James Bond’s 75 female co-stars have had more interesting careers than Barbie. From nuclear physicist to fighter pilot, diamond smuggler, fencing instructor, intelligence agent, shell diver and assassin, 007’s beauties aren’t staying home baking cookies.
Here are the many secrets of Bond’s leading ladies!
Role: Xenia Onatopp, fighter pilot and assassin, GoldenEye,1995
Decades after starring in GoldenEye, Famke Janssen still gets asked about her killer thighs. “They want to know if I still have them and I try to wash over that fairly quickly,” she told a US talk show. “At night on the street in New York it is absolutely great to have that reputation but no, for the rest of my acting career … not so much.”
Role: Psychiatrist Madeleine Swann, Spectre, 2015 and No Time To Die
French actress Léa Seydoux, who reprises her role as Madeleine Swan in No Time to Die, sizzles on screen but confides that it wasn’t easy. As soon as she was offered the role, Seydoux immediately thought: “Right, I really have to go for it, work on my English accent, do some sport, get fit.”
Role: Tarot card reader Solitaire, Live and Let Die, 1973
It’s been decades since Seymour graced the screen in Live and Let Die, but Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has a long memory. Seymour said she was misquoted early on, reportedly saying that being a Bond girl was the worst thing that had ever happened in her career: “Absolutely not. To this day Barbara Broccoli still thinks that I said something derogatory about it and I did not.” Seymour said producers were looking for a virginal type to cast as Solitaire and, at 20 years old, she fit the bill. Asked whether she’d return to the franchise Seymour didn’t hesitate: “I would absolutely go back. Barbara where are you?”
Role: KGB agent XXX in The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977
Bach may have shot to fame for being a Bond ‘girl’ but that doesn’t mean she has to like 007. Bach, a feminist, once described Bond as “a chauvinist pig who uses girls to shield him against bullets”. Ouch! She’s now married to former Beatle Ringo Star but despite her refined manners and speech, Bach isn’t British like her husband. In fact, Bach lost out on an audition for Charlie's Angels because she was too ‘foreign’. Even though Bach was born in Queens, New York and grew up in the US, the producers asked Bach’s manager if she could play an American.
Role: CIA field agent Rosie Carver, Live and Let Die (1973)
When Hendry’s agent told her to fly to New York to audition for a Bond film her reaction was: “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not tall. I’m not blonde. I’m not big busted.” Less than 15 minutes after greeting producer Harry Saltzman she was on her way to Louisiana to meet Moore. “I said [to myself] ‘Hold it together, girl. Hold it to-ge-th-er.’” Two weeks later she was hired to portray 007’s first black love interest in Live and Let Die. Hendry said she looks back on the experience with incredulity: “Amazing ... And once a Bond lady, always a Bond lady.”
Role: Honey Ryder, shell diver, Dr No, 1962
A white bikini changed Ursula Andress’ life: “It made me into a success. I had made a few movies before then but nothing had the impact of that scene in Dr No," she recalled in 2018. “Whoosh! Overnight, I made it.” As for the bikini, she auctioned it off in 2001 for $56,000, about seven times what she earned as shell diver Honey Ryder.
Role: Vesper Lynd, foreign liaison agent from the HM Treasury's Financial Action Task Force, Casino Royale, 2006
The stylish French actress was up against Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron for the role of Vesper Lynd when she initially turned it down. She admits she was a bit naive but also hadn’t seen the script at the time. “It wasn’t until they gave me the script [nine months later] that I realized it was a meaty role. I didn't see her as a Bond girl. She’s a strong character; she’s got cracks,” Green told The Hollywood Reporter.
Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng
Role: Wai Lin, a spy for China’s Ministry of State Security in Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997
Yeoh’s performance was so good rumors started circulating about a female Bond, but the Malaysian-born actress said she doubted a woman would get away with having so many lovers. “They think it’s cool with a guy that has many girlfriends but when a woman tries to do that the connotation goes downhill,” she told Radio Times. Never say never, though.
Role: Pussy Galore, Pussy Galore's Flying Circus aviators, Goldfinger, 1964
It was a sign of the times that Blackman was considered ‘old’ at 38 when she played a Bond ‘girl’, but she remains one of the most memorable of 007’s leading ladies. Her judo skills helped Blackman land the job. Not only could Blackman stand up for herself mentally and physically, she even published a book in 1965: Honor Blackman’s Book of Self-Defense. Her judo - plus Blackman’s kicka** personality - turned her into a feminist icon.
Role: Paris Carver, wife of British media baron Elliot Carver, Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997
Pierce Brosnan admits he had a few choice words for American actress Teri Hatcher when she arrived on set late. The Irish-born actor told Italian Vanity Fair he 'let slip a few words which weren't very nice' and later explained that he’d arrived very early in the morning but didn’t work until late that afternoon. What he didn’t realize is that Hatcher was newly pregnant at the time. ”No one told me her situation until afterwards,” he said. “By that time I’d already shot my mouth off and cussed and moaned and groaned. That’s all it was, a storm in a teacup.” Hatcher hasn’t told her side of the story, but perhaps she let her hands do the talking when the script called for Paris Carver to slap 007.
Role: Dink, Bond’s masseuse in Goldfinger, 1964
Director Edgar Wright described actress Margaret Nolan as 'the middle of [the] Venn diagram of everything cool in the 60s'. She was the gold-painted model who graced the opening credit in 1964’s Goldfinger and negotiated herself a role playing Dink, Bond’s masseuse in the film. The opening was considered risqué at the time but Nolan said she had no regrets. The Irish actress actually started her career as a ‘glamour’ model.
Roles: Adams was actually in three Bond films: Scaramanga's mistress in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974); an MI6 agent in Octopussy (1983), and an uncredited role as an extra in A View to a Kill (1985).
American film producer Albert Broccoli told Adams it was a pity she'd died so soon in The Man with the Golden Gun so he offered her a second Bond part. Adams then made Bond history, just by chance. A View to a Kill was being shot at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, so the Swedish actress and her boyfriend dropped by the set to say hello to Bond director John Glen. Glen later recalled: “I said to Maud: ‘Come on, why don’t you become a crowd extra?’ So she and her boyfriend walked through in the background, and by doing that she became the only woman [at the time] to appear in three James Bond movies.”
Role: Kissy Suzuki, pearl diver and ex-Japanese secret agent in You Only Live Twice, 1967
The Japanese actress was a bus conductor when she was talent spotted and had made many films by the time she starred as Kissy Suzuki. The role turned the 23-year-old into a Hollywood sex symbol - Playboy dubbed her 'the Brigitte Bardot of Japan'. She wasn’t ready for stardom, however. “It was an honor to be a Bond girl, but once was enough,” Hama told The New York Times when she turned 73. “I am actually a subdued and steady person.” She doesn’t keep mementos around - no posters or photographs of her career highlights - but had kind words for Connery, a kindred spirit also from a working-class background. “I was just a girl,” she recalled. “Every morning, he asked if I was having any trouble. He also had a tough life before becoming a star, so he understood me.”
Role: Countess Teresa di Vincenzo (aka Mrs Tracy Bond), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969
Diana Rigg was the only woman to marry James Bond but it was a short-lived honeymoon as Mrs Bond died shortly afterward in an emotional scene. Rigg was an established actress who’d trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company so she didn’t need much coaching. Lazenby was a novice, however, so director Peter R. Hunt brought Lazenby onto the set at 8am to rehearse all day: "By the time we shot it at five o'clock, he was exhausted, and that's how I got the performance,” Hunt said.
Role: Mary Goodnight, field agent, The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974
Ekland wanted to be a veterinarian when she was a child but changed her mind when she discovered she’d need to go to school for an extra seven years. Instead, she auditioned for toothpaste and chewing gum commercials then started acting. Ekland never regretted running around in a bikini in The Man With The Golden Gun: “I’m the proudest Bond girl there is,” she told the Irish Times in 2020. As for Moore, she described him as the epitome of Bond 'witty, sophisticated, elegant and funny'.
Jill St. John
Role: Tiffany Case, smuggler, Diamonds Are Forever, 1971
Bond’s first American girlfriend Tiffany Case was a bit brasher than his previous, demure flings but that was part of her attraction on and off set with her co-star. Sean Connery was reportedly having flings with both of his female leads, Jill St. John and Lana Wood (who played Plenty O’Toole), causing tension on the set. While Wood admitted to her affair, St. John has kept her thoughts to herself. She’s also been linked to Frank Sinatra.
Role: Miss Caruso, Live And Let Die, 1973
Madeline Smith was about to turn her back on acting to work as a nurse in London when she got the role in Live and Let Die. “I’d already worked with Roger Moore on The Persuaders, so I knew what a lovely guy he was.” she recalled. “He obviously thought I amused him and looked right for the part. So there I was, in bed with him filming on an icy-cold January morning.”
Role: Verity, fencing instructor, Die Another Day, 2002
When Madonna was invited to sing the theme song to Die Another Day she asked for a small part in the movie. Director Lee Tamahori thought Madonna would be perfect as Verity, a ‘quasi-Lesbian, dominatrix fencing instructor’. Unfortunately, Pierce Brosnan clashed with Madonna on set. He said some of the guys in the trailer started singing Like A Virgin and Brosnan joined in. “I’m miles away, and I'm out there with my sabre and she's all dressed up in her costume and I forget that she's there,” Brosnan told GQ. "And oh man, Jesus! That's like a red rag to a bull. She thought that I was pulling her chain. She said, ‘Are you trying to diss me?’ and I said, ‘No, Madonna. No, for God's sake, No!’ You definitely don’t want to upset Madonna!"
Role: Stacey Sutton, geologist, A View to a Kill, 1985
Tanya Roberts was 28 when she starred in A View to a Kill, half the age of Sir Roger Moore, then 56, but the actor’s professionalism helped her through the awkward love scenes: “My fondest memory would probably be how cool he was in the nude scenes,” she recalled in 2017. “I was a bit nervous, but he was just very considerate, a total professional and made me feel at ease … I never felt he was looking at me oddly, and he didn’t flirt on set. Instead he would ease the tension with great stories about his career.”
Role: May Day, a bodyguard and assassin in A View to a Kill (1985)
Jones used some of her own clothing to portray May Day and worked on the character’s silhouette to ensure that, even from a distance, the audience knew May Day was coming and trouble would soon follow. Jones also took acting lessons to find her ‘inner story’, one that gave her the confidence to portray a strong woman - so strong even Roger Moore was afraid of her at times, Jones wrote in her autobiography I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. “If you messed with her, she was going to kill you. And to get to that point I did think of my step-grandfather. In the Bond film, playing the ruthless dominatrix in catsuits, mad hats, and flamboyant capes, taming a wild horse with a sneer, parachuting from the Eiffel Tower, I began to emulate Mas P, to copy his intense scowl. It's there in the stare of May Day."
Role: Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson, US intelligence agent, Die Another Day, 2002
Halle Berry said she took on the role of Jinx because race wasn’t relevant to the plot: “And that feels good - that my colour doesn’t precede me.” Berry wanted to play a sexy, smart woman who was also a formidable opponent for Bond, and that meant she needed to be in top shape. “I had to get really down and dirty, and fight, and throw knives, and flex swords, and shoot a gun, and fly a plane, and stop it from crashing, and be tied up … yeah, physically this was very challenging.”
Role: Pam Bouvier, CIA pilot, Licence to Kill, 1989 Licence to Kill
When Carey Lowell found out she’d been hired as Pam Bouvier opposite Timothy Dalton she rented The Living Daylights to find out more about her co-star. "I thought it was refreshing after Roger Moore because Timothy brought a new humanity to Bond. This is a real person who could have been. Roger was a bit more stylized; he was more of a cartoon character because he was playing Bond as somebody who could always skate through these dangerous spots unscathed."
Role: Strawberry Fields, MI6 agent, Quantum of Solace, 2008
While feminist Gemma Arterton regrets her character slept with Bond in Quantum of Solace she’s also said she’ll be sorry to see Daniel Craig leave the franchise. She considers Craig the best of the six Bonds and has told interviewers she can’t help loving the 007 movies. “Bond films are Bond films. They are what they are. We can make other stuff that’s challenging the genre.”
While Miss Moneypenny and ‘M’ aren’t technically ‘Bond girls’, where would 007 be without his capable colleagues? SPYSCAPE salutes the two women who have helped make the franchise unforgettable.
Role: Miss Moneypenny, in Skyfall, 2012, Spectre, 2015, and No Time to Die
Naomie Harris is constantly asked the same question about Moneypenny and 007: Did they or didn’t they? “I don’t think they did. I think Moneypenny and Bond can’t ever cross that line because they’re both so professional,” Harris told Entertainment Weekly. “There’s definitely something that’s been bubbling underneath but the question is, ‘Will it bubble over?'”
Role: ‘M’ (head of the Missions department) in seven Bond films: GoldenEye, 1995, Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997, The World is Not Enough, 1999, Die Another Day, 2002, Casino Royale, 2006, Quantum of Solace, 2008, and Skyfall 2012.
Dench cried when 007 producers told her M was being killed off in Skyfall but said she laughed through her tears. Despite M’s first frosty first meeting with Bond (she calls him a sexist, misogynist dinosaur and relic of the Cold War) their relationship warms over the years.