Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Naomie Harris: The James Bond Speculation Is "Premature" - Elle magazine
Naomie Harris, who is lounging in a very modern chair at the London Film Museum, has long since tossed off her towering Giuseppe Zanotti heels. Her tortured feet are now nestled comfortably in a pair of well-loved Uggs. "I was dying," the actress says with a laugh.
Harris has spent the past few hours inside the museum's "Bond in Motion" exhibition doing press for the DVD and Blu-Ray release of Spectre, her second James Bond film. She's properly glammed up for the experience, wearing an orange Altuzarra ensemble, but now that the on-camera interviews have wrapped, she's slowly deconstructing the look. It seems fitting for the actress, who has the strange distinction of being very well known, but not quite famous. Before being cast as Eve Moneypenny in 2012's Skyfall, the London-born Harris had already nabbed parts in films like 28 Days Later and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. But it was playing opposite Daniel Craig's Bond that changed her path entirely.
"It's made a huge difference to my career," Harris says. "And I'm really really grateful for that. Because, ultimately, this is a franchise that is globally recognized, which means–me being part of it–I'm now globally recognized. So film financiers see me in a totally different light."
Case in point: Harris's next film, Our Kind of Traitor, which comes out in May, was a straight offer rather than a series of auditions like she was used to in the days before Skyfall. Next year'sCollateral Beauty, which she is currently filming with Will Smith, similarly landed in her lap. But it's not just the 39-year-old Brit's association with the almighty Bond that has pushed her career forward: The actress has managed to shift the iconic role of Moneypenny, a former field agent who becomes the secretary to Ralph Fiennes' M in Spectre, from Bond fangirl to independent woman. Instead of submitting to Bond's charms, the way many of the franchise's female characters do without any real agency of their own, Harris's Moneypenny has her own life. So much so that she gets a casual bedfellow of her own in Spectre.
"I thought that was really important, because I didn't want her to seem like the Moneypennies of old," Harris says. "They're kind of pining after Bond and they don't have a life. And she's not. She fancies him—they have a flirtation; there's a love between them—but she's a strong woman who is very much living her own life independently of him. She's not waiting for him at all."
Harris is also the first non-white Moneypenny (she's the sixth total since the character was introduced in1962's Dr. No). The diversification of the character, however, was predicated more on the actress than any predominant cultural shift. Director Sam Mendes cast Harris in Skyfall after seeing her in Danny Boyle's London theater production of Frankenstein. "I have no idea what he saw in me, and I've never asked him," the actress admits. "But I do know that he called Danny Boyle and asked him what I was like to work with." Furthermore, Harris was never preoccupied with making history: "I never thought about it like that," she says. "I just thought about there being pressure for what people's expectations about what Moneypenny is like, who should play her, what kind characteristics she should have. The great thing about the way I was introduced in Skyfall is that you didn't know. The reveal wasn't until much later in the film, by which time I'd kind of got under people's skin and they'd accepted that character."
Of course, the fate of the Bond films is up for debate: The series' portrayal of women is outdated, and even Craig has notedthat the character of Bond is a misogynist. Craig, who has played the titular role now for four films, also hasn't yet confirmed whether he'll come back for the next one, which has led to ongoing speculation about who could fill the spy's shoes in the future. (Idris Elba, perhaps?) "I feel it's premature, because I feel as though Daniel doesn't get the sort of respect and admiration he deserves," Harris says. "He completely reinvented that role of Bond, and he has made it the most successful Bond of all time. People are turning out in droves to see him as Bond. So I think we should celebrate the fact that we have an amazing Bond and no one knows whether Daniel's going to come back or not."
But as far as Harris' own future is concerned, her path forward is fairly simple: "What I do is I just read the script and say, 'Am I affected by this role?'" she says. "'Is it something I haven't played before? Does it challenge me and excite me? Do I want to do it?' And on that basis, I say yes or no."