When you talk about Bond Girls,
it's interesting to note that a majority of these actresses often suffered
career lag after their participation in 007's adventures. Even if we can
understand that they weren't all primarily trained for the Shakespearean
stage (with one exception), all in all, the results are often quite sad.
Is playing a Bond Girl a curse for an acting career? We'll see.
There are more actresses than you think that participated more than once in the series (be it playing the same character or another one) and I hope that you'll learn many useless and/or unknown trivia along the way. I invite you to pay special attention to the names of these characters. You'll surely notice that subtlety is not necessarily a priority for some surprising word games.
A brief portrait of each actress will be available, alongside an evaluation of her contribution to the Bond world. Keep in mind that they are an integral part of the success of the series over the years. I'll even rate them on a 1 to 10 scale. This rating is not a mere beauty evaluation: it'll take into consideration the quality of their performance, their chemistry with Bond, how they use sex-appeal and their importance in the overall series.
Of course, there's more than one Bond Girl per film, but for now we will elect the lucky one who gets away romantically with our favorite super spy at the conclusion of the motion picture. So, for now, no bad girls. Also note that unofficial entries and/or parodies will not be taken into consideration here.
Dr. No (1962)
In beginning with the first official entry in the series (so not counting the 1954 American television adaptation which starred Linda Christian as Valerie Mathis), it's Dr. No that interests us. Who says Dr. No also says Ursula Andress, the first true Bond Girl, which many claims remain the "best", the one that would give the look and the qualities for those to come. More than 40 years later, Ursula is still considered one of the great beauties of the Silver Screen. Here, her limited acting range is quite appropriate for the role of Honey Rider, hunting for shells in the sea and emerging from the waves in one of the most celebrated scene in movie history. Dig that white bikini, of which Ursula claimed that she designed herself. So even with her voice dubbed by another actress and not doing much, she became a legend. (Note that the original Ian Fleming novel described the character as completely nude when emerging from the water, described as a modern Venus).
Believe it or not, Dr. No wasn't a big budgeted picture. Mere three weeks before shooting, the main female role was not even cast yet. Ursula's husband at the time was John Derek, who urged her to take the part, bargaining on her impressing physique. Even with a quite limited range, Ursula enjoyed great chemistry with Sean Connery. Because of her strong Swiss accent, Ursula was dubbed by a pro, Monica Van Der Zyl, whose services were attached to more films of the series. Of course, publicity did not shy away from throwing many of Ursula's pictures around, who had just created the best commercial step of her artistic life. Her salary was $6,000. She would enjoy the rest of her career in more or less the same role, as a distant femme fatale, without much humor, working mainly in Europe in flavorless light comedies. In a way, Ursula would come back to the Bond world in 1967 in the Casino Royale parody. She was even mentioned in an official Ian Fleming Bond novel, On Her Majesty's Secret Service!
I can only give her a perfect note: 10/10.
To know more about Ursula >>
From Russia with Love (1963)
Daniela Bianchi was born on January 31, 1942, in Rome, Italy. She would become Miss Rome in 1960. The role of Tatiana Romanova (she was chosen just before Pia Lindstrom, one of Ingrid Bergman's daughter) would be her main hour of cinematic glory, as her list of credits don't include much classics, as she played in just an handful of movies. Like Ursula Andress, she was not necessarily the strongest comedienne around, but for a second time, a lack of experience would contribute to a successful portrayal, mixing well with Bond (as well as another voice dubbing job). A car crash during shooting resulted in some re-scheduling for a couple of weeks, long enough for her face to heal.
The main problem with Daniela was a natural awkward way of walking, as she was replaced by a body double in some scenes. She would be seen in 1967 in Operation Kid Brother, an awful Italian Bond parody starring Sean Connery's real-life brother (?). In fact, the rest of her short career consisted in turning up in such parodies; the French/Italian co-production Le Tigre aime la chair fraîche is worth seeking out in the lot. In 1985, she married a millionaire. Her note: 6/10.
British Honor Blackman was mainly known for being Patrick Macnee's partner Cathy Gale in the cult TV series The Avengers, from 1962 to 1964. Used to play a karate adventurer, it wasn't a great stretch to become dynamic Pussy Galore (yeah, Pussy Galore, a moniker worthy of a bad porno flick title), a character with maybe lesbian tendencies that would melt under Bond's great masculine charms. The name was almost changed to Kitty Galore at some point, mainly in the goal of attracting more willing actresses...
With one of the era's most smashing smile and the reputation of not chickening out of athletic roles, Honor paved the way for upcoming take-charge ladies of the series, beginning mainly from the mid-80s, where female characters became more involved in the action. This is the main reason why I give her 8/10. Born on December 12, 1927 in London, Miss Blackman, throughout her career, displayed an amused look, as if she always got the joke before the others. She began film work around 1946, being really busy in the swinging sixties.
In a role first destined to Raquel Welch (too busy with Fantastic Voyage), and then Julie Christie and Faye Dunaway, it was finally continental beauty Claudine Auger that was given the privilege to fall for Bond as Domino. A former Miss France at age 15, Claudine's list of credits is more imposing that we could think of at first, as she began in Jean Cocteau's Le testament d'Orphée at the age of 17, alongside Yul Brynner, Charles Aznavour, Brigitte Bardot and Pablo Picasso! She was memorable in a couple of violent Italian thrillers, Twitch of the Death Nerve and Black Belly of the Tarantula. She hasn't worked on a movie for the last ten years.
Born in Paris on April 26, 1942, Miss Auger displayed her generous physique to the world in an unending succession of fetching bikinis for Thunderball. Claudine seemed at ease around Connery and was a better actress than Andress or Bianchi, so I give her 7/10 (even with another voice dubbing job). After four films, we can now discern the characteristic look of your average Bond Girl, often including a pseudo-innocent aura, a latent sensuality, and a bit of charming naivete.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Mie Hama would follow, in the role of Kissy Suzuki, with the distinction of being the first woman to marry Bond, even under the pretext of carrying on for a mission. Connery started a small scandal in claiming that he didn't found Japanese women sexy. Probably for this, there weren't any sparks between himself and Mie, even if the Kissy character wasn't the most brilliantly written of all time. I find her incredibly cute (and she still is to this day), but can only give a note of 5/10. Connery's then-wife, Diane Cilento, had to replace Mie for a swimming scene, as our Japanese beauty was struck with stomach cramps!
Mie Hama was born on November 20, 1943. Powerful Toho Studios hired her as she was simply visiting the premises as a fan. She became a talk-show hostess in Japan, and would enjoy better company with another dark romantic/sexual hero of the big screen, one appreciative of Oriental charms: King Kong (for King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes).
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
For this next movie, attempts were made to lure in Brigitte Bardot, but she was busy (alongside Sean Connery!) filming the western Shalako. Catherine Deneuve could not be convinced. Enter Diana Rigg (born on July 20, 1938), another Avengers recruit (the divine and eternal Emma Peel, who had replaced Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale) and a person trained in Shakespearian drama. In fact, it took an actress of superior caliber to play the character of Bond's "official" real wife. Her talent was even more evident alongside newcomer Bond George Lazenby, as animated as a piece of dry wood (but would the world have ever accepted a crying Connery?). The two didn't get along at all, as she used to eat garlic before any kissing scene. Diana played to perfection Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo, mixing brilliantly tragedy and determination. Note: 9/10.
She's still considered the first major British actress to appear nude on stage for Abelard and Heloise in 1970. Oddly, Dame Diana Rigg's credits are rather scarce. Still, she's in one of my favorite cult movies of all time, Theatre of Blood, where she plays Vincent Price's daughter, whom she would replace years later as the host of TV's Mystery.
JILL ST. JOHN
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
On August 19, 1940, was born Jill Oppenheim, who would become Jill St. John. She began her career at the age of 18 in Summer Love. She could also be seen in The Lost World, a prehistoric saga two years later. She would never be taken really seriously, but I always had the impression that she remains underused and underestimated; in fact, she possess an impressively high IQ. Often showing a flair for comedy, with a self-deprecating attitude, St. John could've contributed more. A bit like Ursula Andress, she was more in the business to meet famous men than to make it to the top at all costs. Anyone remember a memorable Batman episode where she go-go danced with the Caped Crusader (supposedly incognito) in a packed discotheque? I find her hilarious in Diamonds Are Forever in the role of Tiffany Case, another delight for bikini-watchers, for which she gets a 6/10 note.
She had posed for Playboy in 1960, as the same issue published for the first time a Ian Fleming novel in their pages. Jill was a later hanger-on around Frank Sinatra's court and remains Robert Wagner's spouse since 1990. The latter's former sister-in-law, Lana Wood, has also a role here. Lana and Jill supposedly had an argument during a photo shoot of former Bond Girls in 2000 for Vanity Fair magazine. She devotes her time to her horses, but has just recently been injured in a skiing accident.
Live and Let Die (1973)
With a third Bond actor debuting (and the second to really leave his personal mark), what a better way to greet him than an introduction to Jane Seymour, a beauty born on February 15, 1951, as Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberger. This was the young woman's fifth film and first starring role, as she had just left the dancing world. Once again, Catherine Deneuve had declined... and she would probably have been completely miscast here. So once again, hurray for plunging necklines! Jane is very adequate as Solitaire, who could read the future in Tarot cards and almost became shark food. I give her 6/10, because she's a bit too much helpless, as her sightseer powers were sadly under-utilized.
Jane would eventually become the Queen of TV Movies for the American screens, starting choice television work in the eighties, attaining her greatest popularity for the series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She had twin boys in 1995, and two other children from a former marriage. Jane has also the distinction of having eyes of different colors and, like many other Bond Girls, seem to age at a much slower rate than the rest of Humanity.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Two Swedish honeys are present here, but it's not the Bond script with the most memorably written female characters. Our main girl here is another for the under-used list, kittenish Britt Ekland (born on October 6, 1942) who, in 1973's Baxter!, made me bawl out like a baby and is further proof that she Could Have Been Somebody if enjoying quality roles. At age fifteen, she began a visual career by appearing in a toothpaste commercial.
Married to Peter Sellers (who played a James Bond in 1967's parody Casino Royale) from 1963-68, Britt began her screen career in 1962, enjoying most success in the early to mid-seventies. She mainly began in some Italian comedies. Rod Stewart composed a song about her. Her role as Mary Goodnight is not the most memorable of the series, but still can make one smile. 6/10.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Bond Girls would finally attain more maturity and independence around this time, as well as participating more in the action. Oddly, an actress with very limited range would show the way. Barbara Bach was born on August 27, 1947, and began a screen career in some Italian thrillers, like Black Belly of the Tarantula with Claudine Auger. Not the most animated performer, the fact that she plays here an aloof Russian agent worked to her advantage. Major Anya Amasova was nothing like the typical helpless Bond love doll and this marked a turning point in the series, that saved it from redundancy. A well-deserved 7/10 for Babs (who also took the time to pose for Playboy to promote the film).
Oddly, worthy acting gigs were few in her future. She met Ringo Starr while shooting Caveman in 1981 and they have been together since. They worked together in Paul McCartney's Give My Regards to Broadstreet, where she doesn't do much... in fact, her career in movies was no more a priority, if it ever was. Both successfully went through cure of desintox in 1988.
In my view, this is the most over-the-top Bond adventure, to which I always had lukewarm feelings, as it approaches too often the height (or low?) of ridicule. To top it off, the worst Bond Girl is present in the cast. Lois Chiles (born on April 15, 1947, in Texas) plays it completely frigid and unsympathetic in the role of CIA Agent Holly Goodhead (!). This is not the actress' fault, as the script plays more like a bad Flash Gordon serial. Lois never got more exposure than right here though, as her remaining career consists of small and unmemorable roles. So, 3/10, sorry.
She had been discovered in Glamour magazine in an article on good-looking college girls. She began a successful life as a cover girl shortly after, which led to screen work. After Moonraker, she decided to study drama, as absolutely no acting offers came her way.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Finally, Bond came back to Earth, and more importantly, back to basics, a very welcome move. It was Carole Bouquet's turn to co-star and here was a girl with character, not as sold on Bond at first as the others and who could handle a crossbow like a pro (no revealing bikinis here). Daughter of great French character actor Michel Bouquet, Carole was born on August 18, 1957. She began her screen career in two surrealistic masterpieces, Luis Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) and Bertrand Blier's Buffet froid (1979). She would remain an enigmatic presence for the vast majority of screen work to come. In fact, she had been interviewed for the female role for Moonraker. Here she plays Melina Havelock.
Of all the women listed here, her list of credits is the most substantial quality-wise and not as depressing as some others. Generally, she is elegant, cultured and as icy as an iceberg in her films. Carole was a Chanel spokesperson for a long time. I found her very cool, in all senses of the word, seemingly living in a semi-decadent world of champagne and caviar. 8/10, chère. And is she still the life partner of Gérard Depardieu?
Now back to Maud Adams (born on February 12, 1945, in Sweden), who had a small and memorable role in The Man with the Golden Gun, again displaying her outrageous cheekbones to the world in the title role. Once again, we're stuck with the world "pussy". Her character seems only to lounge around in colorful kimonos and worry a lot. I always thought of her as very classy and one of the most beautiful Bond Girl, clicking perfectly with Roger Moore, so 7/10. Maud also has the facility to speak at least five different languages, not a bad thing for an international Bond Girl of intrigue...
At that point, many "experts" tried to convince us that she was the first actress to play in two different Bond movies. What about Miss Moneypenny, Eunice Gayson, Martine Beswicke...?
A View to a Kill (1985)
Then we arrive at this most fearsome moment, the most disappointing one for me in all Bond mythology. For years, my favorite starlet was Tanya Roberts and to witness her character here, the prude and wimpy Stacey Sutton, is a cruel deception. What the hell with these long skirts, like a prim and proper professional secretary? Why hire sexy Tanya to let her portray such a bland individual? Tanya was born on October 15, 1954 (or is it 1955 or 1957?) and quickly became a Bronx tough cookie, getting married at the age of fifteen. She became widely known as the last Angel for the television hit Charlie's Angels.
After the Sheena disaster, she would heavily fall from grace, only to star in erotic thrillers. And she had remained blonde! And is still is to this day, a deep deception for myself. To think that I had her poster on my bedroom door, the same poster that made a cameo appearance in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle! So I will give a note of 4/10. More recently, Tanya became a regular in the hit TV series, That 70s Show.
To know more about Tanya >>
The Living Daylights (1987)
Born on December 27, 1960, in London, Maryam D'Abo is Kara Milovy and in my view, a return to the decorative, helpless and rather bland Bond Girls. At least, she plays a mean cello and carries a sort of romantic aura, but I can only rate her a 5/10. She dutifully fulfilled the job of promoting the movie by posing for Playboy, as many of her precedent Bond sisters had done in the past. In fact, she had been interested in joining the Bond world in Octopussy, but had been rejected for her then juvenile allure.
Enjoying a mix of Russian and Danish parents, Maryam is also Olivia D'Abo's cousin actress and neither one of them has a very much better filmography than the other. Maryam is fascinated by the Bond Girls legend, as she has written, produced and starred in a documentary about the ageless beauties, entitled Bond Girls Are Forever. She even wrote a book about that mystique in 2003.
Licence to Kill (1989)
Carey Lowell was born in Huntingdon, New York, on February 11, 1961. As her dad was a geologist, she traveled around the world, eventually becoming a model, a Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren favorite. She plays here Pam Bouvier, a dynamic and quite refreshing Bond Girl, wearing rare short hair for that kind of leading part. It was her priority to play an action-oriented character, as she would had refused a mere decorative role. Can't say that her list of next credits is very impressive, though.
These days, she plays at being Mrs. Richard Gere, and her career seems like an afterthought, as they recently had a child. In fact, she looks oddly plain in her rare public appearances. Still, she was a great partner to Timothy Dalton and is awarded 7/10. Could be the tallest Bond Girl at 5'10".
Izabella Scorupco was born in Bialystock, Poland, on June 4, 1971. She can speak four different languages and is mainly known as a singer in Europe (she even had a 1991 hit with an old disco classic by Shirley & Co: Shame Shame Shame). She was excellent as Natalya Simanova, mixing smarts and beauty to create a modern and dynamic Bond heroine. After a six-year hiatus, the series was in need of a positive restart and the leading lady delivered the goods alongside a new Bond. 7/10.
Izabella seemed to step out of a time machine, as her gorgeous looks seem adaptable to any Bond era. She used to be married to NHL hockey player Marius Czerkawski. Oddly, she turned down the lead female role for L.A. Confidential (for which Kim Basinger won an Oscar) and The Mask of Zorro (which made Catherine Zeta-Jones an international star).
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Michelle Yeoh was born on August 6, 1962, in Ipoh, Malaysia. She's actually a former Miss Malaysia (in 1983) and received the majority of her education in England, mainly training in classical dance. Her real name is Yeoh Chu-kheng and she's also known as Michelle Kahn or Chi-King Yeung (!). Her height is 5'4" and she weights 100 pounds. Still, she's often considered the female Jackie Chan, with which she co-starred a couple of time. So small and beautiful this lady is, she's unique as she can do her own neck-breaking stunts, a rarity in modern motion pictures, taking advantage of her dance moves.
Her character here is named Wai Lin and could probably kick the butt of any other Bond Girl present (even Bamby & Thumper from Diamonds Are Forever!). Even if Michelle looks great and has nothing to reproach herself, her potential was still underused in the story and any chemistry with Brosnan was close to being non-existent. Has only shot an handful of movies since, but remains Asia's highest-paid actress. 6/10.
To know more about Michelle >>
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
With Denise Richard (born in Downers Grove, Illinois, on February 12, 1971 or 1972), we reach a new level of mediocrity and unbelievable character traits. Former high-school cheerleader and model Denise was not the greatest acting novelty, as she enjoyed mainly decorative roles until a big break with Starship Troopers and more notoriety with Wild Things.
Here, she plays Doctor Christmas Jones, another completely ridiculous moniker typical of the Bond World. Doctor? She who looks to be around 17? Still, I was more fascinated with surprise bad girl Sophie Marceau and can only give Denise 4/10. She has been married to Charlie Sheen since June 2002, and has made more a career in fighting this ex-hubby than any movie work. Denise found time to appear in the 2004 Playboy Christmas issue.
Die Another Day (2002)
I was so sick of always hearing that her introduction on the beach in the picture was an homage to Ursula Andress, as the series was celebrating its 40th anniversary... Yes, it was true, but did everyone had to ramble on and on about that same fact? Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 14, 1966, Halle was informed that she was in nomination for an Oscar for Monster's Ball while shooting Die Another Day (and she won). Jinx is a fun character, who at some point was supposed to enjoy her own movie franchise. Halle suffered some odd incidents during the shooting and we invite you to consult her own Cult Sirens bio page to find out more biographical details.
Halle seems to have survived the Catwoman debacle and will we eventually admire her in a long-delayed Foxy Brown remake? 7/10.
To know more about Halle >>
Casino Royale (2006)
What to say about the newest Bond Girl? Born on July 5, 1980, she is the daughter of French actress Marlène Jobert and a Swedish dentist father. Eva has a non-identical twin sister. She studied in France, England and the United States.
Her film debut was in 2003 for Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, which included some nude scenes. Eva can be satisfied in playing one of the most well-written female characters in the Bond novels. The translation to movie screens was a good one, but for my money she seemed a bit young (and thin!) to play a character with so much experience. But there's no doubt that she paved the way for more interesting female roles in this renewed franchise. So 7/10.
In conclusion, only Ursula Andress (who opened the way to a long series) and Diana Rigg (with a well-crafted character) emerge as our winners, with a perfect and near perfect note. Lois Chiles is our unhappy loser with dismaying 3/10. Evidently, the majority of these roles were not written with great substance and we can't all blame it on the actresses, even with the varying degrees of talent involved. The great majority can only be proud of their participation.