The Real Bond Girl

Last Update: 13 November 2002

Source: This is London
31 October 2002

The real bond girl
By Rupert Mellor, Metro Life

Tall, graceful and casually chic in black jeans, Samantha Bond enters the room trailing the unmistakable fragrance of... last night's whisky. 'I had a proper night out,' she beams, 'in a nightclub, with young people and everything! God only knows when I did that last.'

The trip, to Milton Keynes's Oceana, marked a party for the cast of the new production of Macbeth in which Bond plays the murderous Lady M. 'It was mellow and cosy - very luvvie, to be honest. We piled into a strange room called the Boudoir where they were playing Charles Aznavour and other Seventies treats. I ended the evening having a 3am nightcap with Mr Bean,' she says, referring to Sean, her leading man.

Directed by Sir Peter Hall's son Edward, the production, says Bond, puts passion centre stage. 'Sexual passion, romantic passion, political passion and passionate ambition. This play seems to me like the black, flipped-over version of Romeo And Juliet. These two have as intense a love, they'll do anything for each other. They're childless too, and so for years have been the sole focus of all each other's obsessive energy. I think, had Macbeth never met the three witches, the Macbeths would have just gone on having mind-blowing sex for years and years.'

Editing the text slightly, Hall has created a retelling that's big on pace, says the actress. 'Actionwise, it's a stormer, and we play it at a hell of a lick. Sean and I keep meeting in the wings just gasping for breath. Macbeth is the hardest workout I've ever done.'

Poo-pooing thespian 'Scottish play' superstitions, Bond broke both a family and an actors' code when, on hearing she had the role, first named the unnameable in her kitchen. 'I was brought up in a house run by an actor, my father Philip Bond. You couldn't say the M-word or quote from the play. So I had to break the spell. Later, I found out why Macbeth came to be thought unlucky. In Victorian times, touring theatre companies all had repertoires. And if one play wasn't going down well, a notice would appear by the stage door saying "Next week Macbeth" because Macbeth would always fill the house. So it was only unlucky in that it signalled the death of the play before.'

The actress has also defied the curse of Moneypenny. Taking over the role of 007's colleague in 1995's GoldenEye, Bond - Samantha Bond - has dodged the stereotyping such an iconic character can bring. 'It really is a double-edged sword. Lois Maxwell, who played the role in 14 Bond films, said it killed her career. The other Moneypenny, Caroline Bliss, no longer acts, and I suspect Moneypenny had something to do with that too.'

The spy franchise might bring Bond her most visible work - the latest instalment Die Another Day hits UK cinemas on Wed 20 Nov - but it is an impressive theatrical portfolio that has been the meat of her career - ever since she was 'discovered' by Kenneth Branagh and cast in his production of Romeo And Juliet at Hammersmith's Lyric Theatre Studio 16 years ago. A string of Shakespearean heroines followed, as did roles in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Memory Of Water, which she also directed on tour, and a triumph on Broadway in 1999 with Dame Judi Dench in David Hare's Amy's View. 'The film and TV jobs are like fantastic bonuses, the icing on the cake. But really, I always wanted to be a leading lady at the RSC. When I finally arrived there, aged 30 and with my six-month-old baby on my arm, I immediately discovered I was pregnant again!'

Bond shares a Twickenham home with her husband, actor Alex Hanson, who is winding up a stint in the Queen musical We Will Rock You, and their two children, Molly, 10, and nine-year-old Tom. She is itching to get back to the family seat, and a pet project. 'I'm getting quite militant about persuading our council to put up "Children Playing In The Road" signs, so our kids have somewhere to socialise' she says.
'I love that this is the country that created the welfare state, a system of looking after people - your neighbours, the old lady down the road who couldn't get out when it snowed. But nowadays we're afraid to talk to the old lady down the road. Well, I want my kids - safely - on the street.'

Macbeth, previewing from Thur 7 Nov, opens Thur 14 Nov, Albery Theatre, St Martin's Lane, WC2 (020-7369 1740).

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