Xenia Onatopp remains one of GOLDENEYE's most prominent characters and a well-remembered vixen in the long list of women who tried to lure James Bond to certain death.
Neither the 1995 movie nor its novelization, written by John Gardner and released in the same year, provide good biographical details on Xenia Onatopp, but in conversation with author Garth Pearce, actress Famke Janssen shed some light on how Xenia's childhood and teens were, or how at least she understood it: "She has grown up in Russia, with shortages and little money. So she’s like a child in a sweet shop, with a bag full of gold coins".
Moneypenny simply describes her as an "ex-Soviet fighter pilot" in the movie, although Gardner also adds that she worked for the KGB "for a year, just before the '91 coup". Reading her dossier, Moneypenny warns Bond that he should observe Xenia but avoid "contact" without further authorization from M, considering her particular way of dispatching enemies of the state and other persons of interest.
On their first social encounter, she admits to Bond that she was born (or raised) in Georgia as the secret agent detects her particular accent. Taking into account Janssen's age when she played the character (30 going on 31, born in November 1964), Xenia was born in a Georgia under Soviet rule.
Given Janssen's description of Xenia as a girl who "grew up with shortages and little money", one would interpret that she had a lot of beauty but not so much wealth. Other suggestions would involve prostitution as a desperate way of making money before finding something to do for a living in the Soviet army or the KGB. Her origins might have points in common with those of Dominika Egorova, played by Jennifer Lawrence in the 2018 adaptation of Jason Matthews' RED SPARROW: a working-class woman far from a world of luxuries forced to work for the Russian Intelligence, enduring a ferocious training that includes using her body as a deadly weapon - her body as a weapon of the state, that could be used to terminate enemies of the state.
But while Egorova acts to coercion and clearly against her will, Onatopp feels confident with prostituting for Mother Russia (or anyone employing her), turning the former into a modern-day Tatiana Romanova of sorts more than an evil villain or a promiscuous girl. In the Bond series, links to Xenia can be found in Fiona Volpe from THUNDERBALL, who offers her body to NATO Major Françoise Derval before arranging her termination, while her flippancy is somehow reminiscent to Barbara Carrera's Fatima Blush in the unofficial film NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. Likewise, in 1987's THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, Bond is informed about one KGB agent Ula Yarkhov who kills people strangling them with her legs.
One would assume that the young Xenia's good looks might have attracted some Soviet high-ranking officers connected to the KGB and that she endured a similar "sex training" to the one Egorova had. Working for the KGB is, perhaps, when she first met Colonel Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov.
According to Ourumov's dossier, he was thought to have played a major part in the August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachov which counted with the involvement of many Soviet politicians, officers and KGB agents. They were led by Vice-president Gennady Yanayev, who disagreed with Gorbachov's glasnost policies that would lead to the end of the Soviet Union. As we read before, Xenia worked for the KGB "for a year" before the coup, so there is a certain chance that she had played acts of sexpionage against close collaborators of the Soviet premier, if not killing people amidst a sex scandal.
In a chapter of John Gardner's novelization, which coincides in the movie with the moment where she eliminates Admiral "Chuck" Farrel after lovemaking, she stands naked in front of Ourumov, who takes her in his arms and rocks her "as one will lull a child into comfort or sleep," stressing a somewhat paternal -if not slightly libidinous- connection between the two. In RED SPARROW, Dominika Egorova is forced to have sex with another recruit in front of all the other recruits, which she refuses until she is reminded about her body not belonging to her but to "her country".
Detaching once again with Egorova, Xenia's disdain for human life and control of her sexuality probably makes her an orphan if not someone amidst a cruel family, who found in the Soviet army or the KGB a reason to live. Instead of a means to an end like Egorova (accepting a disgusting job to have the money to care for her mother's health treatment), Xenia found his place on a faint loyalty to the Soviet state that would open her the doors to luxury: dressing in expensive black furs, driving a red counterfeit Ferrari F355, smoking cigars and participating of a high-stakes baccarat game at the expensive Casino de Monte Carlo. This way, Onatopp embraced the luxuries of capitalism which oppose to the Soviet austerity.
Xenia Onatopp is not too dissimilar to James Bond. They both want the finer things in life, share the snobbism of ordering a drink in their way ("Straight up, with a twist" or "Shaken, not stirred"), they know how to handle weapons, they have a military rank (She is a Colonel, he is a Commander) and, most importantly, they use sex as a weapon. Naturally, while Bond had on countless occasions slept with women purely to achieve an objective, Xenia's agenda includes killing her preys during lovemaking by choking their torsos with her legs. Also, while James Bond came from a relatively wealthy family and had a childhood that involved education in Eton and Fettes and some globe-trotting according to Ian Fleming, Xenia's origins seem more related to oppression, lack of luxuries, forced labours and trying to financially survive every day. While Bond's childhood is associated with the luxuries of the Capitalist Bloc, Xenia's was associated with the yoke of Communism in Redland.
With the fall of the Soviet Union after the ill-fated 1991 coup, many KGB agents lost their jobs and got involved into illicit activities as it is shown with Robbie Coltrane's character Valentin Zukovsky, who resorts to arms dealing and the ownership of an unsuccessful nightclub in St. Petersburg. Ideologies began to wane and moneymaking became the vedette of the new Russia. Other high-ranking Red Army officers kept their jobs and were promoted, like Ourumov who was "made a General" as he was now in charge of the Space Division. Still, he was under the command of civilians, like Dimitri Mishkin, the fictional Russian Defence Minister appointed by the Boris Yeltsin administration played by Tcheky Karyo in GOLDENEYE.
As we all know, Ourumov got under the payroll of a shadowy arms dealer known as Janus, who in another life was James Bond's colleague and friend Alec Trevelyan, agent 006, whose Lienz Cossack parents were betrayed by the British and deported to the Soviet Union in 1945, committing suicide before facing Joseph Stalin's execution squads. Using his authority in Russia's Space Division, he was the perfect man to orchestrate the theft of the GoldenEye weapon which is crucial for the completion of Trevelyan's revenge against the Realm.
What about Xenia? Chances are that Ourumov had recommended her, assuming they had both a pre-Janus connection. Now, the million-dollar question: did Trevelyan and Xenia "do it"? Everyone remembers the way she pats his shoulder affectionately as she walks through Janus' ICBM train carriage. The answer to this question would depend on how much of a nymphomaniac Xenia is.
GOLDENEYE's novelization gives us hints of possible bisexuality of Xenia: at some point, in a line of dialogue not mentioned in the film, Trevelyan tells the captive Natalya Simonova that Xenia has "rather exotic tastes" and that she'll have fun with her as she "likes anything with legs". Gardner plays a little more with this idea in an earlier chapter when Natalya is betrayed by Boris and abducted by the woman. As she falls unconscious, she sees "the terrifying face of Xenia, mouth open as though she wished to devour her".
In the film, however, we only see her having steamy moments with Admiral Farrel and James Bond, and in both situations is to kill both men instead of to please herself. Is she a sadistic that gets excited by killing people? Definitely. She moans while killing Farrel while trying to terminate Bond and even when simply gunning down innocent Severnaya technicians. Logically, one would think that given Xenia's big sexual charge and Trevelyan's libido (the way she harasses Natalya on the train) they might have had a coital interlude at some point. After all, the man is the one that guaranteed her "survival" in the new Russia, which wasn't exactly in a healthy financial situation after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
After the tame sexuality of the two Timothy Dalton 007 flicks, Xenia Onatopp was certainly a welcomed character. Although she wasn't the first femme fatale of Bond, she was the first to kill during lovemaking and the first to provide an explicit sex scene in a Bond movie. Five lustrums later, the character is still well remembered among 90s kids and has many Tumblr pages dedicated to her. It appears we also did enjoy a good squeeze...
The author has written The World of GoldenEye, which is