If you’re an avid fan of James Bond movies, then you know what the unofficial qualifications are to be dubbed a “Bond Girl.” If you need a definition, I’ll quote this one given by Robert Caplen, from his book Shaken & Stirred: The Feminism of James Bond:
A Bond girl is a character (or the actress portraying a character) who is a love interest of James Bond in a novel, film, or video game. Bond girls occasionally have names that are double entendres or puns, such as Pussy Galore, Plenty O’Toole, Xenia Onatopp, or Holly Goodhead, and are considered “ubiquitous symbol(s) of glamour and sophistication.”
Bearing that in mind, we know that not every lady who has appeared in a Bond film meets the criteria for being a Bond Girl, and there are only three Asian ladies who do. One being veteran Hong Kong action starlet, Michelle Yeoh (pictured above) who played “Wai Lin” in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Most Bond aficionados would consider Michelle the most prominent Asian Bond Girl of all and Life magazine named Yeoh/Wai Lin the 11th best Bond Girl of all time. Whenever I see her as Wai Lin, the hauntingly erotic voice of Sheryl Crow singing the film’s title song goes through my head. The best Bond film title song ever, in this writer’s opinion.
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki in You Only Live Twice, in which she co-starred opposite original Bond, Sean Connery. She was one of the first two Asian Bond Girls. Akiko was originally slated for the (smaller) role of Kissy Suzuki while Mie Hama was to play the larger part of Aki, but since Akiko’s English skills were better than Mie’s, their roles were switched. She just made one more film after this one before retiring from acting, reportedly citing an injury she received during the filming of a movie. She now resides in the “Whatever Happened to..?” file.
Akiko in another still from the film
Mie Hama, the other Asian Bond girl who co-starred in You Only Live Twice, played Kissy (no, not Krissy) Suzuki. Mie retired from acting in the 80s and has since been reported to be an active environmentalist, still occasionally making public appearances.
Promo shot of Mie for the film
Not a Bond Girl per se, but worthy of an honorable mention, is Tsai Chin. She played Ling, Bond’s bedmate, who appeared only in a pre-credit scene of You Only Live Twice. After their romp, she sets Bond up for what appears to be his assassination. Tsai also appeared in a Bond film 39 years later, in a small role as a poker player in 2006’s Casino Royal.
At left, Michelle in a promo shot from Tomorrow Never Dies, wearing the dress she wore in her debut scene in the film, which was her only glamorous scene in the whole movie. At right, as Wai Lin, armed to the teeth for a shootout with the antagonist’s henchmen.
Promo still from the film
Sheryl Crow in the music video for the title song off the soundtrack, “Tomorrow Never Dies.”