James Bond fans will have to wait until April 2020 for the next instalment in the iconic film franchise, but already everyone wants to know more about the brandnew Bond girl, Ana de Armas. The stunning Cuban actor, 31, who will be starring alongside Daniel Craig and Oscar-winner Rami Malek, first found fame on Spanish television, but is still a relative newcomer to Hollywood. Here she talks about her humble beginnings, pure determination and new life in LA.
When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?
I was very young. I would watch movies on the couch in my house. If I saw a scene played by a woman or a man, I would right away run to the mirror and repeat it and do it again. We moved to Havana when I was nine and I heard there was a theatre school. That was the day I said, "Oh, if there is a school, then that's what I want to do, where I want to go." And I made my parents take me for the auditions. That's how it started.
Did your acting dream seem real?
It was real. You can dream very high, but very few people dream that they can really go outside and have the balls to make that dream happen.
You had the balls to do it, but when did the opportunity come about?
I had the balls and a Spanish passport. So when I was 18 and I graduated from school, it came to my mind: "I want to go to Spain to just try and audition for something and see what happens." I bought a ticket and told my mom, "When I run out of money, I'll come back." I went to Spain with 200 euros in my pocket. I was lucky enough to meet a big casting director a week after I got there. He cast me for one of the biggest TV series ever made in Spain. And I never came back, because I started shooting.
What did you love about Spain?
I loved being independent for real, like finally. To me, my family means everything. I have a very small family, and I'm very close to all of them. But at the same time, I like to do my thing alone. And in Spain, I had that freedom. So when I moved to Spain, that was a great feeling.
Were you quick to adapt to working in English rather than Spanish?
I had to be. I guess your brain gets into survival mode or something. It was like I was learning a new superpower and how to use it. I always saw actors like Penélope [Cruz]. I could tell how hard it was for her at the beginning to feel and to act in English, because it's a different part of your brain. I always thought, "I have to get good at that. I have to be able to be able to feel and not to think about what I'm saying." I just want to feel it.
I always tell my agents, "I'm doing classes, but I want to go to meetings now, and I want to audition now."
"No, but your accent …"
"I don't care about the accent. I don't care. I want to do it, and I don't want to audition for Maria, and Juana, none of that. I want to audition for the same parts everyone else is auditioning for. And I'll make the difference. I'll make them change their minds."
At the beginning, it was a disaster. Nobody understood what I was saying. Even myself couldn't understand the context of what I was reading. I remember little phrases like "I beg your pardon?" or stuff like that. I had no clue what I was saying. But I knew emotionally what the scene was about. So my feelings were in the right place; my mouth was going somewhere else.
How do you mix putting yourself out there with being particular about the parts that you want to play?
There are two things. First, what they think that you can bring to the table, what you can bring to the character to offer, and what you can really offer. But sometimes they already make a decision before you ever get there.
And once you get there, there is another step: You don't look how I was imagining you. Because some of them, they don't even bother to google your photo. "Oh, but you're blonde, and green eyes, and so white. Are you Cuban? Cuban from where? From Miami?"
"No, from Cuba."
"You're Cuban, you're from Cuba?" Like all those kind of steps of being labelled, or being put in just the image they have in their heads.
The next step is that you get in the room for the audition. Then you can try to do your best and convince them that maybe that part that was not written for someone with an accent, or Latina, just someone in the world. It doesn't matter from where. You can play that, and you can do something special, and you can make that part remarkable and something different.
So it is something that, every day, I still have to do it. It's a puzzle.
How often do you get back to Cuba?
It depends on how busy I am that year. Some years I've only been once. So it always depends. I'm on the phone with my parents all the time. I'm in touch with my people always. I don't feel I'm disconnected or even not being there. Probably you pay more attention when you're not there.
Have you adapted to living in LA?
I like LA. It was tough at the beginning, because it can feel very lonely. It's hard to meet people. Everything happens in a house. So if you don't know anybody who invites you to the house, you're not anywhere. But now I have my friends, a great group of people. But also there are a few things that I don't adapt to.
As a human being, you always want to fit in. You don't want to be pointed out. Until the day you realise that you're just different – you cannot be from the same colour. They're all grey and you're pink. And that's your strength. The best thing I have is that nobody's me.
You don't have to try to fit. You have to just be yourself and do what you have to do. Why would you want it to be someone else that already exists? You can't. It's taken. Be you, and do what you've got.
Is there anything about the lifestyle in LA that you embraced that you hadn't experienced before?
There is something about LA that's all this healthy life, but in a good way. There is this nice routine in the mornings when you go get a juice, go for a walk with your dog, or go for a hike. In Cuba, I grew up with so many trees, and by the ocean, and walking a lot. It was something so regular for me, like so ordinary, that you forget what you're seeing. It's just your every day.
I remember when I moved from Cuba to Spain, all I wanted to have was a very clean, new apartment with new windows, and airconditioned. Because [in Cuba] all I had was a balcony with messy plants hanging around me, and it was hot. So you always want what you don't have. I realised how much I miss that nature, and I can see how here people really appreciate that.
Do you look for certain kinds of roles or take each one as they come?
So far, I've done the best with what I've got. Of course I see projects that I really want to do, and the parts that I really would love to play, and I can get to that. I want to do everything and beyond.
I want to create some impact. Until now, I've been always the wife or the girlfriend of the lead actor in a movie. I've learnt a lot, and I really enjoyed it, and I played it because I really wanted the part. But there's more than that. There are great female roles that are not only reacting or creating the situation for him to be the hero. I want to show how strong and smart women are.
We go through so much. We need to see that on screen. Those female parts, not many, but they are out there, and I have to find some. I want that chance.
Do you have a career masterplan?
I don't think about that. I just don't want to do that to myself. I don't want to create that anticipation and expectations to myself. Because I know for sure, because they've never done it, my parents are not waiting for me to come back home with a trophy or anything to prove. So the only one that can get in my head is just me, and I don't want to do that. Whatever happens, happens.
OUR FAVOURITE BOND GIRLS
Ana de Armas is following in the footsteps of many memorable women who have wooed 007. Here are 10 who lead the way.
- MARY GOODNIGHT who was played by Britt Ekland in The Man with the Golden Gun.
- WAI LIN who was played by Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies.
- SOLITAIRE who was played by Jane Seymour in Live and Let Die.
- HONEY RYDER who was played by Ursula Andress in Dr No.
- MAY DAY who was played by Grace Jones in A View to a Kill.
- GIACINTA “JINX” JOHNSON who was played by Halle Berry in Die Another Day.
- TATIANA ROMANOVA who was played by Daniela Bianchi in From Russia with Love.
- TRACY BOND who was played by Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
- PUSSY GALORE who played Honor Blackman in Goldfinger.
- VESPER LYND who was played by Eva Green in Casino Royale.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale May 26.