With the James Bond films marking their 50th anniversary this year French actress Bérénice Marlohe is set to sweep Daniel Craig’s James Bond off his feet in the new adventure Skyfall. JAMES LUXFORD runs his eye over all of 007’s French Bond Girls
BY THE time the new Bond adventure, Skyfall, hits our screens this month (October 26), the super-smooth 007 will have been thrilling audiences for nearly five decades.
During that time, many things have changed – the actors playing Bond, the locations, the cars – this time even his famous tipple (Martini; shaken, not stirred) has been abandoned. There is, however, one element that is ever present: the Bond Girl.
The appearance of Bérénice Marlohe in Skyfall makes her the ninth French actress to be a Bond Girl, with eight others assisting, seducing, betraying and even fighting our hero over the years. To discover the first, however, we have to go back 47 years (and 19 movies) to the fourth film in the franchise…
The First French Bond Girl: Claudine Auger It is hard to believe it took Bond four movies to have his head turned by a French beauty, however in 1965 that all changed when Sean Connery’s 007 met Domino Derval, played by Claudine Auger. The Parisian model impressed producers so much they rewrote the role to make the character French (she was originally intended to be Italian). A former Miss France, she beat several established actresses (including Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway) to land the role, however her performance was eventually dubbed by another actress. Auger went on to have a very successful career in European cinema, while Connery’s Bond would only have two more brief encounters with French actresses – Maryse Mitsouko in Thunderball; and former Miss World Denise Perrier, making an uncredited appearance as a woman Bond interrogates in the film Diamonds Are Forever.
For Bond’s Eyes Only In his time in the famous tuxedo, Roger Moore made Paris’ most famous landmark a film set when, in Live and Let Die, he scaled the Eiffel Tower in pursuit of villains.
He has, however, shared the screen with only two French actresses – the first being Corinne Cléry, another Parisian actress who had attained a level of infamy for appearing in the scandalous drama Histoire d’O (The Story of O). Four years after this, she played the ill-fated pilot Corinne Dufour in the 1979 film Moonraker.
A somewhat more substantial role was given to Carole Bouquet in For Your Eyes Only. She plays Melina Havelock, a young woman hellbent on revenge and the main love interest of Bond in the film.
Unlike many actresses who play Bond Girls, Bouquet’s fame continued to grow after appearing in the series, appearing in a number of French films, modelling for Chanel, and even appearing in the final episode of American hit TV series Sex and The City. In her private life, she also famously dated Gerard Depardieu for several years – but also makes her own wine, Sangre de Oro, at her estate in Sicily.
Bond Girl Gone Bad: Sophie Marceau When Pierce Brosnan took Ian Fleming’s character into the 1990s, he would only have one French co-star during his four movie tenure, however this single appearance would prove to be unforgettable. Sophie Marceau was cast as Elektra King, the main villain of the 1999 film The World is Not Enough. Elektra is an heiress intent on controlling the world’s oil supply, managing to capture Bond’s affections and, in a first for a Bond movie, Bond’s boss ‘M’, played by Judy Dench. Although Elektra’s plans were foiled, Marceau’s career was already on a steady upward trajectory even before she entered the franchise. Having appeared in the Oscar winning Braveheart with Mel Gibson, she was a high profile casting for the film, and remains one of the few actresses to be both a Bond Girl and a Bond villain.
Now in her 40s, she continues to make successful films such as LOL (Laughing Out Loud), recently remade by Hollywood with Miley Cyrus in the starring role; Don’t Look Back with Italian star Monica Belucci; and the star-studded Les Femmes de l’Ombre (Female Agents), where she portrayed a character based on real life war heroine, Lise de Baissac.
21st Century Bond Girls: Eva Green and Olga Kurylenko As Bond moved into a new millennium, 2006 hailed a new era in the series, with Layer Cake actor Daniel Craig taking over in a darker, more realistic take on the role. His first outing, in 2006’s Fleming adaptation Casino Royale, saw him team up with feisty accountant Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green. Born in Paris, and experienced as a model, Green was little-known in the movie world, apart from her role in controversial drama The Dreamers.
Her performance as Lynd changed all that, however, when Casino Royale became a worldwide success, accredited by many to Green and Craig’s central romance. Despite being considered one of the greatest of 007’s companions, the label Bond Girl has always annoyed the actress, walking out of an interview with a journalist who repeatedly used the term. This distaste may be due to the fact that she was hesitant to take the role in the first place, only accepting when director Martin Campbell showed her the script.
Whether she enjoyed the role or not, her presence on screen was so impressive and memorable, it earned her a British BAFTA Rising Star award. Still only 31, she has since gone on to appear in many studio blockbusters, including this year’s horror-comedy Dark Shadows opposite Johnny Depp.
The final French connection to Bond may not be entirely obvious, but just as valid. Olga Kurylenko was born in the former USSR (in the Ukraine), but moved to Paris when young to pursue modelling. She still lives there and is considered by many to be a French actress.
Hers is literally a rags-to-riches tale, having fled severe poverty in the former Soviet state to, at age 28, taking on the most glamorous of mantles; that of Bond Girl. She starred opposite Craig in Quantum of Solace as a Bolivian woman out to kill a dictator.
The film made her a star worldwide, opening up roles for her in many films, including Max Payne with Mark Wahlberg, and as the villain in Centurion with X-Men: First Class actor Michael Fassbender. The performance also impressed the producers of the Bond movies, as it was announced her character is likely to return in future films, making hers the first character to do so in nearly 50 years.
And now... Bérénice Marlohe Scarcely known, even in France, her credits are limited to small-time French TV such as Equipe Médicale d’Urgence, where she played a transexual, and an advert for Dacia cars, and Bérénice says this is because directors thought that her exotic part-Asian looks were “not French enough”.
Born in Paris, she owes those looks to her Cambodian father and owes her part as Sévérine in the film to hard work tracking down the casting director through friends and Google and then applying directly. Despite her intense desire to land the Bond role, acting was not her first love and she originally trained to be a pianist and spent 10 years at the Conservatoire de Paris.
Director Sam Mendes told a magazine she has “that thing many of the classic Bond girls have, which is that she’s a real woman with a mature sexuality” but do not expect to see bare Bérénice in Skyfall, as she said in the same interview: “With the Bond movies, you never really see nudity – they’re quite chaste, actually. Which is, to me, the best way.” To mark the 50th anniversary of James Bond a new Blu-Ray and DVD box set has been launched: Bond 50 – priced £90