'Skyfall' Surprise: Naomie Harris Talks About Her New Cutting-Edge Role In The Bond Franchise
If you weren't one of the scores of moviegoers who contributed to Skyfall's $90 million box office take this past weekend and you're still in spoiler-avoidance mode, then you should stop reading right here. If you did see the movie over the weekend, then you're probably still thinking about the surprises that Skyfall holds for James Bond fans.
Key among them is the reveal in the movie's final scenes that Naomie Harris, who opens the movie by accidentally shooting Daniel Craig's Bond, is the franchise's sexy new Ms. Moneypenny. In an interview with Movieline, Harris talks about becoming the first black woman to join James Bond's MI6 support team (Colin Salmon played Chief of Staff Charles Robinson in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day) and how, after playing a zombie-killing bad-ass in 28 Days Later and a secret agent in Skyfall, she's well-equipped for the apocalypse.
Movieline: When you took the role of Eve in Skyfall, were you aware that you were going to be revealed as Moneypenny and what that would entail? You are clearly going to be in other Bond movies as a result of this.
Harris: Let’s see, who knows! But yes, when I took the role, I was told about the role fully. And that was part of the reason that it really excited me. I knew that my character was going on this amazing journey — and in a really modern way, which is fantastic.
You are the first black woman to be cast as a member of the MI6 support team and, let's presume, in a recurring role in the franchise. Have you thought much about the cultural significance of that?
I was brought up in Britain, and I’m very proud of my Britishness and my culture. And Bond is a big part of that. So, I’m very aware of the significance of this role and being in a Bond movie. I don’t take it lightly at all. Barbara and Sam and Michael auditioned actors of all different ethnicities around the world, and there was no sense of, we just want a black person for this role. I love that kind of open casting. It’s really brilliant and speaks so highly of them. It’s fundamentally who they are. They’re so progressive.
They were looking for the best person for the role.
Bérénice Marlohe told me that she found the concept of being a Bond girl very abstract. Is it different for you because James Bond is so firmly rooted in your culture?
I don’t have a problem with the label. I don’t necessarily think it’s relevant anymore, but I don’t have a problem with it. If that’s what people want to refer to me as, then I’m more than happy. [Being a Bond girl] means glamor, sexiness, classiness and having an enigmatic quality. It means all good things really. But I do think they’re the building blocks for more. So, I would hate to be just that. That’s the starting point, basically. You’ve got to have so much more.
You've also got to be extremely fit. I was surprised by all of the physical training you had to undergo for the role. Were you aware of this going in or did it surprise you?
Sam did say to me, "It’s an action role, but you’ve done action stuff before. You’re used to that." And in the audition, I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll do anything. I can ride. I can shoot." So I kind of agreed to it, and then I didn’t realize how intense it was going to be. It was two months, five days a week, two hours a day working with a personal trainer who did running and circuit training and yoga. Then it was three days a week on the gun range: machine guns, Walther PPK’s, sniper rifes. Then it was two days a week doing stunt driving. And once a week with the stunt guys doing combat training as well. So, for a girl who does not exercise, that was a big physical change. And I have to say it was really tough in the beginning, but by the end of it, I got used to it. I loved it, actually.
Do you own a gun?
No! I certainly do not own a gun, although I went through my bag the other day and discovered that I had a dummy gun in there that we used while we were filming.
Good thing you didn’t go to the airport with that.
I know! I definitely would have gotten arrested.
Between 28 Days Later and Skyfall, you are clearly prepared for the apocalypse.
I am. I’m the woman to be with if there’s any crisis going down.
What are you doing next in between your Bond films?
I finished Bond and then two days later, I flew to South Africa to play Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. I finished that a month ago. So, I’m going to do this tour for Skyfall, which is over a month long, and then I’m having a break. It’s a year of non-stop work.
Have you talked to Danny Boyle about doing any more work with him?
I haven’t, but I would always work with Danny because he’s an amazing director. I really credit him with giving me the career that I have. He’s the guy who — when I had just left drama school — took a risk on me and cast me in 28 Days Later, which changed my life and my career. And then 10 years later, he was the guy who cast me in Frankenstein on the Olivier stage when I hadn’t done theater for 10 years. And that’s how I got Bond, which has brought my career to a whole new level. So I would always work with Danny.
Have you ever thought about directing?
No. I think that if I was going to do anything it would be writing. That’s what my Mum does. [Editor's Note; Harris' mother is sitcom writer Lisselle Kayla.] That’s what I grew up around. But at the moment, I have no real interest in that. I always imagine myself retiring and writing somewhere in the countryside. Let’s see.
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