A New Age healer mother, an obsession with raw food and why Naomie Harris will be… A very modern Miss Moneypenny
There”s something about Miss Moneypenny. The spinster secretary with a terrific crush on James Bond was barely a character sketch in the Ian Fleming spy books.
But thanks to Canadian actress Lois Maxwell — who played the role from 1962 to 1985 — she occupies a key place in the Bond movies.
Unlike the Bond girls, who are assassins or bimbos, she is the one woman who really loves 007, rather than merely desires him.
Starring role: Naomie Harris is pictured here at the Glamour Woman Of The Year Awards in Berkeley Square Gardens, London in 2010
Maxwell’s version was all blow- dried hair and arched eyebrows, and she always had the self-control to say ‘No’ to the spy, no matter how charming he was. But what of the new Moneypenny
For in the forthcoming Bond film Skyfall, the character is to be played by the resoundingly glamorous and thoroughly modern Naomie Harris, 35.
‘I think it’s going to be a very special Bond,’ she says.
She starts as a field operative called Eve and then comes inside the organisation as Miss Money-penny, M’s right-hand woman.
Naomie already has a successful acting career, but this role will turn her into a household name.
The Bond people are keen to present her as a girl next door, in the mould of Kate Winslet, but she is nothing of the sort.
Ms Harris has been chasing movie roles since she was a child and since spending a lot of the past ten years in Hollywood has picked up some odd habits.
She once made herself unwell by eating virtually nothing but uncooked carrots; has a passion for exercise; and maintains a high-maintenance grooming regime of pedicures, manicures, massages and facials.
Her background is also unusual. Her mother Carmen, who arrived in Britain from Jamaica at the age of five, was a one-time TV scriptwriter on Grange Hill and EastEnders. But she now makes a living as a ‘natural energy healer’.
Falling from the sky: Naomie with Daniel Craig, Berenice Malohe and Javier Bardem at a photocall for the new Bond movie, Skyfall
Naomie’s father, a property developer with Trinidadian roots, is not named on her birth certificate.
She has met him only twice: when he approached her as she was walking home from school; and two years ago, at the suggestion of a friend.
Naomie says she feels no connection to him, but agrees that being raised without a male role model in her early life has left her wary of men and commitment.
Her early life was spent on benefits before her mother did a degree in sociology.
‘I’d sit in the corner during her lectures and do colouring in. We used to do our homework together,’ she says.
Carmen gave her pretty daughter an encouraging shove towards the limelight from a tender age, enrolling her in the famous Anna Scher theatre school when she was seven.
Heal the world: The actress” mother, Carmen, has turned to natural energy healing
Since then, despite a degree from Cambridge, Naomie says she has never contemplated a career other than acting.
When she was ten, she made her professional debut in the BBC series Simon And The Witch. She says her classmates at St Marylebone School for Girls were jealous, that she was bullied and did not have a single friend.
When she was 11, her mother met the man who was to become her stepfather, an expressive arts teacher, and had a son and daughter, who are now teenagers.
At first, Naomie didn’t get on with her stepfather, but they are now said to be genuinely close.
Going to Cambridge to read social and political science was a disappointment.
‘I really hated it,’ she says.
Screen siren: Naomie is sure to melt hearts as the new Miss Moneypenny – here she is pictured filming scenes in the new Bond movie
‘I imagined staying up all night discussing the meaning of life. Everyone told me I’d meet my future husband there, too.’
She didn’t fit in and had no interest in drinking, smoking or taking drugs.
‘People used to drink and drink and drink until they threw up all over the college grounds — where’s the fun in that It was one of the worst periods of my life,’ she says, adding that she fled home in tears every weekend.
‘The people there were so different to me and I couldn’t connect with them on any level. They talked about Eton and skiing and here was I, this black girl from North London.
‘I didn’t envy them; I was quite sorry for them. But I just felt so lonely.’
Studying acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School turned her life around — she realised that she had the charisma, talent and drive to succeed.
She was the lead in the TV adaptation of the Zadie Smith book White Teeth in 2002. Then came the hit film 28 Days Later.
‘She is phenomenally talented. She lights up the screen,’ says the director Danny Boyle.
‘Your eyes just go to her. It’s something to do with her relationship with the camera. And she can bring anything you want to the table.’
Naomie then got a part in Pirates Of The Caribbean in 2007 and was cast in the remake of Miami Vice opposite Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. She also starred in the TV adaptation of the Andrea Levy novel Small Island.
She has been linked romantically with several of her co-stars, including Orlando Bloom and Josh Hartnett.
However, she denies liaisons with any of them, even though she and Bloom were spotted dining together in fashionable Scott’s in London’s Mayfair.
In one interview, she appeared to say she had never had a serious boyfriend, but she later insisted this was a misinterpretation and she simply prefers to keep her private life to herself.
The ambitious and increasingly restless Naomie has spent several years living out of a suitcase.
She gave up her London flat, put her belongings into storage and turned up in Los Angeles.
Once there she would hang out in New Age haunts such as the Inn of the Seventh Ray — a restaurant that serves only alcohol-free wine and where customers are invited to feel the ‘angelic vibrations’ of the setting.
Naomie made friends among the alternative crowd — as well as Orlando Bloom, whom she met on Pirates and is a vegan Buddhist, she is close to Woody Harrelson, like her a believer in all things New Age.
‘Yes, I’m obsessed with health, which has been an interesting journey. I went down the raw-food diet route, but got ill,’ she says.
‘It was really hard, especially in Britain in winter, trying to survive on raw carrots.
‘I became so ill and was anaemic, so I stopped that and became a vitamin junkie. I just ate lots of vegetables, exercised and breathed.’
Her favourite exercise is gyrotonic, a dance-based form of yoga that claims to release tension in the body.
Recently, she has bought a house in the same London street as her mother, whom she says is her best friend.
Though Carmen is reluctant to talk about her daughter now Naomie is under contract to the Bond film-makers, she has a lot to say about her own offbeat interests.
She claims to offer freedom from ‘draining negative emotions’ and ‘real, physical pain’.
For 70 an hour — 40 if you’re unemployed — she promises a life-changing healing experience.
Carmen describes herself as ‘Reiki-attuned, certified in Quantum Touch and a practitioner in Theta healing’.
She claims to have helped people with hay fever, back pain and cancer.
And the testimonials on her website include thanks from actors, whom she has helped conquer stage fright and audition nerves.
You wonder if she has directed her healing energy towards her famous daughter. But then Naomie — polished, accomplished and professional — doesn’t seem to need anyone’s help.
Indeed, she recently said that her biggest worry as she stands on the brink of stardom is whether she is about to become ‘too famous’.
Stepping into Miss Moneypenny’s highly polished court shoes, she can hardly avoid it.