(If you're just joining us, catch up on my report from the set of Skyfall in Istanbul, as well as an in-depth conversation with Sam Mendes)
What do you do with a problem like a "Bond Girl." It's a title that's been bestowed on dozens of actresses over the years, be they relatively forgotten stars like Honor Blackman or Diana Rigg or eventual superstars like Jane Seymour, Teri Hatcher or Halle Berry. But-- let's be honest-- it's a name that comes with a lot of baggage. Asked about the "curse of the Bond Girl" at the Istanbul press conference for Skyfall, Berenice Marlohe laughed and said "It's an honor to be cursed." But curses aside, what does it mean to be a Bond girl in a modern Bond film, when women are just as capable agents as 007, and when Bond himself revealed so much skin in Casino Royale that he's already enough eye candy for one movie?
For Naomie Harris, cast in Skyfall as fellow MI:6 agent Eve, she thinks the "Bond girl" term might have outlived its usefulness. "I feel like a different category, yeah," she allowed in an interview just before she began shooting an action scene in Istanbul. "She's not there to wear slinky frocks and be sexy, she's 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."
As Eve, Harris is right alongside Bond in the action scene we watched them film in Istanbul, driving the Land Rover in hot pursuit of the villain, Patrice. Far from standing around looking sexy, Eve is right in the middle of the action-- and Harris had to undergo all the training you can imagine to look the part:
I've been training so far for 8 months, and I've been working with a trainer 3 times a week and sometimes 5 times a week. It's not so much that one take of something-- running up the stairs, jumping out the window, what have you-- is taxing, it's by take 11, if you don't have stamina, you can't keep it up. Then we moved on to like kickboxing, stunt training generally, stunt falls and stunt fighting, and also learning to drive vehicles -- doing it at speed and 360 turns and all those things. And alongside that, a lot of weapons training, a lot of learning to fire rifles, handguns, Glocks, that kind of thing. Pretty intense. The most intense amount of training I've ever done for any movie.
Harris also revealed that her part is pretty sizeable-- even bigger than she'd imagined when she took the part without having read the script-- so it's safe to assume she'll be in the thick of a lot more action beyond the Istanbul scene. As for Marlohe, the French model-turned-actress who does indeed get to wear some slinky frocks, she wasn't excused from the training either:
I don't have action scenes as much as Naomie has, but I had to train with guns, I see it like tai chi. You have to focus and make your breaths count down--it gives you this sensation of power, when you have to focus and fire. I felt it was very interesting to do that.
Marlohe is a lot less willing to reveal details about her character than Harris is-- all we know is that the character is named Severine, she was on location with the film in both Shanghai and at London's Pinewood Studios, and that despite Marlohe's own nationality, "she's not French." Though Severine fits much more closely to the typical Bond girl role-- glamorous, mysterious, quite possibly a secret villain-- Marlohe said she was careful to imbue the character with a lot more layers of subtlety as well:
We have described her previously as "glamorous and enigmatic." Enigmatic is important to me, because I really want her not to be obvious. You could't say she's a good girl or bad girl or Bond girl. She's complex, like Daniel did for James Bod, he revealed something very-- with different colors that could seem opposite, very tough but very vulnerable, human but very cold. And I really want to do that with her, give her the most complexity possible.
Marlohe did allow, though, that her wardrobe reflects some the "femme fatales" of earlier Hollywood films, and hinted at one dress in particular that will likely blow the audience away: "There is one extremely theatrical spectacular, extremely glamorous and femma fatale outfit, completely surreal. You never see that in movies."
Like Harris, Marlohe isn't quite so sure about the Bond girl title-- "When I think Bond girl, for me it's very abstract. It's not speaking to me"-- but both are devoted fans of both the character at the center of the film, and the man who plays them. Asked what makes Daniel Craig sexy, Marlohe compared him to the male models she knew in her modeling career, who lack charisma. Craig, on the other hand? "What is very important is personality and what you have to say, because then it's the magical aura, your personality. When I got to meet him finally, he has a very beautiful humanity, a nice personality."
Harris, on the other hand, was smitten with Craig before she was ever cast as his co-star, but primarily because of the way he plays the famous British agent:
"I really. really love Daniel Craig as Bond. Casino Royale was the first Bond movie that really affected me and really connected with me, and it was because of his portrayal of Bond. There was more frailty to his Bond, he was more human-- if he fell, he was really going to get hurt. 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, that's something I hadn't seen before in the previous Bonds. I felt like it was more emotional because of that, and a better journey as an audience member for that.
We don't yet know how connected he will become to either of these Bond women this time around, or what kind of adventure they'll get him wrapped up in-- or even if both of them will make it through the end of the movie. Harris allowed that her character's name Eve might be a reference to some sort of temptation, but that was pretty much it in terms of plot detail. But for both of them, whether you call them Bond Girls or just Eve and Severine, it's clear that Skyfall has given them the break of a lifetime-- and Bond Girl Curse or no, they're planning to relish every minute of it.