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Bond girls: The French connection

Eva Green is the fourth French Bond girl after Claudine Auger, Carole Bouquet and Sophie Marceau, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 20:56 IST

What, many might wonder, is a Bernardo Bertolucci discovery doing in a James Bond flick? But the voluptuous but talented French actress Eva Green, who singed the screen in the veteran Italian director’s 2003 film, The Dreamers, might not be as much like a fish out of water as she might seem.

The upcoming Casino Royale, featuring Daniel Craig as Secret Agent 007 for the first time, could put all doubts at rest. The newest Bond girl will have much – including a bit of history – going for her as she essays the role of Vesper Lynd. The film has the invincible hero matching wits with a casino owner who funnels his income into terrorist activities.

Casino Royale is obviously an attempt to reclaim one of Ian Fleming’s early yarns from the spoof industry and somebody like Green, with the stamp of Bertolucci on her back, can only be of help.

The earlier version of Casino Royale was made in 1967 outside the James Bond franchise, with David Niven playing a caricature of the British spy-hero and Ursula Andress, the first Bond girl (Honey Ryder in Dr. No, 1962), stepping in as Vesper Lynd.

The upcoming Bond film Casino Royale,  featuring Daniel Craig and Eva Green, has the invincible hero matching wits with a casino owner who funnels his income into terrorist activities.

Casino Royale will, of course, denote a completely different universe for Eva Green.

The Dreamers

was pure Bertolucci: a heady cocktail of cinema, politics and sex set against the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots.

An American student in the French capital on an exchange programme is drawn into the intriguing inner world of a Parisian brother and sister, thanks to their shared passion for cinema. But what unfolds, as he delves deeper into mysterious crevices of the minds of the siblings, is unlike anything the American youngster has ever experienced before.

Green, who played the enigmatic, seductively full-bodied sister in The Dreamers, has since been seen in a much smaller role in Ridley Scott’s mega-budget Kingdom of Heaven.

Bond girls are a truly multinational, multi-racial, multi-cultural lot. Of course, the numbers are overwhelmingly on the side of British and American actresses, but female stars from France, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Poland, Holland and Malaysia have also had their run in the sun.

Green is the fourth French actress to play a Bond girl after Claudine Auger, Carole Bouquet and Sophie Marceau. Interestingly, she seems to be only continuing the national tradition of straying into a James Bond film after making a start in a completely different kind of cinema.

The first French actress to play a Bond heroine was, of course, Claudine Auger, who was seen in Thunderball (1965) opposite Sean Connery. She was cast in the role of the stunning brunette Dominique ‘Domino’ Derval, sister of a dead pilot and mistress of a less than honourable man.

A former Miss France, Auger trained at the Paris Drama Conservatory before she landed the Thunderball role at the age of 22. The film achieved worldwide success all right, but it did not quite catapult Auger to international stardom. The female actor has since worked in a mixture of French, Italian and Spanish films on the Continent.

Carole Bouquet, seen in For Your Eyes Only (1981) in the role of Melina Havelock, made her acting debut in the Luis Bunuel classic, The Obscure Object of Desire, in 1977. From Bunuel to Bond was a long journey indeed, but she always seemed destined to end up in the arms of the world’s most famous spy. She was first interviewed and auditioned for Moonraker (1979) only to lose the role to Lois Chiles. She proved second time lucky.

The widely admired Sophie Marceau shared the Bond girl tag with Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough (1999). Indeed, Marceau’s professional world was much larger than Bond’s. Her professional background was made up of films like Alain Corneau’s Fort Saganne and Bernard Tavernier’s D’Artagnan’s Daughter.

Marceau also played the eponymous heroine in Bernard Rose’s English-language adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and the role of Princess Isabelle in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning Braveheart.

So, Green’s engagement with James Bond isn’t all that unusual. French actresses, by virtue of where they come from, are never quite the sort of performers who are born and bred in the world of crass commercialism. They cut their teeth in the films of true-blue mavericks who follow no rules – could there be anybody quite as much of a rebel as a Bunuel or a Bertolucci? That probably helps them to add a completely different dimension to the Bond girl, as Marceau did to the smouldering Elektra King in The World is Not Enough.