Let Me Loose on Daniel: Naomie Harris on Skyfall

The newest Bond Girl talks about shaving her co-star and playing Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. 

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

There’s a MILD SPOILER at the end of this interview with Skyfall Bond Girl Naomie Harris, but only in that we’re giving away whether or not she dies. When you see Skyfall, you’ll have the same question we do. Other than that, Harris kept things spoiler free of her own accord, but discussed scenes that will stand out when you see the movie. She also talked about her role as Winnie Mandela in the upcoming film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Skyfall opens nationally on Friday, November 9, 2012.

CraveOnline: Talk about the shaving scene.

That was a great experience. Even training for that, I had to work with a barber for three weeks in order to learn to get my shaving skills. First of all, I started off on balloons with shaving foam and then I graduated to members of the crew, and then finally they let me loose on Daniel. Even that, there’s so much training involved and so many skills I had to acquire. It was amazing. I feel like a different person from having done all this.

How did it feel to hold that rifle in the opening scene?

Oh gosh, that was a really tricky day actually, because it was with the train and aiming at the train and it was very, very precise. Although it looks so simple, you just aim at a train and fire a gun, but actually to make it look like you’re aiming, you can’t actually aim where you’re aiming because in the camera it looks like you’re aiming over here, even if you’re aiming at the right place. I had to be really specific and aim at different bushes and different points and actually not even be looking at them so it was really tricky.

Was that with Roger Deakins, he’d tell you, “No, looks like the wrong spot. No, try over here?”

Totally Sam [Mendes]. Roger is very hands off in that respect in terms of actors. He focuses solely on the shot and the way it looks and leaves Sam to have the relationship with the actors.

Do you think M made the right call in that scene?

No, I don’t. I think she should’ve trusted her agent who has always delivered, so I don't know why she didn’t trust him because actually he still had time to fight it out on that rooftop. I think Bond would’ve won the day.

Did you happen to talk with Pierce Brosnan about Bond when you made After the Sunset?

No, I never did. Never did, because I never imagined myself being in a Bond movie.

Just as a fan you might have brought it up.

No, I never talked to him about Bond ever.

You’re also in the 007 Legends video game. What was your work for that?

My work in the video game was pretty much, because it’s pretty similar to the script, so you have all the scenes in the car and pretty much the same kind of dialogue really. It’s not very different to that.

Do you have to give the players some instructions?

Not that I remember. I don’t remember doing any of that. It’s just dialogue.

Were you happy with the way your video game image turned out?

I don't know because I haven’t seen it. I think you can’t download it until the 9th. You can buy it but it’s locked.

Tell us about playing Winnie Mandela in your next movie.

Yeah, it was an amazing experience because it’s the movie where I get to really show my breadth as an actor because I play her from the age of 18 to early 60s. That’s with the help of prosthetics in her 60s. She goes from this 18-year-old naïve, very much in love, very innocent girl to being a hardened warrior woman. So much happens to her on that journey to make her become that woman. She has a really harrowing journey so to play that really took me to very dark places, I think some of the darkest places I’ve ever been in fact, so it was very, very challenging but it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.

Does it cover when she was in prison?


Was that the darkest it got for you or are there even more intense moments?

That’s one of the darkest but also having your children taken away from you, not knowing where they’re going to be, but largely the darkest is being in prison for 18 months in solitary confinement. That’s enough to send anyone over the edge. It does. They still do it in the States. It’s not even a form of punishment. That’s the way a lot of mental health patients are treated and it does send people over the edge.

What’s the extent of preparation you can do for that? How close can you get to spending 18 months isolated?

For me it was a lot of doing research about people who have been in solitary confinement, a lot of reading about their experiences, and then also meeting Winnie as well. She was very kind and gracious enough to go out to dinner with me and I was able to interview her and find out her experiences.

Did you get the role early enough that you could avoid any of the other Mandela movies, although I think Winnie only played once at TIFF?

Yeah, I tried to get hold of that but I couldn’t so I haven’t seen that movie, so I’ve never seen any other movies about her.

So you would’ve embraced looking at someone else’s portrayal?

Yes, oddly enough, yes. I think curiosity just gets the better of you although it’s not necessarily the wisest thing to do. I think I would’ve just been curious, but thankfully I couldn’t anyway.

What sense have you gotten of the reaction to Miami Vice since it came out?

Gosh, that’s years ago now. Wow, I think some people really loved it. Some people really didn’t like it. Weirdly enough, I largely meet the people who really loved it. Or maybe I meet the people who didn’t like it and they just don’t say anything, but the people who love it of course come and say, “I really, really loved that movie.”

Did you have a sense while making it that it would be so divisive?

Not at all, not at all. I just got the sense that I was making a movie with Michael Mann. He’s one of the best filmmakers there is historically. It was just an honor to work with him and I was just doing the best I could in the movie, but you never know with movies. That’s just the way they are because it’s like a magic formula that nobody knows how to create that magic formula because sometimes even if you have the best writers, best directors, amazing actors, it still doesn’t come together. So that’s why it’s even more incredible in a movie like Skyfall when you get these ingredients and it works, because as much as people say, “Oh, we know this, you need that.” It’s not. It’s always a surprise.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Skyfall, what are your memories of making 28 Days Later with early digital cameras Danny Boyle used?

Gosh, my memories are largely about being very cold, very wet because we shot it in Winter. That was my first movie after leaving drama school, my first foray into the world of film so I just felt so lucky to be given this break. Danny’s actually the reason why I got Skyfall as well so I’m very, very grateful to him because what basically happened was that he gave me the role of Elizabeth in Frankenstein at the National and that’s what Sam Mendes went to see. That’s how I ended up getting this role so I’m very grateful to him.

[SPOILER] – Once fans see you in this movie they’re going to wonder if you’ll be in the next one too. Did you sign up for multiple films?

Naomie Harris: No, I just signed up to do this one movie. [END SPOILER]