GUYS AND DOLLS I started out with a speech impediment and flat feet - I had to practise my Rs and take dance lessons. I ended up dancing with the Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden [in London, before I] hurt myself and became an actress by default. I started with a James Bond movie at the age of 20 and I clearly didn't know what I was doing. I went into theatre and shocked the newspapers, who kept saying I'd failed miserably because I was now being paid GBP12 a week playing Nora in [Henrik] Ibsen's A Doll's House instead of being a movie star. I just felt that I had a lot to learn and I didn't really want to run three paces behind a man with a gun, wearing short skirts. It wasn't really what I had in mind.
SENSE AND SCANDAL I've been fortunate to have had a really varied career: East of Eden, obviously; Wedding Crashers is huge right now, so I've got a whole new younger generation who know me as 'Kitty Kat'; and then there's those who know me as a Bond girl. That was a million years ago. I've played Maria Callas, Marie Antoinette - a lot of period work. I even made a movie about the boatpeople in Hong Kong, shot in Penang, [Malaysia]. It's called the Keys to Freedom. I had to learn Cantonese overnight. They got this young Hong Kong actor and he said, 'They want you to curse in the most horrible way possible at the woman who runs the whorehouse [in the scene].' I said, 'Well, can you translate it for me into English?' And he said, 'No, there are words in Cantonese that the English haven't even discovered - but trust me, this will have an impact.' So I learned this thing and then the next day all the people on set went, 'Oooh!' And then I tried a bit of it in a Chinese restaurant about a year later in England and they went, 'Oooh!'
LONG RUNS Nineteen years ago I started [television series Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman] and it ran for seven years; it's in 98 countries and still plays every day in America and France. Apparently it plays in China, too. Somewhere in Time is huge everywhere. It's the longest-running movie in the history of Hong Kong cinema - a year and a half. It was so crazy that I came out here at the invitation of [media mogul] Sir Run Run Shaw. Chris Reeve was my closest friend in the world after making that movie. I'm very involved with the Christopher [& Dana] Reeve Foundation and people with disabilities. In fact, we've ramped our whole house. Thanks to Chris, we met some extraordinary people with disabilities.
ART AND ADVOCACY To help organisations that don't have a voice is an extraordinary thing and that only comes from having had some success in my artistic ventures. It has been a huge privilege, being able to pass a message or advocate for global water rights, or work for the American Red Cross in Africa. I've been supporting this programme, My Day for RA, because one of my best friends - the woman who taught me how to paint - developed rheumatoid arthritis and we didn't know what it was at the time. She's a health nut but all of a sudden she was with me one day and her feet blew up like balloons, and her hands, too. She was in so much pain: she couldn't pick anything up; she couldn't dress herself. They didn't test her for RA until she came to them having looked on the internet, and they got her on Enbrel, and she now can paint, has a life. But I've met a lot of RA patients who didn't get treatment in time.
COUGAR DU JOUR The good news is that for some reason [film producers] don't think I look my age. I'm 60 in February. The bad news is that I can't really play 40 because there's plenty of 40-year-olds who like to play 40. So they meet me and say, 'Well she can't really play the grandmother ...' But I am playing inappropriate older women. My husband [James Keach] had to request that we lighten up on the cougar work, however, I think it's wonderful. I have girlfriends who are cougars and I just play one, which is a lot safer. I can be happily married, have six children and just embarrass myself. Sometimes I think I'm the only one who hasn't had all the plastic surgery - well I haven't had the facelift, anyway.
HEART TO HEARTH I have dual citizenship. We live in Malibu, [in California]; we don't have a home in England any more. We had a beautiful home in Bath, over 1,000 years old. We had it for 26 years and it's the love of my life but the expense of keeping a manor house ... it came to the point where I had to say goodbye. I love going back to England and a huge part of me will always be British but there's something really exciting about living in America. It really is the melting pot of the world.
CASH AND CREDIT My husband is a director and we produce movies. I just finished a film I really love called Love Wedding Marriage, with Mandy Moore, shot in New Orleans. We did Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash one. He was on Dr Quinn back when nobody cared about Cash and my husband directed him and we became very good friends, June [Carter Cash], John and I. Johnny said, 'One day someone's going to make a story of my life and I don't trust anyone in the world, but I trust you; what do you think the story should be?' So James went on tour with him, as did I, and came back to Johnny and said, 'It's about redemption - about coming back from hell in a belief in a higher power and the love of a good woman.' We named my twin sons after their godfathers, one Johnny and one Kris, for Christopher Reeve.
QUIET CREATIONS I paint for a living and I raise a lot of money with my art. I love to be creative; it doesn't matter if it's walking around the garden picking vegetables and coming up with some great meal, or picking flowers and painting them, or creating a role, or being on the other side of the camera helping to create a film. Now I design home furnishings and we make them in mainland China; they do amazing work.
I don't do anything that the press tend to get terribly excited about. It's like: she's happily married and has six children and they seem to be well behaved, end of story - next! But Dancing with the Stars was fun. As far as America's concerned right now, that is my claim to fame. Forget that I've won awards for acting or whatever, or the OBE. No - Dancing with the Stars!