BY DONNA FREYDKIN
The 24th installment of the James Bond franchise opened on Friday, and to the surprise of exactly no one, 'Spectre' is a hit, earning a domestic total of $73 million.
And while Daniel Craig's James Bond is the shaken, not stirred, star of the films, he's backed up by a retinue of resilient ladies, especially Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny. She's Bond's equal, his eyes and ears on the ground.
"That serves the film a lot better," she says, than having Moneypenny be a one-note sidekick.
Craig made headlines recently for quipping that he wouldn't make another Bond film. Folks, relax -- quite often, sarcasm simply doesn't translate, says Harris. In fact, he takes the role and all it entails incredibly seriously.
"He's one of the producers on the movie. He did eight months of shooting. He did two years of pre-production. He does pretty much all his own stunts, as much as insurance allows. It got blown out of proportion," she says.
The core cast is focused and dedicated. And often, the last to know about plot points. In fact, says Harris, she didn't even know she was in "Spectre" until the eleventh hour. And she's crossing her fingers for the next one.
"I would be a bit upset if they didn't ask me back. No one really knows. It's a weird situation. Even with 'Spectre,' everyone was talking about the story and how great it was but no one said I was coming back. I didn't know I was going back" until the very end, she says.
Harris' Moneypenny is no eye candy. She's smart and quick-witted, tenacious and resilient, yet without any bloodlust or vengeful tendencies. "In 'Spectre,' she's found her true calling, which is not being a field agent but being in a support role," says Harris.
Initially, Harris was asked to audition for a Bond girl, which has been well documented. She wasn't into being a femme fatale and at the end of the process, found out she'd be playing Moneypenny, who was introduced in a surprise ending in "Skyfall."
"They wanted to create this badass character and a complete departure from the past, a character women would respect and admire. (Director Sam Mendes) is a very intelligent man. He understands that attraction is not just about a pretty woman with nothing to offer intellectually," says Harris.
So would she ever want Moneypenny to make a love connection with Bond, with whom she has an ongoing flirtation?
"Secretly I do of course. But she'd wind up dead, wouldn't she? That's generally the rule. You kiss Bond and then die," says Harris. "As much as my character would love to do it, I'll resist."
In the next installment -- which she hopes she'll be part of -- Harris hope for a different kind of evolution.
"I'd like to get more power and more authority. I'm no action lady at all," she says.
What she is, in fact, is the empress of style. Her gowns, while promoting "Spectre" worldwide, have left critics swooning.
Harris became a fashion force on the world's biggest stage: the Academy Awards. She wore a dreamy Monique Lhuillier green frock to the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar party. And that was the start of her ongoing sartorial romance with stylist and best friend Nola Singer.
"I realized I enjoyed working with my friends. You feel freer. They know your style and taste. Now she has other clients. We do it via Skype. I live in London and she lives in LA. We try everything on via Skype," says Harris.
Now, her style rules are simple: pretty much anything goes.
"I hate anything baggy, that swamps me. It doesn't work on my frame. I tend to like classic, but I also wore this Prada jumpsuit to an awards show a couple of years ago and it was very fashion-forward and I loved it," says Harris. "I like quirky things. My taste is eclectic. I like a lot of color. Color looks great on black skin. All these dresses are works of art, and I tend to like things that are playful and fun."
Harris aside, here's a look at Bond. James Bond.