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English actress Naomie Harris is no stranger to action, thanks to her role in Danny Boyle’s 2002 horror movie 28 Days Later, but signing on for the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall ushered in an entirely new experience. To prepare her to play Bond’s butt-kicking MI6 colleague Eve, Harris endured a grueling fitness regime that included two months of training focused on gun work and stunt driving, five days a week, two hours a day.
While in New York City promoting the film, Harris sat down with Spinoff Online to discuss the career game-changer, her role as a “very different kind of Bond girl,” meeting Daniel Craig and much more.
Spinoff: You grew up in London, where James Bond is larger than life. How did your family react when you told them you were going to be in Skyfall?
Harris: They actually threw a party! We had all my family over … there were about 30 of us, champagne flowing – everyone was just over the moon. They just couldn’t believe it. They were just like, “Really?” But I mean, that’s how I was in the beginning. I was like, “Seriously, me? In a Bond movie?”
No, but they said to me when I was cast, “This is a very different kind of Bond-girl role, and we want you to make it modern. And she’s a kick-ass kind of girl who’s equal with Bond, and she’s out there in the field doing all the same kind of things that he does.” And I was like, “Yes!” I was already like, “Yes!” And now when I hear about the role I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s perfect!” It’s exactly the kind of thing that I love to do.
Maybe this is me reading too much into things, but I wasn’t so sure about your allegiances at first. I kind of thought you were a bad guy in hiding. Maybe I’ve seen Tinker Tailor Solider Spy too many times. There’s a mole!
[laughs] Someone else was saying that as well, they were saying also in the shaving scene how they were like, “Ahhh!”
Yes! I built that up to be way more intense than I should’ve! Did you and Sam Mendes talk about the subtext of your role, and the fact that an interpretation like that could be possible?
No, we didn’t – we didn’t talk about that. It was just you – and other people! But it’s great to have that, I’m glad you saw that in there!
One of the biggest takeaways from this film, which I loved very, very much, was your chemistry with Daniel. It’s absolutely crackling, and it blows my mind that you guys never chemistry tested.
I know, it’s crazy, right? I still can’t believe it as well! Because I heard that Bérénice [Marlohe] did have a screen test with Daniel. It’s really important that she has chemistry with him, but it’s also really important that my character, as well, has chemistry. So it’s interesting that there wasn’t, but no!
I guess it really is luck, because you can’t fake that kind of on-screen relationship. It really is incredible stuff between you two!
I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know how it looks. I’ll take your word for it!
Ah, yes, you’re waiting to see it with your family at the premiere in London, right?
That’s pretty amazing restraint. You’ve mentioned you were really nervous going into this role — obviously it’s a huge franchise. So many people have said that Daniel is a really funny, generous person. How did he make you feel comfortable on your first day?
I think really, like, the first time I met him when he was in a costume fitting. I was walking past, I was asked whether I wanted to go into the costume fitting and say hi to him and I was like, “Oh, no, he’s having a costume fitting, I’m just going to leave him to his thing.” So I kept walking and he actually ran out and ran down the hall, hit me on the head and then said, “Where are you going, stupid?” [laughs] and gave me this massive hug. And he was just like, “I’m so glad you’re on board!” And that for me was just like, “Wow, this is gonna be fun!”
Was he in one of his impeccably tailored suits when he did that? Because I probably would’ve melted on the spot.
No, he was in a cashmere sweater — a tight cashmere, which was really nice. [laughs]
OK, I’ll accept that mental image. Javier Bardem said something funny about how he was on set one day and he looked up to see Judi Dench and Daniel Craig watching him, and he immediately forgot his line.
[laughs] Wow! How weird!
Did you ever have a moment like that?
Throughout, I think! It’s even like, today, we were doing a photo shoot and it was Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and me. So it was just like the four of us. I was in this gold dress, and it was like the three guys around me, and I was just like, “It’s me and these guys. Oh. My. God.” It’s amazing.
Yeah, not very much. I got to more kind of watch her work, because obviously when I was doing the stuff in Istanbul she wasn’t on the other end of the phone, and the main kind of bit I had with her was the courtroom scene, but in the courtroom I was just watching her. But it was just great to be in a room watching her work.
I like to think of Judi Dench as being your awesome kind of maternal BFF.
Yeah, that’s totally what she is!
Did she give you any fabulous advice during down time?
You know, I didn’t really have a lot of down time with her. But that’s what’s so nice about doing this tour … it’s really nice because we get to actually bond. Like, we were all out to dinner last night, it’s really nice.
Wait. The entire cast of Skyfall went out to dinner together in New York City? Oh, to be an unsuspecting restaurant-goer with that party in the house. That kind of blows my mind!
I was freaking out! Daniel was there with Rachel Weisz, and it was Javier and it’s just like, you know, wow.
Skyfall opens Nov. 8 in U.S. theaters.