06 November 2015


Léa Seydoux: The Bond Girl Interview

Two hours with a Bond girl. You can't help giggling. The very idea of a "Bond girl" is so loaded with sex and submissiveness and mid-20th-century double-entendre that merely talking about meeting one is impossible to do with a straight face. Especially when it's in a hotel.

But don't blame me for that. Blame Ian Fleming, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and all the other sweaty-palmed old geezers who have spent two-thirds of a century reducing half of the human race into a pneumatic sex poppet every couple of years, so as to find a role for her in a James Bond film that will not significantly challenge or threaten our hero or the international manhood he represents, or stretch him in any way beyond the, er, obvious.

Since the early Fifties, James Bond has represented the pre-eminent fantasy of what a man's life ought to be like. Countless millions of men have depended on Bond to tell them how to dress, what to drive, what to eat, what to drink, how to talk and what sort of woman to desire.

 And the answer to this final question has never really changed. What Bond wants - and thus what men are assumed/instructed to want- is a girl half his age, in a bikini, with a nice bottom, perfect hair and a stripper's name: Honey Ryder, Pussy Galore, Plenty O'Toole, Xenia Onatopp, Christmas Jones… Once introduced to the audience, the Bond girl's job is then to get wet, get frisky and get killed, ideally in as sexy a way as possible (asphyxiated naked by gold paint, drowned naked in oil, eaten by fish, shot with a torpedo…). It is certainly not what Emily Davison had in mind when she threw herself - fully clothed - to her death under that horse.

Every now and again there has been a nod to modernising the "girl", but it is only ever the paying of lip service. Even in the most recent movie, Skyfall, you will recall that the exploited sex worker shagged by Bond is shot dead soon afterwards with an accompanying one-liner. Then Judi Dench's M is killed because she is a daft old bat who can't look after herself, and the only young woman in the movie who doesn't shag James, Naomie Harris's Moneypenny, is rewarded for her restraint with a job as his secretary.

So don't blame me if I am feeling a little unreconstructed as I sit in the vertiginous marble bar of one of those cavernous international hotels one encounters so often in Bond movies but so rarely in life, waiting for the newest Bond girl,Spectre's Léa Seydoux, who is late. Ten minutes, 20, 30… "Drink?" asks a bow-tied barman, sidling over. "Vodka martini, shaken not stirred," I think. But I say, "Water, please, tap is fine," because I am working, and don't want to be all sweaty and incoherent when she makes her entrance.

At that moment there is a ripple of activity at the door and I know that Ms Seydoux has finally arrived. My heart races. The last time I saw her face it was rising from between the legs of Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is the Warmest Colour, the 2013 Palme d'Or-winning, lesbian coming-of-age movie; the most controversial did-they-or-didn't-they, girl-on-girl arthouse movie romp of all time. She shakes my hand. So does her dialect coach, who is going to sit in and help with any language issues.

We sit, and Seydoux asks very quietly for a Diet Coke. She talks so softly, I often can't hear what she is saying, and at the same time absent-mindedly pushes my Dictaphone round so that it is facing me not her. She does this frequently throughout the afternoon, so that my tape is mostly of a middle-aged man talking loudly and a woman's voice barely heard. A lot like a Bond movie.

 She looks like Scarlett Johansson but with that Vanessa Paradis/Brigitte Bardot gap between her front teeth. Where do Parisian actresses get that gap from? Is it some childhood procedure they are forced to undergo, like foot-binding? She has on a fake-fur jacket that opens to reveal black lace underneath, though I avert my eyes for decency's sake so can't give you many details. Nor can I te

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