From Ukraine With Attitude

LONDON, England -- Olga Kurylenko talks to The Globe and Mail about playing one of the new Bond girls to Daniel Craig's 007 in Quantum of Solace, the latest entry in the durable franchise.

Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko as Camille in Quantum of Solace.

Ah, the Bond Girl. Devastatingly beautiful, good with a gun (or a knife, a sports car, an atom bomb and even, in one spectacular instance of cheap 007 Freudian play, her neck-snapping thighs), devilish but gold-hearted (she really just wants to be loved), the Bond Girl is as reliable an archetype as Bond himself, if not more so.

A swell Bond Girl will enliven even the worst late-period Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton franchise wheeze. Remember Grace Jones and her tower of laser-cut hair in A View to a Kill, or scary-perky Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough? Of course you do, because the 007 movies have always been more about the exotic, ludicrous women than the personality-deprived contract killer doing the Queen's dirty work.

While the latest revival of the Bond brand has generated an enormous amount of ink about the suitability of Daniel Craig — probably because he's the first Bond since Sean Connery to take the part seriously and play against the camp factor, to wallow in Bond's dark, murderous well of self-loathing — the Bond Girls have yet to catch up.

And, yes, my post-feminist friends, the producers still call them "girls." In the Bond world, you can blow up a building, fly a cargo plane, or plug any number of goons with hot lead, but if you're female, you're still not quite a grownup. Eva Green made a valiant attempt in Casino Royale to turn the Girl into a Bond Woman, but she got bumped off in the end.

Enter Olga Kurylenko's Camille, another beautiful but damned creature with a scarred past (literally in this case) and a disarming pout. Already a star in France, Kurylenko will be familiar to North American audiences from Paris, je t'aime, wherein she played a vampire, or from her two other sexy-people-with-guns movies, Hitman and Max Payne.

While Kurylenko hardly breaks the Bond Girl mould, it's not for lack of trying. In every scene she has to herself, the energetic actress practically inhales the screen, daring to out-sulk and out-glare Craig. But then, stuff starts to blow up and she's quickly relegated to the familiar damsel in (flawlessly made-up) distress role.

Now that America has an African-American president, is it too much to ask for a Bond heroine who's not half 007's age and who wears army boots, not heels, to a shootout?

The Bond films, after 21 previous instalments, are now entertainment machines. How do you make your mark as an artist when the franchise is more important than the players?

Well, you know, it's funny, because I didn't feel that at all. For me, first off, it was my first time. Probably if you do only that kind of film, it becomes, you know, too much, and I don't want to do that. The goal is to do as many different parts as possible. But, for me, it was the first time I had to do my own stunts, and I had to learn so much, and it was so exciting! I've never done anything like this ever — why else would I do it?

Watching you do action scenes in beautiful haute couture outfits was a marvel.

Well, it was not haute couture! It was just simple.

But pretty. How do you jump out of an airplane in a bespoke dress?

In the last scene, I'm just wearing jeans, that was very handy. And in the first part of the movie, I'm wearing a skirt and I go on the boat, and what we chose is a bathing suit for under the skirt. It's perfect! It's one piece, so if I turn over in the skirt, it's not like you see my underwear! Ha! At the same time, it looks cool. This girl is always ready to fight, so she dresses accordingly, but at the same time she can't walk around in cargo pants, because she has to be attractive, because she uses her looks for charming people. She has to be in between. She goes for something cute, but at the same time very handy. No bling-bling, no diamonds, nothing crazy, because she's ready to run.

Many actresses have played Bond heroines, and some have done very well after, but some less so. There is a belief that the role comes with a curse.

No, no, I don't believe in that. I believe I'm going to keep working. I've already done a film after this, and I'm the main character. We can't generalize. It's about what you want to do. I want to work, I want to act, not just be present in movies. When you want something, you work on it.

You are Ukrainian, but most of your work has been done in French. Now you're playing a Latino secret agent. Only in Hollywood!

Yeah! Ha! But I think it's great, you know? Talk about transformation. That's why this job is so interesting, because you have to go in the skin of different people. They can be from all over the world. People ask me, when I am tanned, if I am Brazilian. I always get that. In Paris, in New York, people ask me what I am. So I knew it was something I could do, because I've heard it before.

You're taller than Daniel Craig. Did they make you stand in a ditch?

I don't think I am taller! No, no! But if I put heels on, I think I am the same height. But without the heels, he is taller.

How many films do you have to make before the press stops calling you a "model/actress"?

Ah, it's their fault! I don't know why they call me that! I think people just don't want to think, so they keep writing that. I guess they need to present that I was a model before, so they keep talking about that. At the same time, it is my past, but I don't do it any more, so what do they want me to do?

The film has a very open ending. Are you in the next one?

Ha! I don't think so! I mean, nobody has spoken to me about that. Ask the producers! There is no Bond Girl who ever came back, because each time they need new women, so I don't think it's going to happen.

Are you ready for this sudden leap into global fame?

I don't think you can ever be ready. It's all happening so fast, some days it's like a big wave coming at me. It's unbelievable. And it's fun! People say I am lucky, but it's not just luck, you have to know how to catch the luck. And it could end tomorrow, so I'm enjoying it and I appreciate it.


*Born Nov. 14, 1979, Berdyansk, Ukraine.

*What's next? Olga Kurylenko's next film is Tyranny, about a man who participates in a brain-mapping experiment and begins to see images of what may be a conspiracy to take over the world. Then she returns to the Femme Nikita thing as a prostitute/hit woman in next year's Kirot.

*Oh, those Communists! A Communist group in St. Petersburg, Russia, has accused the actress of "moral and intellectual betrayal" for starring in a film with James Bond, who of course is the arch-nemesis of the Soviet Union. Okay then.

Source: The Globe and Mail