Okay, so most nuclear-weapons experts aren’t known for their remarkable cleavage. But Denise Richards’ turn as the nuke-knowledgeable Dr. Christmas Jones in the latest Bond installment, ”The World Is Not Enough” (opens Friday), has more than a few fans and critics crying foul. Apparently, even while caught up in the world of missile-launching BMWs, preview audiences have been moved to snicker at Richards’ deadpan delivery and tedious technobabble. ”I wanted Denise for the role because she has a great look and is a terrific, serious actress, but if you don’t believe it, you don’t believe it,” sighs director Michael Apted. ”That’s show business.”
Still, Apted agrees that Richards’ role may lack depth. ”It’s not that well developed a role, and it can’t be,” he says. ”I’m not doing Chekhov. It’s part of the high wire of the film that you have to deliver babes. And Denise is a terrific babe…. I hope I didn’t hang her out to dry. I think she did very well, but she did have a bit less to work with than Sophie Marceau [who stars in the film].”
As for Richards, she remains thoroughly enthusiastic about playing the part of the sensual scientist. ”I didn’t go into the movie thinking, oh, I have to play the sex object,” says the 27-year-old actress. ”Yes, I’m running around in shorts and a tank top playing a scientist and saying these technical terms, but I had no reservations about the role and was excited to do it. I think part of the fun of Bond women is that, even from the beginning, they’ve always been very smart and had interesting jobs, either as spies or agents or doctors or scientists.”
Though some Bond girls have gone onto bigger and better things (Jane Seymour, Ursula Andress), others have watched their careers veer into bimbo territory (think Tanya Roberts). But Richards isn’t worried about a Christmas Jones backlash. ”I really don’t know what the perception of me is as far as the industry, but I think the roles I have chosen have been smart women with depth,” says Richards, whose next project is a romantic comedy with Luke Wilson (”The Third Wheel”). ”I don’t think I’ve played just armpieces. In this Bond movie, Christmas Jones has a job to do, and she helps him save the world.” All this in a wet T-shirt.