Daniel Craig as 007 and Judi Dench as M in Skyfall. No Time to Die, released last week, is Daniel Craig’s fifth and final motion picture as Bond—the 25th in the most successful spy thriller in film franchise of all time.
With actor Daniel Craig’s departure, the role of James Bond is up for grabs— again. As 007 fans the world over await the announcement of the eighth Bond (my vote’s Outlander’s Sam Heughan), let’s take a look behind the scenes at some of 007’s women. Not how they appeared onscreen – but how they used their fame to support worthy causes in real life.
Bond’s Favorite Broad
DAME JUDI DENCH
as “M”, head of the British Secret Service
Judi Dench is one of the most respected actors in British film history, so when she took on the role of M, she brought a lot of clout and muscle to the role. This was to be expected of one the most outspoken critics of the movie industry on prejudice against older actresses. “I’m tired of being told I’m too old to try something,” she said in 2014. “Age is a number. It’s something imposed on you. It drives me absolutely spare when people say, ‘Are you going to retire? Isn’t it time you put your feet up?’”
In a 63-year career of nonstop roles on the stage and screen, a happy 30-year marriage that ended in the death of her husband, Michael Williams, from lung cancer, and as the mother of actress Flinty Williams (Gosford Park, Doc Martin), Dame Judi has devoted a large part of her private life to serve as patron of more than 180 charities, the majority of which deal with theatrical or medical causes. She is the Patron and President of the alumni foundation of Drama Studio London, a Patron of the British Shakespeare Association, and a vice-president of wildlife conservation NGO, Fauna and Flora International. In 2006, she became president of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, taking over from the late actor, Sir John Mills. She has been president of the Questors Theatre since 1985, whose main auditorium was christened The Judi Dench Playhouse. She was a patron of the Ovingdean Hall School for the deaf and hard of hearing, vice president of The Little Foundation, and has been a long-standing and active vice president of the national disabled people’s charity, Revitalise.
Dench has worked with the non-governmental indigenous organization Survival International, campaigning in the defense of the San people of Botswana and the Arhuaco people of Colombia. She is also a patron of the Karuna Trust, a charity that supports work amongst some of India’s poorest and most oppressed peoples.
In 2011, along with musician Sting and billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, she publicly urged policy-makers to adopt more progressive drug policies by decriminalizing drug use. In 2014, Dench was one of 200 celebrities to sign an open letter to the people of Scotland asking them to vote to remain part of the UK in that year’s referendum. On top of all this, Dench has been listed as one of the fifty “best-dressed over 50s” by The Guardian and Debrett’s list of the most influential people in the U.K.
as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger
A foil for 007 who proved that a woman is as good as any man, in real life Honour Blackman was very much the same. A politically active British Republican, she was a member of the Liberal Democrats, and in the 1960s, became a member of the Liberal Party. She publicly supported changing the British electoral system from “first-past-the-post” to alternative vote for electing members to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011. The following year, Blackman publicly criticized her Goldfinger co-star, Sean Connery, for his status as a tax exile. She said, “I disapprove of him strongly now. Because I don’t think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it. He wants it both ways. I don’t think his principles are very high.” Blackman herself had declined being awarded a CBE from Queen Elizabeth some years before. She was a powerful advocate for women and as such, a vocal critic against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “She was a powerful figure,” Blackman allowed, “but she did damn all for empowering women. She didn’t surround herself with any women whatsoever or encourage women to come into politics or do anything in particular. She could have been a quite wonderful role model.”
as Teresa di Vicenzo, the only Mrs. Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Diana Rigg was one of the most versatile, wide-ranged, best-known, and most admired British actresses in film, television, and on the stage. Her role as Emma Peel in the TV series, The Avengers (1965-1968) was a springboard to a career that won her numerous accolades, and in 1994, a Dame of the British Empire for her services to drama.
She was James Bond’s first and only wife, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, opposite George Lazenby as 007. In private life, however, she was a patron of International Care & Relief, was for many years the public face of the charity’s child-sponsorship scheme. She held the ceremonial role of chancellor of the University of Stirling. In 2011 she became a patron of the British Charity for India along with her daughter, actress Rachael Stirling.
From the age of 18, Rigg was a pack-a-day smoker until December 2017, when she had stopped smoking after a serious illness led to heart surgery for cardiac ablation. She joked later, “My heart had stopped ticking during the procedure, so I was up there, and the good Lord must have said, ‘Send the old bag down again, I’m not having her yet!” Rigg died three years later of lung cancer in September 2020, at home, surrounded by her family. I met her once, at a dinner at St. James Palace in London. My mind said, “That’s Diana Rigg, the movie star!” but it didn’t register because, in real life, she was unpretentious and kind, and truly interested in what I had to say.
JILL St. JOHN
as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever
Jill St. John decided to leave Hollywood behind in 1972 and moved to Aspen, Colorado after a long career on television and in film to focus on cooking.
This led to her to guest appearances on television as a culinary personality, appearing in monthly cooking segments on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America and writing a column in USA Weekend magazine through the 1980s. The Jill St. John Cookbook, a collection of healthy recipes and some anecdotes was published in 1987.
St. John also developed a handmade Angora sweater business and expanded her interests to orchid growing, skiing, hiking, river rafting, camping, and gardening. “I’m a mountain gal now,” she admitted. “I love the outdoors and I love harvesting and using fresh vegetables and herbs.”
St. John is the founder of the Aunts Club, a Rancho Mirage-based group of women who provide financial support for area children.
as Solitaire in Live and Let Die
Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) is a British-American actress, author, and entrepreneur who devoted her time as a celebrity ambassador for Childhelp, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. In the 1980s, Seymour began her career as a writer of self-help and inspirational books, including Jane Seymour’s Guide to Romantic Living (1986), Two at a Time: Having Twins (2002), Remarkable Changes (2003) and Among Angels (2010). She also co-wrote a series of children’s books with her then-husband, James Keach, called This One ‘N That One. In 2008, Seymour designed the “Open Heart Collection” for Kay Jewelers, endorsing the line in commercials with, “Keep your heart open and love will always find its way in.”
as Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me
In 1977, Barbara Bach portrayed the Russian spy Anya Amasova in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Bach remarked after film that Bond is “a chauvinist pig who uses girls to shield him against bullets.”
In 1991, Bach co-founded the Self Help Addiction Recovery Program (SHARP) with Pattie Boyd, the former wife of George Harrison and Eric Clapton, both of whom assisted in the venture. Bach and her husband of 40 years, Beatle Ringo Starr, founded The Lotus Foundation, an umbrella organization for multiple charities.
Bach struggled with alcoholism and heavy drug use in her past, and along with Ringo, checked into rehab in 1988 for four weeks. The couple has remained sober ever since. According to the International Vegetarian Union, Bach and Starr both practice vegetarianism.
as Jinx in Die Another Day
Award-winning American actress Halle Berry is, in her private life, an activist who, in 2006, joined her Bond co-star, Pierce Brosnan, and other celebrities to boycott the Cabrillo Port Liquefied Natural Gas facility that had been proposed off the coast of Malibu. “I care about the air we breathe,” she said. “I care about the marine life and the ecosystem of the ocean.” In May 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the facility. In April 2013, she appeared in a video clip for Gucci’s “Chime for Change” campaign that aims to raise funds and awareness of women’s issues in the areas of education, health, and justice. In August 2013, Berry testified alongside Jennifer Garner before the California State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect celebrities’ children from harassment by photographers. The bill passed.
as Miranda Frost in Die Another Day
English actress Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice, Gone Girl, Jack Reacher) was the villainous Miranda Frost out to get 007 in Die Another Day. In private life, she is a women’s activist. In 2015, as an advocate of the ONE Campaign, she showed her public support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former South Africa minister of foreign affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) and the African Union (AU) at a United Nations summit in September 2015. She is also a supporter of Oxfam, the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, The Justice and Equality Fund, Women for Women International, and Hear the World, among others. In 2021, Pike became an investor and the creative director for the psychedelic-inspired meditation app, Lumenate, which aims to guide the user into an altered state of consciousness.