Interview: Naomie Harris

Skyfall actress on being a match for James Bond

British actress Naomie Harris will be familiar to audiences from the likes of 28 Days Later and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In Skyfall she plays Eve, an MI6 agent.

Must we keep using the term ‘Bond girl’? Can’t we just refer to Eve as a character?
That’s very true. I’m going to say that in my next interview! I wouldn’t say that ‘Bond girl’ is a demeaning phrase, but I feel like Eve is a different sort of character. She’s not there to wear slinky frocks and be sexy. She’s a capable woman out in the field. She’s not necessarily a match for Bond, but her ambition is to be as skilled as him. She’s a field agent, not a secretary.

How did you come to take this role?
I signed on without seeing the script. I’d have been crazy not to. I grew up with Bond, there’s no way in the world I would have said no. Sam Mendes described the role to me, but it was only once I’d signed on the dotted line that I got to read the script.

How have you found working with Mendes?
It’s amazing. This movie is so big, it can feel overwhelming. On my first day I was petrified, because it felt like nothing I’d done before. And what Sam does is he makes it feel like you’re making a little independent movie. The important things for him are the characters and the relationships, so he pulls everything down to the truth of that. That’s the way that he grounds it.

How much training did you do for this role?
I’ve been training for eight months, three times a week. It’s about stamina. If you’re doing 11 takes, you need that! We did kickboxing, stunt fighting, learning to drive at high speed and doing 360 turns. Plus a lot of weapons training, with rifles, Walther PPKs. It’s the most intense amount of training I’ve ever had to do.

Are you a fan of the modern Bond?
I really love Daniel Craig as Bond. Casino Royale was the first Bond movie that really connected with me, and that was because of his performance, because there was more reality to his Bond, he was more human. For me as an audience member, there was more at stake. I also really liked Eva Green’s character, I loved her strength and complexity. But just the idea of a Bond who gets hurt, who feels things, who gets connected to a woman, that’s something I hadn’t seen before. I felt like it was more emotional because of that.

Does Skyfall carry the same emotional weight as Casino Royale?
It definitely does. Sam and the producers wanted more humour, more wit, like in the classic Bond films. They felt there wasn’t enough humour in the last two. But there’s still a very emotional, dark side to the film.

Skyfall is released in Chinese cinemas in late 2012. See Skyfall review.