Face of Malibu: Lesley-Anne Down

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Face of Malibu: Lesley-Anne Down

The Face of Malibu is an ongoing series by portrait artist Johanna Spinks to record the many unique personalities and newsmakers who shape the modern Malibu community. Each sitter is always painted in a single live sitting. If there is someone you would like to nominate, please email associate editor Knowles Adkisson at knowles@malibutimes.com. 


Actor Lesley-Anne Down is one of Malibu’s prominent and faithful locals. Voted “Britain’s Most Beautiful Teenager” at the age of 15, Down has enjoyed a prestigious acting career with film and television credits in “Upstairs, Downstairs,” “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” “Dallas,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “North and South,” for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. These days, between select acting gigs, she prefers dedicating her time to family—her husband and three children. She guards her privacy and free time fiercely. She loves Malibu with abandon, humorously describing a costume-fitting trip that afternoon to “bloody Encino.” The Malibu Times caught up with her before that treacherous ride over the hill. 

How did you get from London to Malibu? 

I first came to Malibu when I was 17. I knew a man named Richard Baskin and a lot of other extraordinary people on motorcycles and we would come into Malibu. I was so surprised how far it was from Beverly Hills. That was my first Malibu jaunt when I was 17. When my movie career took off I came back to make a movie called “The Betsy.” I just knew I loved America. When I was married to William Friedkin, he was having health issues and needed a vacation. I suggested renting a house in the colony, and so we did. I just knew right then that I wanted to live in Malibu. When that relationship didn’t work out I married Don FauntLeRoy, whom I have been with for 28 years, and we both knew we had to live in Malibu. So we did and are. 

Can you tell me about your career on “Upstairs/ Downstairs”? 

I was 19 when I started it. I loved it and did two and a half seasons. I don’t think I was a particularly good actress when I started. I think I had youthful charm, but practice makes perfect and if you do something consistently you can only get better. I do have to thank all of the people involved because they were all very talented and helped me enormously. 

What projects are you working on now? 

I am currently about to film a cameo scene for a movie called “The List.” But for the most part I have taken a break from acting and am focusing more heavily on my family and being with them. 

How has the business changed for you over the years? Harder to get roles, auditions etc. 

The business has taken a 180. When I started I was a child. By the time I was 16 or 17 I rarely went out for auditions, people usually just offered the job. And they weren’t even formal auditions. They were more just “chats.” I think the auditioning process started about 15 years ago. Another generation of filmmakers came along. They got older and retired or passed away, and then this new generation came up. None of them knew who anyone was, only the people who were “happening” right then. If you don’t have knowledge and you don’t know, you can’t make a decision without seeing, and that is what the industry came to and what it is today. Now everyone has auditions, even the hugely famous. 

What is a typical day like for you?

When I’m not working, which I hope will be most of the time, I don’t have a second. There are so many books I want to read. I have two adult children, but I also have a 15-year-old. And he is growing in leaps and bounds and I just want to be part of his life and be there for him and my husband. I love my home. I love my house and the people in the community. And I love cooking. When you work and have lots of kids you don’t have time to do everything yourself, so you have to have other people do it for you. I have to say I am enjoying running my own life in every aspect. 

What are some of your favorite things to cook? 

Everything. You name it, I cook it. I love to do Persian and Indian food, and of course Italian. I love to do traditional English things as well and I make the best pesto on the planet. 

How was getting your portrait painted by Johanna? 

Her work is terrific and she is so talented. But she just makes it so easy. I have had my portrait done before many years ago in England and it is endless hours of sitting and not moving and with Jo it is not like that. She has such an understanding of face. She can go off of a photograph of you and all you have to do is pop in a few more times and voilà, it’s done. It is enjoyable and painless, and not time-consuming. The final work is wonderful. She is just talented. 

Johanna Spinks also teaches classes in portrait painting. She may be reached at johanna@johannaspinks.com or 310.384.7029.