironside, I got cheesed off with Wayne calling me 'little lady' and decided to leave. While I was waiting for a taxi Yak told me about the big war movie being set up in London and offered to put my name forward to the director, Brian G Hutton. I rang him, went to London and got the job.

Q: What did you think of getting the role?

A: Obviously delighted. That sort of role doesn't come along often.

Q: Did you, in your career as actress, have any special use of having played Heidi in "Where Eagles Dare"?

A: I suppose the couple of war films I did after that might be considered off-shoots. Who Dares Wins was produced by a couple of old friends, Chris Chrisofis and Euan Lloyd. Hannah's War came through another friend Otto Plaskiss. I think I made a mistake travelling the world doing the publicity for the film. I should have done what Clint and Richard did and look for more work while the film was still on the circuits.

Q: Did you get to shape the role yourself in any way? How? Clothes, dialogue etc? Or were you just bound to the script and certain directions from the producer?

A: I can't really say. I was the first one to audition out of 300. I went to wherever the auditions were held, it might have been in the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London. Read the script, did my piece and that was that. I must have done something right because if you look at the audition clip it is exactly the same as in the film. Clothes I did have a little input into. The weather in London was really bad and the costume wasn't finished so I took it as it was and finished it myself in Austria.

Q: In the novel by Alistair MacLean, there is an escalating love affair between Heidi and Schaffer, and it ends with their wedding. In the movie we see nothing of this. Were there any love scenes between Heidi and Schaffer filmed?

A: When I read the script I think there was a certain coziness between the two. By the time we were on location changes had been made and my role reduced considerably.

Q: Did Alistair Maclean visit the filming? How was he? Do you know if he liked the way the movie turned out?

A: Yes, Alistair was there quite a bit. He was a lovely man and he got on with the cast and crew very well. I don't think he was too happy about some of the changes but he kept his thoughts to himself.

Q: How long did you yourself work with the movie?

A: On and off I was with the movie for six months. A lot of that time I spent in the Hilton . When the film wrapped I was asked if I would like to do a publicity tour and that lasted another couple of months.

Q: Are you personally satisfied with your appearance?

A: Why? Aren't you? I thought it went quite well.

Q: Heidi is a very popular character of the movie. Why, do you think?

A: I suppose because I wasn't around long enough to muck it up.

Q: You, Mary Ure and Olga Lowe are the only actresses in the movie. Heidi, Mary and "the nurse" are three very different kinds of women. What do you think of this? How would you compare this to other contemporary movie portrayals of women?

A: I thought they were all three fairly positive characters. When WED came out the cinema was beginning to realise that there was a place in films for strong women . Women in war films usually played a supporting role. Either suffering or betraying. Even the Biopic of women like Odette Sarson and Pearl Witherington were based on how the men stoically allowed the little woman to drop into enemy territory and how they muddled through in spite of the fact that it was against their nature. I think WED showed that the fairer sex could operate in an hostile environment without being patronised by men.

Q: Did you talk specially with the other women?

A: I became quite friendly with Olga Lowe but I'm afraid Mary Ure and I never hit it off. Mary resented there being another blond in the film and was responsible for my hair being darken, 'so as not to confuse the audience'. There was also a bit of a problem later on were she felt that if two of us were on the go again 'the audience might be confused'. The penultimate scene, when we were all supposed to fire the machine guns out of the back, Mary suggested there wasn't enough room so I sat in the bus as if I was going home from school.

Q: Any special anecdote from the filming that you would like to tell?

A: Not exactly about the film but connected with it. The PR department decided that they wanted to get some movement in the clips they were using. They asked me if I could drive a sleigh. As always my answer was yes so next morning I was taken to meet a couple of frisky horses already hooked up to a sleigh. I stirred them up and off we went. And they didn't hang about. As we flashed through the trees I had to express an opinion on the film. When I see that clip, which is usually run before the film on TV, I still can't believe that is me.

Q: What was the greatest moment during the filming, in your opinion?

A: That's easy the intro to the film. The Junkers 77 or whatever it was flying through the mountains. I was in Holland for a convention and they showed the film on a big screen. I was sitting in the front row of the balcony. It was the nearest thing to being there you can imagine.

Q: What was worst about the filming?

A: Again - easy! The cold.

Q: Are you still in touch with any other persons involved with the filming of "Where Eagles Dare"?

A: I play golf regularly with stuntman Peter Brace. I think he told me he was shot seventeen times during the film. I did have dinner with Clint the last time he came to England and went to a party on his yacht at Cannes. Other than that I can't think of any hangovers from the film. Most of the cast and crew seemed to have died or left the industry. I did have a German bloke come and see me at a convention. He told me he was the pilot of the Junkers.

Q: There have been rumours about a possible new filming of "Where Eagles Dare". If so, of all present actresses, who would you like to be the new Heidi?

A: I've not heard that but if they can decide to do a remake of The Wicker Man I suppose there will be someone around who mistakenly thinks he can improve on Where Eagles Dare. Heidi? I guess anyone with an interesting decollete could play the part.

User Comments:

Desmond Coyne (2009-01-04)
It was interesting to read this interview. Worrying to think that someone may consider re-making this classic. It should be left as it is. You couldn't possibly find a better cast than featured in WED!
James Bryant (2009-04-12)
Please, not another poor remake of a classic film. Why do the powers that be keep doing this? Where Eagles Dare is a brilliant film - leave it alone!
sakara (2009-09-26)
ingrid pitt should have been in a lot more movies, especially with nude scenes, as in "the vampire lovers." (and where eagles dare is better than any quentin tarintino movie.)
TLA (2009-11-28)
The plot is well beyond most modern audiences attention span; and the actors couldn't be replaced. Not to mention the overabundance of CGI that the current films have.
VanZant (2010-01-01)
Interesting that the two actresses had conflicts. I\'ve seen this film numerous times, and I always had a sense they didn\'t like each other, but I thought it was intentional and \"in the script.\" When they are together at the Castle and Pitt says \"Do your homework well,\" or whatever....well, if looks could kill they\'d both be dead.
Mark (2010-03-22)
A remake of this classic could only be made by using the same actors at the same age, with todays technology for some of the scenes, especially the cable car scenes. Still feel sorry for that poor pilot. Schaffer could have knocked him out.
James Wood (2010-06-10)
Best war movie ever made and what a beautiful sexy woman to play the part of Heidi.Always worth watching time after time again.
Ian (2010-10-26)
I think a remake is possible but, would have to be very well made and would need very good actors to play the lead characters in the film. I think the part of Major Smith is tailor-made for Russell Crowe who, is, not only a fine actor but, also, because, he is the only present-day actor most like the late great Richard Burton and even, in real-life is a bit of a rebel himself, just as, Richard Burton was.
Ian (2010-10-26)
I think a remake is possible but, would have to be very well made and would need very good actors to play the lead characters in the film. I think the part of Major Smith is tailor-made for Russell Crowe who, is, not only a fine actor but, also, because, he is the only present-day actor most like the late great Richard Burton and even, in real-life is a bit of a rebel himself, just as, Richard Burton was.
Randall (2013-12-22)
Does anyone happen to know the beautiful song being played in the radio room of the castle just before Clint Eastwood kills the radioman?
Randall (2013-12-22)
"ingrid pitt should have been in a lot more movies, especially with nude scenes, as in "the vampire lovers." (and where eagles dare is better than any quentin tarintino movie.) " ha ha you wish! I do think that while both women were beautiful, Ingrid was stunning! She should have been the one that the SS officer was crazy for!
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