Ana de Armas is not long into her thirties but has already starred in Ridley Scott blockbuster sequel ‘Blade Runner 2049’ with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, in Todd Phillips’ comedy-crime caper ‘War Dogs’ alongside Jonah Hill, and co-starred with Robert De Niro, Usher Raymond and Edgar Ramirez in the Roberto Duran biopic ‘Hands of Stone’.
Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1988, de Armas was just 16 when she made her first film appearance in ‘Virgin Rose’ in 2006, directed by Manuel Gutiérrez. She moved to Spain in 2007 and married fellow actor Marc Clotet in July 2011, before divorcing less than two years later.
When she moved to Los Angeles in 2014, De Armas was only able to speak Spanish, though driven and single-minded, she learned English as a route to getting auditions, and was able to get an English part in Eli Roth’s thriller ‘Knock, Knock’ with Keanu Reeves.
This year is undoubtedly her biggest yet. Not content sparring with Daniel Craig in ‘Knives Out’, her fifth movie of the year, she sides again with the suave 51-year-old in his farewell Bond appearance, for ‘No Time to Die’.
While Bond certainly appears the biggest stage imaginable, the fact the actress has ‘Knives Out’ to contend with first is possibly the best roadblock to an otherwise painfully long lead-up. Preciously little is known about the plot for the final Bond of Daniel Craig’s tenure, except de Armas plays Paloma, a rumoured love interest of the special agent…
RSNG What was it like working on Knives Out, with such prolific co-stars? ANA DE ARMAS, ACTRESS ‘I couldn’t even tell you how much fun we had. I think we have a great amount of humour in the script and what we had behind the camera was also pretty amazing, and you do see that.’
‘Jamie Lee Curtis is obviously an icon and she is one of the best people to be around. That family feeling that we had was down to her – she was in charge of all of us. She really brought us together and we hung out a lot in the kitchen, just telling stories about everything and she does know a lot about a lot. Jamie Lee was a great support for me, and she’s always been on my side.’
‘We shot the movie in Boston and that was my first time being there and it was absolutely freezing – even more so, as I am Cuban! But that didn’t reduce the fun at all, as the script was great but also because we had such a brilliant time making the movie and also being around each other all of the time.’
RSNG You’ve mentioned the script a couple of times, how impressed by it were you? DE ARMAS ‘I was very surprised by how good it was, and I really could not put it down – that’s not just a cliché. It was so exciting and because, of course, it’s a murder-mystery film and that everyone in the movie is a suspect and the audience doesn’t know who killed who.
‘But it was the vision of Rian (Johnson) who both wrote and directed this film and the way he shot the movie, the cinematography, the location, everything was unique, and it was certainly a whole new experience to me.’
RSNG Obviously there is a conversation here about working with Daniel Craig twice in quick succession? DE ARMAS ‘It’s strange sometimes how these things come about, but I think what you have in the dynamic between the actors is very different to what will be seen in the new Bond.’
‘Obviously the movies are incredibly far apart, even though there is murder, intrigue and comedy across both. Overall though, I think it says a lot about the strength of a partnership if you can adjust roles and characters so drastically in such a short space of time.’
I don’t think, as an actor, you can be too influenced by those around you
RSNG When you prepare yourself for a film do you alter your approach to your own character based on who you will be starring with? DE ARMAS ‘To an extent, yes, but really the characters you play are so richly described and imagined in the scripts that you mostly listen to the voices coming back to you from the pages.’
‘I think rather than bend a character towards who else you are starring with in a film, it is much more likely that your own personality comes in to alter who that character is. I don’t think, as an actor, you can be too influenced by those around you, be that the actors themselves or the people you are playing.’
‘Your job as an actor is to look after your own character, not to be swayed by others.’
RSNG As usual, any talk about Bond is incredibly tight-lipped? DE ARMAS ‘We are in an era now where the leaking of information is usually done on purpose. Personally, I find secrecy leading up to any film quite awkward. As an actor you want to let people know what you have done and how good it is and how excited you are about the future.’
‘In reality you finish filming and sit there for months and months and months unable to express anything. When it comes to promoting the film you are usually one, two, maybe even three movies on with other projects, so it takes some planning in your mind, and very often you feel as though you are time-travelling through roles, constantly going from one to another and never quite getting closure. Then, just when you feel you have finally left a character behind, along comes a sequel!
‘Bond will always be one of those where there is simply very little needed to be said. It sells itself and has done for many decades.’
RSNG Do you still get starstruck around generational actors? DE ARMAS ‘Not anymore. At first, in the early days, there was still something of me working my way around language and scripts, and that actually helped the process because I couldn’t be entirely ‘in the moment’ on occasions because I was still working on words or gestures.’
‘When you are working in something that isn’t your first language, there is sometimes a useful barrier that you can hide behind.’
‘As time goes on, that barrier lowers, but by then, or by now, I am totally comfortable in who I am and who the people around me are. It doesn’t really bother me – we are all here to do a job and to create something important and memorable.’
When I first got an email for the audition, the description for the character was: Caretaker, Latina, pretty
RSNG What attracts you most to a role – the character or the script? DE ARMAS ‘It must ultimately be the script, as that is what you are judged on. Providing your role has something about it and you do not feel as though you are making up numbers, it is always a case of looking at the movie as a whole and not just for one role.’
‘In Knives Out, for example, I cannot take any credit for the way I played the character as everything was on Rian’s script. Marta has no agenda, she is who she is, and she has a big heart and is also just trying to protect her family, which is definitely the most important thing for her.’
‘Marta is in a very vulnerable place, but that certainly doesn’t mean that she is the type of person that anyone can just walk all over. So, in that respect she is just defending everything that she has.
‘The script was just so beautifully written, the scenes within it, the surprises, the twists and the turns, it was very unexpected for me. When I first got an email for the audition, the description for the character was: Caretaker, Latina, pretty.’
‘That made me take a step back and I thought: “No way, thank you very much but that’s not what I want to do with my career right at this point.” But the casting directors kept chasing me and insisting that I read the script and finally I did, and when I did I realised just how much I was going to lose if I turned it down.’
‘It made me see that the description for the role just didn’t do just to the character that I was about to throw away, at all. What happened in the end was that it was such a beautiful part to play and also such a strong lead and I just couldn’t say ‘no’ to that. Add to that, I was dying to work with Rian and also everybody in the cast and it was such an incredible opportunity.’
RSNG What de Rian say to you to convince you to be a part of this project? DE ARMAS ‘Well, I first spoke to him over Skype and I was in Thailand, at the time, because I was actually finishing another film. It was also the first time in my life that I had to audition on Skype, and it was so unusual.’
‘I had another actor who I was working with there who was doing the scene with me and Rian on my laptop, live and he was giving me notes and directions over Skype. I felt that it was all very strange, but he was nice and supportive and then he did something which really meant a lot to me.’
‘They were two weeks away from beginning the shoot on the movie and he waited for me to finish the movie that I was on. That was so he could meet me in person, when I was finally able to travel over to Boston.’
WHAT NEXT? James Corden enlists Ana de Armas’s help in making even canned sweetcorn sound sexy.