OLGA KURYLENKO’S life story is a fairy tale: born in Berdyansk, she grew up in a family which was hard up; then, while still at a tender age, she moved to Paris and became a French model and actress; next, she was a Bond girl; and finally, she made it in Hollywood
In interviews Olga Kurylenko often talks in picturesque detail about her childhood in the Ukraine; in fact, it's now pait of the legend which makes her present achievements seem so incredible. She was one of a family of seven living in a kommunalka (communal apartment). Her mother was a school drawing teacher. Her parents split when she was only three (she saw her father again only years later). The eternal lack of money, the bottle of milk that was bought with the family’s last kopecks and then smashed in the shop: these are touching stories that seem to have come from a tear jerking melodrama about an orphan. But however difficult things were, Olga’s mother nevertheless put concern for Olga’s future above all. From the age of seven Olga studied English, played the piano, and had ballet lessons. And then at 13 she seized the chance that she was offered her when she was noticed by a talent scout from a modelling agency in the Moscow metro and invited to audition. The idea appealed to Olga’s mother, and when Olga returned to Berdyansk, they made some photographs and sent them off to Moscow. After working for three years under her mother’s eye, Olga signed a contract with the international agency Madison and, at the age of 16, left Russia to work in Paris, this time on her own.
Olga’s first role on the big screen was In Diane Bertrand’s L’Annulaire (2005) — and once more the change in direction happened as if planned in advance. By this moment she was 25 years old; she had already married a French photographer, secured French citizenship, divorced, and moved seamlessly from a career as a model to one as an actress. In L’Annulaire she took part in numerous tactfully and tastefully shot erotic scenes and got herself noticed. The next landmark in Olga’s career was an international project, Paris je t’aime, where she and Elijah Wood played vampires: “During filming we were forbidden to remove our false vampire teeth — because they were hard to put back — so all Elijah and I could eat was soup, which we sucked through a straw. We were convincing as vampires because we were so terribly hungry all the time”. Soon afterwards, she was in the French thriller The Serpent, where she had an erotic scene with Pierre Richard. “It was great. This was only my third film and I was already in the same frame as an actor whose films had been part of my childhood,” she recalled later.
In her 10 years spent in France Olga had become a true Parisian. Her beauty had always in any case contained nothing that was specifically Slavonic. But thanks to her place of birth, she continued to be given Russian parts to play in Hollywood. It was her part in Max Payne that helped Olga land her main trump card, beating 400 other contenders to win the role in Quantum of Solace (2008). Bond girl status has always, however, been a bit of a trap for actresses: it’s not always easy to break free from the role of beautiful accessory to a cool guy, even if you can fight and handle a gun just as well as he. “Suddenly this became my life goal — not to be a Bond girl. I started being very careful and turned down two or three roles that were offered me”. Instead, she chose to play in Neil Marshall’s Centurion. In this film Kurylenko wielded a sword, fighting on equal terms with two men, Michael Fassbender and Dominic West. A year later, in the TV series Magic City, she played a completely different role as the wife of the owner of a hotel in Las Vegas who is determined to win the respect of local high society. In real life, Olga, so elegant and seemingly fragile, has always behaved with similar strong-minded independence. In one frank interview she admitted that she doesn’t need a man as a support in life. She married a second time only after being talked into it by her beloved, although she knew only too well that in today’s world marriages are not for ever. For Olga her career has always been the most important thing. Olga Kurylenko initially decided she wanted to become an actress after rewatching yet again her favourite film, Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Having become a Bond girl, she wrote to von Trier, intent upon making his acquaintance. So maybe we shall one day see this strong- minded actress in a von Trier film. At any rate, after a role she played in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, Olga Kurylenko is no longer simply a Bond girl. ♦