Interview with actress Sarah Miles
PUBLISHED: 17:06 24 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:14 28 February 2013
Sussex actress Sarah Miles nearly won an Oscar for her lead role in Ryan's Daughter, but she'll be best remembered for her penchant for urine drinking, fervent New Age beliefs and famous lovers. But call her potty at your peril
Sarah Miles was reluctant to do this interview. Whenever I do interviews, they usually turn out abysmally, she told me bluntly when we initially spoke on the telephone. Why do I see journalists as the enemy? Well, if you look at whats been written about me during my endlessly tiresome life youd understand!
Lets review the evidence. She was one of the most celebrated actresses of her generation, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the David Lean film Ryans Daughter. But shes best known for her love affairs with Laurence Olivier, Robert Mitchum and Steven Spielberg, drinking her own urine and her New Age beliefs in crop circles, time bends and the healing power of dolphins.
Flicking through a decade of yellowing cuttings, I lost count of the number of times shes been dismissed as barmy or eccentric, but if, as she claims, shes been scarred by it, she hasnt moderated her public outpourings one iota.
I just dont think people get it, she says defiantly. One famous interviewer called me a dolphin freak and thought I was a nutter, but now were discovering that dolphins are healing everybody. And Ive been studying crop circles since the mid Eighties, so I know exactly what Im talking about there. Anybody who isnt in the hubbub of celebrity clich whos on a different journey in life gets mocked. Journalists deride everything alternative, but thats because theyre so behind the times.
Miles, 70, is speaking from the 11th century manor house near Midhurst which she bought with her late husband, screenwriter Robert Bolt, in the mid Eighties. Achingly beautiful, it nestles in a valley surrounded by pastures and woodland, with a sand-based spring mentioned in the Domesday Book. Its next to a church and a Buddhist monastery and a river runs at the bottom of the garden.
When she was very young, she claims she had a vision in which she saw an ancient house beside a church and river. Years later, when she and Bolt decided to move out of London, they went in search of her vision and found it here in Sussex.
Three years we searched, and we gave up. And the weekend we gave up was the weekend we found it. It was advertised in a magazine and we went to see it. The owner said: You cant view it now, were expecting someone at any minute, but Robert said: A minutes all we need, and pushed past him. When he hobbled up the garden and looked at the apple tree, he knew our quest was over.
Fittingly, Bolt, who died in 1995, is buried beneath that apple tree in a grave Sarah helped to dig. Theirs was a whirlwind romance. They met at a dinner party in 1965. He was 39, she was 23 and they wed 18 months later, by which time Miles was pregnant with their son, Tom. Id never felt so adored in my life. This guy was absolutely potty about me like an addict. And it was hard not to love the man who had written A Man for All Seasons.
To the outside world they seemed an unlikely couple, but the marriage flourished though they were married for seven years, divorced for seven and reunited again for another 14, after Bolt suffered a severe stroke. Miles nursed him devotedly at their Sussex home and it taught her infinite patience and an even deeper understanding, but when the end finally came there was barely anything in their joint bank account and she struggled to hold on to the manor house.
I dont have central heating, so I just wrap up warm, she says. And when I discover dry rot or a leak in the roof, I just offer it up to the archangels in the garden and say: Take care of my house please. I cant afford to live here, but I love being frugal and making do with very little. It suits my temperament.
She is well aware of her eccentric reputation, particularly since it was revealed in the Seventies that she drinks a small cup of her own urine every day. It started when she went to a Californian clinic where they gave it in injection form, and it cured all her allergies, so when she couldnt afford the treatment any more, she asked the therapist what she could do instead and he said: Drink it.
I didnt like the sound of that, but then I remembered that when Robert was researching a film about Gandhi, wed visited his ashram in India where we met this 90 year-old woman who looked about 58. She said they all drank their own pee there not a glassful, just a little homeopathic sip so I went to this LA clinic. The essence of who you are is in your pee. You couldnt do it if you had a bad lifestyle, but my food is pure and I only drink water and the occasional glass of wine.
Of course, all this has somewhat eclipsed her acting career, though anyone who saw her in Hope and Glory, or White Mischief, or even long ago in her early films, Term of Trial or The Servant, will know that shes a very fine actress. As one interviewer put it, She has that Vanessa Redgrave quality of seeming to have one skin fewer than normal people so that the emotion comes over unmuffled and bare.
But if the media isnt banging on about her pee, its her list of significant others. Before I get the chance to quiz her, however, she cuts me short. Ive had a long life, so dont make it sound as though I popped in and out of bed with every Tom, Dick and Harry. My thing with Spielberg lasted two years, James Fox was another two, Olivier lasted 28 and Mitchum more than 12. These are not one-off little things. And Ive never had a one-night stand in my life. Are you hearing me?
Since the death of Bolt, there have been no men at all and she is sustained by her spiritual life. She tells me she has recently founded
a group called Expanding Heart Awareness, where like-minded people come together at her home to read poetry, tell stories and meditate. I want people to be healed; to feel secure in a womb-like environment. But Im frightened to put my name to it because people will say its Sarah Miles group.
This summer, the group laid down a challenge, offering a 100,000 reward to anyone who could recreate the Galaxy crop circle which appeared in 2001 on Milk Hill in Wiltshire thus proving it was a hoax. Four different teams claimed theyd made it, so I said: Go to it, but not one came forward. Whats going on here, would you say?
Why is she so certain they arent hoaxes? I cant go there because youll think Im inventing a story for excitement. But she says all will be revealed in a few years when we enter a higher consciousness. Well open our hearts and minds, free ourselves of hatred and prejudice, and mankind will be as one. But well have to sink a bit lower before they reach out a hand. She declines to say who they are. All I can say is wait and see.
I have a hunch the clues are to be found in her recently published childrens novel, The Boy and the Beez, which tells the story of a boy who is sent to stay with his eccentric grandmother after a near-fatal encounter with a school bully. Soon he is thrust into a beguiling adventure where he encounters ghosts and UFOs, and discovers that hes invested with a strange power enabling him to bend time.
When he asks his gran, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Miles, about the source of his gift, they visit a crop circle and she introduces him to a group of benevolent aliens called the Space Brothers. It transpires theyve always been in touch with Nanna and have chosen the boy to do certain things on earth in the service of mankind. So thats it shes predicting a close encounter of the third kind.
Its plain to see why her public pronouncements have raised a few eyebrows and more than one commentator has suggested that if the press have presented her as a flake, its largely her own doing. But this fails to explain why she garnered the love and devotion of so many remarkable men over so many decades. As for herself, she bats away any suggestion of culpability. When people come up to me, its always to say lovely things and I have a huge fanbase in England. Its the media who are the only devil on earth.
The Boy and the Beez by Sarah Miles is published by Indepenpress at 7.99.