Sex, Violence & Piranhas: Eight Former Bond Girls on Their Days With 007
What makes a Bond girl? She has to be beautiful. She also has to exude the sort of calm confidence that can unnerve a British super-spy who has notched his bedpost so many times that it’s basically just sawdust. And perhaps most important, she has to be say things like, “My name is Pussy Galore” with total conviction.
Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, and Stephanie Sigman will become officially minted Bond girls this weekend, when Spectre hits screens. There’s already been a lot of buzz around them -- particularly Bellucci, who, at 51, is the oldest actress to play a Bond girl -- but we wanted to better understand what exactly these three women are getting themselves into. So we called up eight actresses from the franchise and compiled 13 rules that explain what it means to be a Bond girl. Turns out, the job comes with some unique hazards, like questionable treatment at premieres, near-drowning, and possible career death. But still, the eight women are all pretty grateful for their places in the 007 universe. And for Roger Moore’s emergency whiskey.
Rule 1: Let Grace Jones be your spirit animal
Virginia Hey appeared as General Pushkin’s paramour Rubavitch in 1987’s The Living Daylights. Bond suspects Pushkin’s KGB men of targeting MI6 agents, but they’ve also been after his latest lady, a Czech cellist played by Maryam d'Abo.
Hey: I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in the running for the lead role. [Producer] Barbara Broccoli came out of the back room while I was auditioning and said, “Oh Virginia, I’ve just been watching your audition and I really like you. You’ve got the perfect look for a lead role.” And I said, “What? For the lead role? Oh my God, I’m so glad I didn’t know. I would’ve been so nervous.” She said, “Well, don’t get too excited because unfortunately, you’re close to 6ft and [the part is] a very fragile cellist. However, we’d like to write you something. What would you like to play? Someone working on the good side or the bad side?” I said, “Oh my God, bad, of course.” Naturally! She laughed, and I said, “Can I have a great big gun and crawl across rooftops in a spandex jumpsuit?” Like Grace Jones did [in A View to a Kill]. She laughed and laughed. And she said, “Well I can’t promise you the gun and spandex jumpsuit and crawling across rooftops, but we will write you something.”
Rule 2: Yield to the Hollywood hype machine
Jane Seymour appeared as Solitaire, the virginal tarot card reader who catches Bond’s eye while he’s tracking a New Orleans gangster, in 1973’s Live and Let Die.
Seymour: [After I got the part] I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone for two and a half weeks. And they had a famous photographer photograph me and make me look like I was the sexiest thing on the planet. He also had to write these articles about me, like a three-page thing for when it came out about how they’d searched the world and they’d found the sexiest woman alive. Of course I wasn’t at all, I was this very innocent 20-year-old. It was terribly embarrassing because he wrote things like I liked to run naked through long grass, which was printed and became the first of my many factoids: things I can’t get rid of that were published that have nothing to do with me. My father, being a rather practical OB-GYN, pointed out to me that if I ran naked through long grass, I would cut myself.
Rule 3: Kick Sean Connery in the nuts
Trina Parks was the first African-American actress to appear in any Bond film. She played a bodyguard named Thumper, whose partner was naturally Bambi, in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.
Parks: After Sean brings me down off the rock, and you know, I put my arms around him, like I’m flirting before I kick him in the groin. Well I was being very careful for a couple of takes, and then I remember Mr. Hamilton saying, “Trina, why are you being so soft?” Because they knew I had more strength. And I said, “Oh, well I didn’t want to hurt him.” [Director] Guy Hamilton starts laughing and says, “You know he has a cup on, right?” So then for the next couple shots after that, I really did it.
Rule 4: When not kicking Connery in the nuts, marvel at the man’s magnetism
Karin Dor played Helga Brandt, the “secretary” of a SPECTRE associate in 1967’s You Only Live Twice. She attempts to kill Bond, but when she fails, she’s dropped into a tank of piranhas.
Dor: I had never seen Connery in a picture before... but my agent was addicted to Connery. When we were watching him rehearsing, I thought, “I don’t think he’s so exciting.” I thought he was nothing to flip your wig over. And then they hit the clapboard and the cameras were rolling, and he was another man. He wouldn’t give everything in rehearsal, but when the cameras were on, he was unbelievable.
Rule 5: Try not to sweat
Britt Ekland portrayed Mary Goodnight, Bond’s assistant in Bangkok, in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun.
Ekland: The only direction I ever had was that a Bond girl doesn’t sweat -- she glows.
Rule 6: Try not to drown
Trina Parks: The water scene probably wouldn’t be done today. We dive into the water, and Bond has to keep us down while the FBI people come running in and start talking. And we stayed underwater. It’s not like we got up, went to our dressing rooms, and they did another scene. We were underwater the whole time. Really! I was like, “Can’t you shoot them and then us?”
Rule 7: Duck!
Jane Seymour: There was a scene where we were being shot at by machine guns. They came and said, “OK, you lie down here in the sand. This is where you have to be. It’s very important, it’s a close-up on you, which means you have to be exactly there and Roger [Moore] has to be exactly there.” So they placed me and said, “OK, action.” And all of a sudden, these explosives start detonating between my fingers [simulating bullet strikes]. They never told me the explosives were there between my fingers. I could’ve blown my hands off. And they fired a live machine gun within two feet of my ears from behind me. As Roger described it in his book, I literally buried my head in the sand like a bloody mole. Like, “Aaaah!” [Laughs] And then after that, we watched the movie and all the scenes where they were firing machine guns at us, whenever I’m moving from A to B, you can see my hands coming up to my ears to block out the noise.
Rule 8: Find an ass double
Kristina Wayborn played Octopussy’s top soldier, Magda, in the eponymous 1983 film. After they sleep together, Bond famously asks her about her unusual tattoo.
Wayborn: When I did that insert in the bed -- that little Octopussy tattoo -- I had left. I wanted to go have fish & chips at the cafeteria. So I asked this one girl, “Hey, do you want to be my bum?” And she said, “Yeah! Yeah I do!” I said, “Have at it.” So when they pan down to that little tattoo, that’s not me. That was her and I was eating fish & chips.
Rule 9: Follow Dr. Moore’s orders
Kristina Wayborn: I remember this maharaja’s palace where we stayed and I was on the top floor. Roger Moore and his wife Luisa were downstairs. I remember somebody was getting very ill from the water there, and that maybe they had to ship them off via ambulance, and so we were all deathly afraid that something was going to happen to us. I got up one morning and brushed my teeth, and kinda forgot. So I freaked out, and Roger and Luisa heard me downstairs. Roger came up in his robe with a big bottle of Jack Daniel's and said, “Oh darling, do gargle and swallow.” He was thinking he was disinfecting me or something.
Rule 10: Make the most of the premiere party
Serena Scott Thomas portrayed Dr. Molly Warmflash, a physician who clears a badly injured Bond for duty after he seduces her into a doctor’s note, in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.
Scott Thomas: They flew my husband and I out to London to the premiere of the movie, and it was done in the same style as the movie. The way the whole James Bond franchise is done -- just the utmost style and luxury. Everybody really dresses up for those premieres. It’s very fun. A lot of men are in black tie and the girls are wearing party dresses. It’s just an occasion. I think nowadays, everything’s so casual, it’s very refreshing when you go to an event like that. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but it’s just a lot of fun. And the party was incredible.
Jane Seymour: They didn’t provide a car for me to go to the premiere, so I just hired a local taxi service to take me. But of course, because it wasn’t a fancy limo, it couldn’t come anywhere near the theater to pick me up afterwards and get me to the party. So I was stranded. I eventually got to wherever the party was, and they put me at the worst table. They put me with the accountants in the back room. And then Roger Moore found me and said, “What the hell are you doing sitting here?” I said, “This is where they put me.” He was furious, and he brought me to where his table was. But I was not well looked-after, that was for sure. It was weird. You’d have thought that the leading lady of a Bond film would at least have a car to take her to the premiere and at least be given a table somewhere near where everyone else who made the movie was. But the accountants were very nice people.
Rule 11: Prepare for the unexpected backlash
Before Bond becomes fixated on Jane Seymour’s Solitaire, he has a dalliance with CIA agent Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry), his African-American colleague on the Caribbean expedition in Live and Let Die.
Gloria Hendry: I was definitely rejected, quite a bit. In various parts of the country they would blacken out my love scene. I mean, it was not the first time a woman of color kissed a Caucasian man in a movie. But for some strange reason, it wasn’t shown. I got all kinds of flack. Really. And it was a surprise.
Rule 12: Be famous, then probably less famous
Gloria Hendry: I did have a flurry of interviews, and people asking me to donate my time to charities and fundraising. That all went on for a couple of years, but then when 1975 hit, everything seemed to come to a halt. Things stopped and it was like, what happened? And then from that point on, for the next 10 years, it was almost nothing. In the ‘80s, I tried to start again, but it was nothing like it was. So no, it has not helped my career. It helped my popularity. I’m all over the place. The fans still recognize me. You go on the Internet, you see me everywhere. It goes on for probably a hundred pages. But as far as financially, no, not at all.
Jane Seymour: There was one movie in particular that I remember that I was literally only turned down at the last minute. They wanted me, and I would’ve got the role, but the moment the director found out I’d been a Bond girl, he just said no. That did happen to me. But you know what? It was disappointing at the time, but no one mentions that movie anymore or anyone in it. They still mention Live and Let Die.
Trina Parks: For a while there I was getting recognized. Maybe more in LA than New York. But even when I moved to Palm Springs, people recognized me -- and that was in 2002! A bunch of retirees live there, so they all know the movie.
Rule 13: Own the part
Britt Ekland: I have read that Monica Bellucci said she will not be called a Bond girl and at 51, I kind of agree with her. She might feel ridiculous being called a Bond girl. But in my mind, and in my experience, there are no Bond women. There are only Bond girls. Because that’s what we were. We were told to wear a bathing suit and look good. Adore the villain or, in my case, adore Bond. If we were to go back and deal with everything that was politically incorrect, we’d have no movie history, and that would be very, very sad.
Virginia Hey: I don’t think it exploited women at all, I think it just went along with the times, and in the ‘60s and ‘70s, women were perceived as sensual, healthy, beautiful, and sexual. Whereas now, in 2015, they’re sort of perceived as being more resourceful and more independent, almost more businesslike. More manlike. Which is a shame, actually. I wish that more women would be perceived as more sensual again, because women have a certain sexiness that’s so different from men’s.
Kristina Wayborn: Back in ‘60s, women were more eye candy. But I also think Bond films always have that strong woman. Even Ursula [Andress] in Dr. No, she was drop dead gorgeous, but she had an inner core, and inner strength. And in the movies that have followed, the women have become stronger and stronger. That’s a very good thing. I think we’ll see that in Spectre as well. I think we’ll see a lot more of Bond’s emotional side, as we did in Skyfall.
Epilogue: The next 007?
Serena Scott Thomas: How about a female James Bond? Jane Bond! That would be fun.
Gloria Hendry: I would definitely like to see them venture out, to continue to move forward, and grow more with the population. I think they know that. And hopefully, they are set on doing that for the next Bond. It would be wonderful to see someone in my hue. I would love to see that happen today.
THRILLIST: Have you heard the rumors about Idris Elba?
Hendry: Oh my God, are you kidding me? That would be incredible! Oh he’s so gorgeous. I would love it. Oh my God, are they thinking about him? Well, we are going to have prejudice. Because we always do, even in this modern time. But that would be fantastic.
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