Honey Rider. Pussy Galore. Xenia Onatopp. Holly Goodhead. Lucia Sciarra. One of these things is not like the others.
In the James Bond movie Spectre, Italian screen siren Monica Bellucci (The Passion of the Christ, The Matrix Revolutions, Irreversible) portrays Sciarra, a distraught widow with an uncertain future who helps Daniel Craig’s 007 infiltrate and uncover a secretive terrorist cabal called SPECTRE. In years past, her character would have been called a “Bond Girl” — an umbrella heading for the super spy’s often suggestively named female sidekicks or bedroom conquests who have come to be associated with international glamour and raw sex appeal in the public imagination.
While Bellucci is certainly not lacking in either of those departments, she arrives as 007’s oldest romantic foil in series history: a deliberate choice intended to shake up the franchise’s tried-and-tested formula. Credit, in part, goes to director Sam Mendes who sought to upturn enduring stereotypes of the Bond Girl as nubile boudoir candy.
“When I met Sam, I said, ‘What am I going to do in James Bond? I’m 50,” Bellucci says. “I [can] play a James Bond lady, a Bond woman. Because Bond girl — I don’t have this age anymore. But he had an idea to have a mature woman. As an image, I think it’s revolutionary.”
In his fourth film as a Double-0 agent, Craig also served as co-producer on Spectre and helped evolve the character away from his more sexually libertine portrayals by the likes of Roger Moore and Sean Connery. That primarily involved introducing “Bond Girls” who help propel the overall narrative rather than simply providing fantasy fulfillment. “We should be way past this conversation but we’re not,” Craig says. “It’s kind of about time, don’t you think?”
The British actor takes pain to make clear, however, that 007 has not undergone a feminist reboot even if the women characters in his films — Skyfall, 2008’s Quantum of Solace and 2006’s Casino Royale — are better written, more self-possessed and relatable than in the past. “These are strong human beings who have a major part to play in the movie,” Craig says. “But it’s a Bond movie and he’s a bit of a sexist. Let me put it this way: he’s not very good. I think he’s quite sad and lonely a lot of the time. And women are a way to not feel sad and lonely.”
“It’s a fine line to walk,” he continues. “You don’t want to flip it the other way and have it be self-conscious. You want to have conflict within the scenes with strong women and him. ‘Oh, she gives as good as she got.’ That’s cool.”