Fiona Fullerton was born on October 10th 1956 in Kaduna, Nigeria, where her father was serving with the British Army. Her nomadic childhood included homes in Singapore, Africa, Germany, the US and England. An only child, she displayed a talent for dancing at an early age and was enrolled in weekly ballet lessons. This took a serious turn when she was accepted into Elmhurst Ballet School as a boarder at the age of nine. A rigorous schedule of academic lessons and hours of ballet followed, but the constant pressure to stay thin coupled with the sore feet soon took its toll and curbed her enthusiasm.
Luckily, she was ‘spotted’ in a school production at the age of 10, in a speaking part as a little witch, by an agent who could see her potential, and she was soon to find herself starring opposite a young Mark Lester (fresh from Oliver!) in a Columbia Pictures film ‘Run Wild, Run Free.’ For this she had to learn to ride expertly.
After a spell back at school she was chosen by the great movie mogul Sam Spiegel to play Anastasia in his epic about the last Tsar of Russia, ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’. Filming took six months in Spain and featured some of the greats of British cinema such as Laurence Olivier and Michael Redgrave.
She was now 14 and becoming more disenchanted with the rigours of classical ballet. A photograph of Fiona taken by Lord Snowdon for The Sunday Times Magazine, under the banner ‘Faces of the Seventies’, was seen by a film producer who was casting a movie musical based on the Lewis Carroll stories of Alice in Wonderland.
Fiona screen-tested for the role twice, singing songs that were composed for the film by John Barry and Don Black. Once the role was hers, her waist-length hair was lightened and filming began in early 1972. The cast list was an all-star line-up including Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Ralph Richardson, Flora Robson, Michael Crawford, Roy Kinnear, Spike Milligan and Michael Hordern.
The film premiered in London in front of Her Majesty The Queen and that Christmas, Fiona switched on the lights on Oxford St, London. A worldwide promotional tour followed with Fiona criss-crossing America and Europe, with a highlight being leading the annual Christmas Parade down Hollywood Boulevard.
Having left school prematurely because of her career, there followed a lull while she matured from child actress to more adult roles. Often a tricky transition for those who achieve fame so young, Fiona took a job in the book department of Harrods and then worked as a receptionist in an optician.
However, in 1975 she landed the part of nurse Patricia Rutherford in the BBC series Angels, which made her a household name. There followed a season at the London Palladium as Cinderella, which was to be the first of many forays into musical theatre.
Throughout the seventies and eighties Fiona was rarely out of the media, becoming a darling of the gossip columns with constant speculation about her private life. Although not a model, she was photographed by all the top photographers of the period, including Bailey and Donovan, Snowdon and Swannell and featured on the covers of dozens of glossy magazines. She subsequently became the international face of Max Factor cosmetics for a two-year period.
After the breakdown of her first marriage, Fiona began to concentrate on a theatre career, which saw her starring in many musicals including Gypsy, The Boyfriend, Barnardo, The Beggar’s Opera and Camelot, in which she played the doomed Guinevere opposite Richard Harris’s King Arthur. In this role she was praised for her musical versatility, charisma and for being able to control Harris, who was notoriously unpredictable.
Throughout this time she had been working her way up the property ladder and in 1983 bought a flat in London’s Knightsbridge. When she decided to move to Los Angeles for a while, she rented out her home and quickly realised the income potential of investing in good quality rental properties. This was her first foray into the rental market. Her Hollywood sojourn was short-lived, becoming decidedly homesick and realising that she was far too thin skinned to battle it out in such a competitive market. However, she did land a role in A View to a Kill, Roger Moore’s last outing as Bond, as Pola Ivanova, a Russian double-agent.
Her brief appearance in the film is well remembered for the jacuzzi scene, with many critics lamenting that she did not feature more. It proved a turning point in her career. At the Royal premiere, she was presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales and sat next to Prince Albert of Monaco, causing a media frenzy of speculation about their friendship.
In fact, the film’s producer Barbara Broccoli (daughter of Albert Broccoli) was behind it and they became good friends. This resulted in Fiona agreeing to screen-test with seven potential ‘new’ James Bonds as a favour to Barbara!
The following years were a hectic mix of television series with Fiona starring in a 1930’s drama The Charmer opposite Nigel Havers; a PD James
murder mystery A Taste For Death; two Barbara Taylor Bradford series, Hold the Dream and To Be The Best; two Barbara Cartland adaptations with all star casts, A Hazard of Hearts and A Ghost in Monte Carlo; The Secret Life of Ian Fleming and The Bogie Man with Robbie Coltrane.
In the theatre she starred in the West End in The Royal Baccarat Scandal and in Chichester played Anne Boleyn in Shakespeare’s Henry Vlll and Gloria in the new musical Valentine’s Day.
However, 1994 was to prove a pivotal year as she triumphed in productions as diverse as Death and the Maiden in which she played a woman who was tortured under a lawless regime in South America; Eliza Dolittle, the street urchin who becomes a lady in Shaw’s great play Pygmalion; and Constance in Somerset Maugham’s elegant 1930’s comedy The Constant Wife.
She married businessman Neil Shackell at the end of 1994, taking on his son by his late wife, and when their daughter was born in 1995 she decided to quit the business to concentrate her energies on her family.
She then became known as a popular property columnist in The Daily Telegraph, writing about her life as a landlord, having started to invest more time and money in the Buy To Let market just as it was taking off in 1994.
They moved to the Cotswolds in 1999 and Fiona still works as a property investor/advisor running her portfolio of Oxford and London properties and writing for the newspapers.