She’s the Bond girl who’s done a Terrence Malick film. She’s played Soviet pianists, French vampires, Turkish widows and Johnny English’s girlfriend. Born in Ukraine, schooled in Paris and living in London, Olga Kurylenko is the model-turned-actor who’s almost impossible to pigeonhole – peppering her CV with everything from video-game adaptations and kids comedies to art-house dramas and historical epics. Now heading back to her 007 days as an ex-military agent working as a delivery driver in the tough transatlantic action film, The Courier, Kurylenko is never happier than when she’s kicking someone down a flight of stairs…
You have to fight a lot of people in this film. It must have been a tough shoot to pack in so many stunts?
“The whole film feels like one big fight scene really, and you have to get the hits right. I’m being thrown to the ground a lot – or hit against a car – and I had a lot of tricky scenes to get through. The bit in the rain? The bit in the dark? The bit where I throw the bearded guy down the stairs… I got hit and dragged around a lot. It was pretty cool.”
You enjoy it?
“I love it! I know how it is now, I know what’s required. Over the years I’ve found that I just love learning new skills. I love being with the experts that know all this stuff, and having them teach you is such a privilege. We have fun all day y’know? We roll around and kick each other and fall over. It’s great.”
What do you do to relax between takes on an action film like this?
“I eat. People can’t believe why I’m always hungry on set but I’m like, ‘guys, I’m burning energy here! Give me a pack of nuts!’ I’m not demanding, but I think I am with food. I’m probably getting a reputation for myself. ‘Oh, Olga, she always needs to be near the food truck…’. But a car needs fuel, y’know! Nothing special though. I don’t have a bunch of masseurs on standby or anything like that. Although… on this movie I did actually ask for the IV person one day.”
What’s an IV person?
“They came in and gave me a bunch of vitamins over lunch. On a drip. This is pretty popular in London though now – you can just pop into Harvey Nichols and it’s on the fifth floor. I don’t know how much of it was psychological or whatever, but I guess it can’t hurt. I tried it once, but it’s not a habit! “
Why do you live in London? Have you ever been tempted by the Hollywood lifestyle out in LA?
“I love going to LA and seeing the beautiful blue sky. The sun is important and, of course, you don’t really get that in London. So Hollywood is nice to visit, but for me… I’m from Europe. I just feel closer to the way of life here. I spent my first 13 years in Ukraine, and the next 13 years in Paris. So my roots are here. Europe makes me happy.”
You play a tough cookie in The Courier. How similar are you in real life? Most of the action roles you’ve played have also been really strong female characters.
“It feels good to feel strong. It gives you endorphins, like playing sport or something. As a woman it’s important to feel like that. Maybe it’s some sort of self-therapy y’know? When I was a teenager, and even when I was younger, I remember thinking that I wanted to be a boy – but actually it’s not that, it’s the power that I wanted. I wanted the strength that boys had. There’s something really attractive in that. The truth is that women have always been as strong as men, of course, but it’s a different way of thinking about it.”
Your Bond girl in Quantum Of Solace was also pretty unusual for the series – she seemed a lot more modern. Did it feel like that at the time?
“I remember being pretty happy about it, for sure. My Bond girl did feel different. She didn’t sleep with Bond for a start. I think that film was disappointing for some audiences but there were others that loved it, and I loved it – I thought it was good to be different.”
What are your other memories of working on that film, and working with Daniel Craig?
“Well that was where all this action stuff started for me. Bond was like going to action film school. They taught me from scratch. I learned everything from that stunt team and from Daniel. I’ve picked up other skills on other films since, but that was the first shock to my body! I remember the first two weeks in particular – coming home every day and just falling off my feet. My body just wasn’t used to working out that much. You build up your endurance over time and you get used to it as you get stronger. It’s actually a really good feeling. Eventually.”
There’s a lot of talk about the next 007 being female, and Camille was still alive the last time we saw her…
“[Laughs] I mean, if they called me and asked I wouldn’t say no! But I’m not exactly waiting for that call!”
You’ve already worked with the likes of Terrence Malick, Martin McDonagh, Giuseppe Tornatore and Terry Gilliam – are there any directors left on your wish list?
“I’ve been very lucky, for sure, but there are so many other names that I’d love to work with. Maybe if I say them out loud it won’t happen. “
One of those director’s films still hasn’t come out in the UK. What was it like working with Gilliam on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote back in 2018, and then seeing it go through so many production problems afterwards?
“Well on the set it actually went amazingly well. It’s funny, all the trouble they had with the previous one [Gilliam’s infamous first attempt to make the film, as documented in 2002’s Lost In La Mancha]… I don’t know what was going on in the background but the actors on set didn’t feel anything but creative freedom. Terry is such an amazing, exciting, full-of-joy guy. He’s so curious, like a child seeing things for the first time. He’s a true artist and it’s so, so inspiring to work with someone like that. But then, of course, because I love this guy, and this film, it made me extremely sad to see what he had to go through after the film was made. He really doesn’t deserve it.”
Do you enjoy making comedies? Does it feel like stretching a different set of acting muscles?
“I know they’re the complete opposite of films like The Courier, but I guess that’s why I enjoy making them. I love diversity. Also in real life I make fun of myself all the time. People don’t see me like that, but the real me is a complete clown.”
I can’t imagine too many people were laughing on The Courier? This is a film that vividly shows someone’s head being crushed by a car tyre…
“[Laughs] Oh for sure, between takes we were making jokes and playing with the props and all the fake blood and stuff. You can always find ways to make someone laugh!”
You’ve been working non-stop since you were 16-years-old, first as a model, then as an actor. Have you ever felt like taking a break?
“You’re asking that at the right time actually. I’ve never felt the need to take a break before – despite what literally all my friends and family keep telling me – but now… I feel the need. For the first time I’m actually going to take a holiday. I’m on a shoot now for the next few weeks, and then I’m taking at least a month off. Maybe even two. I’m really looking forward to having a personal life!”
‘The Courier’ is in cinemas and on digital HD on December 20