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'Bond girls' still special -- and tough to cast
They don't call them "Bond babes" any more. Not publicly, any way.
The producers of the James Bond films have evolved, as has Bond himself. Ian Fleming's agent is a little less sexist.
Fleming's double-entendre names -- Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead? Not totally gone. "Strawberry Fields," a redheaded Gemma Arterton, makes her bow in the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace.
But it's no longer politically correct to simply find this year's "dish" to fill the role that women from Ursula Andress and Jane Seymour to Halle Berry and Eva Green have filled before.
"Always very difficult to cast, especially these days," says Barbara Broccoli, who inherited the Bond franchise from her father, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli.
For Quantum of Solace, the producers found two women to fill the bill. Arterton does the plucky eye-candy role. But for the vengeful, well-armed and cunning Camille, they went even more exotic, the model-turned-actress Olga Kurylenko (Hitman, Max Payne).
"Casino Royale inspired me to try for this role," says Kurylenko, who turns 29 the day Quantum of Solace opens. "We definitely saw a change in attitude both in Bond and the women around him, independent, smart, a lot of personality.
"I thought, 'This is a new era, and they won't be going back.' So I talked to them about the part. If she was anything like Vesper [Bond's love interest in Casino Royale], I'd want to play her. She's strong. She's not looking for Bond's help. She's feisty."
Didn't grow up on Bond
Kurylenko was born in Ukraine and modeled in Moscow and Paris before jumping into movies. She didn't "grow up on Bond," didn't see the films until she moved out of the former Soviet Union.
"I saw those films with Soviet villains, Russian and Ukrainian villains, much later," she says, laughing. "Watching them now, it doesn't have the same impact I am sure it would have had if I had seen them in Ukraine."
She did notice the women.
"Some were more interesting than others. If they were more than just Bond's lover, I noticed them. All of them were beautiful."
In Quantum, her character "is someone Bond sees as a version of himself, someone bent on vengeance," says Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond. "He sees her and realizes what he really wants is a little peace, to get over his grief. Not revenge."
'If you sleep with Bond . . . '
Kurylenko has appeared in action films before, but never in an action role.
"The stunt coordinator said, 'We will have a stunt double for you, but we want you to try and do it all. It looks better. The stunt girl needs her rest, and it's much more trouble.' So I trained for a month before shooting began -- sky-diving in a wind tunnel, driving, martial arts, learning how to field strip the little gun she hides under her skirt. Eight seconds was my record!"
She studied her role. She dug into the script. And she remembered the other "Bond girls" who came before her. The one lesson taken from 22 films in the Bond franchise, at least as far as the ladies are concerned?
"If you sleep with Bond, you die. If you don't. . . . "
Roger Moore can be reached at email@example.com