In the upcoming James Bond movie, Skyfall, Naomie Harris plays Eve (not Moneypenny), and she’s out in the field fighting alongside Bond (Daniel Craig) against villains played by Javier Bardem and Ola Rapace. On Sunday afternoon, during a roundtable interview in Istanbul, Turkey (where they’re currently filming), Harris talked about how she got involved in Skyfall, her character, preparing to do the action, what makes Craig special as Bond, her favorite Bond girl, what it’s like to work for director Sam Mendes, her reaction to reading the script for the first time, and a lot more. Hit the jump to listen or read the interview.
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get this interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. Skyfall opens October 26 in the UK and November 9 in the US.
Naomie Harris: It’s really hard, actually. It’s really frustrating and I’ve never had this experience before because most of the time doing press, journalists have already seen the film that you’ve done so it’s very tough doing it this way around. And I’m sure it must be quite frustrating for you guys but I’m sorry about that.
Because your character’s an agent, do you consider yourself a Bond girl or is it a different category of “Woman in a Bond Film?”
Harris: Yeah, that’s interesting actually, that’s very interesting. I feel like a different category. I do, because 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, as such, but her ambition is to be as skilled as him in the field. So I like the idea of it being a second category, yeah.
What is some of the training that you’ve had to go through specifically in order to take the role? Was it weapons training? Was it fighting/combat training?
Harris: Well, I’ve been training so far for eight months. They gave me a trainer eight months ago and I’ve been working with her three times a week and sometimes five times a week as well. We started off just doing flexibility training and then we did standard training as well, so lots of jogging and so on, because it’s not so much doing one take of something like running up the stairs or jumping out of a window, what have you, it’s taxing, but if you do it by take 11, unless you have the stamina, you can’t keep that up. So that’s why we did things like that and then we moved onto kickboxing and stunt training generally, so some falls, some fighting, also learning to drive vehicles. I can drive, obviously, but doing it at speed and doing 360 turns and all those kind of things. Alongside that, a lot of weapons training. A lot of learning to fire rifles and Walther PPK handguns, Glocks, that kind of thing. Pretty intense. The most intense amount of training I’ve ever done for any movie.
Harris: You can surmise that, yes. [laughs] You can surmise that.
From what you were saying about not being a Bond girl, that’s been the case for the last three movies definitely and probably as far back as Goldeneye. Do you think maybe the problem is more with people who keep using the phrase “Bond girl” even though it’s no longer relevant. Isn’t it just a character in a movie now?
Harris: Yeah, that’s true, that’s very true actually. I think you’re right. Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I can’t argue with that. It’s a brilliant way of summarizing it and I’m going to use that in my next interview. [laughs]
What makes Daniel Craig special as Bond?
Harris: I really, really love Daniel Craig as Bond. Casino Royale, for me, was the first Bond movie that really affected me and really connected with me and it was because of his portrayal of Bond because there was more frailty to his Bond, he was more human. If he fell, it was like he was really going to get hurt. So, for me as an audience member, there was more at stake. And also, the idea of a Bond who actually feels and gets connected to a Bond woman and that’s something I haven’t seen before in the previous Bonds and I felt like it was more emotional because of that and a better journey as an audience by watching it.
He even gets married.
Harris: Oh, really? Oh, wow. Okay. Well, yeah, him as well then. [laughs] I’ll have to check him out. Maybe Daniel won’t be my favorite Bond anymore if I check him out.
It’s a very old film. 1969.
Harris: Oh, okay.
There’s a lot of talk in the press materials about how they’re making this personal both for Bond and for Sam, to have a story that’s personal to him. Is that something that’s been discussed on the set in regards to your character or is that more of what Daniel and Sam are focusing on?
Harris: I think that’s what Daniel and Sam are focusing on and obviously because they spent a lot of time beforehand devising the piece amongst themselves and so they have a very close bond and that’s unique to them.
You’ve been in huge Hollywood film franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, but there’s something about the Bond movies that they never felt like Hollywood films. Even though they are blockbusters, they have some appeal that is beyond the plot and the characters. What would you say is the difference between these two franchises: the Hollywood huge one and the Bond one?
Harris: I don’t really know. I suppose it’s the history of it, the fact that it goes back so far, the legacy of it, the fact that it’s rooted in these fantastic novels…perhaps it’s that. I don’t know what it is, really. I don’t know what really makes them very different.
We’ve agreed already that we’re not going to use the phrase “Bond girl,” but who is your all-time favorite Bond girl or character?
Harris: I really liked Halle Berry just because I generally like Halle Berry and thought she was amazing as a Bond girl. But I also really liked Eva Green’s character in Casino Royale because I loved the strength of that, I loved her complexity as well.
Harris: I don’t know really where the Moneypenny rumors started from, but basically my character is Eve and Eve is out in the field, totally different to Moneypenny. So, I’m not really sure where that all started from. But no, I’m a field agent, definitely, not a secretary.
A modern secretary nowadays…
Harris: Yeah, could well be carrying Walther PPKs. Yeah. [laughs]
It’s interesting, the idea of the Bond girl. Since we’re on the subject, it feels like it’s just locating it in a historical way and not a demeaning phrase.
Harris: I certainly would not say it’s a demeaning phrase, no.
But it’s interesting the way that there’s always been two: the one that’s on his side and the one that was against him. I guess our assumption is you’re on his side. But moving on. When Sam Mendes is working with you and talking to you and crafting the character, is he trying to give you a sense of the over-arching storyline or just working with you in the moment of your character? So is he saying, “This is what’s going on with MI6 and this is how you’re playing into it,” or…
Harris: It depends what’s needed at that particular time and it really is a bit of both, to be honest. And if it’s okay, I’d like to talk about how amazing Sam Mendes is because what he does as a director is he…I think in a movie like this, because it is so big, it can feel incredibly overwhelming, particularly for me on my first day I remember being absolutely petrified. Because I thought, although I’d done other films before, it felt like nothing I’d ever done before and I thought it was going to be huge and I don’t know why but felt like it was going to be totally different. What Sam does is he makes it feel like you’re making a little independent movie, because what is most important for him is character and relationships. So he pulls everything down to just the truth of that, so it’s more about that, like your truth with your fellow actor. A lot of my scenes are just Daniel and I, so that’s what he does and that’s the way that he grounds it, less so than creating an over-arching context for us because that’s what we’ve already done for ourselves or should have done for ourselves by that stage.
What is the dynamic between you and Daniel? Is it combative? I know you can’t talk about plot.
Harris: They are two agents and we find them at the beginning of the movie on a mission together. There’s certainly a lot of camaraderie and a lot of wit between them and a lot of mutual respect as well.
Harris: Have I got a Double-0 number? No, I haven’t. No. Damn.
It’s not too late to work that into the script. You guys are still shooting.
I’m curious, could you talk about your reaction when you first read the script and from when you first got it until you got on set and started filming, has a lot changed or is it pretty much you guys are following…sometimes movies, a lot gets altered when you’re going. I’m just curious if you could talk about how it’s been going on set in terms of changes.
Harris: It changed a lot during our rehearsal period. The script I got given before the whole Bond announcement, which was…I got the role two months before the Bond announcements and what have you. That script is very different from the script we’re working with now. But that script was locked once we started filming and it really hasn’t changed very much at all. Mainly, the main difference was that they wanted a lot more humor and a lot more wit like the old classic Bonds. They felt that, in the last two Bonds, there wasn’t enough humor. So they injected that into it and that has really been the only difference. Pretty much it stayed the same.
Harris: I loved it. I was really excited, largely because of my part, selfishly. [laughs] I was very excited. I didn’t realized that I would have that size a part, so it was very good.
Did you have to go through the hoops that we hear about where you get part of the script and you have to go to a locked room to read the ten pages, like that level of secrecy around it?
Harris: Well, I actually signed up to doing it without actually having seen the script. I auditioned with a scene from Casino Royale, the train scene from Casino Royale, so I did that for all three auditions that I did. Then, they offered it to me and of course you’d be crazy, even without seeing the script. So Sam described the role to me and said, “Do you want to do it?” and I was like, “Yeah, absolutely!” But it was only once I’d signed the dotted line that I actually got given the script.
Wow. Did you get given the whole script at that point?
You mentioned before that the emotional weight of Casino Royale standing out in the Bond series. Is this film going to have the same kind of emotion level behind it?
Harris: It definitely does, for different reasons, but yeah it definitely does. There’s a real emotional and quite dark side to the film as well as, as I said, having that humorous element as well. There’s a real mixture of those very different elements.
Naomie, you’re not a newcomer and I’m pretty sure that you have added many things to the character and have many suggestions after reading the script. Were there any particular suggestions that you told Sam like, “I think my character shouldn’t be handling guns,” or something like that?
Harris: Funnily enough, I never make suggestions, really. I really don’t. I know a lot of actors who get a part and then they dissect it and they want to change it and they want to add stuff. I’m always amazed and so impressed by actors who do that. I never, ever do that, I think partly because my Mom’s a writer, so I grew up reading scripts and I have a real respect for them and I know how much thought goes into creating a role, so I’m always interested to find out what was the thought process of the writer and how best can I convey it rather than trying to change it to suit myself. So I didn’t have any suggestions. And I’m very happy with my role.
Is the name of your character, Eve, alluding to some sort of temptation?
Harris: Maybe, maybe, maybe. Yes, maybe. I’ll leave it there. Sorry!
So you said that you took the part without knowing the script.
Are there other directors or filmmakers who would offer you the same thing, “Work with me, but I’m not showing you the script before you say yes?”
Harris: No. I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s anyone else. No, actually. Because of growing up with Bond movies, I loved them and I was just so overwhelmed and excited about the idea of being part of it that there was no way in the world that I would ever have said no.
Not even if George Lucas would approach you and say, “I want you to be my new Princess?”
Harris: I’d say yes to that as well. I’d definitely say yes.
For more coverage from our set visit:
- 20 Things to Know About Skyfall From Our Istanbul, Turkey Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap
- Daniel Craig and Producer Barbara Broccoli Talk Skyfall, Going “Classic Bond”, Invoking the Wit of Ian Fleming and More
- Director Sam Mendes Talks Skyfall, How to Craft a Bond Film, the Franchise’s Similarity to Doctor Who, and More
- Berenice Marlohe Talks Skyfall, Playing a Femme Fatale/Bond Girl, How She Was Cast, and More