Raised by a single mother and bullied at school, Naomie Harris did not have the most auspicious start in life.
Yesterday, however, she was unveiled as the latest incumbent of one of the most famous and enduring roles in film.
She will play Miss Moneypenny in the new James Bond movie - the first black actress to get the part.
The film, Skylark, is the 23rd in the Bond franchise. Shooting began yesterday.
Daniel Craig will take on the role of 007 for the third time and Sam Mendes - Kate Winslet’s ex-husband - will direct.
Miss Harris, 35, already a notable stage and screen actress, will initially play an M16 field agent known only as Eve. But the plot will see her character become Bond’s foil, Moneypenny.
The Daily Mail has learned that her portrayal of the character is likely to be very different from those of predecessors Samantha Bond, Caroline Bliss and Lois Maxwell. It has not been disclosed how Eve becomes Moneypenny.
Yesterday’s press conference at The Corinthia hotel in Whitehall, central London announcing the film took place on the 50th anniversary of the day Sean Connery was first cast as the secret agent. The film will open next November, on the 50th anniversary of the day the first Bond movie, Dr No, premiered.
It has been three years since the last Bond film, and at one point there were fears for the future of the franchise because of studio MGM’s financial troubles.
Dame Judi Dench will reprise her role as M, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw will also co-star while Javier Bardem and little-known French actress Berenice Marlohe will play the latest villains.
She and Miss Harris revealed they had spent weeks working with firearms and training in martial arts in preparation for their roles. Miss Marlohe admitted she found using a gun “fun”.
And Miss Harris said: “I’ve been doing yoga three times a week to get into shape. I’ve been stunt driving and firing machine guns, which I’ve discovered I have a real taste for.” For Miss Harris, yesterday marked the day she became a bona fide star.
Her parents both moved to England when they were young, her mother from Jamaica and her father from Trinidad.
They separated when Miss Harris was still a child and her mother, Lisselle Kayla, brought her up on her own in a modest flat in Finsbury Park, north London. She was bullied at school, and, despite getting into Cambridge University, had a miserable time there.
She said yesterday: “I still can’t believe it’s happening, I’m still pinching myself. I can’t wait to get started. I have spent two months preparing for the role.”
She added: “I think I was a late developer and at Cambridge everyone was really fascinated by boys and I really wasn’t interested in them at all. And everyone was interested in smoking and drinking or taking drugs and I don’t do any of those things.”
She has rarely seen her father, admitting: “I met him at a party once and I saw him on a tube by chance a few years ago but he is not part of my life.”
After university she trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre before making her first impact on screen in a film adaptation of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Since then she has appeared in Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later and Pirates of the Caribbean. - Daily Mail