Stunning Bond Girl from “Goldfinger” Passes Away at 77

Nancy Bilyeau
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Tania Mallet, best known for her role in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger, has died at the age of 77.

“We are very sorry to hear that Tania Mallet who played Tilly Masterson in GOLDFINGER has passed away. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time,” said the James Bond Twitter account.

Tilly Masterson is the sister of Jill Masterson, murdered by the Auric Goldfinger henchman Oddjob after Jill, the mistress of Goldfinger has a fling with Bond. She shows up in Switzerland seeking to avenge her sister’s death and joins forces with Bond until Tilly too is murdered by a Oddjob.

Scottish actor Sean Connery on the set of Goldfinger, directed by Guy Hamilton. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Unlike many other “Bond girls,” the elegant Tilly Masterson does not swoon over Bond. Armed with her own rifle, she seems to find him an irritant until he unmasks her true intent.

Mallet was a first cousin to actress Helen Mirren. She was born in Blackpool, England, to British father Henry Mallet and Russian mother Olga Mironoff, a sibling of Mirren’s father.

Mallet was working as a model when she was cast as Masterson by producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. She had auditioned for the role of Tatiana Romanova in 1963’s From Russia With Love, but lost the part to Daniela Bianchi even though Mallet was of Russian descent.

Tania Mallet, English model and actress, as Tilly Masterson during the shooting of “007 – Goldfinger” in Andermatt (Switzerland) Photo by Comet Photo AG (Zürich) CC BY-SA 4.0

“Mallet would be cemented in James Bond lore as a Bond girl,” said a story on Fox News. “In addition to continuing her successful modeling career, she would go on to appear on many talk shows and James Bond specials.”

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Mallet told the James Bond fan site MI6 in 2003 that she had always been “more comfortable” in a small studio with “just a photographer and his assistant.”

Goldfinger, just as any other James Bond movie, was mostly shot in real locations. A part of it was filmed on Furka Pass, in Switzerland, between Realp in Canton Uri and Oberwald in Canton Valais.

“The restrictions placed on me for the duration of the filming grated, were dreadful, and I could not anticipate living my life like that,” she said. “For instance, being forbidden to ride in case I had an accident, not being allowed to go abroad, etc. … Apart from that the money was dreadful.”

In the same interview, she praised her co-star Connery as “wonderful to work with” and “a complete professional.”

Actor Sean Connery, the original James Bond, is pictured here on the set of Goldfinger with one of the fictional spy’s cars, a 1964 Aston Martin DB5. Photo by Getty Images

Helen Mirren said in a statement in People magazine, “I was very sad to lose my cousin Tania this week. Tania was my aunt Olga’s daughter, and my sister [Katherine "Kate” Mirren] and I grew up with her. She showed her Russian heritage in her very beautiful bone structure and eyes, that made her into one of the top models of the early 60s.”

“However she was never vain, but a kind and generous person who used her model earnings to put her half brothers through school,”  Mirren continued. “She was a great optimist and always looked on life with positivity.”

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“The first visit I ever made to a film set was visiting her in a night shoot on the set of Goldfinger, where she joined the exclusive club of ‘Bond Girls,’” Mirren recalled. “I will always remember her laughter and the best porcini risotto I have ever tasted she made from porcini she found by the side of a golf course in Sussex (our Russian grandmother taught her how to look for mushrooms.)”

Finishing her emotional tribute, Mirren said, “My sister and I will miss her very much.”