The path to Bond girl stardom has been one with a lot of twists and turns for Naomie Harris. We first saw the London native as a zombie-killing badass in "28 Days Later," then as a PA with the hots for Steve Coogan in "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story." Most recently, Harris appeared as the island magician Tia Dalma in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels.
However, playing 007’s MI6 colleague Eve in "Skyfall" will bring Harris a level of stardom she has never before experienced. Here we chat with her about being dogged by paparazzi, encountering Daniel Craig for the first time and the intensity of her role as Winnie Mandela.
So you have got to give Danny Boyle a lot of thanks. Along with casting you in "28 Days Later," he also chose you for his "Frankenstein" stage play, which lead to you getting the Eve role, right?
Yeah. He's been amazing. I actually didn't know anything about a casting for "Skyfall." I was just doing my thing, and I found out that Sam came to one of the shows for "Frankenstein." I never really put it together because I thought I wasn't your typical type of Bond girl.
Were you shocked when you learned they wanted you to audition?
No. I knew they were auditioning thousands of girls around the world, and I knew it was a long process so I thought I was just thrown in there to make up numbers. I didn't think it was serious. Then in the third audition, when Sam told me, "It's down to you and two others," I realized, oh, this is kind of serious.
Was there anxiety or excitement at that point?
Excitement but still disbelief. I still couldn't believe it. Even when I was on set, I just thought they are going to get ride of me.
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When did you first meet Daniel Craig?
I met him very briefly in a hallway. He was having a costume fitting and he was walking down the hallway, and I was asked, "Do you want me to introduce you to him?" And I thought, no, I don't want to disturb him. So I kept on walking and he ran out and was like, "Where are you going?" and gave me this massive huge, and that was the first time I met him.
It must have been refreshing that he was so down to earth.
Yeah. He was like that throughout. He was really generous to [fellow Bond girl] Bérénice [Marlohe] and I because coming into a franchise of this size is of course intimidating. You can't help it. So to have someone be like, I'm going to take care of you and hold your hand, is really kind.
Were you able to comment on how you wanted to play your character?
Well, that was the really interesting thing. It's such a big machine and a big film that I thought you'd have less of a voice, but I don't think I've ever had such a big voice in anything I've done because Sam is very collaborative. So his first thing was saying, "Never mind rehearsals, let's get with the writer, and if there's anything you want to change at all, let's just do it." And he was like that on set too. That's amazing. It's very rare and a real privilege when you work with someone like that. It was very freeing.
Were there any major changes done to your character?
No. I loved my character. I think originally it was slightly smaller, and there was an addition of, I think, two scenes. So her role got bigger while we were going on, and that was great. But my mom is a writer, so for me a script is a bible, so rather than trying to tinker with them, I'm always very much like, how can I find a way to make this work and be truthful to what's in the script?
Has life changed for you since become a Bond girl?
I definitely can feel a change. Yesterday I tried to go out, and there were loads of people out there asking for my autograph, and I was followed down the street by paparazzi. That was really weird because I've never ever had that happen to me before. So it's definitely a big change.
Do you feel that suddenly your life has to change?
Hopefully not. It's nice now because we're traveling the world doing press so I have hair and make-up all the time, so I don't get papped looking like a complete mess. [Laughs] But hopefully when we finish the tour things [will] calm down a bit.
You also play Winnie Mandela in "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom." Did you shoot that before or after "Skyfall"?
I basically finished "Skyfall" and had two days off and then flew to South Africa and started "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom." It's me and Idris Elba headlining it, and I think it's the most challenging role I've ever played. It sent me nearly insane because I didn't realize what a dark place Winnie inhabited. I didn't know about her being tortured, her kids being taken away, being in solitary confinement for 180 days, I didn't know about all of that. It was really intense. But it's the performance I'm most proud of so far in my life.