The next 007 should face a beautiful but complex “Bond girl” to seduce and challenge him. That Bond girl should be Ukrainian actress Viktoriia Lazuto. Ana de Armas lit up the screen in her limited role in the last Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” and went on to play Marylin Monroe.
Lazuto, who has a Marylin Monroe connection and has appeared in Playboy’s Ukraine edition, has a similar glamorous international likability that can launch – or sinisterly sink – 1000 ships.
I first met her in Hollywood while she was background acting on a feature film. Between takes, I asked her name.
“Call me ‘Beautiful.’ You can call me that, because I am beautiful,” she answered in a dramatic Eastern European accent. “Where I go, the camera goes, because I am beautiful. And famous.”
There is a lot of waiting around on movie sets, so I had time, during Lazuto’s energetic, entertaining steam-of-consciousness chatter, to learn she is Ukrainian. “’Now I am in the ‘wild, wild west.’ But I am from the ‘hot, hot east’ of Ukraine – the craziest part.”
It was a long, chilly overnight shoot on location. “I am not cold, because I am hot,” she insisted, then she snuggled close to me and said, “You keep me warm.” While sitting there, she answered a quick call on her rhinestone-encrusted smartphone. “So what? When I tell you to call me, call me 10 times,” she demanded of whoever was on the other end.
After Lazuto hung up, I felt Lazuto shrug while she explained: “This guy tells me he’s ‘not ready to be my boyfriend.’ I told him I can speak to him however I want because he said I am not his girlfriend! But I also want to find real friends in the industry who are men…not just men who are trying to sleep with me.”
“I think they need you on set,” I told her.
“I know they do,” she said.
She Commands Attention
Earlier, during a dinner break on the shoot, I saw the little-but-mighty Lazuto juggling two designer bags and a little plate of French fries. “It’s Friday. After we wrap, we want to party!” she shouted.
“There is a lot going on there,” I suggested to the actor seated next to her.
“Dude, it’s non-stop,” he replied.
On the set of a TV series, she decided I should refer to her as “Rocket” because her career has blasted off. We settled on the combination of “Beautiful Rocket.” During a year in America, she’s acted in enough roles to earn her Screen Actor’s Guild card. I listened to her giving advice to another young actress who told her she’d refused to do kissing scenes to respect her boyfriend. Lazuto was having none of it.
“No, no! Then your boyfriend must pay you for the kissing parts you turn down! If I ever have a daughter, I will teach her: ‘No money – no honey!’” she lectured. “I want to have a big black truck with a driver.”
Lazuto’s off-camera intense, humorous performances liven up the shoots.
“It is 15 hours for me on a set as a background actor. I’m freezing and waiting in holding areas in short skirts and dresses. Sometimes I get time to eat something small. In summer you want to die because of hot weather. Sometimes I say ‘I hate Hollywood,’ but then I get my paycheck and I say, ‘I love Hollywood,’” she admitted. “There are lots of women who dream to be an actress in Hollywood, but it is hard and funny and amazing.”
I witnessed the capricious, calculating nature of a Hollywood set when a director selected a few people from the pool of background actors to dress up a scene, but Lazuto was not among them.
“Why are you here, left behind?” I asked her. It may have been acting, but Lazuto was undeterred and refused to feel rejection in answering.
“I am here because I am preparing myself for the next set and scene when I will be the main character,” she insisted and then blew me a kiss. Such optimism.
Resilience On the World Stage
Lazuto’s reality could be an episode of the old series “E True Hollywood Story.”
“My story is one of hope and dreams. Hope and dreams,” Lazuto repeated. “I am from a small city in the east of Ukraine. The war in 2014 caused me to look for another life by moving to the capital in Kyiv. I was studying in Kyiv, working. I had a fancy life in Kyiv…and then this recent war happened there, too, I could not believe it. It happened in my life twice. I was in shock.”
Lazuto described Ukraine’s struggle to survive as painful.
“Children now in Ukraine will only have known war in their lives.”
The Russian invasion may have seemed like something from a movie, but it was deadly real. Her mother and nieces nearly had their house bombed.
“I am thankful to God I have amazing friends who pushed me out from Ukraine. I had four days to decide. A friend in Poland texted me to pack my bag, get on the train and come to Poland. I packed and unpacked my bag over and over. Pack…and unpack. Why? Because I understood it would be a one-way ticket. I knew I would never be back.”
Lazuto said when she reached the hotel room in Poland she sat and cried for two nights.
“My family was praying I’d come back. They knew if I moved, I would probably move far away.”
Moving far away, for Lazuto, meant Hollywood, California. It had been her far-off dream for years.
“Kyiv was a good place to spend lots of time learning and studying, but my plan was always to come to Hollywood. The war propelled the plan,” she explained. “I always knew I had to be in America. When I was a child sitting on a couch after school watching an MTV show, I saw a video with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It showed California with tan people and the ocean. I asked God, ‘Why I was born here and not there?’ I studied a lot, I worked a lot, and I always feel that I had to be in America.”
It wasn’t just MTV. Lazuto remembers, when she was a little girl, watching, “Some Like It Hot,” a perhaps fateful movie choice that set Lazuto on a path to become a bombshell sex symbol herself like the film’s star.
“Marylin Monroe is an icon. I love her with all my heart. I was inspired about how she acted and how she played with the men. She was a real girl. She understands how to treat a man,” explained Lazuto who, like Monroe, found herself appearing in Playboy Magazine.
For Lazuto, it was the Ukrainian edition. “I was in the November, 2021 issue. It was my protest because I worked in the business community and I wanted to show people that I am a woman, first.”
Lazuto said the photos were tasteful. “I love to work with photographers who make the pictures in a way that your imagination has to work.”
Later her first film job cast her naked in bed with small coverups on.
“I worked on a show where I had my clothes off. I told everyone, ‘Guys, it is only for money. I don’t want to be a star or be recognized.’ But I came to understand that I love the camera. I need the attention! It is not only for money. It’s passion.”
The Rest of the Road to America
After her initial exit from Kyiv, with one suitcase, for two nights in Poland, Lazuto said she went to stay with her cousin in Berlin, Germany for two weeks.
“I started to make a plan: A-B-C. I needed to go to America. I could not stay in Europe because I don’t know any languages as well I speak English. My English is ‘MTV Level’ because I watched MTV a lot. When people ask me my level of English, I tell them ‘MTV Level.’ Thank you, MTV for teaching me to speak English.”
But she found herself unable to secure a visa.
“So, I decided I had to go to Mexico and try to cross the border into Arizona there. I took a flight to Amsterdam and then to Mexico City. My friend and I rented a car and drove to the American border,” she explains. Officials at the U.S. border turned her away.
“I had spent a month crossing half a world for this – to find a new life in America – only to be turned away, so I started to cry,” she admitted.
Again, though, ultimately undeterred, Lazuto, now a homeless refugee, decided to try a different border crossing at Nogales.
“They were much nicer at Nogales and asked me some questions. They asked me, ‘Why did you choose to move to America and not stay in Europe? It’s closer to your country.’”
With everything at stake, this is how Viktoriia told me she answered the immigration officials.
“‘Guys, when I was a kid, I watched a lot of the show ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ I remember they had pizza with a lot of cheese, so I am here to taste that pizza!’”
Lazuto said her answer made the border officials laugh.
“They thought I was so cute and kind of crazy. They looked at each other and went to find some pizza for me and water. I was starving after a month of being on the road. When I ate this pizza on the border between Mexico and the United States, I understood that I was in the right place with the right people around.”
California Here She Comes
It turned out crossing the border was not life’s last hurdle for Lazuto.
I didn’t know what I was going to do once I got to America. I started to apply for office jobs but they would not hire me. I couldn’t work for five months because I didn’t have my paperwork.
She works now, as much as she can, accepting assignments as an aspiring actor and model.
“It’s so exciting. When I go on set, I turn around and see a celebrity. And I ask, ‘Is it true? Or is it still on TV?’ Then the celebrity turns around and says, ‘Hello,’” Lazuto described. “I was only a child after school in Ukraine in a small town watching movies, and now, when I am on a movie set, I wonder if it’s true or if I am still this kid sitting on a couch watching TV!”
Lazuto enjoyed working on the HBO show “Winning Time” about the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I met Adrian Brody. He was so nice and asked me questions. These celebrities are everyday people. I find the actors talk with me with respect and it makes me realize I am in the right place with the right people. I want to do this.”
I am convinced Lazuto’s look – a combination of sultry and dangerous – plus her lyrical voice and wry attitude, makes her the best candidate to be the next “Bond girl” in the new era of 007. I asked her if she auditioned for a Bond girl role, how would she present the part. Being the human firework that she is, Lazuto didn’t hesitate to jump into character:
“I would look at James Bond…right into his eyes with a gun in my hand and say only five words: ‘Good evening, Mr. Bond. Undress.”
Read more of Michael Patrick’s work at The Travel Tattler and contact him at [email protected]