French actress Bérénice Marlohe offers a one-two-punch of beauty and acting chops as the mysterious Bond girl Sévérine in Skyfall, sharing the screen with heavyweights like Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem. This decidedly modern entrée into the storied role required Marlohe to create her own character backstory (which she based on the mythological Chimera), and to be both seductive and vulnerable. She even got in on some of the action.
Spinoff Online spoke with Marlohe about the tenacious way she happened upon the role, that infamous shower scene with Craig, becoming part of the Bond girl tradition, and the dream she had about Bardem a full year before she was cast in Skyfall.
Spinoff: I hear you came to the role of Sévérine in a very interesting way.
Bérénice Marlohe: You know, I always felt connected to the Bond movies, and most of all as a musician – as a pianist – with the orchestral music. So when I heard there was an audition for the movie, I really wanted to have a chance for my work to be seen. I was struggling for many, many years in France, not having auditions, not having an agent. And I heard they were in Paris looking for this Bond girl, so I spent two days not leaving my computer and trying to find every contact of every single person attached to that project. I even found Sam Mendes’ agent on Facebook! And after two days, I managed to find [casting director] Debbie McWilliams’ email, and I sent her my reel, and it started like that. I did three auditions – one with her, one with Sam Mendes, and the third one was Daniel and Sam and [producers] Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [Wilson].
That third audition had to be insanely surreal. Were you really nervous?
I’m always very nervous before an audition, so the key for me is to just work day and night with no sleeping [laughs] until the day you have the audition. So that I come so focused and in my imagination that the stress would just shut down.
Your character is very mysterious – there’s a lot bubbling beneath the surface that’s never quite revealed. Did you and Sam work together to dream up a backstory in order to create those layers?
What I loved is that you were very free creating something. And I had to build, myself, the whole background and the whole story of this character. Also the relationship with Silva [Bardem] and with Bond, because we didn’t share our own points of view on the characters. So I imagined all that, definitely.
And you didn’t even discuss what you created for yourself with Javier?
No, we didn’t! And it was very exciting, in a way, because I just did my thing on my side … and then suddenly you have to confront on set with another actor’s imagination. And suddenly it becomes real. And it becomes real life. So it is fascinating, in a way.
I have to ask you about your shower scene with Daniel Craig. I just have to. Was that filmed during your first day on set?
No, no no! [laughs]
OK, because that would’ve been really awkward!
Right? Fortunately! [laughs]
I hear Daniel is fantastic at cracking jokes and putting everyone at ease. How did he make you feel comfortable during that scene?
When I read the script and I read about this scene it was very, “Oh, no! Come on! I’m naked? Oh, no!” [laughs] But I was very happy I got to meet with Daniel, and I feel very close to him in terms of my personality, because I love to laugh a lot, I love to have some self-deprecation about me – and he’s the same. So that was so great, because we just had that connection, immediately. And between takes, we were having a lot of laughs. And so it helps just break the ice, you know? And just be like you – as if you were a child in the playground and you do your thing.
What do you think about being part of this storied history of models and actresses who are relatively new to the Hollywood scene launching their careers as Bond girls – this is basically your introduction to American audiences.
And French audiences! [laughs] It’s absolutely great, because now that I have this amazing movie, I just managed to have an agent in the States, and I just received great scripts, which is a total new thing for me. And this is what I wanted for many, many years – so this is a great, great thing.
I can’t imagine that anyone can really prepare you for what a Bond movie does for your career, your public image, even just a press day like today. It has to be pretty grueling stuff, at times.
It’s very new! This is when you realize, because when you’re on set, you just do your thing … but then, once it’s done, this is when I realize how much of a big, big franchise – I knew it, but I really realize this is such heavy stuff, and that people are passionate about that. And I realize it also when I’m doing the promotion, because it’s unique!
Is it true that you had a dream you’d be in a film with Javier Bardem way before you ever even knew about – or were offered – the Skyfall role?
You know, I had a lot of signs driving me to the Bond experience. What was incredible is that, as I was still struggling in France about having auditions, I came to Los Angeles one year before the whole movie was started. And I was there in Los Angeles and I was just wondering, “OK – I feel like everything is possible here, this is so exciting! But how am I going to get an agent?” And I fell asleep, and I had a dream with Javier Bardem. Which is amazing, because I never dream about actors and actresses at all! And then I forgot about the dream, and one year later I heard about the audition, I did everything to be able to be seen, and I just learned during the second audition – before I met with Sam Mendes – that Javier would be part of it. And then I was suddenly reminded of the dream, and was like, “Wow, the universe is cool!”
Skyfall opens Nov. 8 in the United States.