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Entertainment BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Why it's my time to fly, by Lashana, the new DOUBLE-O

02:50  24 september  2021
02:50  24 september  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Lashana Lynch, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch that are standing in a room: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

Lashana Lynch wants people to know that she didn’t just ‘fall out of the sky’ and into the biggest role of her career: playing a double-O agent with a licence to kill in the latest, long-delayed James Bond film.

The movie’s producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson — guardians of the film world’s longest running and most successful franchise — devised the part of Nomi, which the 33-year-old West Londoner plays in No Time To Die, with a team of writers including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as director Cary Joji Fukunaga.

The 25th official Bond picture — all 163 minutes of it (a record) — has its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday, an occasion which will be graced by a double-O team of royals: the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It opens to the public two days later.

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Lashana told me that, at the age of six, ‘I was adamant that I wanted to be a singer’, but her teacher at the Sylvia Young drama school in Paddington told her she needed to study acting, too.

So she went on to enrol at the ArtsEd college in Chiswick, studying theatre and, as she put it, ‘grew as a human being, to have the cahoonas for this wild industry’.

She has gone from a role in The Bill (an obligatory step for all future stars) to worldwide focus as the first black woman to make the double-O grade in a Bond picture.

The film’s also been garnering phenomenal attention, because it’s Daniel Craig’s fifth and final escapade as Ian Fleming’s ‘blunt instrument’ — a label slapped on 007 by a steely M (Judi Dench) in Craig’s first Bond adventure, Casino Royale, nearly 16 years ago.

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Lashana won a Laurence Olivier bursary to study at ArtsEd — and first-class honours — but her success did not propel her to instant stardom.

She was cast in a major film about a British Olympic relay team called Fast Girls, but it was co-star Lily James who grabbed the baton, and the limelight. A string of top flight parts followed (she appeared on stage opposite Lenny Henry in Willy Russell’s Educating Rita); yet she remained largely unknown.

Until, that is, the folk at Marvel put her in a major role in Captain Marvel. And Barbara Broccoli spotted her in Debbie Tucker Green’s incendiary play about racial injustice, Ear For Eye, at the Royal Court. (That’s been turned into a movie by BBC Film, incidentally, and the BFI will screen it at the London Film Festival next month.)

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Lashana pooh-poohs what others might see as setbacks, insisting the temp jobs she took between acting gigs strengthened her. ‘Nothing before its time. And, if anything is before its time, then it never works out.’

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Or as her mum, a housing manager, would put it: ‘What is a setback, is always going to be a set up for you, for the future.’ And those early roles were not in vain, because they created ‘a nice back catalogue for me, for people to remember that I didn’t fall out of the sky and do a Bond movie. I have been working for over ten years to develop enough experience to hold my own on a screen like this.

‘All I wanted to do in my career was just be ready. I didn’t want to pray for the biggest opportunity and then mess it up because I wasn’t prepared.’

She believes her Jamaican roots also prepared her. ‘I’m working class,’ she told me, ‘and I’ve worked my way up in an industry that, before my time, wouldn’t have accepted me.’

There was a sweet symmetry to shooting many of her scenes in Jamaica, Bond’s spiritual home, where Ian Fleming owned the GoldenEye estate. It gave her the chance to ‘bring the energy of my culture into this film’.

In No Time To Die, which also stars Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz and Jeffrey Wright, Nomi teams up with an initially sceptical Bond to rescue a kidnapped scientist.

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The stunt directors put Lashana through a training course so intense she reckoned she’s sorted, on the ninja front, for life. ‘They gave me everything to ensure I was ready for the rest of my career!’

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Nomi and Bond are on the same side and hence do not engage in combat against each other, though from the trailers it’s clear there’s an edge to their relationship. It’s more ‘mental and energetic’ sparring, she clarified. ‘They psych each other out.’

There’s pride in Lashana’s voice as we discuss her character. ‘Nomi is the woman I hoped to see on screen when I was a little girl,’ she said. ‘She’s highly skilled yet vulnerable. She’s learning on the job — as I had to.’

Will we meet her again, in the next Bond film? ‘One hopes,’ said Broccoli, guardedly. But she will never be Bond.

‘James Bond is a male character,’ Broccoli told me — not for the first time (as readers of this column will remember).

‘Rather than people asking: “why can’t we make women play a male character?”, I say: why can’t we write more characters for women? We have a wealth of talent in this country — great female performers! We need to write more stories for women, have more films about women.’

Michael G. Wilson said the search for the next Bond would begin next year. ‘We’re not even thinking about it at this point,’ he insisted. ‘Barbara always says it’s like asking a bride when she walks down the aisle: who’s going to be your next husband?’

And Craig will be a hard act to follow. ‘Daniel’s the James Bond of our times,’ Broccoli said. ‘I think we struck gold with him.’

No wonder, then, the entire cast and crew were in tears on his final day on set. ‘As it turned out, very eerily, the last shot was him running away from the camera, into the darkness.

‘It felt like a really huge exit. I love the guy,’ she said, clearly moved again.

Read more

‘No Time to Die’ star Lashana Lynch: It’s ‘not good enough’ for a woman to take over a male role like 007 .
Women should be striving to have their own franchises, says the James Bond starShe told The Independent that instead of clamouring for a female to play James Bond, film-makers should be striving to create female characters with the same magnitude as Ian Fleming’s creation.

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