Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ru­ined my life, says star

Scots ac­tress’s ‘14 months of lost child­hood’

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Pe­ter Robert­son

AS a lit­tle girl, she had a star­ring role in one of the best-loved movies of all time.

Now, five decades on, Scot Heather Ri­p­ley says be­ing in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang al­most ru­ined her life.

Ms Ri­p­ley has been re­united with her for­mer child co-star to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of the film’s re­lease – but she has re­vealed that the mag­i­cal fly­ing car cast a long shadow over her ca­reer.

She played Jemima Potts – daugh­ter of ec­cen­tric in­ven­tor Car­ac­ta­cus Potts – along­side Adrian Hall, who played her screen brother Jeremy Potts.

Both for­mer child ac­tors are now 59 and gave up act­ing long ago. Ms Ri­p­ley is a mas­sage ther­a­pist and un­mar­ried mother of two liv­ing in Scot­land, while Mr Hall is prin­ci­pal of the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wi­gan, and a twice-di­vorced fa­ther of four.

They met again re­cently, along with some of the film’s crew, at Pinewood Stu­dios, Buck­ing­hamshire, where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was made.

With a screen­play by Roald Dahl, the film is loosely based on 007 au­thor Ian Flem­ing’s novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Mag­i­cal Car, pub­lished in 1964.

Pos­ing with a lov­ingly recre­ated replica of the car – the orig­i­nal from the film is owned by direc­tor Pe­ter Jack­son and in New Zealand – Ms Ri­p­ley and Mr Hall spoke about the 14 months they spent re­hears­ing, film­ing and pro­mot­ing the film in­ter­na­tion­ally prior to its re­lease in De­cem­ber five decades ago.

Ms Ri­p­ley said: ‘It’s 14 months of my child­hood which will never be re­placed. My mother and fa­ther broke up, which I’ve al­ways blamed on the film. It put me off trav­el­ling un­til I was 50. I hon­estly don’t have fond mem­o­ries of it, and be­cause that’s clouded my view of it I haven’t quite un­der­stood why so many peo­ple love it so much.

‘So I’ve writ­ten a book now which took end­less re­search, and I’m be­gin­ning to get how great it was and how many in­cred­i­bly tal­ented peo­ple were in­volved.’

She was paid £7,000 for her role, money which was held in trust for her un­til she was 18. Ms Ri­p­ley re­called how she had got the part by ‘com­plete ran­dom chance’ af­ter ap­pear­ing in a play at Dundee Rep, where her mother was a wardrobe mis­tress. She was spot­ted by a ta­lent scout then met pro­ducer Cubby Broc­coli and direc­tor Ken Hughes. She said: ‘The first ques­tion he asked was, “How old are you?”, and I said, “Seven and three-quar­ters!”. They just fell about laugh­ing.

‘Ken al­most im­me­di­ately said, “I think we’ve found Jemima, but what are we go­ing to do about the Scots ac­cent?”. Cubby said, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll fix that”. I wor­ried that was go­ing to in­volve surgery.” Mr Hall re­calls the film with more af­fec­tion. He said: ‘I had it so much eas­ier than Heather. I lived 20 or 30 min­utes away so, at the end of a day, a car took me home and I went out on my bike. Poor Heather was stuck 500 miles from home.

‘For me it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence... I am grate­ful to the film.’

‘My mother and fa­ther broke up. I’ve al­ways blamed the film’

RE­UNITED: Adrian Hall and Heather Ri­p­ley – Jeremy and Jemima Potts in the film

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