French actress Claudine Auger, best known for her role alongside Sean Connery in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball, has died at the age of 78.

She died on Wednesday in Paris following a long period of illness, her agency Time Art said.

Auger started out as a model, representing France and coming first runner-up in Miss World in 1958.

But she quickly developed a talent for acting, and landed roles including one in the 1962 film The Iron Mask.

A few years later in 1965, she shot to global stardom as Domino in Thunderball, the fourth film in the Bond franchise.

She was the first female co-star to the James Bond character, known as a “Bond girl”, to be from France.

It was later revealed that the production team had rewritten the character for Auger. Domino was initially supposed to be Italian, but she became French.

“Bond girls” were rarely given recognition for their acting talents, with the focus at the time instead being on their physical appearance and swimsuits.

However, Auger approached the role as she would if she were “playing Molière” at a prestigious theatre, she told a TV interview in 1965.

It was “a game, the same thing”, she said.

After Thunderball, Auger went on to have a fruitful career in French and Italian cinema throughout the late 1960s and 1970s.

Among her best known films are crime thrillers That Man George and Flic Story, and the romantic tragedy A Few Hours of Sunlight.

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