Diana Rigg was only 13 when she first appeared on the stage as Goldilocks.
She's come a long way from her debut with three bears.
She is now 32, one of the hottest stars in show business, and in private life she is very happy living with a man to whom she's not married.
"I am what you may call a creature of our times," she told me as we sat in the living room of her spacious but sparsely-furnished London home. Diana was also rather sparsely furnished, wearing only a red-striped bath towel with at least three miles of tanned legs (she'd just come from California) tucked underneath a white shaggy sofa.
"I'm worlds apart from that innocent, conventional little schoolgirl that was me," she confided.
To many people, I suppose, she may seem a rather bold and brazen girl. But there’s a rare honesty in the way she sees and runs her two lives.
Of her private life – she has lived for six years with film director Philip Saville – she says unhesitatingly:
"I will never marry. I prefer to make a daily commitment to a man rather than regard the relationship as eternal.
"It keeps me from going off the rails, from being unfaithful. I know myself. It's as simple as that.
"Perhaps it's the knowledge that I have a choice that keeps me steady."
The statuesque and super-sexy ex spy Emma Peel of The Avengers television series was talking to me just after she had returned to England from a coast-to-coast tour of America in the play Abelard and Heloise.
"I liked America. But I'm not mad on it. Especially I'm not mad about New Yorkers. There's nothing worse than being 'taken up' by New Yorkers.
"And I'm glad to be home in London again. Home with Philip. We like each other a lot. That's different from love, you know. We REALLY like each other. Maybe living in sin has something to do with it. Don't you just adore that expression – living in sin?"
I asked her if she could visualize herself with the same man at 50? (Living in sin at 50 doesn’t somehow sound so glamorous.)
"I can’t promise I'll still be with the same man at 50. I've made no promises. I don't like promises."
What about having children without being married?
"I'm unsure about that. I realize it would create problems. Obviously I'd put the children into a position where social workers would scream.
"I do want children, but I wouldn’t plunge into marriage simply because I was pregnant."
Diana is utterly unsympathetic to the women’s liberation movement and to women who cry victimization in marriage and childbirth.
"Femininity bores me," she said. "Which is why my closest friends – purely in the platonic sense – are men.
"I get on very well with women, mind you, but the sort of straight-talking women I like are few and far between."
Of her controversial nude stage role in Abelard and Heloise she admitted: "I always took a deep breath before I went on. I didn't get any particular pleasure from showing off my stark-naked body. Not that I'm ashamed of it. I have a nice body, I think."
"As far as the current wave of nudity is concerned, I think it's going to everybody's head.
"I don't like to see the naked body used to titillate, particularly in advertisements. It's wrong.
"In one sense, however, it's good that the final vestiges of Victorianism – that it was shameful to see a naked body – are vanishing."
Success has given Diana fame and a minimum income of $100,000 a year — plus the $150,000 she was paid for being Mrs. James Bond in 'His Majesty's Secret Service'.
She lives in what might be described as a rather modest, Bohemian house in the Hampstead section of London.
"I have no jewelry to speak of. What I have, I sling around the neck of a lady statue in the bedroom. I don't really believe in jewelry. It's all right, I guess, if you're Elizabeth Taylor. But who's Elizabeth Taylor? Certainly not Diana Rigg."
"I've a vintage Rolls Royce, a rented color television and a smashing kitchen that has now had five years hard bashing. I like nothing better than bashing around a kitchen. It frees the spirit."
But successful though she is, she says: "I don't really like myself. I get bored with the sameness it drives me mad. I wish I did really get on with me. I envy people who like themselves. It's somehow healthier to have a good old fashioned respect for yourself. Perhaps mine will come in time. I'm working on it. Trying very hard, really.
"Philip says I'm great and I wish I could really believe him. He's usually right about things. Who knows?
"My only escape from myself really is acting. I love it and hope I will continue to be given the privilege to pursue my craft. And to improve. I'd really like to be a great actress. Not for the money or the fame. But for satisfaction. THEN, I think I'd really begin to like Diana Rigg. Even love her."
Which do you love the most – Philip or your profession?
"No question about it. I love acting. But I also love Philip. I really don't know which one would be the most difficult to live without. I just hope I don't have to live without either.
"But I know one thing. I feel like I'm really married to acting. But I'll never, never marry a man.
"And that's that."
And that WAS that and I said goodbye to Diana Rigg, her red-striped bath towel and 3 miles of tanned legs.