Bond girl Bérénice Marlohe reveals all
October 31, 2012
In our second Bond Girl interview, Bérénice Marlohe talks about working alongside Daniel Craig in Skyfall.
Although Bérénice Marlohe is keen to acknowledge all the fine actresses that have graced the James Bond movies in the past she admits that there’s one woman, closely associated with the world’s most successful film franchise, who inspired her more than any other as she took on the challenge of playing a Bond girl in the eagerly awaited Skyfall.
“I enjoyed listening to Shirley Bassey a lot when I was preparing for the role because for me she is the incarnation of a Bond girl,” she says.
Dame Shirley Bassey has recorded the theme song to three Bond movies – Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker.
“She gives me the sense of a sexy, powerful woman and so I took a lot of my inspiration from Shirley Bassey. She is so great and her voice – oh my God!”
On screen, Ms Marlohe is following in the illustrious footsteps of actresses like Ursula Andress (Dr No), Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die), Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies), Halle Berry (Die Another Day) and Eva Green (Casino Royale) and many more.
The Bond girls have always had a beguiling mix of glamour and power, she says, dating back to the very first movie, Dr No, fifty years ago.
“I think that for many years now, actually right from the beginning, the Bond girls have had a lot of substance. And that’s one of the reasons I always loved the Bond movies,” she said.
“For instance, look at Dr No, you have Ursula Andress (as Honey Ryder) and she is very powerful and seductive and this is what, for me, a Bond girl is all about – a very sexy mix of glamour and power.
“There’s a sensual power that emanates from a Bond girl and a lot of personality too. If you look back at the actresses who have been in the Bond films, it’s amazing. And that’s why I always loved the Bond girls and I was excited to create my own Bond girl.”
Her character, Severine, promises to uphold the tradition but at the same time is, she hopes, a unique creation: “I decided that I wanted to create my own thing and I wanted to give birth to a unique character with my personality, based on a great script.
“I treated my character as a real human being that I had to create. But I definitely had a fresh look at some of the older Bond movies just to honour where the movies come from.”
Without giving the exact details of the story away, we do know that Severine is at the heart of the action, closely involved with both James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his latest, formidable adversary, Silva, played by Javier Bardem.
“Severine has strong connections to both Bond and Silva so she is an important link between the two of them,” she says. “I would say that Severine is glamorous and enigmatic. That’s two words that we used a lot when we talked about her on set.
“It was fantastic to work with Daniel and Javier because they are such talented actors. And it was so great, in a human way, too because they are such wonderful human beings. They are talented but also very generous and very humble. So it was an immense joy to work with them.”
Craig, returning for his third outing as 007, has delivered a brilliant, complex performance, she says: “Daniel has changed the Bond formula a little bit and he has added some very human qualities. His James Bond is very complex because he has many traits that could be opposites.
“His Bond is vulnerable and strong; tough and with a sense of humour, very human but almost robotic. All that makes for a modern, very powerful Bond, and this is the same for the Bond girls, I think.
“I wanted to give her substance and some conflict too because that’s what makes a human being. It’s very interesting to play.”
Born in Paris, where her mother is a teacher and her father a doctor, Ms Marlohe has always loved the Bond films. And, she says, it felt like fate was lending a hand when she landed the role in Skyfall.
“The first Bond movie I remember watching was A View To A Kill with Roger Moore as James Bond and Christopher Walken (as Max Zorin) and Grace Jones. I loved it. They showed a lot of the Bond movies on French TV and I saw a lot of the Bond movies that way, ever since I was a kid. Then, when I was older, I would go and watch each new one at the cinema.
“And you know, it’s a unique franchise that has lasted fifty years and a lot of people were raised with the films. I was too. I was very familiar with them.
“And a lot of people joked with me, ‘oh you should be a Bond girl...’ for many years. And even when I got the part and I couldn’t say anything about it I remember someone saying, ‘oh, maybe you will be in the next one.’ And I had to keep it a secret.
“I’ve always felt connected to the Bond movies. I remember once when I was editing my (show) reel and I put in some James Bond music because it was really powerful.”
Stepping on set at Pinewood, the studio complex on the outskirts of London that is steeped in Bond history, was a big moment, she says: “Pinewood is a mythical place and it was magical to be there,” she says. “I was very surprised, and delighted, by the sets that they had created there for Skyfall. They were incredible. I felt like a child in a huge magical playground.”
And even though a Bond movie is a huge production, she was made to feel very welcome by director Sam Mendes, her fellow cast and crew and Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson.
“It really is like a family. I had heard people say, ‘it’s like a family’ before I started but really, I didn’t know what to expect,” she recalls. “But when I worked for six months on the set it was so moving and wonderful because first of all, Barbara and Michael are such nice people, and it felt like everyone on set was so connected to each other.
“They are real professionals but they all seemed to know each other and you feel like you can treasure every moment because you are in good hands with these lovely people.
“They made me feel very at ease and very welcome – the producers, Sam, Daniel, everyone. I felt so comfortable with them and although it’s a really big film it never felt that way. It felt intimate and human.”
Ms Marlohe began her modelling and acting career in her early 20s after graduating from university. She has appeared in several French TV series, including, RIS, Equipe Medicale D’urgence, Pere et Maire and Section de recherches.
She has also starred in the French TV movies, Le Pigeon and Le Temps Est à L’orage. Her feature films include Un Bonheur N’arrive Jamis Seul and L’art de Seduire.
Post Bond, she hopes to work more in American and British films. Making Skyfall was, she says, an unforgettable experience: “It was an incredibly human journey, meeting wonderful people, and it was also the chance to get to know myself as a person more.
“I’m sure I’ll never get the chance to have such an amazing adventure like that again. It was completely unique and magical in so many ways.”
Skyfall is in cinemas now certificate 12A.