Asian Bond Girls

Michelle Yeoh

If you're an avid fan of James Bond movies, then you know what the qualifications are to be dubbed a "Bond Girl." If you need a definition, I'll paraphrase this one given by Robert Caplen, from his book Shaken & Stirred: The Feminism of James Bond:
A Bond girl is a character or actress portraying a love or sex interest, of James Bond in a film or novel. These ladies occasionally have names that are double entendres or puns, such as "Pussy Galore", "Plenty O'Toole", "Xenia Onatopp", or "Holly Goodhead." Bond girls are considered ubiquitous symbol of glamour and sophistication.
Bearing that in mind, we know that not every lady who has appeared in a Bond film meets the criteria for being a Bond Girl, and there are only three Asian ladies that do. One being veteran Hong Kong action starlet, Michelle Yeoh (pictured above) who played "Wai Lin" in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies.

Most Bond aficionados would consider Michelle the most prominent Asian Bond Girl of all and Life magazine named Yeoh/Wai Lin the 11th best Bond Girl of all time. Whenever I see her as Wai Lin, the hauntingly erotic voice of Sheryl Crow singing the film's title song goes through my head. The best Bond film title song ever, in this writer's opinion.

Akiko Wakabayashi
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki in You Only Live Twice, in which she co-starred opposite original Bond, Sean Connery. She was one of the first two Asian Bond Girls. Akiko was originally slated for the (smaller) role of Kissy Suzuki while Mie Hama was to play the larger part of Aki, but since Akiko's English skills were better than Mie's, their roles were switched. Akiko just made one more film after this one before retiring from acting, reportedly citing an injury she received during the filming of a movie. She now resides in the "Whatever Happened to..?" file.

Akiko Wakabayashi
Akiko in another still from the film

Mie Hama
Mie Hama, the other Asian Bond girl who co-starred in You Only Live Twice, played Kissy (no, not Krissy) Suzuki. Mie retired from acting in the 80s and has since been reported to be an active environmentalist, still occasionally making public appearances.

Mie Hama
Promo shot of Mie for the film

Tsai Chin as Ling
Not a Bond Girl per se, but worthy of an honorable mention, is Tsai Chin. She played Ling, Bond's bedmate, who appeared only in a pre-credit scene of You Only Live Twice. After their romp, she sets Bond up for what appears to be his assassination. Tsai also appeared in a Bond film 39 years later, in a small role as a poker player in 2006's Casino Royal.

Michelle YeohMichelle Yeoh
At left, Michelle in a promo shot from Tomorrow Never Dies, wearing the dress she wore in her debut scene, which was her only glamorous scene in the film. At right, as Wai Lin, armed for a shootout with the antagonist's henchmen.

Michelle Yeoh
Promo still from the film

Hat tip to Wingsfan19.

Posted by: CEC on Nov 22, 11 | 4:52 am | Profile


I always remember Chu Mi from "The man with the golden gun"

C: Won't you come in for a swim
B: I would but I don't have any swim wear
C: Neither do I

Pure camp genius.

Posted by: Basho on Nov 22, 11 | 6:16 am

Loved Tomorrow Never Dies because of Michelle Yeoh. Most believable Bond Girl because of her background - she didn't look ridiculous doing the action scenes. Hysterical taste in men in real life - Jean Todt, the toadish (but rich) French F1 guy.

Posted by: WestCoast on Nov 22, 11 | 10:55 pm

for some reason i didn't like michelle in the movie. she looked kind of manly.

Posted by: ..... on Nov 22, 11 | 11:02 pm

Although I agree with WestCoast's comments on her believability, I also agree that she looks quite masculine - she really just isn't very attractive for me, Asian or not.

Posted by: Dr. Lee on Nov 22, 11 | 11:51 pm

Akiko (in the close up shot above) might be the Asian Audrey Hepburn?
Enjoyed the surprise of the music for this post. Nice accompaniment.

Posted by: longtack on Nov 23, 11 | 7:18 am

Michelle Yeoh was a former Miss Singapore and in her earlier movies aka: Police Woman(Hong Kong) was quite beautiful. I think the years of Martial arts movies have made her a lot more lean and hard in appearance. For her age she is in incredible shape and is still my all time favorite Asian actress.

Posted by: Zorkster on Nov 23, 11 | 4:07 pm

Sorry my mistake, Miss Malaysia, not Miss Singapore.

Posted by: Zorkster on Nov 23, 11 | 4:21 pm

You Only Live Twice was such a great Bond film! Perfect for what it is.

Posted by: wylde8 on Nov 23, 11 | 6:43 pm

Thanks CEC, excellent post! Mie Hama is definitely my favorite of them all! However, while I'm sure I watched Tomorrow Never Dies, I really don't remember it. I'll have to check it out the next time there's a Bond marathon on the TV.

Sheryl Crow; not Asian, but hot!!

Posted by: Wingsfan19 on Nov 24, 11 | 6:17 am

Both Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama figure prominently in Woody Allen's satirical dub-job "What's Up Tiger Lily?" The start of his yellow fever?

Posted by: chosun on Nov 24, 11 | 8:41 pm

I fell in love with Mie Hama the first time I ever seen her, I first seen her in the movie King Kong Escapes way back in the 60's when I was 8 years old.

Posted by: Lintik on Nov 24, 11 | 11:29 pm