The women of James Bond movies are often remembered for their physical assets. But that’s only half the story. From the early 1960s to 2015 and beyond (another Bond film is coming in 2020), so-called “Bond girls” have often proven to be way more interesting in real life than -- dare we say it? -- the men who have played the titular character.
No matter what your favorite Bond era is -- the swingin’ late-1960s vibe of You Only Live Twice, the icy 1980s streak defined by A View To a Kill, the almost goofy style of 1970s movies such as The Man With the Golden Gun -- the women of all of these flicks are fascinating.
If your knowledge of Bond girls is limited to latter-day phenoms such as Teri Hatcher, Famke Janssen or Léa Seydoux, that’s fine. Really, it is! But you’re missing out. You owe it to yourself to get to know the likes of a skeleton collector; an actress who bakes a mean apple pancake; and a woman who is very much alive… unless she’s actually dead.
Let’s Talk About Mesh, Baby
Ursula Andress is known as one of the world’s first Bond-movie girls, having co-starred opposite Sean Connery in the sexy, island-hopping Dr. No of 1962. In what’s considered one of the most iconic moments in Bond-movie lore, she rose out of the Caribbean Sea in a white bikini with a large diving knife on her hip. (Her character was, technically, a local shell diver. In Jamaica.) She later assists bond as he trounces an international villain bent on thwarting American interests.
Also, we need to talk about that belt. See that mesh belt she’s wearing with that immortal bikini? That wasn’t the costumer’s idea. You can credit the belt to two people: Andress and a Royal Navy man whose service to crown and country shall never be forgotten. During the beach shoot, a bunch of sailors from the HMS Troubridge were watching, because, of course they were. When Andress voiced that she thought her bikini might be missing some flair, a sailor donated his belt; it was a part of the full dress uniform of the Royal Navy.
In real life, Andress, now 83, loves nothing more than a good… investment. She’s said she prefers to hedge her bets across real estate, gold and a few stocks. “Money brings you happiness,” she once told the Guardian. “I don't deny it.”
She Loves A Good Skeleton
Eva Green, leading lady Vesper Lynde in Casino Royale, (2006) is not your typical Hollywood actor. She lives alone. She doesn’t go out a lot. She prefers to stay home and read a good book. She’s called herself “basically an old lady.”
And oh: She likes to collect dead insects and animal skeletons.
“I have this enormous bull’s head, which is quite shocking,” she told Shortlist. “It’s an ancestor of the bull called an Aurochs, they don’t exist any more. I bought him because his eyes looked like he was asking for help in the shop. I was like, ‘OK, you’re going to come home with me’.”
“Johnny [Depp] loves insects too,” she added to GQ. “He also loves skulls - it's a good luck thing. Sometimes people see that as something a bit morbid but I've always liked skulls and insects.
“When I go to New York I always go to this amazing shop called The Evolution Store in SoHo, where they have weird stuff and beautiful insects. For Tim Burton's birthday I gave him a rainbow beetle. He loved it!”
Watch What You Say: They May Be Listening
We have no idea how many phones James Bond has tapped during his movie adventures. But we can say this: One Bond actress actually has had her phone tapped, in real life, and by the president of a nation.
Meet Carole Bouquet. After an unsuccessful bid for a part in Moonraker (that part went to Lois Chiles) she was eventually cast as Melina Havelock in For Your Eyes Only (1981). She played the, um, daughter of marine archaeologists who are murdered, and also, an assassin.
By the mid-1980s, she was considered to be one of the most famous actresses and models in France. At some point, she attracted the attention of then-president François Mitterrand, who decided to, for reasons not quite clear, bug her phone. For several weeks in 1985, the president took an intense interest in her phone conversations. At the time, she was the wife of actor Gérard Depardieu.
The bugging finally came to light in the 2000s. When she walked into a public hearing on the matter, a ministerial representative reportedly looked at Bouquet and whispered: "She looks like trouble."
Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting
You may know Honor Blackman as the unfortunately-named Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger.
At 38, Blackman was one of the oldest actresses to play a Bond girl, being five years older than Sean Connery.
To prepare for the gig (and for another star-making job on a little British show called The Avengers) she studied judo at one of the most famous martial-arts clubs on Earth. The house is called -- get this -- Budokwai, or the Way of Knighthood Society. (How cool is that?!) It’s the oldest such club in Europe, and famous members having included (don’t even try to guess, we’ll just tell you) Simon LeBon, Kylie Minogue and Mick Jagger.
Secrets Of Her Skin
In Goldfinger, a villain suffocates Shirley Eaton’s character by slathering her entire body in gold paint. (They call it “skin suffocation” in the flick.) The character’s death led to an urban myth that Eaton herself had actually died during filming. She appeared on the docuseries MythBusters to shut the rumour down.
She’s currently still alive… at age 82.
Spy In The Oven
After Teri Hatcher won the role of Paris Carver in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, she reported to the set three months pregnant with daughter Emerson Rose. The shooting schedule wasn’t affected, but co-star Pierce Brosnan apparently didn’t get the memo.
“She was late to set because she was newly pregnant,” Brosnan recalled to Playboy. “I didn’t know that until the end of the day … I was vexed because I had a call time of 6 or 7 a.m., and we didn’t do any work until three or four in the afternoon. No one told me her situation until afterwards.”
She Had To Ask Twice
This is Monica Bellucci. Believe it or not, this gorgeous creature was actually turned down for a role in a Bond movie once. She tried out for the part of Paris Carver -- the role that Hatcher got instead. But persistence paid off for Italian model. At 50, she officially became the oldest Bond girl, via Lucia Sciarra in 2015’s Spectre.
The whole point of a James Bond movie, it seems, is for James to woo not only a bunch of women, but a bunch of different women. Every time. As in, never the same woman twice. Mix ‘em up. More Bond girls. More, more, more. But Jamaica-born Martine Beswick is the rare actor (there are only a few more; we’ll get to ‘em later) who has appeared in two Bond films. In From Russia With Love, she played a “gypsy girl” who gets into a “catfight” with a rival named Vida. Then she appeared again in Thunderball, as Paula Caplan, a ride-or-die Bond ally who commited suicide rather than give up classified information.
Even more interesting: Beswick only got those parts after a failed audition for another Bond film -- Dr. No.
Many “girls” got their Bond gigs after relatively short careers as models. Not Mie Hama; after being discovered as a bus conductor in her native Japan, Hama went on to enjoy serious demand as an actor. We’re talking serious; she’d starred in 60 movies by the time You Only Live Twice came along in 1967.
Hama was original cast in a bigger role in the film, but trouble with English-speaking led to her switching places with another You Only Live Twice actress, Akiko Wakabayashi.
It Does Take Years To Make A Diamond, Honey
Believe it or not, Bond girl roles weren’t always dominated by American women. Bond-movie culture had been alive for nearly 10 years before it got its first Yankee female lead -- Jill St. John, who played Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. By that point, she was 31, and had been working for -- not a typo -- 25 years. Yes. She’d been working since age 6.
You’d think that someone who had been doing the showbiz thing since she was kindergarten age might consider acting to be her life. You would be wrong. Food, she has said, is her life -- so much so that she released a cookbook in the 1980s. Signature dish: A baked apple pancake. And here’s the recipe. You’re welcome.
If you’re a serious James Bond fan, you’re aware of the following fact: There are three women who have appeared in both a Bond film and the iconic British spy series The Avengers. (Were you thinking there was a tie-in to Tony Stark? Sorry!) We’ve already discussed the karate-chopping club-hopping Honor Blackman.
Now meet the other two.
Diana Rigg became a sex symbol overnight when she debuted on the stylish British spy series in 1965.
It cannot be overstated how huge of a star this made her. This photograph, below, will have to do instead.
In case that photo didn’t do the trick, here’s another fact about Rigg’s serious power back in the day: During her first season on The Avengers, she learned she was being paid less than the cameraman. She demanded a raise, and got one, but was still confident enough in her career that she left the show in 1967.
She went on to play the Bond’s beloved countess, Teresa di Vicenzo, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, released in 1969.
Pay careful attention to that movie. Look among the Angels of Death employed by supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. You will see 12 beautiful women brainwashed by Blofeld to be ruthless killers. One of them is played by yet another Avengers alum: Joanna Lumley.
Speak To Me!
Maud Adams can speak five languages. Fluently. So fluently that her first goal in life was not to be a model or superstar but rather an interpreter. Instead, a photographer in Adams’ native Sweden sent a pic of her at 17 to a local model scout and the rest is history -- or however you say that in Swedish. She’s appeared in not one, not two, but three Bond films, Octopussy, The Man With the Golden Gun, and A View To a Kill.
And by the way: If you’ve ever been fired and think you’re alone, let this Maud Adams fact comfort you: She was fired from The Pink Panther Strikes Again when she refused to bare her chest. “I’m very happy with my boobs,” she told People, “but they are not for the screen.”
This Calls For A Rewrite!
Imagine this: There’s a job opening out there. A killer job opening. But you think you’re not qualified, so you go about your business. Then a friend of a friend approaches you and says that you, -- yes, you -- really should apply for that killer job, and you do, and the bosses are so incredibly impressed that, instead of hiring the one and only Faye Dunaway for the gig, they hire you, and then they change the job description just so you can do the gig.
That’s what happened to Paris-born Claudine Auger, a former Miss France who appeared as Domino in Thunderball. (She’s the one who kills the villain, Largo, with a harpoon gun.) Producers first wanted the iconic Julie Christie for the role but was reportedly “disappointed” when one of them met her in person. (Ouch!) Eventually, after Auger was cast, the producers rewrote the part of Domino, who was supposed to be Italian, so that the character could be French.
She’s Named After A… What??!
The sexiest part of 2002’s Die Another Day is arguably Halle Berry, who plays Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson. (Does this shot of Berry rising up out of the sea in an orange Eres bikini look vaguely familiar? It’s paying homage to Andress’s white one.) Berry was actually born Maria Halle Berry; her mom changed her name to Halle Maria when the actress was 5. As for where Halle came from, know this: Her mom named her for Halle’s, a landmark department store in Cleveland, Ohio.
So Tell Us What You Really Think
Barbara Bach here was cast as Soviet Anya Amasova (aka Agent Triple X) only four days before shooting The Spy Who Loved Me began in 1976. (Catherine Deneuve really, really wanted the part but turned out to be too expensive.) Turns out, Bach wasn’t really all that thankful. Later, to People, she described Bond as “a chauvinist pig who uses girls to shield him against bullets.”
And Speaking Of Regret…
Bach isn’t the only actor who regrets her time as a Bond girl. Meet Jane Seymour, who, at 21, “had no money and only one good coat,” and therefore took the part of Solitaire in Live and Let Die in 1973. “ “I did all the stunt things—I was 21 then and didn’t know any better,” she said. “I was on the bus that went under the bridge and had its top sliced off. I was the twit sitting in the back … Never again. I’ve spent my life living down that part.”
Sister, That Is Some Bad Advice
Years after Lois Chiles enjoyed her role as a sexy CIA astronaut in Moonraker (1979), the actress felt her career was hitting a bit of a slump. (Think late ‘80s, early ‘90s.) Enter Sharon Stone, with whom Chiles had worked briefly in a movie. Stones’s advice?
“You need a scandal,” Chiles recalled to Texas Monthly. “Stay out of magazines like Vogue and Bazaar. You need to be in National Enquirer.” Stone went on to outline how she’d used that same approach: She wanted to move up from bit parts to leading lady, so she hired a publicist and posed for Playboy. Badda bing badda boom: Stone ended up as the female lead in Basic Instinct.
“I thought about finding my own scandal,” Chiles recalled, “but I couldn’t find one I could live with.”
OK, That Is Really Freaky
Female characters get to wield some really cool skills in Bond movies -- pearl diving, shell diving, killing people with their thighs. Jane Seymour’s character in Live and Let Die can even read the future in tarot cards. But Berenice Marlohe? The women who played Sévérine in 2012’s Skyfall? She can totally see the future for real.
Marlohe, who has said she’s a strong believer in fate, once told GQ that she dreamt about working alongside Spanish actor Javier Bardem. That was six months before she auditioned for the part of Sévérine. Even then, she didn’t know that Bardem might also be cast. That revelation didn’t come until her second audition.
“It was so strange, because I never dream of actors,” she recalled. “I think he was my coach or something. And after the dream, suddenly I felt so peaceful. Like, everything is going to be fine.”
Wait, She Was *How* Young??!
Eighteen. That’s how old Irish-born Alison Doody was when she got the part of Jenny Flex, one of Mayday’s assistants, in A View To A Kill. That is all.
She’s The Closest Thing To A Female James Bond
Few Bond girl actresses can boast serious real-life combat abilities. (Reference: Honor Blackman.) But then there’s Michelle Yeoh. By the time she was cast as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Yeoh had a serious reputation for not only amazing martial arts skills, but also doing her own stunts in movies. In fact, Yeoh was so good at fight work that co-star Pierce Brosnan called her a "female James Bond.” During filming for Tomorrow Never Dies, Yeoh reportedly wanted to do her own stunts, but director Roger Spottiswoode nixed the idea as too dangerous. Undeterred, she still managed to perform all of her own fighting scenes.
The Name’s Péi. Péi Chúnhuá
When she was cast as Miranda Frost in Die Another Day, London-born Pike was so short on cash she was considering taking a job at a bookstore. That was 2002. Cut to 2010s, and she’s so big -- worldwide -- that she’s even got a Chinese name.
In 2015, while visiting China to promote Gone Girl, Pike revealed that she had a second name. Her partner, Robie Uniacke, a businessman, is a fan of Chinese culture and had given her a Chinese moniker just for kicks. She likes the name so much that she’s asked the Chinese media to call her Péi Chúnhuá, instead of trying to transliterate her English name.