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INTERVIEW: Outspoken ’70s icon Britt Ekland on India, ex-lovers… and her dog

© Daily Mail/Murray Sanders/ShutterstockBritt Ekland
Britt Ekland

Britt Ekland has a new and interesting partner in her life.

No surprise for a woman who has spent much of the past 50 years in a string of high-profile romances.

Is it another pop star, like Rod Stewart? Or an actor like Warren Beatty, or George Hamilton? What about comedian Peter Sellers?

“She is a rescue dog, called Bowie – and doesn’t really like anyone but me,” laughed Britt. “She is named after David, my favourite pop star, who I adored.

“I live alone, but I power walk every morning – I live next to a park so that’s where Bowie and I go.

“Bowie is a chihuahua and she is gender fluid – she’s a girl but she’s a boy too. Gender fluid, a bit like David!”

The 77-year-old is currently in lockdown in her London home.

Although she’s alone – chihuahua aside – at the moment, this week she’ll share a screen with seven other celebrities for the latest series of The Real Marigold Hotel, for a visit to India for a so-called retirement journey.

Retiring isn’t a word you’d use to describe Britt, especially not when it comes to her talking about one of her fellow celebrities.

She found herself a friend in Scottish Dragons’ Den star, Duncan Bannatyne, one of the Marigoldees.

“I love Duncan, and he loves me!” said Britt. “He loves his wife more, though, because she is younger and prettier than me.

“He deserves everything as he lives a good life, and he’s fun and pleasant to be with.

“And I’m always a sucker for an accent, and he has that lovely Scottish voice.

“He’s such a beautiful man, and he’s got a lovely body. He’s a joy. Was I attracted to him? No, he’s much too old for me…!”

© Pierluigi/Shutterstock
Britt in London in the Swinging Sixties

Britt made the decision to take part in The Real Marigold Hotel after being courted for a year – this time by producers.

“They kept nagging me to do it,” she said, in a Swedish accent which retains its Scandinavian lilts and dips, decades after leaving Sweden for swinging London in the ’60s.

“In the end, I gave up and said yes,” she said. “The main reason I wanted to go to India is I can’t take poverty and destitution. With Marigold Hotel it’s not about living in luxury hotels and swimming in waters off white sand beaches.

“This was living among the real people. That, for me, was the main reason I went.”

The Real Marigold Hotel shows Britt travelling to rural areas of India, where she witnesses how the people live. And she was left in no doubt about who is the backbone of the country.

“Women are,” she said. “I’m talking about women in the field, women working in the street.

“The women in India cook and clean and care for people and they do it with a smile, looking perfectly serene. And they dress immaculately, there’s not a speck of dust on their clothes, they wear wonderful jewellery.

“Meanwhile, all the men I saw were fat and lazy. That’s all I’m going to say as otherwise there will be uproar…”

Britt is disarmingly honest about almost every subject – whether it’s her A-list ex-partners, directors with whom she feuded and, bizarrely, the state of Scottish football.

In particular she is interested in SPFL champions Celtic, and their biggest fan, Rod Stewart.

“I know it is very difficult for football clubs during this crisis,” she explained. “I hope during a time like this he will put his hand in his pocket and give some money to Celtic.

“When does Rod put his hand in his pocket? Who knows, maybe now he will…”

© Andre Csillag/Shutterstock
Britt with Rod Stewart in the mid-’70s

Of course you suspect Britt isn’t overly concerned about the Parkhead club’s finances. In the context of her previous comments about Rod – and how miserly he was – it is instead a mischievous little dig at her ex-lover.

Britt says that while they dated in the ’70s, Rod made her pay £100 a month upkeep to look after her children, and took her to boutique stores – where he would buy clothes, but only for himself.

Sticking up for herself comes naturally, and, with The Real Marigold Hotel, she wants to speak up on behalf other women. She scoffs, however, at the idea of her being a women’s rights activist.

“What is a feminist? Someone who burns their bra? No, of course I’m not a feminist,” she added. “I’m a strong person, a very strong person, but that’s not the type of woman I am. I have compassion, though.

“Because I am a woman and because I’m fortunate enough to see women all over the world I know basically we always have the same problem.

“Is it about men? No, it’s about being paid a fair amount, and equality.”

Britt’s doesn’t stem from the authority of age, or celebrity status. It’s a matter of where she grew up.

“I’m not outspoken, I’m Swedish,” she laughed. “I’m honest and it’s landed me in a bit of a pickle here and there. I can take that.

“I live my life the way I’ve been brought up, and that is to be true to yourself, and to feel compassion, and to be fair. As fair as you can be.

“Scots and Swedes come from the same fabric. There’s something about us, we grew up in the North. We’re sturdy people.”

Her affection for Scotland endures, despite a miserable time filming for the iconic horror, The Wicker Man.

“It was a tough location as it was supposed to be this beautiful fertile Summer Isle, with green fields and sunlight,” she added.

“In reality it was like moors. You Scots know what it’s like in October. We were on cliffs and the wind was howling and I was pregnant.

“It was difficult, but if you look at the list of the top 100 British films, The Wicker Man and Get Carter are on there. Not bad for a girl who isn’t even from Britain!”

© Studio Canal/Shutterstock
Britt starred in The Wicker Man in 1973

During lockdown, Britt celebrated her grandson’s birthday with her family, via Zoom. Other than that she has her dog, Bowie.

The days of Britt being defined by whatever relationships with celebrity lotharios have passed.

She is instead consumed by getting back to her play, The Cat And The Canary, a project which has given her a creative spark.

“It’s important to keep that energy,” she added. “If you don’t have a creative energy then you just sit at home, drink wine and eat cheese, watching TV.

“That’s not who I am. I’m a person who is absolutely full of positive energy. I’m totally unafraid. I have my own house and live alone – I have to deal with these things myself.

“There might be spiders or snakes or whatever – I can’t be afraid. I can’t exactly run to a neighbour and say, ‘help me.’ I gotta face everything on my own. And I do.”

The Real Marigold Hotel, BBC 1, Thur, 9pm