Mathilde Bourbin is a French actress. She is also a writer and producer. For Bond fans she is known as mother of Madeleine Swann from ‘No Time to Die’.
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): How did you get the part in ‘No Time to Die’? Did you know that it was for that film when you got invited for the audition ?
Mathilde Bourbin: I just knew that I was going to meet Debbie McWilliams who was casting for Bond films, but it was absolutely not specified for which film that particular casting was. I thought: ‘Let’s go there. I’m gonna get really prepared for that audition because I’m going to meet a very important casting director’. When I got to the casting place I had to sign a nondisclosure agreement and then I knew that it was for the Bond film.
Was the audition in London?
It was in France. The first one was in a casting room where I regularly audition for French productions. This is a working place for many casting directors. The second audition was in a hotel near Champs-Élysées in Paris.
How did the audition look like? How did you prepare for that?
Bond films are really specific. Everything is a secret. I knew very, very little about the script. For the first audition, I just knew that I was going to play an alcoholic mother. I didn’t even know if I had to speak French or English. Knowing this, I really worked on addictions, alcohol. I already was a mother, but I had to ewplore the relationship with a young kid when you are addicted. I did a big job on that with my coach. For the second audition I knew that I was still an alcoholic mother but I also knew that there was a man with a mask. That was all I knew. I had to get prepared for all kind of scenarios.
Was it something special for you to get a part in James Bond film? Are you a Bond fan?
Yes, definitely. As a kid I was into the James Bond films and especially into the Bond music. I really like all the themes. They are like invitations to dreams. When you listen to the Bond theme from any film you can feel the atmosphere and dream of being in action or maybe in a romance. As a kid I was listening to that music a lot. As a girl I didn’t want to be a Bond girl. I just wanted to be Bond.
What is your favourite Bond music?
For me the emblematic one is, of course, the James Bond theme from ‘Dr. No’ by John Barry. It is like ‘the’ Bond track. I really like the ‘Goldeneye’ and ‘Skyfall’ scores. I also like ‘No Time to Die’ a lot. When I listened to the track for the first time I thought that it was weird but later I really liked it.
You got the part but you couldn’t talk about that.
Definitely. I informed my very, very close family and my best friend. I also told some other close friends after lockdown, but nobody else. I was very superstitious about it. I thought that maybe my part would be deleted from the film if too many people would know about it. (smiling)
How much time has passed between the audition and filming?
It was about two months. I got the part and then I had to go to London to do rehearsals with the actual script. I had to try on my costumes. Then we shot in Norway.
You had quite a number of costumes to try on.
Yes. Sooo many. (smiling) So many pajamas, socks, earrings, necklaces … I had to try so many things so Cary (Fukunaga) could choose something that would fit his idea.
Did you have anything to say about your costume or was it just director’s choice?
No, it was Cary’s choice. I could just say if something was uncomfortable for me. But I was in pajamas so all of them were comfortable.
Did you have any rehearsals at Pinewood Studios before actual filming?
I had a rehearsal at Pinewood with Coline (Defaud) who played my daughter. It was not on the set, but in Cary’s office.
Then you were filming on the set in Norway. How long did you stay there?
We have been shooting for five days.
Was it cold?
It was very cold, also in the house. It was really built on the lake so increasing the temperature inside would melt the ice. Everybody was wearing warm clothes.
How did you work on the set? Did you have to take part in all activities such as lights setting or was there someone else doing it?
There was a Norwegian girl dressed like my character who was doing all the lights fittings. That was at the beginning of the day. During the day I was on the set as long as possible to feel the atmosphere.
Did you have to spend a long time in makeup room each day?
It wasn’t that long. Basically it is easier to make someone look ugly than beautiful. They just put some grease in my hair, added some red and dark on my eyes and that was it. I had also some brown on my fingers and on my teeth because my character was smoking a lot. I was ready in less than 15 minutes.
Did you work on the set with Rami Malek or with his double?
If I remember correctly, the first two days I worked with his double, Sebastien (Soudais). He was walking in the snow. Rami had a coach who was taught him how the poison could affect his body, his walk, the way he was standing. The coach gave all these information to Sebastien so he was moving the same way as Rami would. I think that Rami arrived on the third day. His character was wearing the mask but he was shooting the scene in person.
Did you have a chance to spend some time with Rami Malek?
Yes. I had lunch with him. We talked a little bit about his career. How it started. What the Oscar changed in his life. He was really sweet, very humble. He is a very nice person.
How much did you know about the plot?
I just got the script of the Norway part, but I didn’t know much about the rest of the film.
But you knew at least that your character’s granddaughter would be Mathilde.
Yes. Cary told me about that. I think that he found it funny that the little girl had the same name as me. So I knew that Madeleine would have a daughter.
Was her name inspired by your real name?
I don’t think it had any connection. Actually you should ask Cary about that.
Anyway it was probably nice that you were told about that.
Yes. I really liked this fact.
After filming you had to wait quite a lot of time for the premiere. You were not present at World Premiere but you’ve attended the premiere in Paris.
I was invited to London but unfortunately I couldn’t go there. I had not enough vaccination doses according to UK regulations at that time.
How were you feeling watching your scenes on screen?
I thought to myself: ‘I’m not crazy. It happened’. It all felt so unreal. It was 2,5 years waiting to watch the movie. I couldn’t talk about it with anybody during that time. Sometimes I had thoughts like: ‘Maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe it was just a dream.’ I new that it wasn’t a dream but part of me couldn’t believe in that. When the movie started and my character appeared, I cried out of relief.
Have you seen your scenes before the premiere?
I saw it because I did dubbing and post-synchronization.
Did all your scenes were used in the film or some of them were deleted?
The whole scene was in the film, but after editing, some of the sequences looked differently from what we shot. For example, in the scene where my character dies, you can see feathers mixed with blood explode from my body. In the film you don’t see it. There is Madeleine’s reaction instead. Then you see feathers falling down around the Madeleine’s mother’s dead body.
How was it done that feathers were flying after your character was shot?
I was covered with explosives.
That sounds scary. Were you not afraid?
I was really stressed at first. I wanted to see one explosion before it exploded on me. They put one on a little table and activated it. I could hear how loud it was and see what the impact was. Then I touched it to feel whether it was hot or not. When I realized it was 100% safe I had no problem anymore. I was still a little stressed but not because of the explosives. I knew that during the shooting, the explosion, my movements and my acting had to be synchronized. So I was very focused.
How long did it take to prepare that scene?
It took about two minutes to fix the explosives on me and connect everything. The stunt team checked everything. Then they showed me the gun so I could see that there were no real bullets inside. There were so many precautions on the set that no accident could happen. There was a team dedicated to weapons. They were always showing what was in the gun and how it works to the person that was shooting and to the person that was shot. They were also showing how loud the shot was. We had some gum in our ears as hearing protections. I felt totally safe.
How many takes were required to film that sequence?
I had two or three takes and Rami had probably five with the machine gun.
Thank you for sharing your experiences from Bond set.
September 20th 2022