A Bond Girl in SA: Shaken and stirred

2012-11-26 16:20
Ilan Preskovsky
2012 has been a pretty monumental one for the good old United Kingdom.

Not only has the country already had a Royal Jubilee and the Olympic Games, it's also played host – in more ways than one – to the 23rd James Bond film.

Now, obviously, it might seem rather disingenuous, not to mention slightly insane, to put yet another Bond film on the same level as Her Majesty's 60th Year on the Throne or The Only Games That Matter, but, you see, Skyfall isn't just another James Bond movie.

Even putting aside that Skyfall is already the second highest grossing film in the UK or that it's already considered by many to be the finest Bond film to date or even that it's easily the most unabashedly British Bond film to date, Skyfall marks 50 years of what must be the world's biggest movie franchise of all time.

Sharing its half-century celebrations with no less than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Skyfall is clearly a big deal – for its country, for its franchise and for cinema in general.

Not a Moneypenny spared

Not to be left out of the action, South Africa may be getting the film more than a month after its premiere in London, but all the stops have been pulled out to greet this landmark instalment in the perennially popular series.

Not only have its distributors planned to match the film's hype with a massive, potentially record-breaking opening weekend and, in conjunction with Heineken, a relentless and ubiquitous marketing plan, but the film's recent premiere in Johannesburg was attended, for apparently the first time ever, by a real-life Bond Girl.

Skyfall may be the first ever English-language film for its starlet, Bérénice Marlohe, and, to be perfectly fair, her role in the film is pivotal but fairly small, but, at both the premiere and the press conference that was held in her honour, she was greeted with all the fanfare and all the glamour that typically welcomes a big-name Hollywood actress to these shores.


And, make no mistake, she took to the role with an almost supernatural amount of grace and ease.

It's odd, but considering her relative lack of pedigree – especially since no one there had actually yet seen her in action in the film – it was fairly incredible to see just how comfortably Marlohe slipped into her role as an A-list celebrity and just how quickly everyone else saw her as such.

We live in a celeb-crazed world, where no-talent losers are greeted with all the obsessive fervour that should be the reserve of rock stars or A-list actors, simply because they once appeared on a low-rent reality TV show whose only point of interest was at proving just how chillingly prophetic George Orwell's most nightmarish visions of our future truly were.

Or, as they are otherwise known, Kardashians.

And yet, Marlohe comes across as something else entirely. It might just be that her exquisite mix of European and Asian genes are simply geared to render speechless anyone who lays eyes on her, but there's clearly a whole lot more than that going on with her.

She might not have yet actually earned her stripes as a major screen presence, but there's simply no two ways about it: It's only a matter of time. The lady simply oozes charm and charisma. 

Forever a Bond girl

More than that, there's something else about Ms Marlohe's new-found celebrity that is so very appealing.

However much of a toll doing all this publicity for a film must take on a person, there is something irresistible about her seemingly endless enthusiasm for Skyfall.

In the short time she visited South Africa she must have answered the same questions a good dozen times: first at the press conference and then again before the film in every one of the many screens in which it was shown on its premiere night (because of the sheer amount of people, every one of Rosebank's cinemas were used to show the film).

She must have undoubtedly been sick of it all by then, but you would never know it looking at her.

Obviously some of this is simply part of the job, but Marlohe's new-found fame is exactly the sort of thing most celeb-obsessed "civilians" could only dream of.

To be plucked from the obscurity of French television - in which she subsisted and survived on small parts for eight years – and introduced on the world stage in what is already one of the biggest movies in a year stuffed with huge, record-breaking blockbusters... it's not nothing.

Letting the sky fall

Nowhere did this relative rags to riches tale come through more strongly than when Marlohe recalled how she prepared for her first meeting with Bond himself, Daniel Craig, and Skyfall's acclaimed director, Sam Mendes: "I spent five days in the bath, turning down the lights and listening to a lot of Bond music."

But then, that's Bond for you. And come this Friday, South Africans will finally get a chance to see Bérénice Marlohe in her breakout role opposite the best Bond this side of Sean Connery – all the while taking in what may well be the most accomplished James Bond film to date.