The new Bond girl
- Credit: jonathan olley
Cannes award-winner Léa Seydoux tells Pierre de Villiers about the challenges of playing a modern ‘Bond girl’
James Bond and French actresses go together like a shaken martini and olives. Over the course of the 23 previous movies in the spy franchise there have been no fewer than ten French Bond girls, each one as beguiling and beautiful as the next.
It’s a legacy that now rests in the hands of Léa Seydoux, the Parisian-born star whose performance in new Bond movie Spectre will change the way you look at the secret agent’s female companions. “She’s a strong character who is very complex,” says Seydoux, discussing her role as Madeleine Swann, a psychiatrist who gets caught up in Bond’s efforts to combat sinister organisation Spectre. “She’s a little bit like Bond in a way. She’s also very sensitive and, deep down, fragile. She fights with her own emotions and that’s why maybe James has a crush on her.”
It’s easy to understand why the makers of Spectre were so keen to get Seydoux on board to play the most multi-layered Bond girl yet (the character’s name alludes to Marcel Proust’s novel). Since making her screen debut in 2006, the French actress has shown impressive range, bravery and commitment in films such as Sister, Farewell My Queen and, particularly, Blue is the Warmest Colour, for which she won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013.
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Seydoux’s success is all the more remarkable given that she suffers from crippling shyness. “I judge myself and I feel that I’m an extremely sensitive person,” she admits. “When you are facing the camera, you’re always like, ‘Am I able to do it? Will I be good enough?’ I’m always afraid, in a way, of acting but I’m addicted to that feeling.”
Initially, Seydoux set her sights on being an opera singer, studying music at the Conservatoire de Paris, but was brutally honest with herself about her voice. “I stopped singing opera because I don’t think I’m talented enough to sing,” she says, before quickly adding that any self-doubt won’t stop her doing a musical one day. “I like to use my fears or joys when doing roles and treat them as a tool. So I would love to do a musical, because I love to dance as well. I like to play very different characters.”
Something that might stop Seydoux from being offered a wide range of films in the future is being typecast as a Bond girl, a label that has damaged more than one career. Seydoux is not overly concerned, pointing out that female characters in 007 movies have come a long way since Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder in Dr No.
“It’s very different now and they are more partners,” she says. “We want to see more interesting, characters. Madeleine Swann is chic but not overdone. It’s not like [Bond girls] used to be – it’s very low bikini.”
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