Bernice Marlohe: Licensed to go beyond Bond
007's latest beauty Berenice Marlohe explored her Asian heritage to connect with her character in 'Skyfall', but she's got big plans after seducing Bond.
BERENICE MARLOHE can't stop smiling. Even when she's trying to take on relatively serious matters, there is just a hint of a smirk as she discusses her love of painting or her Cambodian heritage. The force from the Bond glow is still strong, it would seem.
The 007 franchise may have reinvented itself in recent years into a meatier adventure full of substance and depth, but the exotic Bond girl position remains a volatile role on and off screen. For every Eva Green there is an Olga Kurylenko, whose hopes and dreams of an international career don't quite materialise as planned.
With her role as Severine in the long-awaited Skyfall, the 33-year-old Parisian is the latest incumbent of this position, but despite her obvious wide-eyed pleasure at being part of such a venture, she is remaining focused on the long game, on a career beyond Bond.
"I never had fantasies about being a Bond girl, but I always wanted to be part of a James Bond movie so it's a great excuse," she says. "I was raised with the films. I saw a lot on TV since I was a kid."
Tall, elegant and exotic, Marlohe seems almost surreally cut out to be a Bond character. With her French accent and her Asian heritage she seems to epitomise the international nature of the films. But as a child it was the Bond villains that made an impression on the young Marlohe. "With the fake eyes and the strange hair, they are very strong characters and as a child it is very attractive.
"I would have loved to have been a male villain. I'm always attracted to psychopaths ... in movies," she quickly adds before we jump to assumptions about her private life.
"I loved what Heath Ledger did with the Joker in Batman, I loved what Gary Oldman did in Leon. When you are a psychopath, nobody can see your limits." As for Bond girls, there is one standout hero. "Famke Janssen in GoldenEye. The psychopath with high sexuality. Killing people and having orgasms."
Skyfall has been beset by problems. The financial crisis hit MGM, the studio behind the series, pretty hard and it filed for bankruptcy in November 2010 with the result that the 23rd Bond movie was put on hold.
Now that it has made it to the cinemas, it is being heralded as possibly the best Bond yet (but they say that about all of them, don't they?).
But with Sam Mendes directing, and a cast that includes a blonde Javier Bardem as the villainous Raoul Silva opposite Daniel Craig's 007, Skyfall is certainly packing some muscle.
Marlohe has ambitions far beyond being merely the eye-candy while the serious business goes on somewhere else. "I like actors and actresses who push the limits and try to do something entertaining and unusual," she says, parking her smirk for a moment as she lays down her ambitions to become a 'serious actress'.
At the time we meet, it is so long before the film's release that the stars are reluctant to talk about the film they are here to promote in case any plotlines or titbits are hoovered up and spat out on online forums where, like gremlins in water, they multiply and spread.
Marlohe, however, is already seeing the benefits of being associated with such a behemoth, even if practically nobody (her included) has seen her work alongside 007.
"I've received interesting scripts and hopefully, once the movie comes out, there will be more," she says.
"It has given me the opportunity to receive interesting scripts which I never got before when I was in France. It is an amazing opportunity because I have a chance to show my work as an actress, so for me it is opening doors."
When asked if she flicked through the script when she first received it to hunt down the steamy bedroom scenes with Craig she flippantly fires back, "how did you know that?"
"Every scene with Daniel was great. He's talented but he has a wonderful sense of humour. For me it's very important to have fun in life and on the set because then you can just trust the work you have done. I really love his personality. He really is an amazing human being."
So is the ultra-macho world of Bond something that appeals to her in the real world, or is she after a more sensitive, thoughtful type?
"I think a real man -- and it's the same for a woman -- should not have only one colour. For me a macho man is not a real man because they have something to hide. Why are you being like that? When you are a real man you must be vulnerable, sensible and be brave too. You must have this complexity and the humanity to be a real man. And do the cooking too."
Cooking and food come up frequently in conversation. Her father is Cambodian and her mother is French and she says she feels a deep connection to her Asian roots.
As much of Skyfall is set in Istanbul (Ian Fleming's favourite city), where Asia meets Europe on the bustle and chaos of the Bosphorus, it allowed her to explore her own heritage.
"I felt, strangely sometimes, so deeply connected to this script and this character. I had to dig into myself and question my history regarding my Asian blood.
"Now I feel stronger with that and with who I am in the world and with this career. I know that I want to do things to improve human rights, especially in Cambodia. I want to use that focus for that. Thanks to the script and my character and my research, I get to know that now."
Painting was her first love, and she still pursues it when she can find the time.
"Eight years ago, I started to fall in love with acting little by little.
"For me it's really connected to art. It's about using yourself to create and give life to a character. It's the same process. When I paint it's abstract. It's small, acrylic paintings and they are usually science fiction."
Has she taken the opportunity yet to paint Daniel Craig? "Not yet," she says. "He has a great face. I would love to paint him."
Skyfall is in cinemas from Friday
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