They looked like an ordinary older couple; were they not just sitting on a stage having just been given Honorary Doctorates by Brunel University or both still so incredibly good-looking. His features only slightly conceal or maybe just soften his former handsomeness and she is simply a natural goddess.
I realise later that the children in the audience are their grandchildren, and listening to the stories that Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave entertained us with (despite the interviewers desperate efforts to bring it back to business ) you could imagine them sitting in their livingroom telling the same story to their family.
They met on the set of Camelot in 1966, he was Lancelot and she played Guinevere.
” I remember the first time I met her. She was wearing jeans, with holes in and glasses. (…) I said to the director “Are you sure? She is so ugly!” Then later I found a note in my dressing room, an invite to a dinner party. So I drive to [ Franco actually remembered the address after 40 years, I don’t even after 24 hrs…] and this beautiful lady opens the door. So I say: ‘ I am here for dinner, I’m invited by Vanessa Redgrave.’ Says the lady: I am Vanessa Redgrave.”
Vanessa then recalls her side of the story: ” He was a nice man. He had a nice face, [ Generous, given that he initially thought her ugly, I thought ] He didn’t have that much hair on his face in those days. I mean handsome yes, with those blue eyes… But more an honest face. An honest face.” Well, he certainly was honest about what he thought of you…
He: ” But the story of us getting together…”
She: ” Oh yes, tell that story, that is a nice story.”
He: “The director had to catch a flight and I had a car. He had asked me to drive him to the airport and when we get at the airport Vanessa asks me: ‘ Do you have to work tomorrow?’ and I say: ‘ No.’ So she suggests: ‘ Let’s go somewhere, anywhere.’ We look at the flights, I am game obviously! The first out is to San Francisco. We book the tickets and take the plane to San Francisco and there we hire a car. We just spend time, drive all day until we get to a motel… And that’s where that story ends!”
Vanessa then recalls how smitten she was, when Franco had to go to shoot a film abroad, she came with him and spent her time fetching water for cast and crew. She sighed: ” Oh to be young and the things you do for love! ”
These two legends sit next to each other, she still looks at him besotted. They met, they had a baby, they split, life happened and then 40 years later they reunite. Here on the stage, they are in tune and very much together: it’s wonderful to see that even real-life has the potential for a Hollywood ending.