Spectre’s Other M
The latest outing from James Bond serves up a host of Fleming tropes, from ski slope chases and black tie flirtations to the bad guy who just won’t die. While M and C don’t normally stand for Mouse and Cat, in Spectre perhaps they should. Size matters but smaller is better. I sat down with the Bond franchise’s lesser-known field agent, Millicent Brie-Jones, to chat about her latest role, the cat-and-mouse game, and why the Hollywood wage gap is such a big deal.
EC McCarthy: This is your first franchise film. How did it differ from past roles?
Millicent Brie-Jones: For the first time in my professional career, I’m portrayed in a realistic light. It’s a substantial part. I don’t eat cheese onscreen. Nobody enhanced my ears or overdubbed me in a squeaky voice. I stare Bond down, vulnerable and unarmed. With the sheer force of my gaze I convince him that peace is preferable to violence. I mean, without my character the plot just stops right there in that room. There’s nowhere to go. This is a watershed moment for mice everywhere.
ECM: You shot mostly on location in Tangiers. Do you speak Spanish?
MBJ: I didn’t prior to this film, and I was admittedly a bit nervous, but that’s why I do this work! The studio got me a language coach, and Sam [Mendes] did ask me to improvise a bit on our second day, just for coverage. I also stood off-camera for Daniel [Craig]’s stuff, and we bantered to ratchet up the tension. It’s a subtle scene. I was happy with my accent, but in the end it’s the Jaws effect — the less you see of me, the more powerful I am.
ECM: Did you train at all? What was your workout regimen?
MBJ: I like to work out, and I love being outdoors. It’s never been an issue for me, so I just did what I always do.
ECM: What’s an average workout for you?
MBJ: Mostly I run up and down the tree on my property, perhaps increasing the intensity a bit, and lots of pull-ups. [flexing her biceps] Very proud of these. Michelle Obama is my idol.
ECM: In Spectre, it’s implied that a cat…
MBJ: I don’t want to comment on cats.
ECM: There’s been speculation that the cat…
MBJ: The press is always trying to stir up controversy. There’s nothing to talk about.
ECM: Did you meet Schmidt Redgrave [who played the role of Blofeld’s Persian cat]?
MBJ: It was like so many films I’ve done, where I’m familiar with Schmidt’s work, and such an admirer of his family, but there was no crossover on the schedule. I think he shot exclusively in the desert? Look, I know you’re fishing for a sound bite, but I have to disappoint you. The wage gap isn’t a personal issue, it’s about what’s fair, and implying animosity between professionals does all of us a disservice. What I will say, and I said this to Sam and Barbara [Broccoli], is that I was disappointed there was no onscreen cat and mouse confrontation of any kind. I think audiences are ready to see me and Schmidt go head-to-head. They can handle it. I can do so much more — I’m a black belt, for crying out loud. And I’ve read that Schmidt is a crackerjack archer. This was a missed opportunity, as far as I’m concerned, but I understand the focus has to be on Bond. He sells the tickets.
ECM: Finally, as the lone mouse on set, did you feel welcomed and comfortable?
MBJ: More than [on] any other film I’ve done. The crew was amazing. Nobody freaked out when I hung out on the craft service table. The actors ate with me. It was collegial and I learned a lot. He’ll kill me for saying this, but Daniel drops an unusual amount of food because he talks when he chews. I’ll eat under him any day!
ECM: [laughter] He makes a mess?
MBJ: [chuckling] Raining crumbs.
ECM: Thank you, Millicent, for taking the time to speak with me.
MBJ: Any time!