NEW YORK — For baby boomers who grew up on the thrilling conventions of James Bond spy movies, the term “Bond girls” is likely synonymous with buxom babes and sexy Playboy magazine photo spreads.
Each new chapter in the franchise boasted a juicy stable of beauties — some wholesome allies of 007, others deadly femmes fatal. And over the years the illustrious roster of hot actresses fulfilling those roles ranged from Ursula Andress, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Jill St. John, Britt Ekland, Barbara Bach and Grace Jones on up through Michelle Yeoh, Denise Richards and Halle Berry.
“Skyfall,” the newest Bond adventure with Daniel Craig taking the envious task of locking horns (and lips) with distaff adversaries, features two new Bond girls who more than hold their own against Bond. And both represent perhaps a more enlightened (say, less cheesecakey) view of women in the world.
Berenice Marlohe, Paris-born daughter of Cambodian/Chinese father and French mother, portrays the exotic beauty Severine, reluctant cohort of arch villain Silva (Javier Bardem). And Naomie Harris, London-born TV, film and theater performer (who had her breakthrough role in Danny Boyle's “28 Days Later”) plays Eve, a fledgling MI6 field agent learning her chops under 007's tutelage.
During press interviews at SoHo's Crosby Street Hotel, both actresses weighed in on what it means to be a “Bond girl.”
“When I think about Bond girls, I immediately think about a kind of strange animal between a male and a female, something vulnerable and powerful,” said Marlohe. “But I took my inspiration from an animal, a Greek creature called a chimera, which is (a fire-breathing female monster), a mixture of a dragon and a snake.
“I used a lot of music, too,” she said of her inspiration. “I got to meet with Shirley Bassey when I did some research. And to me she's the ultimate Bond girl. She has such a huge presence and powerful voice. So sexy, so beautiful. I listened to music a lot of her on the set.”
Harris asserted that being a Bond girl today means more than just being window dressing. These are rigorous, physical roles that require lots of training.
“I had to do two months of preparation for the action stuff,” she said. “I was out five days a week, two hours a day doing my yoga, combat training, running, all kinds of action stuff. Then I was three days a week on the gun range and one day a week doing combat training with the stunt guys, and then I was also doing stunt driving twice a week. So it was a lot more intense than I realized.
“It was hard work, to be honest,” Harris said. “Because I'm actually incredibly unfit. When we started I couldn't run around the block. ... And now I can do two-and-a-half kilometers, and that for me is really amazing, though I know it's not very much. It was really hard work, but I got a lot out of it. And I feel a lot more energized now for having got fitter.”