Naomie Harris On Corruption, Bond And Female Directors

By Stuart Black Last edited 27 months ago
Naomie Harris On Corruption, Bond And Female Directors

We caught up with Miss Moneypenny herself Naomie Harris as she trades the gadgets and fast cars of Bond for a gritty new London-set spy story full of violent oligarchs and creepy secret agents: John le Carré’s Our Kind Of Traitor.

It feels like there’s a resurgence in le Carré’s work with both this and The Night Manager. Why now?

I don’t know that people are suddenly getting back in touch with his work. I feel as though John le Carré has always been well loved for many, many years with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy and loads of other films as a result of his novels. It’s just a coincidence that The Night Manager and Our Kind Of Traitor are coming out at pretty much the same time. The Night Manager was fantastic though — I loved it.

Why is London such a good place for spy stories?

Because there are lots of different levels to London — it’s particularly evident in Our Kind Of Traitor. There’s one particularly glamorous level that you might see and then there’s a dark underbelly. I think in most cities that’s the case but particularly with London. It has two extremes — the glamour, wealth and luxurious lifestyles, but then a real seedy side as well.

The film explores the divide between the rich and poor and especially oligarch culture, what’s your take on that world?

I think for me the corruption is the biggest message of the piece. The money and the divide is one thing but when it’s being made in a corrupt way off the back of exploitation that is blatantly unfair, that’s just not the kind of society we want to live in. The film is an argument for greater transparency.

We’ve just had the mayoral elections, what would you want from the new incumbent?

The most important thing I think is what happens with politicians when they get into a position of power. They can become divorced from the people they are supposed to be representing and often end up representing the interests of big business instead. I think that being responsible to the people who’ve elected you — listening to their concerns and having an open dialogue is incredibly important. That’s what I would advocate.

Naomie Harris stars with Ewan McGregor in new John le Carré adaptation, Our Kind of Traitor

Our Kind Of Traitor was directed by Susanna White; what does a woman bring to the often masculine world of spy stories?

Any good director brings an interest in what’s at the heart of the piece. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the action — and there is a lot in this film — but really the heartbeat of any film is its relationships. What having a female director does is add a different voice and a different perspective that you don’t generally get in this male-dominated industry. What’s great here is that it’s a very balanced insight into what it is to be human — and that’s beautifully orchestrated by Susanna.

Last week a major poll of the best 80 films featured only one female director. Can the industry change?

I think it’s definitely something we can change and it is changing, which is really exciting. I’ve just made this with Susanna and finished another film in New York with a female director of photography, which is the first time I’ve worked with a woman in that role. There are massive changes happening and it’s only going to get better. And it’s not because I’m anti-male in any way, but because we need a more balanced portrayal of male and female voices. We have an exciting future ahead of us.

Is it true you don’t want to perform on stage again?

I can tell you: I won’t be coming back, theatre is not for me. I love to go; I was just in New York and saw incredible performances in The Color Purple and The Crucible with Ben Whishaw. I love theatre to watch but to be in — no. I just get too much stage-fright.

You’re also appearing in The Jungle Book — but confusingly it’s not the one out now, but another version. Can you explain?

You don’t need to be confused as this one has been pushed back to 2018 because there’s lots of CGI to be done. It’s being directed by the wonderful Andy Serkis, who has done such a phenomenal job. I play Nisha the she-wolf which I absolutely loved doing. The whole thing felt like a rehearsal — you don’t have to wear costume or make-up, just have a headpiece with a camera and then we’re all down on our hands and knees pretending to be wolves and howling — it was so much fun.

There’s talk of Daniel Craig leaving Bond — if he goes, would you stay on as Moneypenny?

Er yeah, absolutely. I love my role and love the family that I’m a part of, but it would be very sad if Daniel didn’t come back.

Who would you choose to replace him?

No idea: I’m just really glad I don’t have to make that decision.

You wrote a novel when you were young, would you like to write again now?

Not right now, that’s not where my interest really lies. But I do imagine myself retired one day, in the English countryside looking over the hills somewhere, writing. I’d like to get back to it one day but I’m just too busy to take it on right now.

Our Kind Of Traitor opens in cinemas on 13 May.

Last Updated 09 May 2016