If posed the question of which Bond girls stand out most in the Ian Fleming franchise, Lea Seydoux’s may not universally be the first answered. That’s no criticism, it’s testament to the slick, shimmering, moody magnificence the Paris-born actress has brought to the role, one in which she believes her character, Madeleine Swann, was almost certainly the first to “be an equal to James Bond”.
With her female deadly assassin role, Seydoux performed admirably as the counterbalance to the creaking and injured 007. And the 34-year-old is not a woman who is short of opinion when she feels that she has a point to make, as RSNG discovers…
RSNG As an actress, how have you viewed No Time to Die?
LEA SEYDOUX, ACTRESS ‘It’s true to say we are looking to go out in style for Daniel. There has been a lot of publicity around when he would go, and I think it has been a relief – certainly for him, but also for everyone else – to know when the moment is. As an actor, having that sort of finality means you leave nothing out there. It means you have closure, and that genuinely permeates through every scene.’
RSNG What has it been like working with Daniel?
LS ‘It was and is such a wonderful experience being on set and on camera with Daniel… not just because he’s a great actor, but as a person and a human he is delightful, charming and it was great being back playing Madeleine Swann after five years. He’s such a professional and he can really make you up your game when you’re acting in a scene with him.’
‘Immersing myself in the role of Madeleine is brilliant because she is quite capable of doing what James Bond does, but also, she clearly has a big effect on him.’
‘That’s quite a powerful role to play as a woman and I really enjoyed being Madeleine again. But this time you will see a different Madeleine to the one that you did in Spectre.’
‘Madeleine knows the world that Bond operates in and wants nothing to do with it’
RSNG Of course, Madeleine was different to many, if not all, of the archetypal Bond girls who had gone before her when you played her in Spectre?
LS ‘Yes, I wanted to play her like Sam Mendes [director of Spectre] wanted me to play her. She was a Bond girl who wasn’t just a sexual object and who 007 just uses and discards, in almost a patronising and condescending way. She also offered another side to her, which meant that she was useful to James Bond.’
‘But, it wasn’t just that – it was the fact that she knew how to get to Bond and also, being so independent and capable of looking after herself, she became a threat to him.’
‘Madeleine is the type of woman who isn’t attracted to Bond in the way that other Bond girls of the past are or have been, and that’s because she knows the world that he operates in and wants nothing to do with it.’
‘This is mainly down to the fact her own father lives and runs his life in that environment and in similar ways to how Bond does. It turned out a little different in Spectre, almost like role reversal, because when she saves his life, he realises that he needs her more than the other way around.’
RSNG The talk about this new Bond film release is that there could be a first female Bond to follow. Do you think the role your character played in Spectre led to that being possible?
LS ‘I was certainly excited to play such a role where a woman who was seen as almost equal to that of James Bond in the last movie, yes.’
‘I think the fact that Madeleine was her own person, was strong, tough and resilient and she showed that she was able to live by herself, stand on her own two feet and wasn’t the type of woman who needed a man, could well have led to people even discussing that there could now be a female Bond.’
‘The only thing is that one of my favourite scenes from Spectre when she really lays into Bond, shouts at him and tells him that she doesn’t want him in his life… it ends with them falling in love with each other, haha! So, does that mean that she isn’t that tough or independent after all? No, I don’t think so. I just think it shows the human side to her.’
‘In my normal, daily life, I'm a mess… but when the camera starts rolling, I am able to completely let myself go and live in that moment’
RSNG How did you get into acting?
LS ‘When I was younger I was always singing in front of my parents and acting wasn’t really a profession that I wanted to go into. In fact, it took me meeting an actor to realise that’s what kind of life I wanted to have. This actor introduced me to his agent and then we went from there.’
‘The only thing was that I only spoke French, having been born in Paris; and my father preferred that I learn to speak English as it would open up so many more avenues for me in life. So, I did, and that was by going to summer camp at a place called Timber Ridge which is on the East Coast of America.’
RSNG Having spent a lot of time acting in French and in English in your career already, what’s the difference in sets between the two languages?
LS ‘Well, the main things are the same. You have a director telling you what he wants from you, you’re acting and delivering lines in front of a camera and you have a cast who will be acting with you, so in that respect the only real difference is the language that you are speaking in.’
‘But for me personally, I think I feel less stress and anxiety – if that’s the right way to put it – when acting in English language and I really do prefer that to be honest, because I am speaking in a separate language to my own, because French is my native tongue - it feels more unique and also that I am being someone else.’
RSNG You have been very open about the difficult time you experienced as a teenager. Were there moments when your work on this film made you uncomfortable or filled you with anxiety?
LS ‘When I am acting, I enter another world. It's like being in a trance. I forget all my fears and anxieties and I'm able to let myself enter this little world while I'm on a set.’
‘In my normal, daily life, I'm a mess. and I'm constantly wondering what to do with myself. But when the camera starts rolling, I am able to completely let myself go and live in that moment.’
‘It's a wonderful feeling and that's why I love my work so much. Whenever I'm making a film, I feel completely at ease and all my problems disappear. I'm able to shut out everything else.’
RSNG Doesn't the success you’ve had give you a greater sense of security and peace of mind in life?
LS ‘I wish that would be the case but it doesn't help at all. I am calmer now than I was earlier in my life, but I still feel anxious if I have don't have something to do. That's why film is an escape for me because it gives purpose and organisation to my life. I know what I have to do.’
WHAT NEXT? Meet Harrison Ford and hear about his comeback as Indy in the RSNG interview here.