Silent Witness star Emilia falls for Marco Pierre White (and the celebrity chef takes her on a date to Carluccio's!)
01:00 GMT, 12 August 2012
Recipe for romance: Emilia and a smiling Marco hold hands as they leave the restaurant in Chiswick
He is the celebrity chef with many female admirers and she is a celebrated actress with a self-confessed unconventional taste in men. And now, it seems, Marco Pierre White and Emilia Fox have fallen in love.
Last week, fellow diners at an Italian restaurant noticed their public displays of affection.
‘They were canoodling,’ said an onlooker at Carluccio’s in Chiswick, West London. ‘They were holding hands and kissing. Marco was caressing her face and they were feeding each other food.
‘They looked like a couple who had just found their first love. They were like a pair of 18-year-olds.’
Silent Witness star Emilia, 38, has only recently parted from peace campaigner Jeremy Gilley, the father of her one-year-old daughter Rose. Meanwhile, Marco, 50, is still married to third wife Mati Conjero, after she called a halt to their divorce proceedings.
‘Marco is besotted,’ says a friend. ‘He is phoning and texting Emilia a lot, and he makes her laugh.
‘Emilia jokes about how ironic it is that she has found a chef because she is a terrible cook.
‘She loves gardening so Marco has been surprising her with some exotic plants. It’s really touched her that he is putting a lot of thought into things.
‘Emilia’s family are hoping that she has finally found happiness.’
Marco is the latest in a long line of unpredictable romantic choices for the actress. ‘I’ve always had unusual taste in men,’ she once admitted. ‘I fancied Dustin Hoffman even when he was dressed as a woman in the film Tootsie.’
During her 20s she had a short-lived engagement to comedian Vic Reeves and, at 27, was spotted kissing actor Charles Dance, who is more than 30 years her senior, although they insisted the relationship was platonic.
New-found happiness: The celebrity chef is said to have been a rock for Emilia
In 2003, she appeared opposite Jared Harris, son of the late film star Richard Harris, in a stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The show was a flop, but the pair fell in love and married two years later.
It was hailed as the union of two great acting dynasties but, after Emilia suffered a miscarriage, the couple drifted apart.
Harris, now a star of TV’s Mad Men, filed for divorce in 2008.
Emilia – who shot to fame as a teenager playing Georgiana in Pride & Prejudice – then fell for peace activist Jeremy Gilley, and in 2010 she became pregnant with his child.
Rose was born that November but within a year the couple’s relationship was in trouble.
‘She was very depressed when she split with Jeremy,’ says a source. ‘She has known Marco for some years but he has been a rock to her in recent months.
‘It has been a godsend for her. Marco is alpha-male, but he is very sweet with her and good with Rose.’
White’s love life has been no less turbulent. He was first married, aged 26, to Alex McArthur, with whom he has a daughter, Letitia.
His second marriage, to model Lisa Butcher in 1992, lasted only four months, and he began to see Mati almost immediately.
The couple, who married in 2000, have three children – Luciano, Marco and Mirabelle – but in 2007 Mati initiated divorce proceedings, claiming that her husband had been unfaithful. She has since halted the action but the couple have not been reconciled.
‘Emilia is in no doubt that Marco’s relationship with Mati is over,’ says the source.
‘Marco and Milli have bonded over their painful past experiences. They have been friends for years but have been together seriously for only a couple of months.’
Emilia and her ex-partner Jeremy, pictured left, and celebrity chef Marco Pierre White with his wife Mati, right
Some fathers might baulk if their daughter brought home a married man, but Emilia’s parents, actors Edward Fox and Joanna David, are said to approve of the union.
‘Marco is the sort of person her father would like,’ said the friend. ‘Joanna has not been well recently but Marco has been brilliant at supporting Emilia.
‘It is early days but she is hopeful he could be the one.’
A spokesman for Emilia declined to comment, while a spokesman for the chef was last night unavailable.