Claudine Auger, James Bond’s First French Co-Star, Dies at 78

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Claudine Auger, Sean Connery’s co-star in “Thunderball” and the first French actress to play James Bond’s love interest, died on Wednesday in Paris. She was 78.

Her death was confirmed by the Parisian agency Time Art, which represented her.

Ms. Auger (pronounced oh-JHAY) was 24 when “Thunderball” (1965), the fourth film in the long-running Bond franchise, was released. Her character, Domino, is the mistress of an evil mastermind who has stolen two nuclear warheads — and killed her brother. Domino does not hold back when exacting revenge on her former lover (a harpoon gun is involved).

Because she spoke English with a heavy accent, Ms. Auger’s voice was dubbed by another actress. But because she was an excellent swimmer, she did her own underwater scenes in the film, which was shot largely in the Bahamas.

Over the next three decades, she made more than 50 feature films — many of them French, Italian or Spanish productions — and more than a dozen television movies and mini-series, including the 1994 British mini-series “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.”

The films included “Le Masque de Fer” (1962), or “The Iron Mask,” with Jean Marais, in which she played the lover of Louis XIV’s twin brother; “Jeu de Massacre“ (1967), or “The Killing Game,” a comic drama about cartoonists and a hedonistic playboy; “Flic Story” (1975), a crime drama, set in the 1940s, with Alain Delon; and “La Bocca” (1991), a comedy about the restoration of a fresco.

Ms. Auger also worked in both the science fiction and horror thriller genres. “Un Papillon sur l’Épaule” (1988), or “Butterfly on the Shoulder,” one of several projects she did with the director Jacques Deray, was about a parallel world. “Reazione a Catena” (1971), or “A Bay of Blood,” was about a murder spree. And “La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero” (1975), or “Black Belly of the Tarantula,” with Marcello Mastroianni, focused on a serial killer.

Although she was a star in Europe, her American projects were few and far between. They included a 1972 episode of the CBS series “Medical Center,” on which she played a doctor with a secret past. “Triple Cross” (1966), the wartime drama in which she appeared with Christopher Plummer and Yul Brynner, was an international production. She starred in “The Man Who Married a French Wife,” which was part of a trio of adaptations of Irwin Shaw stories broadcast on the BBC and on the PBS series “Great Performances” in the United States in the early 1980s.

When, during a 1965 interview, the American gossip columnist Dorothy Manners announced, “Hollywood could use you,” Ms. Auger answered cheerfully, “Not as much as I can use Hollywood.” But a couple of decades later, she had reconsidered.

“French actresses have never had much success in Hollywood,” she observed in a 1986 Los Angeles Times interview, adding that Germans and Swedes had done better but “it’s hard to explain why.”

Still, she was fond of Southern California. In the same interview, she said, “I always go to the end of Santa Monica Pier and throw a coin in the Pacific” at the end of a visit — to ensure her return.

Claudine Oger was born in Paris on April 26, 1941, the daughter of an architect.

At 17, she was crowned Miss France Monde and was first runner-up in the Miss World competition.

She had a modeling career and played an uncredited role in a 1959 Jean Cocteau film. But to be fair, almost everyone in “Le Testament d’Orphée” (“The Testament of Orpheus”), with the exception of Cocteau himself, was uncredited. After that experience, she studied drama at the Conservatoire de Paris.

Ms. Auger’s first credited film role was in Marcel Carné’s “Terrain Vague” (1960), or “Wasteland,” about a teenage street gang in Paris. Her final screen appearance was in a 1997 television movie version of Stendhal’s “Le Rouge et le Noir” (“The Red and the Black”), playing Madame de Fervaques, an elegant widow who receives love letters from a younger man.

She and Pierre Gaspard-Huit, a director and writer 25 years her senior — he had cast her in her very first uncredited film role, in the romance “Christine” (1958) — were married in 1959, when she was 18. They divorced a decade later. In 1984 she married Peter Brent, a British businessman, who died in 2008. They had a daughter, Jessica Claudine Brent, who survives her.

In a 1965 television interview, Ms. Auger spoke the words that became her most famous quotation. Asked the difference between acting in a James Bond movie and in classic theater by Molière, she insisted there was none. Acting was “un jeu”and the two forms were “la même chose,” she said. A game. The same thing.


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