Café: A Shot in the Dark was one of the funniest comedies of the 1960s. Your performance as Maria the maid was a perfect complement to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau. What was it like working with Sellers and director Blake Edwards?
|Elke with Peter Sellers in A Shot in the Dark.|
Café: You made two films with acclaimed horror director Mario Bava: Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil. How would you describe Bava as a director?
ES: Mario Bava was one of the kindest, sweetest, and most fatherly men I ever knew. Actually, I called him my "papa." He was a very decisive director who told you exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it, and I clung to his every word and followed his orders to the letter. Because he was my "papa." And you do what your father says.
Café: You made a delightful--and glamorous--villain in the spy spoof The Wrecking Crew (we loved your death scene!). What are your memories of working with Dean Martin and Sharon Tate?
|Elke with Sharon Tate.|
Café: Of your English-language films, which one was your favorite and why?
ES: The Oscar with Stephen Boyd--a movie that, in my opinion, did not receive the recognition it deserved. Tony Bennett had his first role in a motion picture in The Oscar and we became friends. We even went to the premiere together: he with his mother, and I with my mother. And he felt inspired by my paintings and started painting himself.
Café: You appeared with most of the great comedians of the 1960s: Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Dick Van Dyke, and Peter Sellers. Who was the funniest and why?
|Elke with Jack Benny.|
Café: You appeared in a 1971 TV pilot for a sitcom called The Elke Sommer Show (aka Elke) co-starring Peter Bonerz. How did you feel when CBS didn't pick up the series?
ES: Please don’t think of me as arrogant. I do remember Peter Bonerz, of course I do, but I do not remember that series, not at all. But please don’t hold this against me. I have been working in this business for more than fifty years and you would be amazed how many projects are planned or even started and never come to pass. It just happens and you move on. And, obviously, you forget--completely.
Café: You've appeared in numerous stage plays, such as Woman of the Year, Irma La Douce, and Cactus Flower. You even won a Joseph Jefferson Award as Guest Artist in a Chicago production of Born Yesterday. What are some of your favorite stage roles and why?
ES: I have two favorites. Same Time, Next Year because, in my opinion, it is one of the greatest plays ever written, leaving the actors incredible room to create very real characters over an entire lifetime. And Born Yesterday because this is, in a way, the play of my career. It was my first huge success on stage, I played the role of Billie Dawn under the direction of great and famous artists like Leland Ball and Vernon Schwartz, and I played it under my own direction, not only in the U.S. but also abroad in my own productions.
Café: You became interested in art at a young age and had your first painting exhibition at age 24 in Beverly Hills. How would you describe your artistic style and who were your greatest influences?
|Elke Sommer's painting Elephant Girl.|
Café: You played tennis with greats like Ilie Natashe and Billie Jean King. In fact, Sports Illustrated nicknamed you "The Brute." Were you really that competitive on the court?
ES: Yes, I was. I loved playing tennis and I was really good at it--not good enough to be a professional, but good enough to play celebrity tournaments and win a lot of them. They called me “The Brute” because of my topspin backhand, which must have been…well, brutal.
Café: How did you meet your husband Wolf Walther?
|Elke and husband Wolf Walther.|
ES: I am constantly receiving offers, but so far, there hasn't been anything that interested me. I am dreaming of a role that’s really different. I would love to play an old hooker or a toothless street person. When this dream part comes along, I will shout it from the mountaintops. Until then, I can finally enjoy what I have, time with my husband and with our dog and my beautiful houses here in Beverly Hills and in Germany--life in a pure and unobstructed form.
You can learn more about Ms. Sommer by visiting her web site at www.elkesommeronline.com.