Spectre (I) (2015)

Monica bellucci: lucia.

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Monica Bellucci in Spectre (2015)


Lucia Sciarra : If you don't leave now, we'll die together.

James Bond : I can think of worse ways to go.

Lucia Sciarra : Then you're obviously crazy, Mr...

James Bond : Bond. James Bond.

Lucia Sciarra : Did you kill my husband?

James Bond : He was an assassin. He wouldn't have taken it personally.

Lucia Sciarra : If you go there, you will cross over into a place where there is no mercy...

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'Spectre' star Monica Bellucci embraces playing a Bond woman

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.”

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Why Spectre's Monica Bellucci Doesn't Consider Herself A True 'Bond Girl'

Spectre Monica Bellucci

The Daniel Craig era of James Bond movies started strong with Martin Campbell's "Casino Royale" in 2006. Audiences reacted incredibly well to the gruffer, more brutal version of the character, as he fit handily into the world's post-9/11 political hopelessness. A dandyish cartoon James Bond did not fit into the zeitgeist of the '00s, and the character became Dionysian and brutish rather than Apollonian and refined. 

The Craig Bond films also introduced a novel concept into the franchise: each film was a direct sequel of the one that preceded it. Ordinarily, Bond films stood on their own, not requiring much knowledge of the films that came before. Now, bad guys could be set up in one picture only to pay off in a later chapter. 

Sam Mendes' 2015 film "Spectre" was a prime example of this. Throughout the preceding three movies, James Bond discovered increasingly suspicious clues that a massive network of supervillains was at play. In "Spectre," he finally discovered the title organization as well as its wicked leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). It was also revealed that Blofeld had been carrying a long-term personal grudge against Bond.

Also in "Spectre," Italian superstar Monica Bellucci played a character named Lucia Sciarra, the wife of a dangerous assassin that Bond had been stalking. The assassin was dead, but Lucia could provide Bond with a ring and some information, revealing her hated husband's connection to shadowy villains. Naturally, Bond and Lucia become briefly carnally entangled. 

In  "Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films" by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, producer Barbara Broccoli revealed that Eon, the Bond franchise's long-running production company, had been asking Bellucci to appear in a Bond movie for years. At age 51, though, Bellucci was no "Bond Girl." She insisted she was a Bond Woman.

Pursuing Monica

Broccoli revealed just how long Eon had been pursuing Bellucci to appear in one of their films. She had been coveted as a Bong Girl for quite some time, since even before Daniel Craig took over the role. Indeed, Bellucci screen-tested for the role of Paris Carver, the part eventually played by Teri Hatcher in the 1997 film "Tomorrow Never Dies." Evidently, Pierce Brosnan really petitioned for Bellucci. Why the role went to Hatcher and not Bellucci has not been revealed. 

Bellucci was startled to be asked yet again to appear in "Spectre," mostly because she assumed she had aged out of playing a Bond Girl. The women James Bond meets and invariably beds throughout his movies tend to be in their 20s. Gemma Arterton, Talisa Soto, and Jane Seymour, for instance, were all 22 when they appeared in their respective Bond films. Notoriously, Roger Moore was 53 when he bedded the 24-year-old Carole Bouquet in "For Your Eyes Only." It seemed for only the third time in James Bond history, one of his comely female counterparts was going to be older than he. Bellucci said:

"My first thought was, 'How can I be a Bond girl at fifty?' After my audition, Sam Mendes told me that, for the first time in history, he wanted a woman of a similar age to the actor playing Bond ... I'd prefer to be called a Bond Woman or perhaps a Bond Lady."

The first time this happened was way back in 1963. Honor Blackman was 39 when she made "Goldfinger." Sean Connery was only 34. Then, in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," George Lazenby was one year younger than Diana Rigg. 

The Two James Bond Movies Monica Bellucci Auditioned For (And Didn’t Get) Before Landing Spectre

It's almost as if the writing was on the wall.

Part of the reason the James Bond movies have such good behind-the-scenes stories to share is the fact that there are so many who’ve auditioned to be a part of that world who either didn’t get in or found their way in later. That’s not only true with the men who could have been Bond, but also some of the supporting characters in 007 ’s adventures. 

No one knows that better than series vet Colin Salmon, who played the role of Robinson during the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond . What’s even more interesting is in a recent interview with the Spyhards Podcast , Salmon revealed that was also the case with Bond Woman Monica Bellucci. Before ultimately landing the role of Lucia Sciarra in Spectre with Daniel Craig, the actor had unsuccessfully auditioned for two consecutive films in the Pierce Brosnan era.

Colin Salmon was there for both occasions, and he had some exciting stories from both instances. Here’s how he revealed those experiences, starting with his answer to the question of who he was most disappointed didn’t stick the landing after their James Bond audition: 

It’s Monica. Monica Bellucci came in twice actually. She came in once for Tomorrow Never Dies, and again for The World is Not Enough. She strapped me to the chair, I was strapped to the chair, and she straddled me and licked my face. And I was like … and she still didn’t get it. I said ‘Give her anything she wants, please.’

As you can see in Colin Salmon’s wild story from The World is Not Enough audition, Monica Bellucci was clearly auditioning for the role of Elektra King. The surprise villainess who masterminded the evil scheme driving the 19th James Bond film, it was a role that eventually went to French actor Sophie Marceau. 

Though the casting was absolutely perfect, with Marceau’s Bond Woman standing as an equal to 007 , it’s kind of hard not to see how good of a fit Bellucci would have been for this role. The prospect is especially tempting when just a couple of years later, she’d play the morally grey Persephone in 2003’s sequels to The Matrix .

Colin Salmon had noted that this was the second time he’d helped Monica Bellucci test to be a female lead in the James Bond franchise. Both instances came about as the actor was tapped to help test the Bond Women for Tomorrow Never Dies, as well as The World is Not Enough . That experience entrenched Salmon in the franchise’s machinery, and eventually helped Pierce Brosnan champion his candidacy to succeed him as 007. 

In the case of Monica Bellucci, her first time trying out for a James Bond movie was a bit harder than that more confident incident described above. Continuing his story about how he and the Italian actress bonded over their previous meeting, Colin Salmon divulged this sweet tale: 

In all honesty on Tomorrow Never Dies, I went and had lunch with her, because I’d spotted she was struggling. Her English was not up to clarity, so I went and I just asked if she’d wanted to run the lines, and we did. Genuinely, because I know that one, I could feel the strain. And then, like I said, she came back for The World is Not Enough, which Sophie [Marceau] did. Then she was there, like you said, in Spectre. I was so happy to see that, especially in a role like that. It was a great role, and Sophie was amazing in The World is Not Enough.

Whether it's actors, story ideas or anything else that’s up for grabs in the world of 007, the first or even second time around isn’t always the charm. Several former James Bonds were named on their second tries, as even Pierce Brosnan had to wait his turn . 

Fortune did smile on Monica Bellucci, and the results were well deserved. Through the stories that Colin Salmon told above, the James Bond franchise's history of never saying never only rings truer than ever, and who knows where that lesson will be taught next.


Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.

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