Caterina Murino’s opening scene in “Casino Royale,” in which she enters on horseback in a bikini, might make male hearts race, but for the actress, the experience was far from fantasy-inducing. The Sardinian beauty, who stars as Solange, one of three new Bond girls opposite Daniel Craig, had been thrown from a horse the day before her audition, breaking a rib and injuring her back.

“I was full of drugs, of cortisone, just to not feel the pain,” recalls Murino, who walked in to meet director Martin Campbell in a near-catatonic state. “I think he is completely crazy because he was still very interested in seeing me again [for the part].”

So imagine the actress’ shock when she not only got the role, but discovered her first scene involved a horse. Murino braved the Bahamas shoot, sans stunt person, and made her mark in some steamy, albeit brief scenes opposite Bond, with whom she cheats on her villainous husband.

“I think she is not a typical Bond girl. She doesn’t try to kill James Bond, she doesn’t use her beauty for seducing him,” explains Murino, decked out head to toe in Dolce & Gabbana and Chaumet jewels. “She’s just a woman trying to understand why her husband is so bad to her.”

“Casino Royale” marks the first English-speaking film for Murino, who is best known in Europe for her role opposite Jean Reno in 2004’s “L’Enquête Corse.” Born in Sardinia, she dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, but after placing fifth in the Miss Italy pageant at 19, she moved to Milan and tried her hand at modeling. Murino, 29, soon segued to acting, studying theater in Rome for three years, and has been appearing in European films and television shows ever since. (She speaks Italian, Spanish, French and English, the latter of which she learned while living with an American Lebanese boyfriend in Beirut.)

And though she considers Solange a more modern woman, the candid actress admits that prior to “Casino Royale,” she wasn’t exactly a Bond fan.

“I always thought it was a movie for men, you know, beautiful women and beautiful locations, full of gadgets, nice cars and that’s it,” says Murino. “But I think in this Bond, for the first time, we see James Bond step out from the ocean [in a bathing suit] — I think a lot of women will enjoy watching this movie.”

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