The Major James Bond Character That Was Cast Only A Week Before Goldeneye Started Shooting

Pierce Brosnan smiling slightly at the casino in Goldeneye.
(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

There was never a question that when it came time for Goldeneye to make its mark on James Bond movies that Pierce Brosnan was going to be the 007 to do it. If the rest of the casting process had run that smoothly, director Martin Campbell would have had things made in the shade. However, this is the Bond franchise, and things don’t always run that smoothly. As it turns out, there was one major Bond Woman that was only cast a week before the 17th James Bond movie started shooting. 

Speaking with Campbell on behalf of his latest film, the Liam Neeson-led thriller Memory, we got to talking about franchise history yet again. With those rumors about Neeson and Brosnan competing properly dispelled, the man who helmed James Bond’s big return in 1995 admitted that the holdout in the casting process was the character of Natalya Simonova. While she was eventually played by actor Izabella Scorupco in Goldeneye, Martin Campbell told CinemaBlend the following story about how that last-minute casting came to be: 

The casting director had gone around Europe, she was someone who went to the theater, to all of it. I remember sitting down a week before shooting, it was a week or eight days before shooting, and I asked her, ‘Is there any country you haven’t been to?’ She said, ‘No. Wait a minute…I haven’t been to Sweden.’ That night she got on the plane, she went to Sweden, and she found Isabella. We scraped through by the skin of our teeth, and Isabella was terrific. … The casting director came back, and literally the following morning she rang and said, ‘I’ve got our girl.’ Isabella flew back with the casting director, I read her for 30 seconds, and I said ‘You’ve got the part.’ So we were saved by the bell.

To be fair, when Martin Campbell knows he wants to cast someone, he’s usually pretty quick about it. Even after losing his script for Casino Royale, Mads Mikkelsen’s audition was a fast and funny “welcome aboard” from Campbell. While it may have taken a bit longer than he may have liked, Goldeneye’s steward at the helm found his Natalya, and the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond was born. 

It’s a casting that worked brilliantly, as Izabella Scorupco and Famke Janssen were both formidable Bond Women that flanked Brosnan’s fresh take on the spy himself. Goldeneye especially used Scorupco’s Natalya to a great effect, as her plot of survival and decrypting a conspiracy she barely survived were just as important as 007’s investigation. Making an effective pair, the eventual romance between James and Natalya was only enhanced by the dramatic chemistry the two shared throughout.

Pierce Brosnan carries Isabella Scorupco as they laugh in Goldeneye.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM.)

Instinct is what’s led to some not-so-lucky moments in the worlds of James Bond casting, courtesy of Martin Campbell’s exacting hand. It’s part of what helped him decide that Henry Cavill was too inexperienced for Casino Royale’s lead. The power of Campbell work both ways, with his track record of delivering two successful 007 reboots in a row, speaking for themselves. Izabella Scorupco is just one of many examples as to why that happened to be, as well as why it’d probably be a good idea to try and enlist the Goldeneye director into seeing if he can pull off a hat trick. 

Liam Neeson fans can see Martin Campbell’s Memory, which is currently showing in theaters. For all other offerings headed to a theater near you, the slate of upcoming movies is waiting to educate you. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.