The Living Daylights Bond girl Maryam dAbo: I was hours from death

James Bond: Dalton stars in The Living Daylights 1987 trailer

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In 1987, Dalton ushered in a new era of Bond. Following Roger Moore’s seventh and final outing in A View To A Kill, the producers wanted a return to a more serious and gritty secret agent. It was also time for a change in the Bond girls, starting with d’Abo’s Czechoslovak cellist Kara Milovy. Her natural looks and relaxed manner were the perfect fit for 007’s most significant and layered relationship since Diana Rigg’s Tracy Draco (and briefly Tracy Bond) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The actress later revealed the terrifying and hilarious sides to filming The Living Daylights and admitted “neither of us knew what we were doing.”

d’Abo later said: “I’m very proud I’m part of the Bond girls club… I have a phobia of gunshots and explosives and here I am playing this character… Timothy could see that I had zilch experience on a big film, but neither did he. But because he came from the theatre and he was a very generous actor, he supported me throughout the film.”

She landed the role after bumping into producer Barbara Broccoli on the street in London but never imagined she would soon be filming one of the most iconic (and slightly ridiculous) action sequences in Bond history.

The moment Kara and Bond make their escape down a snowy slope using her improvised instrument case is a classic scene, which took two days to film.

d’Abo said: “Sliding down the mountain in a cello case seems easy and funny but it wasn’t easy… Timothy is twice my weight and I’ve actually got the controls to direct the cello case down the hill… I will never forget those two days.”

Apart from being “absolutely freezing”, she says she was constantly “avoiding trying to crash into  a ravine or the camera crew.”

d’Abo’s moment in the driving seat was part of a new direction for Bond girls, and she gives full credit to another legendary actress for spearheading that change: “In the 90’s women started to get their power and it is Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson who are always thinking ahead, ‘how can we modernise Bond?’ They thought that M should be a woman… A fabulous role that will be unforgettable. She definitely made a change by being a woman and James Bond’s boss.”

She also acknowledged the struggle many actresses have had to progress their careers after being a Bond girl.

d’Abo was born in London but raised in Paris and Geneva, and had worked on French television and stage before starring in The Living Daylights.

Afterward, she took roles in various sci-fi and horror shows and films like Something Is Out There, Timelock and Tales From The Crypt. More mainstream roles included 2002’s Doctor Zhivago with Keira Knightley and 2003 mini-series Helen of Troy.

But in 2007, her whole life was changed after she collapsed in Los Angeles with terrible pains in her head, “like an electrical thunderstorm… I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I was diagnosed with a subarachnoid bleed from an aneurysm and was within a few hours of death.”

Rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital, a four-hour operation left her with a nine-inch scar. She added: “Although my head was full of blood, the aneurysm had been easy to access and I didn’t suffer any brain damage.”

The actress suffered ongoing disorientation, some memory loss, and for years after felt overwhelmed and nervous in busy and loud situations. She also had mild aphasia, where the brain thinks one word but says something different.

Her experience resulted in the actress going behind the camera to make the 2009 BBC 4 documentary Rupture: Living With My Broken Brain

d’Abo had previously produced and hosted the 2002 documentary Bond Girls Are Forever, followed by 2004’s documentary film Bearing Witness about five female war reporters, which she also wrote.

In 2003, the actress and producer married director John Hudson, who is most famous for Chariots of Fire. She continues to act, most recently in 2020’s Last Words with Nick Nolte and Charlotte Rampling.

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