We’re wrapping up our Bond Week celebration of James Bond’s 50th Anniversary with an interview with the newest Bond Girl, Brnice Marlohe, who most will know for her fashion modeling work, but like so many actresses before her, being in a Bond movie is quickly going to elevate her awareness throughout the world.
In Skyfall, the half-French, half-Cambodian actress plays the mysterious Severine, a femme fatale who has connections to Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva, and really, that’s all we were able to find out when we visited Pinewood Studios outside London last week.
Personally, we think that she’s the sexiest Bond Girl yet – and this is coming from someone who got to play poker in the Bahamas with Caterina Murino, too!
Note: English is not Ms. Marlohe’s first language and while her English is just fine–better than some of the journalists who took part in this roundtable–we did alter some things she said to hopefully make it more readable.
Q: What’s the audition process like for when you get called to play a Bond Girl? What’s the first thing you want to know to play this part.
Berenice Marlohe: First of all, I wasn’t called. I was really struggling for years as an actress in France, because as agents would tell you, “Do you have relationship? Who do you know as producers?” You answer, “Nobody,” and they say, “Okay, come back later when you have everything.” I didn’t really see my career like that, so I went to Los Angeles, and I heard six months later they were doing auditions for the James Bond movie and when I came back to Paris, it was taking place, so I tried via the internet, Facebook, everything to sell my reel I was doing for years. I’m very good at editing, so finally, I managed to find the casting director’s Email and I send her my reel, and this started like that. I did the first one with her and the second one in London with Sam Mendes, and the third one with Daniel Craig.
Q: Can you tell us anything about your character?
Marlohe: Well, we use “glamorous and enigmatic” and for me, enigmatic is very important because I want to create a character you can’t put in an obvious field. Like before, you could say they were “good” or “bad” and it’s very interesting, because as Daniel did for James Bond, you have many colors that could seem opposite, like very kind but tough and vulnerable but very strong physically, and all that gives a lot of substance for the character on screen and for me, this is exactly the same way I see my character. Enigmatic because she’s not obvious like that right away.
Q: Is there anything specific about the Bond Girls you wanted to change as a Bond Girl?
Marlohe: It was naturally for instance “Dr. No,” the Ursula Andress role is a beautiful thing, but it comes also with the natural evolution with our times. As I said, Daniel created a very modern James Bond, also with his own personality, but I really want to do that, too, with that character. I see her more like a very unique character in a unique movie, more than a Bond Girl actually, so I really wanted to work on this character to create something charismatic and suspenseful on screen, more than what a Bond Girl can before have referred to, just a woman to be saved. Like the James Bond now with Daniel, I really wanted to do that with this Bond Girl, too.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with Bond?
Marlohe: I’m afraid I can’t say much on that part (laughs).
Q: So can you at least tell us what part of the story you come in or which location where the two of you meet?
Marlohe: There are several. I’m afraid I can’t say that.
Q: What about working with Sam Mendes as a director?
Marlohe: He really creates passion and it’s interesting because I always knew instinctively and I trusted that talent comes with humility and simplicity and he’s just the incarnation of that, so for me, it’s incredibly important, because he’s so human and simple that you really feel relaxed as an actor, and you can produce the best thing you want, because there is no question about it. Everything is made easy and fluid, so it’s a really great experience.
Q: Do you have a lot of action scenes?
Marlohe: I have a bit, I have a bit.
Q: Did you get any training for that?
Marlohe: No, because what I have to do isn’t that dangerous, but I asked to be trained to fire guns in the process of creating my character, because I really thought it was important to fit her, because it really gives a sense of power and being focused, so yes, I asked for that.
Q: How has it been acting in English?
Marlohe: What I really like about working in English is that it gives you a freedom, because it can be a tricky thing, because it’s not your own language, so you can escape this trap you sometimes fall into to play the words, so this gives a really freedom. On the other hand, sometimes, it’s true, because you weren’t raised with those words, so sometimes they don’t have meaning to you, so it can be tricky too sometimes, because then you have to come back to your own language and try to master it first and then use English. But I really enjoy acting in another language than mine actually.
Q: Playing the modern Bond Girl, were you inspired by any of the old Bond Girls?
Marlohe: I had another fresh look at a lot of the James Bond movies before doing this one, because I really wanted to be inspired by the James Bond spirit, more than specific Bond Girls, but I really wanted to refresh my mind with all the perfume of the James Bond movies. James Bond Girls, well, in fact, no I try to take more what comes with the Bond Girls, their so-called definition whether good or villainous, psychopath, dangerous. I tried to be more inspired by loose terms and make it my own, rather than a specific Bond Girl.
Q: You spoke about the modern Bond, so what has Daniel Craig done to affect 007?
Marlohe: Well, this complexity he gave to the character is really interesting. I’m a really big fan of for instance, Christopher Walken is my favorite actor ever, because he has what is for me the definition of charisma. He has one part of an animal, one part of an alien, one part of a woman and one part of a man, plus his talent, of course. So then suddenly, there is something happening that is strange and mysterious, and you want to see that. Daniel did a really good job, because he instilled very different colors – like vulnerability, like strong and tough, almost like a robot sometimes, but on the other hand, very human, very sensible with a sense of humor, so he brought all that, so suddenly, there is something interesting on screen to see, and alive and human, too, but rich. So that’s what he brought, this modernity.
Q: Have you had a lot of scenes with Javier Bardem?
Marlohe: Yeah, I have.
Q: Can you talk about that relationship or working with him? I’d imagine he’s an intense actor.
Marlohe: Yeah, very intense, very charismatic, and a very strong presence on screen, so yeah, for me, it’s great, because having this opportunity to be in front of those actors and him specifically is great, because you don’t have that chance all the time. Before it wasn’t the case, and for me, this is a challenge, too, and I really like that because Javier is very substantial and present on screen, and for me, I really like that challenge and that’s interesting for me to be in front of him.
Q: Did you work with Jamy Tenine on your outfits and did you have any requests?
Marlohe: Yes, we worked together just for some details. There’s a specific dress I’m thinking about, and this is really cool, because only in these movies can you see the glamour that you could see before in the ’30s and ’40s, this concept of femme fatale. We’ve lost a bit nowadays in the movies, so yes, we have worked together, and there is an amazing outfit.
Q: Are you aware of what’s coming ahead with the huge campaign for this movie and all the interviews and that things are going to change?
Marlohe: Well, yes, I am and I’m discovering too, little by little, but the most surprising is that for me I’m always the same, so I just foresee working and moving forward in my life and as an actress and in my work, but what is surprising is that I see the look of people outside surrounding me change suddenly, so this is what gives me the feeling that suddenly things are changing.
Q: That must be strange.
Marlohe: It is, but this is great, because I didn’t come here suddenly, by accident. It was a long journey of many, many years, being passionate about art, so I know I’m going through that in a very normal and peaceful way. But it’s true. Some looks changed, even persons you used to know before, which is really strange.
Q: I read that you did a movie with Sophie Marceau, who was a former Bond Girl.
Marlohe: I did, but it’s a really little part.
Q: Did you get a chance to talk to her about being a Bond Girl?
Marlohe: No, no, no, I don’t know her.
Skyfall opens everywhere on Friday, November 9. You can read our set report, including interviews with Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem here and an interview with Dame Judi Dench, returning as M, here.