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Exclusive interview with Caroline Munro in London

By: Rob Coppinger
Published:
2013-12-17
FSWL contributor Rob Coppinger met with the lovely Caroline Munro to talk about her life with Bond.

Caroline Munro Misty Moon Gallery London
Bond girl Caroline Munro was flying sky-high in 1977, but had to choose between being a helicopter pilot trying to kill 007 or as a Kryptonian, bent on the death of Superman.

“At the time I was up for Ursa in Superman II (shot back-to-back with Superman I) and eventually offered the role, but my agent Dennis Salinger said, ‘no, we know more about Bond, so stick with the Bond one,’” Munro explained to From Sweden with Love at the opening of the Ladywell Tavern in South London.

In one of the most famous scenes from 50 years of Bond on film (in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, the first without Harry Saltzman as co-producer), Munro played Naomi, a beautiful assassin who flies after 007 in her machine gun-equipped helicopter, forcing Bond in his Lotus-come-submarine into the ocean. And it was a Bond-esque advertising campaign for a UK rum product, Lamb’s Navy Rum, that brought Munro to the attention of Bond film producer Cubby Broccoli.

“I had done a campaign for Lamb’s Navy Run and featured on their posters, which Cubby saw and he felt I would be kind of right for the role of Naomi.” (The Lamb’s Navy Rum posters featured beautiful women scantily-clad in naval uniforms, bikinis and short wet suits, which wouldn’t look out of place in a 1970s Bond film.)

Munro remembers Broccoli fondly: “I got on so well with Cubby. He was very down to earth, and he used the same crew on nearly every film. He looked after everyone - from the coffee person to Roger Moore - everybody was treated the same and with great respect. I think that is the secret to the longevity of the Bond films.”

However, TSWLM wouldn’t be the first Bond film for Munro; she appeared in the 1967 Bond parody Casino Royale starring Woody Allen, David Niven and Ursula Andress. Munro had the chance to see Allen and Andress work on set. “I asked my director Val Guest if I could sit on the side and watch the filming. So I witnessed Woody Allen and Ursula (Andress) and all the others at work. It was fascinating.”

Working for modelling agency Lucie Clayton at the time, Munro said, “I had been doing quite a lot of print work. I worked with [David] Bailey and other good photographers.” There had been a casting call, which Munro described as a “cattle call,” and models were picked from the line-up for the spoof 007 film. Caroline was one of them. In the ten years between Casino and TSWLM, Munro appeared in several films, including horror movies by the UK studio, Hammer, famous for its Dracula pictures starring Christopher Lee.

Dracula films are often dimly lit with stormy weather situations, and surprisingly it was just that that the TSWLM crew encountered when they got to Sardinia, where the helicopter sequence was to be filmed. “We actually had really bad weather for the first five days,” said Munro. “And we were really excited. We thought, ‘wonderful, Sardinia, really hot weather’, but we were met by clouds and rain. So we waited for five days and you had the helicopter and the Lotus and everyone there.” According to Munro, Cubby Broccoli and 007 actor Roger Moore played backgammon while they waited out the weather. The time off allowed the crew and cast to relax. “Nobody felt tense and it was a lovely place we were staying in, and by the time the sun did come out it was relaxed and we had got to know everyone really well.”

Munro was in Sardinia for the scene in which her character Naomi meets 007 and his Russian ally, Major Anya Amasova, also known as Agent XXX, played by Barbara Bach. Naomi drives the two agents across the Mediterranean in a motorboat to the villain Karl Stromberg’s lair, the seaborne headquarters Atlantis. Munro’s helicopter cockpit scenes, however, were filmed back at the famous Pinewood Studios in England. “That was second unit,” explained Munro, “Lewis Gilbert was the director on the main unit, but when we did the close ups we actually shot it at Pinewood in a helicopter.” Munro remembers Lewis as “very English”, a “fantastic director,” who, with his wife Edna, “really looked after her" when they all went to New York for the premier of TSWLM.

The second unit director at Pinewood for the helicopter close-ups was Ernest Day. “We hadn’t many notes on what to do, so we just improvised,” Munro recalls. In the helicopter Munro can be seen to be wearing a white outfit with a plunging neckline and a choker. So the audience would think Naomi was flying the helicopter the male stunt pilot had to wear the same outfit. “He was wearing the outfit that I wore, but he wouldn’t shave his big moustache and he had very hairy arms and wore a long dark wig.”

Daniel Craig doesn’t have quite the same situation with his stunt doubles, and Munro is a big fan of the most recent 007 films. “What they have done now, where I think Barbara [Broccoli] has been very clever, they have reinvented it with Daniel Craig and so it is a completely different take.” Munro added, “I’m glad to say that they have cut back on the effects as they had taken over the film. You need the humour, but you need the thing Daniel Craig has, the believability and ruthlessness that a secret agent would have.”

Despite all the European films Munro made before and after TSWLM, she never worked in Scandinavia. “It was mostly France, Italy and Spain, for the European film work. Richard Kiel and myself travelled all over Europe and stopped off in Sweden to do publicity for TSWLM.”

Caroline Munro Misty Moon Gallery London
Today Munro works mainly for new film makers. “I’m doing interesting little projects with new film makers, young film makers,” she explained, ”The [young film makers] have grown up with the Bond films and the [Ray] Harryhausen movies, and they remember those.” Last year Munro was also in the UK television series Midsomer Murders (Season 15, Episode 4). But she has higher ambitions and would love to work with Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino.

In TSWLM and Superman both of the female protagonists died at the hands of the hero, Bond or Superman). Reflecting on what could have been, Munro lauded Sarah Douglas’ performance as Ursa. “She [Douglas] was amazing as Ursa,” while commenting on her own role as assassin Naomi, Munro said it was, “short and sweet. I was more than delighted to be in a short small role in a very big film.”

Editor's note:
For other exclusive interviews featured on From Sweden with Love, click here.

Caroline Munro's official website can be found at www.carolinemunro.com

Written by Rob Coppinger. Copyright © From Sweden with Love.

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