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Bond Girl Denise Richards
Christmas comes early in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.
By Steve Biodrowski
November 17, 1999
In THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, Richards follows in the tradition of amusingly named women (Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, et al) with her portrayal of Christmas Jonesnot a doctor of medicine, by the way, but a nuclear physicist. Considering her youthful good looks, the casting seems a bit of a stretch, but Richards wasn't concerned. 'I
really trusted Michael Apted,' she explained. 'He's a great actor's director, and I'm a fan of his films. I think he brings a really nice element to the Bond movies, focusing on the relationships and the characters. So I really trusted him. My character, even though she's a nuclear scientist, is more about the relationship with Bond. As far as the technical terms and jargon I had to say, I just found out what all that meant, but he really wanted to focus on the relationships, which I think is more interesting than just saying the technical lines.'
Did she do any research for the role? 'YesI met all the nuclear scientists that I could meet!' she laughs, then quickly adds, 'No, I think it's more about my relationship with Bond, that sassy one-ups-manship and the little banter back and forth. I think at the beginning, she doesn't really buy his act, doesn't really know who he is. She's very much into doing her thing, then starts to help him, and obviously they end up together.'
The real work on the character came less from research than from collaborating with her director and star. 'I really worked with Michael Apted, who is such an actor's director, and Pierce, who is so wonderful and supportive,' says Richards. 'This is his third one. He was very open to all the actors and very helpful. He's very warm and nice. He's got such a great, fun spirit. He's Irish, so he has that Irish humor, and he's just a great guy to be around. He really helped me a lot, especially with a lot of the stunts, because I wasn't familiar with a lot of them, so I wouldn't fall wrong or break my arm or something like that.'
This sort of advice is useful on a franchise known for its physicality. Still, there are only so many stunts a lead actor can do. 'We try to do as much as possible,' she explains. 'For some of the stuff I wasn't experienced with, obviously they had stunt doubles for us. That's what's so fun about doing a Bond filmall the actionand it's fun to be physical and get to do some of those things. I tried to do as much as I could.'
For Richards, the most interesting aspect of the film was the elaborate nature of the production, including some impressive physical effects for the finale. 'I couldn't wait to shoot the water stuff, in the submarine,' she recalls. 'That was our last three weeks, and I was so excited, but after the first week I couldn't wait to finish it! We were in such a confined space for three weeks, all wetwe had wet suits, but doing that, I was like, 'Wow, this is really like being on a real James Bond film!''
Richards also had to deal with an aspect common to big-budget special effects movies: acting and reacting to background elements that just aren't there on the set. In THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, there is a fast-paced sequence of Dr. Jones and Bond speeding down a service access pipe while trying to diffuse a nuclear bomb. 'We had a blue screen behind us,' she explains. 'We're on this thing with a guy wearing a completely blue get uptights, top, and a thing over his faceso you couldn't see him. He was pulling us around, and we were just going back and forth with this huge fan blowing our hair so it looks like we're going through the pipeline. Sometimes I was like, 'What am I doing?' I looked at Pierce at one point, and he said, 'You just have to go with it.''
Despite water work and blue screen effects, Richards thinks the result was worth the effort. 'I think it's great,' she says enthusiastically. 'I think the first opening sequence...[pumped] your adrenalin. They did such a great job with the action, and it's fun. I was really happy with it.'
Richards has appeared in a variety of roles, but with high-profile projects like THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and STARSHIP TROOPERS, she has established herself as a star in the action-packed science fiction blockbusters. Does she consider this her niche? 'It was a lot of fun, and if I ever had an opportunity to do something like that, I would,' she says, 'but right now I'm not looking for another action film.'
Nevertheless, she is grateful for what these films have done for her career. She is particularly indebted to director Paul Verhoeven for giving her a start with STARSHIP TROOPERS. 'I think he was so brilliant and so smart,' she says of the Dutch director. 'He has his vision and he has what he wants to do, and he just does it. I have a lot of respect for him. He really did so many wonderful things for me and really gave me my break. Once you do one studio movie, it's a little easier to get in the door, so I'm really grateful to him. I would love to work with him again.'
Asked why she thinks TROOPERS failed to live up to its blockbuster expectations, she says, 'They wanted to try and bring in a younger audiencethey had the toys and everythingbut it was rated R. I think it had been rated PG-13, they would have done a little bit better.'
This is no denying Richards' sex appeal, which certainly qualifies her to be a Bond girl. But do her looks prevent her from being taken seriously for other kinds of roles? 'I don't really know what the perception is,' she says. 'I work hard. I have an acting coach, and I take it seriously, and try to work with the director and focus on that. It's my job to have a long career, to continue to work hard, and to take it seriously.'As for what else she would like to do, she says, 'I would love to play all different kinds of characters. It's also about who's directing it and who my co-stars would be and the story on a whole. So it's different elements.'
So far, the actress is enjoying her career in Hollywood.
'I love the energy,' she says. 'I love films. I love directors, producers, and actors. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to do this, so to be here and to do it is great. There's certain negative things about it, but I have a great group of friends, and my family's close by, so it's nice to get away from [Hollywood] too, just sitting at home, watching TV, doing very normal things.'
Even the traditional bete noir of many famous people, the press, has not been a problem for Richards. 'Everybody's been pretty good, unless they say thingsI'm sure they say things, but not to my face,' she laughs. 'But I've pretty much had a great, positive response. There is, however, one area of coverage that has perhaps been worked over too much. During a roundtable interview for THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, Richards responded with good humor when asked (by another reporter) whether she could ever sit in a room without being asked about kissing her female co-star I WILD THINGS. 'I don't knowyou just asked me!' she responded, then said, 'I don't know what the big issue is about it. It's a role, and I think a bigger issue was made out of it. It was a part I took, and that was what the character did, so I did it.'
Besides the press, Richards has also received good response from the public at large, including numerous fan sites on the Internet. Still, she has some reservations about the impact of the world wide web. 'I think the internet's been so great, and it's nice to have fans do nice, elaborate websites, but I think the downside is for real fans to go on and see that ninety per cent of the information isn't true or to see pictures that aren't really me and for them to be able to sell these things. That's the downside, I think.'
As much exposure as she has received with STARSHIP TROOPERS, WILD THINGS, the press, and the internet, Richards' career will nonetheless be entering a whole new level with her appearance in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. The Bond franchise is an international phenomenon, and having met her predecessors at the Vanity Fair shoot, she knows the impact will last a lifetime. 'This is the biggest movie I've done,' she admits. 'It's the 19th Bond, so it's got quite a following. That was a scary thing too, because I thought, 'Oh my god, people are going to see thisI better do a good job!' I think each film has been a stepping stone and has opened doors to meet other directors and get opportunities to do other things. But I really went into this to work with Michael Apted and the cast, Sophie Marceau and Pierce and Robert Carlyle and Judi Dench. It was such a great cast, and my character was fun, and then to be part of the whole history of it was exciting. I didn't think, 'What can this do for me.' It was more about me wanting to work with these people.'