Bond girl Denise Richards opens up about film’s ‘difficult’ backlash

Actress and former fashion model Denise Richards made her Bond girl debut in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, landing the coveted role of Dr Christmas Jones alongside Pierce Brosnan’s suave 007. Richards played a nuclear physicist, working in Russia to dismantle nuclear warheads. She’s also Bond’s latest love interest in the movie as he knocks back martinis and delivers double entendres.

The plot follows Brosnan’s Bond uncovering a nuclear plot while protecting oil heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) from her former kidnapper. The main villain is Renard, a megalomaniacal terrorist who can’t feel pain, played superbly by Robert Carlyle.

With plenty of preposterous plot points – including exploding hot air balloons and a snowmobile chase – the film received mixed reviews at the time with the Washington Post describing it as “pure nonsense art.”

Chris Kaltenbach from the Baltimore Sun also noted that the plot lacked credibility, even for a 007 film. “While plausibility has never been the Bond films’ strong point, The World Is Not Enough takes things to the breaking point,” he wrote.

At the time, much of the criticism focused on the rather ludicrous storyline rather than the leads, but the negativity did take a toll on Bond girl Denise Richards.

In an exclusive interview with SpyHards Podcast, Denise recalls the negative response she received for the film: “You know the character was a scientist… I got a lot of flack for that, that I didn’t look like a scientist wearing short shorts and a tank top.”

She continued: “I just had to put a smile on my face and go out and do talk shows and then travel the world when I would go to my hotel and cry because of the reviews, they were making fun of me and saying stuff. It was very, very difficult.”

On working with Dame Judi Dench, Richards remarked on her nerves before her first day shooting the film: “I was up all night, I could not sleep because it was Judi Dench, and I was terrified..but she couldn’t have been nicer.

Richards also highlighted the dangers of physical stunts on a movie set, including the closing underwater submarine battle in the film.

She said: “They have to put so much chlorine in that water, and it sets off a gas… I remember when I started to go down, I couldn’t breathe.”

Despite poor reviews, Brosnan’s Bond films were a big financial success in the 90s and early noughties, though producers have since admitted they pushed the boundaries of realism too far for the spy franchise.

The backlash from The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day ultimately led to a reboot of the Bond franchise and the casting of a gruff Daniel Craig. “We got too fantastical,” said Wilson in 2020, referring to the Brosnan films. “We had to come back to Earth.”

Daniel Craig’s era of Bond from 2006 to 2021 ushered in complex and nuanced storylines and more realistic characters, leaving 007’s tsunami-surfing days consigned to film history.

While critics were glad of a Bond shake-up, many fans are nostalgic for the cheesy lines, improbable gadgets and impressive chase sequences of Brosnan’s outrageous spy escapades. Perhaps the next iteration of 007 will be a throwback to a retro 90s Bond with invisible cars and celebrity cameos? We should find out soon enough.

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