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SYFY WIRE James Bond

Tania Mallet, Bond Girl from Goldfinger, dies at 77

By Matthew Jackson
Tania Mallet Goldfinger publicity still

Tania Mallet, the English model and actress best known for her role as Tilly Masterson in the 1964 James Bond classic Goldfinger, has died. She was 77. 

Born in Blackpool on May 19, 1941, Mallet took to modeling at an early age, pursuing the career by the time she was 16. According to the Independent, her first brush with Bond fame actually came earlier than Goldfinger, when she was considered for the lead Bond Girl role of Russian defector Tatiana Romanova in the second MGM Bond film, From Russia With Love. That role ultimately went to Daniela Bianchi, but producers retained an interest in Mallet, and she ultimately joined the Bond franchise in its very next film, Goldfinger

As Tilly Masterson, Mallet was one of three major Bond Girls cast in the film, alongside Honor Black as the villainous Pussy Galore and Shirley Eaton as Tilly's sister, Jill Masterson. It was Eaton, as Jill, who provided the film's most enduring image of a dead woman on a bed, her naked body completely covered in gold paint. Mannet got the more action-heavy role, though, as the avenging sister who set out to kill Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in retribution for Jill's death, running into Sean Connery's Bond, and getting into a car chase along the way. Unfortunately, that also meant she met her end at the hands of Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and his deadly flying hat. 

The official Bond Twitter page confirmed Mallet's death on Sunday. 

After Goldfinger, Mallet returned to a successful modeling career. The Bond film remains her only major acting work, and though she briefly returned to the screen with an uncredited appearance in the 1976 TV series The New Avengers, she always preferred the work of a model to the work of an actress. 

"It was not difficult to go back to modeling," she told the James Bond fansite MI6 in 2003. "Filming had been an interesting experience but I was always more comfortable in a small studio with just the photographer and his assistant. Besides which, the restrictions placed on me for the duration of the filming grated, were dreadful and I could not anticipate living my life like that. For instance being forbidden to ride in case I had an accident, not being allowed to go abroad etc... Apart from that the money was dreadful — originally I was offered £50 per week which I managed to push up to £150, but even so I earned more than that in a day modeling so the six months I worked (or was retained to work) on Goldfinger were real sacrifice."

Mallet was the cousin of Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren, who wrote of her in her 2007 memoir that she was a "loyal and generous person" who helped fund the education of her siblings through her modeling career. 

No further details of Mallet's death have been released as of this writing.