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Interview: Emilia Fox - The truth about Vic, his lesbian wife, her lover, and me; Emilia Fox and Vic Reeves made an odd couple and their cosy friendship with his wife and her female lover raised more eyebrows. Here Emilia reveals how she coped with this bizarre four-way relationship and why she ended their whirlwind romance.

From the outside, they seemed like the most unlikely couple in showbusiness: a 40-year-old former pig farmer turned alternative comedian from Darlington, meets young Oxford graduate turned costume drama actress, with a voice like cut glass. Even Vic Reeves couldn't have written this extraordinarily wacky script.

So when the comedian announced his engagement to budding young actress Emilia Fox, last September, some doubting cynics wondered whether it was just another elaborate publicity stunt.

After all, 25-year-old Emilia does play his fiancee Jeannie in the BBC1 remake of the 1960s detective comedy Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), which begins next Saturday. And Vic, who plays Marty Hopkirk to sidekick Bob Mortimer's Jeff Randall, was still married to his stunning blonde wife of six years, Sarah Moir, at the time.

Apparently, love crept up on Vic and Millie, as she is known to friends, over the four months it took to film the action drama in Slough, Berkshire. Within a matter of weeks, Emilia had moved into Vic's riverside London apartment and helped him move into his mock-Tudor country mansion. In a bizarre twist, she even joined Vic on double dates - with his wife and her lesbian lover.

But now their whirlwind romance is over, the engagement has been called off, and Emilia is dating another man, although she and Vic remain good friends. Intriguingly, she met her current boyfriend, artist Toby Mott, eight months ago while making Randall & Hopkirk.

"It was a mutual decision to end the relationship," says Emilia tersely, scotching rumours that she left Vic because of his party lifestyle and wine-induced rows.

"I don't even want to go into why we broke up. We are still friends, but there's no chance we'll resume our engagement or get married. We hit that moment and now it's over.

"I wasn't heartbroken about it," she insists. "Of course it's sad when any relationship ends, but I believe things have worked out for the best. Let's just say we were both ready to move on."

For Emilia, moving on meant cultivating her relationship with 35-year-old sculptor-cum-clothes designer Toby Mott. She met him through friends last June and their friendship has been a slow-burn affair.

"It wasn't an instant, love at first sight thing," says Emilia. "We're treading lightly and carefully with each other and having a great time."

Toby, who used to live in a bedsit in the trendy Notting Hill area of London, earned only moderate praise - and very little money - for his abstract sculptures. However, his T-shirt design business has taken off and he has moved to a more upmarket flat.

In financial terms, the struggling artist is no match for multi-millionaire Reeves. Yet clearly this doesn't come into the equation for well-heeled Emilia, who has her own flat near Toby in West London.

Speaking in her slow, measured tones, she appears cautious and level-headed. "It takes a long time to give all of myself to someone," she says. "I always hold a bit of me back. Falling into the deepest of oceans is really scary, and emotions can be the most devastating of forces."

So was her whirlwind engagement to Vic just an out-of-character blip on the landscape?

"A lot of people thought this was unusual for me, but it's not really," she says enigmatically. "I'm less predictable than people assume. And I love the excitement of not knowing what's going to happen."

He might not be every woman's idea of a man to sweep you off your feet, but Vic Reeves - whose real name is Jim Moir - certainly seemed to fit the part.

"He's a mixture of calmness and impulse," says Emilia. "I didn't realise I was in love with him until we'd finished filming. But it felt so right being with him. He made me feel alive and brought a sparkle into my life."

So intense were her emotions for this off-the-wall comedian that Emilia, who had previously stated she wasn't looking for a permanent relationship, not only agreed to marry him, she also moved in with him.

When he purchased a five-bedroom mansion in Rye, East Sussex, his wife Sarah gave them her blessing and a double bed. This cosy situation certainly raised a few eyebrows.

Sarah, 28, had already left Vic briefly for interior designer Keith Burke. When she returned, Vic forgave her and they tried to make their marriage work. But pressure on their relationship mounted when Vic was rumoured not only to have had a fling with TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson, a family friend, but also to have made a 16-year-old stable girl pregnant.

Sarah and Vic separated on amicable terms. First, she moved with their children, Alice, five, and two-year-old Louis, to a rented cottage in Charing, Kent. Then Vic bought her a pounds 350,000 house in nearby Folkestone. Not even Sarah's declaration of love for a third party destroyed their mutual affection - even though that person was a woman she and Vic had both befriended.

Sarah met her lesbian lover, 29-year-old personal trainer Julia Jones, when she and Vic had attended her fitness classes two years ago. Last year, Sarah announced that she and Julia, now leisure manager of the Imperial Hotel in Hythe, were an item. Some people were shocked, but not Emilia. In fact, all four of them became friends.

"I didn't expect Sarah to be jealous of me because she was happy with Julia," says Emilia. "I'm just grateful we got on as well as we did. Sarah's absolutely stunning. She's tall and slim, with this amazing blonde hair, and looks like a model. Julia was great, too.

"Contrary to what some people might believe, I didn't find the set-up at all awkward. If different parts of families and step-families can get on with each other it makes it easier for the people who are the most important - the children. They're what really matters, aren't they?"

During their engagement, Emilia forged a strong bond with Vic's children, Alice and Louis.

"If we had got married, I wouldn't have found it hard to take them on," she says. "But I wouldn't have expected to have been a second mother to them. That's a position no one can take over. You can become a very good friend to them but you can never replace someone's mother, and I would be horrified by anyone who tried to.

"Jim's main concern is his home life and his children. They come first and foremost, and I have the utmost respect for that. Luckily, I'm can adapt to situations and that was made easy for me because Jim, Sarah and Julia were all very nice people."

Certainly, being a member of the Fox family has given Emilia a good grounding in unconventional relationships.

"My whole family is very complicated," she admits. "There are quite a few first, second and third marriages going on between us, and a lot of step-children. But we deal with it in a rather wonderful way and that rubs off on the little ones. It's probably rare but people should strive for this for the sake of the children."

Her father is Edward Fox, 62, who starred in The Day Of The Jackal and Edward And Mrs Simpson, and her mother is actress Joanna David, 52.

Despite being together for more than 30 years, the couple chose not to marry. Emilia has a ten-year old brother Freddie, and a half-sister Lucy, 39, from her father's marriage to Tracy Reed. When he met Joanna, on the theatre set of Sheridan's The Rivals, Edward was involved with actress Eileen Atkins.

Since his relationship with Joanna began, he reportedly stated that men's sexual fidelity is not important. His brothers, actors James and Robert, all have colourful pasts. James was part of London's Swinging Sixties scene, but later joined a Christian mission after suffering a nervous breakdown.

Robert's wife, Natasha Richardson of the Redgrave acting dynasty, left him for Liam Neeson. It's a wonder, perhaps, that Emilia even contemplated marriage to Vic, or to anyone else, for that matter. Yet she insists that her background and broken engagement have not put her off. "I'd like a marriage where there's mutual happiness, ease and calm," she says. "I'm a very calm person when I'm in a relationship and don't get worked up about things. If youcan achieve that, it's great. I like men who are straightforward and upfront, not the ones who play complicated mind- games. They should be honest and true to what they feel, for better or for worse. Some ex- boyfriends have been complicated. That's exhausting to deal with and then you just give up."

She met her first long-term boyfriend, Susannah York's son Orlando Wells,at Oxford University. Their relationship lasted three years, then their lives started moving in different directions. "He was the open, straight type," she says. "A really nice guy. But so many people judge relationships without really knowing what goes on and they end up getting it wrong. When I accompanied Sam West to an event, someone started rumours that we were dating. The next thing I knew, there were false reports that we were engaged. It was absolutely ridiculous.

"But now that I've actually been engaged for real, I feel older and wiser, and able to cope with more situations than I could before. I now know, for example, that when relationships don't work out, I'm secure enough to feel happy being on my own."

Emilia was 14 and still at boarding school when she auditioned for a place at the National Youth Theatre. She was turned down. Uncertain of a career in acting, she read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, but while she was there she formed a theatre company with friends.

During her final year, she was cast as the second Mrs de Winter, opposite Charles Dance, in an adaptation of Daphne duMaurier's classic novel Rebecca.

By sheer coincidence her mother Joanna had played the same role at the age of 31. But Emilia has always been keen to prove herself in her own right. "I don't want to be known simply as Edward Fox's daughter," she insists.

She then landed the role of Georgiana Darcy, alongside Colin Firth, in Pride And Prejudice, which also co-starred her mother as Mrs Gardiner.

More prime parts followed, including Minette in the TV series The Scarlet Pimpernel alongside Richard E Grant, and Clara in the recent adaptation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. She is currently performing alongside Ralph Fiennes and Linus Roache at London's Gainsborough theatre, in Richard II and Coriolanus, and will appear later this year in a drama series Other People's Children, by Joanna Trollope.

Such roaring success would go to many actresses' heads. Yet when she auditioned for Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) Emilia was certain that Vic, Bob and writer-producer Charlie Higson would throw her name on the reject pile. "I was convinced I'd failed," she says. "I'd never done comedy before - I hadn't even watched Jim and Bob's Shooting Stars and Big Night Out.

I'm not an obvious action girleither and I knew they wanted Jeannie to be more pro-active in the new series. "So when I was called back and offered the part itwas such an unexpected surprise."

Petite Emilia had to take an intensive kickboxing course to master the skills demanded to play Jeannie. "I practised on a stuntman," she explains. "It was important to kick without touching or inflicting realharm, so I learned how to kick within millimetres of the body.

During rehearsals, though, I kicked too high and whacked the stuntman in the jaw. "I learned how to punch, too, which was really empowering. Not that I intend using these skills, except in self-defence."

Her co-stars, who include Charles Dance, Tom Baker and Hugh Laurie, must have been relieved to hear this. Did she, once filming and her relationship with Vic had ended, kick her engagement ring into touch?

"There was no official engagement ring," she says, a sudden frown making her look remarkably like her father Edward. "The only ring I had was the costume ring I wore as Jeannie in the series. We never got round to buying a real one. There was no date set for the wedding either. Everyone seems to think we were going to marry in January this year, but we never arranged that.

"Despite how it turned out, I don't regret my relationship with Jim. Or the whirlwind engagement. I'd do exactly the same thing again - but not with Jim."

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) begins on Saturday March 18, BBC1.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Morgan, Sally
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 11, 2000
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