On Sunday, it was announced that the British actress and model had died

By Joelle Goldstein Dana Falcone
April 02, 2019 12:30 AM

Helen Mirren is speaking out about the death of her cousin Tania Mallet.

One day after news broke that the British actress and model had died, Mirren, 73, issued a statement to PEOPLE where she looked back on the special moments shared with her cousin and remembered Mallet for her positive outlook on life and kind heart.

“I was very sad to lose my cousin Tania this week. Tania was my aunt Olga’s daughter, and my sister [Katherine “Kate” Mirren] and I grew up with her,” Mirren said in the statement. “She showed her Russian heritage in her very beautiful bone structure and eyes, that made her into one of the top models of the early 60s.”

“However she was never vain, but a kind and generous person who used her model earnings to put her half brothers through school,” The Queen actress continued. “She was a great optimist and always looked on life with positivity.”

“The first visit I ever made to a film set was visiting her in a night shoot on the set of Goldfinger, where she joined the exclusive club of ‘Bond Girls,'” Mirren recalled. “I will always remember her laughter and the best porcini risotto I have ever tasted she made from porcini she found by the side of a golf course in Sussex (our Russian grandmother taught her how to look for mushrooms.)”

Finishing her emotional tribute, Mirren said, “My sister and I will miss her very much.”

Helen Mirren (left) and Tania Mallet
Mike Marsland/WireImage; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

On Sunday, the official James Bond Twitter handle announced that the British actress and model had died at 77.

“We are very sorry to hear that Tania Mallet who played Tilly Masterson in GOLDFINGER has passed away,” the account tweeted. “Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”

RELATED: Tania Mallet, James Bond Actress and Helen Mirren’s Cousin, Dies at 77

“Unfortunately we must share the very sad news that our dear friend Tania Mallet has sadly passed away,” Bondstars posted on its Facebook page on Sunday. “She was a very classy and beautiful lady inside and out.”

Mallet — whom Mirren once described as “impossibly beautiful and kind” — rose to fame as a model in the 1950s and ‘60s and is best known for appearing as Bond girl Tilly Masterson in 1964’s Goldfinger opposite Sean Connery, 88.

Producer Cubby Broccoli originally tested Mallet for the part of Tatiana Romanova in 1957’s From Russia With Love after seeing a picture of her modeling in a bikini, according to the U.K.’s Mirror.

RELATED: Helen Mirren on Aging in Hollywood: ‘The Best Thing About Being Over 70 Is Being Over 70’

While she missed out on that role, Mallet went on to score a part in Goldfinger. Her character was ultimately killed off in the film, and Mallet continued to model.

Mirren wrote about her older cousin in her 2008 memoir In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures, calling her “a loyal and generous person” who helped support her mother and brother financially with the money she made from modeling.

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