Bond Girl: Octopussy

Octopussy is a fictional wealthy businesswoman and jewel smuggler leading the Octopus Cult. A primary Bond girl and a secondary antagonist portrayed by Swedish actress Maud Adams, she appeared in the 1983 James Bond film, Octopussy. She was also seen in the 1986 James Bond 007 tabletop role-playing game.

The character of Octopussy was created for the 1983 film adaption of Ian Fleming’s short story. In the Fleming story, Octopussy, Octopussy was the name of the pet octopus that Major Dexter Smythe loved. The role of Octopussy was heavily symbolic and, towards the end of the film, a key element in the story.


Octopussy is a jewel smuggler based in India who lives a luxurious life and works alongside exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan and corrupt Soviet military officer General Orlov. Octopussy’s father, Dexter Smythe, studied octopi, thus; the nickname “Octopussy.” Her favorite octopus is the Blue Ringed Octopus which she keeps as a pet and has enough venom to kill up to 50 people. Octopussy owns her island, the “floating palace,” where she lives with many beautiful women, including her second-in-command, a member of her Octopus Cult. She is also an incredibly successful businesswoman who owns many legitimate enterprises in shipping, hotels, carnivals, and circuses. With Magda and Kamal, she tries to get a fake FabergĂ© egg for General Orlov and participates in what she thinks is jewelry contraband, switching the actual items for fakes and moving them through her circus.

Octopussy is first seen when Khan shows her the egg. Her face is not seen as Khan tells her about Bond. He insists on killing Bond, but Octopussy says not to. The back of her head is also seen briefly when she is seen skinny dipping and exiting the pool when Bond infiltrates her floating palace using the crocodile disguise, and he sees her whilst hiding.

When Octopussy meets Bond, she reveals that she feels indebted to him; her British father was a traitor that Bond exposed; she wished to meet Bond to thank him for delaying the arrest of her father; long enough for him to save face by committing suicide before he could be arrested and convicted. Octopussy declares Bond her ally in front of Khan, and after unsuccessfully trying to bribe him, the two make love in the evening. The following night, they defend her palace against assailants. During the fight, Bond fakes his death and leaves for Karl-Marx-Stadt, discovering that Octopussy’s circus will perform there and learning the mercenaries who attacked the palace to be Khan’s men.

Octopussy, along with Orlov and Kamal Khan, schemes to smuggle the originals of the faked jewelry from East Germany to Switzerland using her circus. Orlov and Khan, however, would use the contraband as a disguise for detonating a nuclear bomb inside a US airbase on their route through West Germany, provoking mass disarmament of the United Nations. Bond follows her to the circus and tries desperately to stop the bomb, which Octopussy is unaware of. When he tells Magda and Octopussy who he is (disguised in a clown suit), and that Orlov and Khan had betrayed them, Octopussy grabs a gun and shoots off the lock on the case holding the bomb. With seconds to spare, Bond disarms the bomb.

Back in India, Octopussy’s group raids Khan’s palace to get revenge for Khan’s betrayal, but she is kidnapped and knocked unconscious by Gobinda. She wakes up in Khan’s private plane, and as she sees Gobinda go out to kill Bond, she slaps him but gets knocked back into her seat. After Khan loses control of the plane, Bond saves Octopussy and jumps out, leaving Khan to crash Octopussy nearly falls off the cliff, but she is saved again by Bond. They make love in the end on board Octopussy’s boat during his recuperation.

Behind the scenes

Sybil Danning was announced in Prevue magazine in 1982 as being Octopussy but was never actually cast, later explaining that Albert R. Broccoli felt “her personality was too strong.” Faye Dunaway was deemed too expensive. Barbara Carrera said she turned down the role to play Fatima Blush in the competing Bond film Never Say Never Again. Casting director Jane Jenkins revealed that the Bond producers told her they wanted a South Asian actress to play Octopussy, so she looked at the only two Indians in predominantly white Hollywood, Persis Khambatta and Susie Coelho. Afterward, she auditioned white actresses, like Barbara Parkins and Kathleen Turner, who she felt could pass for Indian. Ironically, Parkins had appeared with Roger Moore in the 1977 film Word of a Man. Finally, Broccoli announced to her that they would cast Swedish-born Maud Adams, who had been played Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun and had been recently used by Eon to screen test the potential Bonds. To acknowledge her nationality, Adams had her hair darkened, and a few lines were added about how she was raised by an Indian family. A different plotline, with Adams’s British father exposed as a traitor, was used instead.