Naomie Harris Interview: ‘Skyfall’ Bond Girl Talks Winning the Role and Redefining the Term
This interview with ‘Skyfall‘ star Naomie Harris could be filled with spoilers…but it’s not. Even though I had seen the film, the actress was still very protective of the movie and her role and refused to discuss specifics. But Naomie Harris is not just another pretty face in the Bond universe.
I sat down with the actress in New York City to talk about ‘Skyfall,’ keeping secrets and the potential for a spinoff.
Bond films by nature are very secretive…
Yes, they are.
… I’d imagine, you’re going through something where you have to keep that secret for an extended period of time. Can you talk about how difficult that is? On one hand, it’s super exciting on a personal level, but on the other hand, you have to be extremely cagey and protective of your new job.
Bond is an amazing, well ‘Skyfall’ is an amazing film, Bond is an amazing franchise. And one of the things about Bond is that it has a lot of twists and turns, and I think it’s really important to keep those secrets so that the audience has a chance to experience the film fresh without having them spoiled really. So I don’t feel like it’s a weight that I’m carrying… I’d much rather that people go and see the movie and are surprised, and surprised by all the plot twists and turns.
Was it difficult for you on a personal level? I would imagine at points you’re out at press events and people are asking you questions to kind of be polite and yet at the same time serve the film, you know?
I haven’t found it that difficult, to be honest.
No, not really. I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Yeah, I just got used to, “that’s just the way it is.” There are things you can’t say and there are things you can say.
Did they kind of go through with you… I mean — not just involving you — the film itself, there’s so much that you could say that would give away a lot of this movie. Did they give you a refresher course and say, “Well, we wanna keep X, Y and Z…”
No, it wasn’t a refresher course, actually. They kind of just said, “This is what we want. This is what you can say, this is what you can’t say.” But nobody really trained us, any of us for that. You just kind of realize that that’s the case and that you’re left to your own devices and that they trust you enough.
I feel like they’re doing the same thing with us. “You’ve seen the movie, now please be respectful.”
Watching the opening 10 minutes was exhilarating in that you don’t know what’s going to happen, so it was fun to kind of see all that play out. So it must be fun for you, at least on this level that the film is finally coming out and you get to see the fruits of your labor. You got the first call to go in and meet with Sam [Mendes] or the casting director — how long was that ‘til now?
Wow, I don’t know. It’s more like just over a year.
So it’s been kind of a whirlwind 365 days…
What was that first meeting like when you went in? Did they tell you a lot about what you were gonna be there for or did they just say, “We’d like to meet with you for a part in the ‘Bond’ movie”?
Yeah. In the beginning, this is how they always audition for Bond movies, which is that they tell you it’s a part in the Bond movie. They say it’s a Bond girl role, but they give you a script from a previous Bond movie. So I had Eva Green’s scene [on the train] from ‘Casino Royale.’
Now, how hard is it to do an audition from a performance that already exists? … Had you seen ‘Casino Royale’? You sort of have her performance in the back of your mind? How do you separate yourself from it?
Well, because I had seen it many years ago. So the first thing you don’t – although the temptation is there – go back and have a look. You don’t do that. You come up with your own interpretation, you do an original version, and that’s what they’re looking for. I mean, the surest way to not get the part is to try to do an imitation of Eva Green.
And it’s really interesting because your character is not really a “Bond girl” in the truest sense. I hear people reference that, but she is very much not a Bond girl; she is her own woman and character, and vital to the franchise. So I would think it must have been nice for you to know that the character is going to have some real meat on her bones.
Yeah. But I think the thing is that the term “Bond girl” has just changed so much over the years that actually it seems a bit antiquated now because actually what that refers to now is just women in Bond movies. And they can be anything, and they can be independent and intelligent matches for Bond. So it doesn’t seem like a relevant term.
No it doesn’t, because your character, she goes toe-to-toe with Bond in the movies and holds her own. She’s not just another pretty face and I’d imagine that would be kind of refreshing.
Yeah, I was really excited about that, and that was one of the reasons why I was excited about the role was because it’s great to play a role where you get to really do something different. And I feel like this role of Eve is unlike anything that has gone before in terms of Bond women, Bond girls, whatever you want to call them. It’s really redefining what that means.
So much of Eve and your part in the movie depend on your chemistry with Daniel [Craig]. How do you engage that before filming starts? Do you have a screen test where you kind of bounce it off?
It’s really interesting because I never auditioned with Daniel even though so much of what we do is about this banter and about this chemistry. So it’s a bit strange that that never happened, and I don’t know why that never happened; but yeah, I was just cast I think ‘cause Daniel was happy, Sam was obviously happy and Barbara [Brocolli] was happy. They were just like, “Oh, well, it’s gonna be fine.” So they just kind of trusted that we would have screen chemistry.
And then you just show up on set? Had you really worked with Daniel at all, or met him?
So you show up on set and it’s just like, “Ok, guys…”?
And it worked?
We did a read through and we did some rehearsals, of course, but by that time I had already got the role. There was no, “You guys aren’t having chemistry… This isn’t going to work…” ‘cause I got the role already.
Had you seen any of what Javier had done before seeing the movie in full?
I haven’t seen the movie yet.
Oh, you haven’t?
No, and I haven’t seen anything that Javier has done. So I’m really excited ‘cause everyone is saying he’s an amazing villain, and that you actually laugh and he makes you care about him. So, I’m really excited to see him.
Yeah, it’ll be fun for you to see it for the first time. I mean, I knew very little about his character, but he brings, much in the way that I think you bring something to Eve, he brings something new to the Bond villain, which can be very caricature-ish, and I think that’s part of what makes ‘Skyfall’ feel so fresh because it’s not just ‘Austin Powers’–y, going through the Bond motions. So, are you gonna go see it, like, sneak in with an audience somewhere?
I’m gonna go see it with the Royals! That’s what I’m waiting for. [laughs]
Is that how they do it? They actually have a Royal screening in the UK?
Well, we’re going on the 23rd — it’s the premiere, it’s the world premiere – and I’m going with like 26 of my family and friends. So I’m waiting for that.
And you had worked with Danny Boyle in London, and he is a name that has been mentioned for a possible Bond movie.
Oh, really?! Wow.
Would you like to see his name as the ‘Bond 24’ director?
That’s really interesting. Oh my god, that would be amazing, yeah! But I hope Sam, you know, either Danny or Sam directs as well. You know, Danny is the reason why I got this role.
Yeah, because he cast me in ‘Frankenstein’ in the National [Theater in London], and that’s when Sam Mendes saw me and then he asked me to come in.
And there’s always the opportunity for a spin-off, maybe, for your character. I mean that would be a first, but I think there is some room to work there. You never know!
You never know.