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Former Bond girl and Hammer Horror star Madeline Smith has defended the concept of the Bond girl after increasing calls for the role to be modernised as the 007 franchise moves forward.
Playing absconded Italian agent Miss Caruso in Live and Let Die (1973) alongside Sir Roger Moore's James Bond, Smith had a small, yet memorable role.
A panicked Bond stashes the missing agent in a cupboard after M (Bernard Lee), rocks up announced at 007’s residence at 5am.
At the end of the humorous scene, her blue dress zipper meets its match in Bond's magnetic watch. Miss Caruso purrs "Such a delicate touch", to which Bond replies: "Sheer magnetism, darling."
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Looking back at her 70s Bond role, Smith told Yahoo, “I don't think it's sexist, so there you are. I'm waiting for the flack.”
She went on to describe her time on the 007 set with Moore as, 'the happiest memories of my life'.
The 72-year-old English actor spent three days on set filming with Moore at Pinewood Studios. She speaks fondly of her time with 007 star, whom she credits with getting her the role after having previously appeared with him in an episode of the adventure television series The Persuaders!.
“It's a lovely little scene”, reminisces Smith. “I think it sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is pretty light."
"I think that's one of the reasons it's survived so well, is that it has got that lightness and people of all generations, children included, can watch it.”
When asked if she thinks Bond portrays women in a problematic way, Smith is quick to point out: “We were willing participants, we were in on the joke and we were all having fun.”
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She adds that the Bond girl was always played with a sense of lightness and humour to the role. She said: “It was all done with humour regardless of who the hero was. Whether it was [George] Lazenby, or Roger, or subsequent Bonds. It's always been tongue in cheek with the ladies.”
Bond has come under fire in recent years from fans, media and even those involved with the franchise. Time has been called on Bond’s chauvinist roots it would seem, with directors and producers starting to ditch the misogynistic scenes and outdated stereotypes.
No Time to Die director Cary Joji Fukunaga recently reflected on uncomfortable scenes from early James Bond films and told the Hollywood Reporter, “That wouldn’t fly today”.
Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has also joined the debate saying, “That stuff is no longer acceptable,” in relation to troubling dialogue, non-consensual kissing and bottom slapping scenes. She also added, “Thank goodness. Bond is a character who was written in 1952 and the first film [Dr No] came out in 1962.”
Steps towards modernising the concept of the ‘Bond girl’ have slowly been made, with director Sam Mendes bringing the concept of ‘Bond Women’ to Spectre and Phoebe Waller-Bridge joining the No Time to Die screenwriting team.
So, what does Smith make of the reinvention of the Bond Girl of late? She said: “They must not lose the humour, it's got to come back into the script a little bit, it’s become very serious.”
“We have to reflect the times a little bit more. But please, can we keep remembering that this is heightened, we are in a dream state when we go to the cinema and not make it too real? After all, we don't really have explosions and chases like that in real life.”
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Smith is glad however that women have more to do in the Bond franchise and in other films. She said: “What I do like, is the fact that the roles have been slowly getting meatier for women.”
“Times have changed, ‘the Dolly’ has gone. The subservient scantily clad ingenue who rolls over for Bond is now an antique. She will be his equal in cunning and intellect, as ready with a gun as he,” she added.
After her Bond Girl stint, Smith went on to star alongside Alec Guinness in the stage play Habeas Corpus and starred in the Carry On and Hammer Horror films. Her credits include, Carry On Matron, Up Pompeii, Doctor At Large, and Taste The Blood Of Dracula.
She will always think of herself as a Bond girl though and is 'thrilled to bits' when recognised by fans. She said: "I’ve always been known as a Bond girl and I’m glad to be known as a Bond girl."
Reflecting on her long film career, Smith only has one real regret. She said: "A lot of the roles I played, I would have liked to have had more to say, a little more input. I did on telly sometimes. I played a sulky little b****, somebody’s daughter on the Doctor series."
“Perhaps a little bit more of that would have been great. A little bit more personality, shall we say? That's my only tiny, unique gripe, very small.”
To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Bond – all 25 Bond films will screen chronologically at VUE, ODEON, Cineworld and other Cinemas across the UK and Ireland from 15 April until 5 October – James Bond Day.