Known as one of the most prominent beauties of the 1960s, Ursula Andress managed to wield her looks like a weapon to carve her way through the world of movie-making. Her gorgeous, unforgettable scene in Dr. No may have made her famous, but she’s definitely more than just a pretty face. Behind the scenes, few movie stars can boast a life as unforgettable as Ursula Andress.
Ursula Andress Facts
1. She Had An Unlikely Childhood
Ursula Andress was born on March 10, 1936, in Ostermundigen, Switzerland. The third out of six children, Andress lived in quite a busy household. Her father was an important German diplomat, and they lived in a huge house. Your first thought may be that Andress grew up as a privileged, even snobby child who barely ever needed to lift a finger. You would be incredibly wrong.
2. Her Father Was Taken Away From Her
Due to political reasons, the Swiss government expelled her dad from the country, leaving Andress and her siblings in the hands of her grandfather and mother. Her grandfather, an extremely busy garden designer, now had six kids to look after on top of everything else—and he wasn’t exactly the type to dote on his grandkids. No, when he got his hands on Andress and her siblings, he put them to work.
3. She Was A Real-Life Cinderella
Far from being waited on hand and foot, Andress grew up doing back-breaking labor for her grandfather. He immediately put Andress to work in his huge nursery—and if you’re imagining that she leisurely meandered around, smelling the roses, think again. After working all day in the greenhouses, she cleaned out the grimy furnaces at night. The hard work made her disciplined and independent, two handy traits to have when she finally left home.
4. She Wanted To Escape
By age 16, Andress proved herself quite the free spirit, and she felt ready to leave Switzerland. The young polyglot already knew French, German, and Italian, so she had every confidence she could go anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, traveling away from her disciplinarian grandfather wouldn’t be easy. It was only a surprising stroke of luck that gave Andress the chance to escape.
5. She Met Her Prince Charming
At the age of 17, the surprise visit of a French film crew to her school in Bern changed the course of Andress’s entire life. The film crew was there to film L’Affaire Maurizius, starring total dreamboat Daniel Gélin. One look at Gélin was enough for a young, teenaged Andress to fall head-over-heels in love. Gélin, too, ended up falling for Andress, but there was a sinister side to this fledgling relationship.
6. Prince Charming Wasn’t So Charming
You see, Gélin was 30 years old, over a decade older than Andress. Gélin also already had a wife. To say the vibes coming off of this relationship were creepy is an understatement, and it worried Andress’s mother to no end. Unfortunately, Andress was absolutely sure that Gélin was her one true love, and her mother simply could not change her mind (Spoiler alert: He wasn’t). When filming for L’Affaire Maurizius wrapped up, Andress wanted to leave for Paris with Gélin, so the two came up with a little scheme.
7. They Schemed Their Way Out
Gélin drew up a fake contract with Studios de Billancourt, promising that the studio would get Andress “into movies.” While probably still a little suspicious, Andress’s mother assented, and a wildly happy Andress left for Paris with her new lover. To be fair, Andress didn’t just dilly-dally with Gélin while in the City of Love—she studied there for a year too. After a year, the couple set off to Rome, where things started to take a turn for the worse.
8. She Caused An International Incident
Unsurprisingly, Gélin turned out to be the kind of guy with a lot of personal baggage, exacerbated by his drug use. Shortly after their arrival, Gélin became way too much to handle, and Andress broke things off. Unfortunately, Andress didn’t tell anyone about this, and when her family discovered she was AWOL, they didn’t just contact the local authorities. No, they actually sent Interpol after her!
9. She Found Some Creepy Guardians
Andress had absolutely no intention of going home, but with Interpol coming down on her head, she was in deep trouble. She managed to avoid them for a while by hiding out with Brigitte Bardot and film director Roger Vadim at the Hotel de la Ville, where Vadim claimed that they “slept innocently naked, three to a bed” (uh-huh, right…). The young teen couldn’t dodge the Interpol agents for long though.
10. She Barely Scraped By
After getting caught by Interpol, Andress still refused to return home. What she did to convince her family to let her stay in Rome is a bit murky, but we know that she managed to avoid leaving the city. In Rome, she got by doing odd jobs such as nannying children. Even at a young age, however, her stunning beauty was undeniable, and she very quickly left the nannying jobs behind for something much more exciting.
11. She Lived Freely
Andress’s stunning beauty quickly caught the eye of many admirers, leading to a rapid-fire succession of jobs for Andress. She modeled for artists in Rome and even made small appearances in three different movies filmed in the city. Freed from the strict rules of her grandfather, Andress flitted from job to job, basking in the hectic energy of the city. She had no plans to settle onto any one gig, until a twist of fate changed her tune.
12. Her Career Started On A Whim
A friend of Gélin’s, some dude named Marlon Brando, convinced Ursula Andress to try her luck in Hollywood. The hopeful young woman agreed, probably on a whim, to try a career on the silver screen. She did a screen test for Paramount Pictures and must have done a pretty darn good job, because they immediately offered her a seven-year contract.
Although Andress didn’t have much of a passion for acting, she set off for Hollywood. This turned out to be a terrible idea.
13. She Hated Hollywood
Andress arrived in Hollywood in January 1955, and her strict training to become an actress began. Paramount forced her to study the movies of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, two of the steamiest actresses of their time, and sent her to (unsuccessfully) learn English from Audrey Hepburn’s mother. She later said she felt like they had “locked me up in a glass cage,” and soon, the free-spirited young lady rebelled.
14. Scandal Boosted Her Career
Although Paramount Pictures still paid Andress weekly, her inability to speak English meant her career was going nowhere fast. Instead, Andress kept herself from public obscurity through other means. Scandalously, this meant having a four-month fling with actor James Dean, which got her positive publicity but didn’t do much to forward her career. Andress soon ended things with Dean, but she wasn’t without a partner-in-crime for long.
15. She Ripped A Family Apart
Andress eventually met and completely fell for John Derek. A handsome actor and jack-of-all-trades in the movie business, Derek returned the sentiment, despite Andress being only 19 and barely knowing any English. On top of that, Derek was already married and had a family of his own. Andress’s allure soon overcame all rational thought though, and Derek walked out on his family to be with Andress. It was the beginning of a frankly strange relationship.
16. She Confused Her Husband
Andress and Derek married in 1957, and went on an extended four-year honeymoon around the world. In that time, Derek found Andress’s lack of ambition for acting extremely baffling. He watched as Andress left Paramount for Columbia Pictures, only to continue to get no acting roles. He sat by as she rejected parts offered to her and refused to read scripts sent to her. It seemed as if nothing pleased Andress, until one fateful day in 1962.
17. She Almost Lost Her Chance
In 1962, a photograph of Andress, taken by Derek, made its way into the producers of the now-famous Dr. No, the first Bond film. Her smoldering-good looks caused the producers to immediately hand Andress the part of the seductive Honey Ryder, without even having met her in real life. They had good reason to rush, though: Filming was set to begin two weeks later!
However, in typical Andress-fashion, she refused to take the part. If it wasn’t for another Hollywood legend, Andress may have never taken on her now-iconic role.
18. She Got Her Iconic Role
At a party, American actor Kirk Douglas, who was also a close friend, read the script of Dr. No to Andress out loud. She ended up loving the script and, at his urging, finally accepted the role (the fact that the movie was going to shoot in Jamaica definitely didn’t hurt!). Andress set off for the shoot, probably expecting to spend most of her time tanning. She didn’t know that her entire life was about to change.
19. She Befriended Agent 007
Upon arriving on set, Andress found herself a bit intimidated by the movie’s big star, Sean Connery. However, Andress quickly realized that she had no reason to be shy. She and Connery not only had excellent chemistry onscreen, but the two shared a bond (pun intended) off-screen as well. Connery was “very protective” of the little-known beauty, and Andress soon relaxed around the set. With how demanding the role was for the amateur actress, Andress needed all the help she could get.
20. Her Voice Went Unheard
Andress faced a couple of big issues on set. For one, she didn’t “look Jamaican enough” for the movie, so she had to be spray-tanned to look “more Jamaican.” The other big issue was her accent—her heavy Swiss-German accent made it almost impossible to understand what she said. They dubbed over both her speaking and singing roles as Honey Ryder, but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t her lines in the movie that shot her into stardom.
21. She Became An Icon
The scene of Andress as Honey Ryder, rising out of the ocean in a little white bikini with a diving knife at her hip, made Andress a fashion and cinematic icon upon Dr. No’s release in 1962. Her unforgettable entrance, along with the movie’s surprising success, turned Andress into an overnight movie sensation. Suddenly, producers were tripping over each other to get Andress into their movies, but they often got more than what they bargained for.
22. She Frightened The King Of Rock
Following her runaway success in Dr. No, Andress shot the movie Fun in Acapulco with Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself. Andress initially didn’t want to do the movie—she had heard some nasty gossip about Presley and didn’t want to get herself mixed up in his problems. Presley, for his part, was so intimidated by Andress’s Amazonian beauty that he didn’t want to take his shirt off for filming. Soon, however, the animosity took a turn for the weird.
23. She Was Seductive Without Trying
As the two got to know each other, they began to like each other and eventually became lifelong friends. This started some rumors that the two were an item, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Presley wanted to get back with his first love, but was so afraid he may accidentally fall in love with the beguiling Andress that he never let himself be alone with her! And this wasn’t the only time that Andress’s beauty caused issues on set either.
24. She Was Too Steamy For Film
While Andress filmed Fun in Acapulco, she also filmed 4 for Texas alongside Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Anita Ekberg. Originally, Andress did screen tests for the movies completely unclothed, with plans to make the movie—and Andress’s character—much, much steamier. The censors quickly put a kibosh on that, to the chagrin of moviegoers everywhere.
Unfortunately, while Andress’s professional career was finally taking off, her personal life was taking a terrible turn.
25. She Starred With Her Husband
In 1964, Andress began filming a movie called Once Before I Die, alongside her husband, John Derek. It sounded perfect on the surface—the two had a strong, seven-year-long relationship, which meant they probably got along well. For a while, everything did, in fact, seemed to be going well—until nasty rumors began floating around regarding Andress and another actor on the set named Ron Ely. These rumors were the beginning of the end of Andress’s marriage.
26. Rumors Split Their Marriage
As production for Once Before I Die wound down, the rumors of a scandalous affair between Andress and Ely rose to a fever pitch. By the summer of 1965, Derek just couldn’t take it any longer. In a fit of rage, he threw Andress out of his home in California. Andress never confirmed or denied the rumors, but one thing’s for sure: She didn’t let her husband’s jealous rage keep her down for long.
27. She Was A Reluctant Star
Andress made her way to England, where she quickly found work as the title character in the box-office hit She as an immortal queen. Despite its success, Andress completely hated the movie. In an interview, she revealed she was “forced” to film, and that “the only thing I adored were the costumes.” She further added, “I was just lucky to look good in it because they photographed me beautifully.”
Although she didn’t exactly hold the movie in high regard, she did have one thing to thank it for: The next chapter in her love life.
28. She Met A New Love
On the set of She, Andress fell in love with another actor on set named John Richardson. The two very quickly began a relationship. Since Andress and Derek hadn’t officially divorced yet, her affair caused a wave of gossip to hit the papers. However, Andress just as quickly lost interest in Richardson after only a couple of months—but she didn’t leave the gossip mongers hanging for long.
29. Her Love Was Short But Sweet
Around the same time she filmed She, Andress also worked on The 10th Victim, an Italian science-fiction film. During the production, Andress began dating her co-star, Marcello Mastroianni. Although the movie eventually became a great success, the same was not true for their relationship. Andress soon ended things, but love quickly found its way into her heart again. What, did you think she was going to slow down now?
30. Cupid Struck Her Once Again
1965 was a busy year for Ursula Andress. After being in She and The 10th Victim, she flew over to France to film Up to His Ears. She was the love interest for the movie’s star, Jean-Paul Belmondo, but life soon imitated art. The two became romantically involved, and it finally pushed Andress to officially divorce Derek in 1966. The love-struck star even called Belmondo “the love of her life,” and for her, that was saying something.
31. She Was Loved By All
In 1967, Andress got her chance to appear in another Bond movie when she began filming for Casino Royale. She portrayed the character Vesper Lynd, and reportedly charged an astounding £200,000 for the role. The studio happily paid the fee though; the movie’s director, Val Guest, described Andress as “universally loved by everyone in [the] studio.”
Even though the film ended up being a huge box office success, Andress’s film production slowed way down after it wrapped. But at least the movies that she did choose were, to put it politely…interesting.
32. She Earned A Scandalous Nickname
For the next couple of years, Andress played roles that defied expectations for the typical leading lady. Whereas most female leads were “expected to be soft and submissive,” Andress played roles that cranked the sultry levels up to 11. In 1970, she played the role of the steamy Lady Britt Dorset in Perfect Friday, and in 1971, she played Cristina, a brothel worker, in the film Red Sun. In these roles and others, Andress was always in various stages of undress, earning her the scandalous nickname of “Ursula Undress.”
Despite the saucy moniker, Andress did well for herself—for a time. Unfortunately, heartbreak was just around the corner.
33. She Lost Her Great Love
In 1972, things between Andress and Belmondo went south. After a long, seven-year relationship, the two called it quits. Heartbroken that things with the love of her life didn’t work out, Andress flew back to Hollywood and got right back on the horse. There, she had a brief fling with actor Ryan O’Neal, but she ended up being nothing more than another name on a long list of his lovers.
34. She Had A Rocky Relationship
Much like her other relationships, Andress met her next love on the set of a film, this one the Italian flick Stateline Motel. The man who captured her heart was her Italian co-star, Fabio Testi. The relationship lasted four years, but it wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven. The two publicly broke up at least once during that time. It didn’t help that her career was slowly starting to take a nosedive too.
35. She Never Changed For Her Career
While many of Andress’s fellow actresses made the transition to portraying “real” women, Andress stuck to portraying seductive and outrageously gorgeous leading ladies. Unfortunately, many movie-goers and critics grew tired of watching women do little other than flaunt but their beauty, and Andress seemed either unable or unwilling to take on more complex roles.
Her career began a downward spiral—and the next movie she made didn’t certainly didn’t help things.
36. She Filmed Questionable Movies
In 1978, Andress filmed the alarmingly named Slave of the Cannibal God. The film ended up being a cult favorite, but it faced several issues that kept it from gaining mainstream popularity. For one, Andress appeared in a number of graphic scenes, and at one point, wears absolutely nothing at all. For another, the film featured several disturbing scenes of animal cruelty.
This led to the UK completely banning the film, stymying Andress’s career even further. Her next movie didn’t do much better.
37. She Lost Her Fans
Just a year later, Andress portrayed the sultry Louise de La Vallière, based on the real, historical mistress of King Louis XIV of France. Yet again, the film tried to make use of Andress’s beauty (in fact, Andress wore no fewer than eight different costumes that showed off her good looks in the movie). However, the public clearly wanted something new. Critics gave the movie middling reviews, and it looked like the end of things for Andress. Her next movie was pretty much the final blow, but not in the way you might think.
38. She Just Had To Show Up
Andress’s next role saw her fittingly portraying Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, in Clash of the Titans. She received top billing in the movie, but in an ironic twist, Andress only got to say one line the entire time. It was probably one of the easiest paychecks in her entire career, but it did nothing to prove that she was more than just a pretty face.
39. She Made The Bikini Herself
Andress pins her success mostly on her bikini scene in Dr. No, but most people don’t know that iconic moment’s surprising origin. When Andress originally got on set in Jamaica, none of the swimsuit offerings impressed her. So, she did what anyone would do: She made a white bikini for herself! She donned the bikini, the cameras rolled, and the rest is history.
40. Her Bikini Had A Surprising End
A 2001 auction featured a huge number of props and costumes from the 007 movie franchise. Appearing alongside iconic items like the 1965 Aston Martin DB5 driven in GoldenEye was Andress’s homemade white bikini. By the time the bidding for it was over and the dust had settled, Andress’s bikini sold for an astounding £41,125! Not bad at all for something that Andress quickly whipped up!
41. She Has Strange Ideas About Love
If it wasn’t already evident, Andress was pretty free-spirited when it came to her relationships. In an interview, she declared that she still loved all her old boyfriends (in a deeply platonic sort of way). She even went so far as to say that she thought it would be really cool for all of her exes to live together with her in one big house, but thoughtfully admitted, “I think that might be difficult.” You don’t say?
42. She Started Scandalous Relationships
Andress proved herself to be a real-life Aphrodite when it came to her Clash of the Titans co-star, Harry Hamlin. The two fell in love during the filming of Clash of the Titans and began dating, despite the huge age gap (Hamlin was 28, and Andress was 44). Andress even eventually became pregnant and, encouraged by Hamlin, decided to go through with the pregnancy, giving birth to Dimitri Alexander Hamlin on May 19, 1980. After years of floundering, Dimitri’s birth finally spelled the end for Andress’s career.
43. She Gave It All Up For Her Son
After her son’s birth, Andress, described as someone “who up until then refused even the responsibility of pets,” dramatically cut down on the number of movies she made in order to better take care of her infant son. She mostly took on a number of small television series throughout the 1980s, filming a couple episodes here and there. It let her focus on family life—but that soon fell apart too.
44. She Was Possessive
Shortly after Dimitri’s birth, Andress and Hamlin announced their engagement. It seemed as though the new couple were finally going to tie the knot, but the announcement hid a dark secret. The relationship wasn’t an entirely happy one. Andress described herself as “possessive” of Hamlin, which caused rifts in the relationship to grow. Soon, their love started going sideways.
45. She Became A Single Mom
Despite a new child, the marriage never came to be. In 1983, just three years after the birth of their son, Hamlin left the budding family behind, wanting to concentrate on his career and unable to take Andress’s possessiveness any longer. Andress spent the next couple of years bouncing from relationship to relationship in between taking care of her son and working, before making a decision that caused many people to raise their eyebrows.
46. She Was A Cougar
In 1986, Andress began dating Fausto Fagone, a future Sicilian politician. At the time, Fagone was a 20-year-old economics major studying at university. As for Andress? She was 50 years old and mostly retired. The 30-year age gap definitely turned some heads, and worse still, the relationship itself infuriated Fagone’s parents. Things between them ended in 1991, and she’s kept her romantic life quiet ever since.
47. She Lived A Crazy Life
Andress is now more or less retired from acting, and her appearances in the media are few and far in between. But still, she’s thankful for her acting career, which allowed her to have financial independence and the freedom to do whatever she wants with her life. Dividing her time between her homes in Rome and Switzerland, this beautiful actress has led a crazy life, and is now ready to settle down in style.
48. Tragedy Hit Her Hard
Sean Connery’s passing in 2020 hit Andress hard. Lauding him as “loyal,” “a great friend,” and “a fabulous actor,” Andress made touching remarks on their friendship over the years. She lamented the fact that there would never be any other man quite like the legendary Sean Connery (other men, she claimed, are “too narcissistic”), but added, “For me, Sean is not dead, he will always be alive, with me forever.”
49. She’s Beautiful, And She Knows It
Andress’s comfort with her body was evident very early on in her career. In 1965, she shot some racy photos that made their way into Playboy magazine. The photoshoot scandalized people, and some critics had the gall to ask her why she even did it in the first place. Her answer? “Because I’m beautiful.” What a gal!
She didn’t stop with just one shoot for Playboy either—she continued on to do seven more shoots for the magazine over a span of 15 years.
50. She Dated Questionable Men
Ryan O’Neal was maybe Andress’s most scandalous beau. You see, didn’t exactly have himself a stellar reputation. Aside from being quite the womanizer, he was also, quite possibly, one of the worst dads ever. Whenever Andress and O’Neal decided to have some private time in the bedroom, O’Neal refused to tell his six-year-old daughter to sleep in her own bed. Andress finally had to put her foot down, telling him, “I don’t want to sleep with you while your daughter is in the bed.”
After putting that relationship behind her, Andress flew back to Rome, where her career—and love life—took yet another dramatic turn.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27