Why Britt Ekland Needed A 'Bottom Double' For Her Pantsless Wicker Man Dance

In Robin Hardy's supremely creepy 1973 cult picture "The Wicker Man," a cop named Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) travels to a remote island called Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. The citizens of Summerisle are secretive and strange and still abide by ancient Celtic religious rites. Howie, a devout Christian, is put off by their pagan weirdness. During his investigation, Howie stays at a local inn, The Green Man, overseen by Mr. McGregor (Lindsay Kemp) and his comely daughter Willow (Britt Ekland, voiced by Annie Ross). Willow is sexually forward with Howie, something else he finds discomforting. 

Later that night, while Howie attempts to sleep, Willow strips nude in her own room and gyrates seductively against the wall that neighbors Howie's. Howie can't see or hear it, but he seems to sense something strange is happening. Is she casting a spell of some kind? 

It turns out that the nude body audiences saw dancing wasn't Ekland at all, but that of a Glaswegian nightclub dancer named Lorraine Peters. Peters can also be seen in the film as one of the women lying on a grave. 

As it happened, Ekland didn't know that she was going to be replaced by a body double for her nude scene. In the 2023 book "The Wicker Man: The Official Story of the Film" by John Walsh, the subterfuge was revealed. Portions of the book were quoted in the Daily Telegraph. It seemed that Ekland filmed her dance scene with pants on and was sent home for the day, only to have Peters pull up in a limo immediately after to complete the scene sans pants. Peters, it seems, had to lay down on the floor of the limo to avoid being seen by Ekland and belay suspicion.

Ekland was devastated

In Walsh's book, the film's first assistant director, Jake Wright, recalled: 

"She went downstairs and got into her limousine — and there was another limousine drawn up behind hers ... The body double was lying flat on the floor so Britt Ekland couldn't see her. As Britt had gone, up came the body double and we went on doing the other bits of the full nude scene."

When Ekland learned that she had been replaced, she was incensed. Evidently, director Robin Hardy had discussed the possibility of Ekland performing in the nude, and she had refused. Hardy went behind his actress' back to hire a dancer and didn't bother telling her. Lorraine Peters merely danced as she was directed, so she is not to blame. It was, it seems, all on Hardy. Ekland recalled:

"They just stuck a blonde wig on the body double. I couldn't believe it because Robin promised that he wouldn't do that. And the model's body looked nothing like mine ... I was just devastated." 

There were rumors that Brit Ekland's boyfriend at the time, rock star Rod Stewart, was also outraged at the subterfuge and that he aimed to buy the rights to the film to halt its release. Ekland went on record to put the kibosh on those rumors; "[I]t just makes me laugh," she said, "because it's so far from the truth." Ekland doubted that Stewart even bothered to watch "The Wicker Man." He was likely busy wrapping up his Faces tour at the time anyway. 

'Like a ski slope.'

Back in 2013, Robin Hardy spoke to the Guardian about making "The Wicker Man," and he told a very different version of the story. Hardy claimed that he and Ekland talked about filming her dance scene in the nude, but that Ekland agreed to hire a body double, as she wasn't fond of the way she looked. Hardy recalled the exchange thus:

"Britt Ekland had made it as a model not an actor, but I was very satisfied with her performance. The dance scenes required her to bare her behind. 'But I've got an arse like a ski slope,' she said. I couldn't see that was the case, but we had to do something. So we provided her with a bottom double." 

Indeed, in addition to dancer Lorraine Peters, another unnamed body double was used for an additional posterior shot. If Ekland suddenly mutated throughout the film, it's because her character was played by three performers. Five, if you count her voice actress Annie Ross and singer Rachel Verney. 

Either there was a miscommunication, or Hardy — who passed away in 2016 — outright lied to Ekland. Either way, the actress was upset. Hardy would go on to make "The Fantasist" in 1986, and "The Bulldance" in 1989. His fourth and final film was a sequel to "The Wicker Man" called "The Wicker Tree," released in 2011. 

Ekland, meanwhile, learned on set that she was pregnant. She had a son with Lou Adler in 1973. They split in '74 and she began dating Stewart shortly thereafter. Ekland, now 86, still performs from time to time, having appeared in film and on TV as recently as 2020.