Interview: Naomie Harris (Skyfall)

Interview: Naomie Harris (Skyfall). By Simon Miraudo.

Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond adventure, is the highest grossing in the super-spy’s 50-year cinematic history. Helmed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and starring the blonde Bond-shell himself, Daniel Craig, it features 007 squaring off against a demented former MI6 agent (Javier Bardem) who is seeking vengeance against their dear old “mum,” M (Judi Dench). It also heralds the re-introduction of some of the saga’s much-loved elements, including a young Q (Ben Whishaw), and a Bond girl with an identity so secret, the actress wasn’t even allowed to answer any questions regarding it.

Check out Simon Miraudo’s review of Skyfall here.

That actress is Naomie Harris, and she plays Eve, an operative assigned to assist James on his international exploits. Having previously starred in 28 Days Later, Pirates of the Caribbean 2&3, and Danny Boyle‘s stage production of Frankenstein, among many other projects, she gets her most significant role yet as Skyfall‘s primary Bond girl. Naomie spoke to us about having to keep the series’ secrets for so long, working with Craig, not being recognised in the street, and why you won’t see her back on the stage anytime soon.

SM: What’s your relationship to the Bond movies, prior to Skyfall? What kind of history did you have with them, if any?

NH: I grew up watching them. So, I’ve always been, like, a huge fan of the genre and always loved the character of Bond, you know? He’s just got this amazing appeal. So, yeah, I’ve always loved Bond movies.

SM: I’m glad to hear that. You’re one of many, of course. Now Skyfall, as with any Bond film, is just one of those big movies for which there are millions of rumours that spill online before even a single scene is filmed. No doubt you and the rest of the cast are sort of sworn to secrecy before its release.

NH: Yeah.

SM: Because it’s hitting Australia after almost every country, we have the rare honour of speaking after that veil of secrecy is long gone. So, how was it, having to keep mum about the film’s secrets all this time?

NH: It’s been very difficult to keep all the different things secret. But obviously, we don’t want to spoil it for the fans, and all the people who haven’t had a chance to watch the movie.

SM: Sure.

NH: It makes sense. You understand the importance of it. It’s tricky, but it’s for a worthy cause.

SM: In most of your scenes, you’re swapping barbs with Daniel Craig. How is he as a scene partner?

NH: He’s fantastic. He’s an amazing guy to work with. He’s very, very down to Earth. He’s very funny; has a great sense of humour. And he’s very generous as an actor. He really remembers what it was like for him coming into the franchise and shooting his first day, for instance. He never, kind of, forgets that, so he makes sure you’re looked after and taken care of, and goes out of his way to make sure you feel comfortable.

SM: That’s nice to hear. So, the movie is a massive success, obviously. I think that was always on the cards. It’s made more than any other Bond film already. Do you find you’re being recognised more on the street now? How has that transition been?

NH: Not at all.

SM: Oh, OK!

NH: I’m not recognised at all on the street, which is absolutely fantastic. I was actually back in London, because of what happened in New York [Hurricane Sandy]; our whole premiere in New York got cancelled, and I got to go back home to London. Well, everybody did. And my mum was like, “Well, don’t go out on the streets without somebody with you, because I want to make sure you’re OK.” So I went out with my friend, and we went out to Oxford Circus and Selfridges, and shopping, and nobody, not a single person recognised me. So, I’m really, really pleased that I’m able to be part of this amazing franchise, do a role that I really love, and keep my anonymity as well.

SM: Well, you have been working in film and TV for a number of years, with films like 28 Days Later, and Pirates of the Caribbean, and A Cock and Bull Story. You seem to cover the gamut of small productions to big ones. Do you have a preference?

NH: No, not at all, actually. For me, it’s all about the character. I just love playing different characters. That’s what keeps me excited; to play something that I’ve never played before. To be challenged in a completely different way, to learn new skills, and to really explore different areas of myself, as well, because that’s where you draw your characters from. I’m just always open to exploring and discovering these things.

SM: Absolutely. I also really enjoyed the production of Frankenstein you starred in with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny-Lee Miller. Would you return to the stage anytime soon?

NH: No, that will do [laughs].

SM: No! Was it a good experience, or just a tough one?

NH: It was a fantastic experience, and it was great to work with Danny [Boyle], because I’m a big fan of his, and he’s the reason really… I credit him. He started my career by giving me this role in 28 Days Later, and then ten years later he gave me the role in Frankenstein, which is the reason why I got Bond, because Debbie McWilliams, who cast the Bond movies, came to see it, as well as Sam Mendes. I’m really grateful to Danny, and I had a fantastic time doing it, but it’s a very different way of working, doing stage work. It’s not one I enjoyed, because I don’t like doing the same thing every night. In the same way I wouldn’t like to play the same kind of character, or the same genre of film, I’m always trying to mix it up and keep it exciting and fresh, and challenge myself in different ways. I just don’t like doing the same thing every night.

SM: Well, the question is, will you be returning for any future Bond instalments? What have you got next?

NH: I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll be returning, but I’d absolutely love to. We’ll have to see. But next I’ve got coming up, I’ll be playing Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. That’s the next film I’ve got coming out next year.

Skyfall arrives in Australian cinemas November 22, 2012.

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