Naomie Harris talks ‘Skyfall’ and working with Winnie Mandela on ‘Long Walk to Freedom’
November 6, 2012
Coming out this week (Nov.9) is the latest edition from the James Bond franchise, ‘Skyfall,’ starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Ben Whishaw.
Directed by Sam Mendes, Bond’s loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 (played by Craig) must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
While Naomie Harris, who plays MI6 agent Eve, has appeared in numerous action films such as Danny Boyle’s ’28 Days Later,’ Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,’ ‘Miami Vice.’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,’ ‘Street Kings,’ and ‘Ninja Assassin,’ this film represented the most physically work for the Cambridge graduate.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Harris talks about her role in Skyfall,’ working with Daniel Craig, a fear of horror films, and working with Winnie Mandela on ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.’
What was the most fun part from working on ‘Skyfall’?
Naomie Harris: I think just working with Sam (Mendes) and I love the fact that he made this mammoth film feel like a little independent movie and he gave me the freedom to create the character that I wanted to create. I also enjoyed the intimate scenes like the shaving scene was one the fun things because that’s what I’m most used to. All of the action stuff brought me outside of my comfort joy. I’ve never worked in that way. The action sequences are very pressurized because you have to be precise. You are dealing with live ammunition and even though you are playing with blanks, you can still take someone’s eyes out. People have dies with blanks. You have to be incredible careful.
Is Eve a Bond girl?
NA: I don’t know. She’s a not a Bond girl in the traditional sense of the word, but the way “Bond girl” means now would be if you’re a woman in a Bond movie. They are not stereotypical roles in the old fashion sense anymore. As the Bond woman or Bond girl, you can be anything you want to be; and Eve is certain is. She’s an independent, capable woman who goes toe to toe basically with Bond and releases herself. She’s his equal.
Did you know there would be an intense training program?
NA: I didn’t know when I signed on. Although Sam did say that there would be lots of action involved in this, but I didn’t realized how much. It was hard work to be honest. I’m incredibly unfit. When we started, I couldn’t run around the block, and now I can do two and a half k, which for me is amazing. I really enjoyed it. I got a lot out of it. I feel a lot more energized now for being fit. I had to do two months of preparation for the action scenes. I had combat training, running. Yoga and I was three days a week on the gun range. Then I was one day a week doing just combat training with the stunt guys and then I was also doing the stunt driving twice a week. So it was a lot more intense. I was really excited to actually be working with guns because I’ve never worked with guns before. I discovered that I have a real taste for guns. When I did ‘Miami Vice,’ I played an undercover agent and got trained by undercover agents in New York. I’m a really good gun expert now.
How was working with Daniel?
NA: I didn’t get auditioned with Daniel, so they (the producers) trusted that the chemistry would be there. They were super happy because it was there. The role was fun to play and you never know how it would translate on screen. Daniel, you know, is like a really, really funny guy and he was very, very kind to me because I was really nervous, coming into a big franchise like this. It was hugely intimidating despite the fact that I’ve done other things. It was bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. But he kind of took me under his wing and held my hand and said, ‘We’re gonna get through it together.’ The chemistry comes from that.
Having worked with the last two actors who have played Bond, can you talk about the work ethic of both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig?
NA: I can’t really. Although I appeared in ‘After Sunset’ with Pierce, I didn’t really spend a lot of time with him. Most of his scenes were with Salma Hayek, and on this film, I worked very closely with Daniel and his work ethic is extraordinary. He would do like a 14-16 hour day and afterwards, go and work out for two hours. He’s incredibly committed.
Did you get a chance to talk with Judi?
NA: I didn’t because most of my scenes with Judi are over the phone. She was either in London or I was in Istanbul. It was great to see her during the courtroom scene. She’s an actor that I admire and is an incredible actress. Just to see someone like that who has so mastered their craft, it was a real privilege.
Did you do any of the stunts?
NA: I did as much as I could and as much as I was allowed. I did some of the driving and the gun stuff.
Having had a breakout role in Danny Boyle’s ’28 Days Later’ and with the media’s fascination with zombie films and shows these days, have you had a chance to watch ‘The Walking Dead’?
NA: I don’t watch any horror movie or show because I’m terrified of the genre. I would never be able to sleep if I watched them. ’28 Days’ is the only horror film I’ve watched and that’s because I’m in it. He (Danny) started my career and changed my life. The machete scene was scary itself. That was a great movie.
You have the Nelson Mandela film, ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,’ coming up. How was working with Justin Chadwick again?
NA: It was great working with Justin. He’s a brilliant director. He’s also a good friend and he asked me to play Winnie about two years ago. Besides Justin, there’s Anant Singh and David Thompson, who are the producers. It’s the same team from ‘The First Grader’ and it was great to be reunited with them and also work with Idris Elba as well. He’s a lovely man and I had a great time working with him.
How much preparation did you do to play Winnie? With another Winnie film yet to be released, did the producers get the approval from the Mandelas?
NA: With Jennifer Hudson’s film, they didn’t seek Winnie’s approval and she’s still upset by that, which is why the film hasn’t had proper release. Anant Singh, our producer, is very close with the Mandelas and always has been. He has been part of the struggle as well. He got Mandela’s approval and Winnie’s as well. I’m really excited about playing this role. I did a lot of preparation. It’s the most challenging role that I’ve ever done. Winnie is a fascinating character. She’s a complicated character. Her life story is incredible. She’s been through a lot, from being tortured, being in solitary confinement, having her children taken away, and being harassed by the police all because of her love for Mr. Mandela. I got to go out to dinner with Winnie and she was incredibly gracious because I said to her “What do you want people to take away from this film?” and “How do you want to be seen?” and she said, “I know you’ve done your research so I just want you to be as honest as you can be. It’s your interpretation.”
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