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Ian Fleming biopic to include Bond girls’ real-life inspiration

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
January 17, 2013
Muriel Wright, left, and Annabelle Wallis
Muriel Wright, left, and Annabelle Wallis

James Bond creator Ian Fleming met young Muriel Wright at a posh Austrian ski resort in 1935, marking the beginning of their long term affair. Fleming is said to have been taken by Wright's looks -- and not much else.

Sound familiar?

Understandably, many have speculated that Wright was the inspiration for Fleming's rather one-dimensional, devastatingly gorgeous female characters who served as Bond's usually-fleeting love interests.

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As the story goes, Fleming and Bond treated their girls similarly. Fleming carried on relationships with other women -- in spite of the fact that Wright was in love with him. She would run various errands for him, including carrying his messages to naval officers by motorcycle. Some of Fleming's friends are said to have even referred to Wright as his "slave."

When Fleming eventually married one of his other paramours (Lady Ann O'Neill), Wright's family became enraged -- so much so that Wright's brother threatened to horse whip Fleming. Put off or frightened (or both), Fleming fled to another city.

[Related: James Bond's 10 most embarrassing moments]

In a newly-announced biopic "Fleming," a four-part series from Sky Atlantic and BBC America, Fleming and Wright will be played by two English actors: 34-year-old Dominic Cooper ("Mamma Mia," 2008, and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," 2012) and 28-year-old Annabelle Wallis. (It's worth noting this will not be first Ian Fleming biopic. Sean Connery's son Jason Connery played Fleming in a television movie titled "The Secret Life of Ian Fleming" in 1990.)

Unlike Fleming's take on Wright (and his Bond girls), Wallis is more than a pretty face. She is highly educated, speaks four languages fluently, and is the maternal niece of the late stage and film actor Richard Harris (twice-Oscar nominated and perhaps best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series). Wallis, whose resume is growing, portrayed King Henry VIII's third wife Jane Seymour in Showtime's "The Tudors" and also appeared in the short-lived '60s-era ABC drama "Pan Am."

[Video: 'Skyfall' Insider Access with Daniel Craig]

Wallis has an interesting job ahead of her in portraying Wright. Her love affair with Fleming lasted nine years -- until the day she died in an air raid in London's Belgravia district during World War II. After returning home from delivering Fleming a pack of cigarettes and going to sleep, Wright is said to have died instantly after a piece of shrapnel from a German bomb struck her head. Her death is said to have caused Fleming great guilt and distress. "The trouble with Ian is that you have to get yourself killed before he feels anything," said one of Fleming's associates Dunstan Curtis (according to biographer Ben Macintyre).

There is one Bond girl who stands out from the rest as being most personal to Fleming: Countess Teresa (Tracy) di Vicenzo in his tenth Bond novel "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is thought to be his most literal depiction of Wright. Perhaps righting a wrong through his craft, Fleming has Bond marry Tracy -- who, too, later dies, leaving Bond in utter despair.

Watch 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' Clip:

[Related: Videos, photos and more from 50 years of James Bond]

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