Monica Bellucci had not one, but two near misses with James Bond before Spectre
The Italian star had screentests for Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough
At the age of 50, Monica Bellucci was the oldest actor to ever be cast as a Bond 'girl' in 2015's Spectre.
Her appearance as Lucia Sciarra, opposite Daniel Craig's 47-year-old James Bond, was hailed as a major step forward for the spy series, but had things turned out differently, she could have appeared in a Bond film much earlier.
It's well-known that the Italian star of Irréversible came close to playing Paris Carver opposite Pierce Brosnan in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, before losing out to the more US box office friendly Teri Hatcher.
"[Monica] screen-tested to be a Bond girl a while back and the fools said no. Teri Hatcher stole the day instead," Brosnan once lamented. And now a new interview with Colin Salmon has revealed that Bellucci had a second near miss too.
Read more: How Spectre summoned the ghosts of James Bond's past
"She came in twice, once for Tomorrow Never Dies, and once for The World Is Not Enough," the actor revealed on the SpyHards podcast.
As well as playing MI6 Deputy Chief of Staff in both of those movies, Salmon was also hired to screen-test potential female co-stars for Pierce Brosnan, filling in as 007 to act out scenes from the movies.
Bellucci's The World Is Not Enough screentest saw her trying out for the role of Elektra King — played in the movie by Sophie Marceau — and they used the scene where the villainess tortures Bond.
"She straddled me, then strapped me to a chair and licked my face", Salmon says, adding that he told the producers "give her anything she wants, please!"
Read more: Every James Bond film ranked
"I went and had lunch with her as I spotted her English was not up to where it needs to be, I offered to run the lines with her," adds Salmon, "I was so happy to see her in Spectre."
However, it wasn't meant to be and Bellucci went on to become a household name without Bond, starring in 2002's controversial Irréversible, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and The Passion of the Christ.
Read more: 16 actors who could be the next James Bond
The Bond producers never forgot her though and it was third time lucky, appearing in 2015's Spectre. "Compared to the Bond girls who have gone before, I am so much more mature," said Bellucci. "I’d prefer to be called a Bond woman or perhaps a Bond lady."
"Speaking about her near misses in 2015, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli said: "We had wanted her a couple of times in the past, and it didn’t work out. I was really afraid that she was going to be the one that got away.
I couldn’t be more pleased that we finally got her in a Bond movie, and in a really great role."
The SpyHards interview with Colin Salmon is out now.
Watch a trailer for 60 Years of James Bond