Is it true that you didn’t have a TV when you were growing up?
We didn’t have one. We certainly didn’t have a video player.
Why did you want to act?
I saw a lot of operas from backstage and watched a lot of rehearsals — my parents were singers. It was seeing all the drama, close up.
Is there a character in literature that you would like to play?
I’d like to do Nicole Diver in F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night, if that ever gets made.
Did you worry about being typecast after playing a Bond girl in Die Another Day?
That character was so different from me — probably the furthest from me of any character I have played. I was a shaggy student coming out of a gap year. At the time of being cast, I couldn’t have looked less like Miranda Frost. I had never even seen a Bond film.
What does film mean to you?
It’s like food for me, it’s brain food. My appetites are eclectic. My body is pretty good at telling me what I want to eat and my brain is pretty good at telling me what I want to see.
You wear ageing make-up in your new film, Barney’s Version. Was it disconcerting?
I felt quite vulnerable. Paul [Giamatti] and I became very close because you feel like you have known someone for longer than you really have, in the life of a film. I saw him old and said: “Oh, I remember when we were young!” It is a very curious thing — you bank these memories and don’t remember that they are not real.
Does acting often play tricks with your memory?
It’s happened to me before. I saw a film in which someone comes into a room and sees two people cuddled up on the sofa and feels outside of the situation. I thought, “I remember feeling that” — and then I remembered it was a character I had played that had felt it. But it had been mixed with my own memories.
How do you shed the identity of a character?
I enjoy the blur. I had an interesting experience when I was preparing for this film. I went around Italy with my dialect coach and spoke in an American accent the whole time and was treated as if I were American. In restaurants, people expected us to be a bit more philistine. I felt bad for Americans.
Are you a political person?
No. When I did a film in Israel, I tried to get inside Israeli politics and understand what is going on — but I didn’t know how to form an opinion that was my own and was authentic.
What about British politics?
My best friend’s husband is George Osborne’s right-hand man. I do ask him about it: I am interested. But I am also terribly ignorant.
Do you wish you were more engaged?
I long for the day when there are things I feel strongly about politically. I know when I loathe something – when I am in America and I turn on the television, I hate the news reporting. Everyone has an opinion; there is no neutrality. It’s scary how ignorance is mixed with politics. It is such a dangerous combination.
Do you vote?
I do but, again, not with any great conviction.
What, for you, would be success?
Freedom. Success is freedom — scripts coming your way and getting to choose the stories you want to tell. Glenda Jackson is one of my icons; she seemed to have a rather irreverent attitude towards the business.
Do you often feel that sense of freedom?
I got snowed in over Christmas and it was like being in a sanctuary. I look back on that period with such joy. I was cut off. I had a payphone but no car. No one could get hold of me. It was heaven. I don’t know how people cope with the amount that’s demanded of us when it comes to communication.
What concerns you about those demands?
What must it be like to be the president of the US? Who is texting him? Who is emailing him? Can you imagine what is coming in? I worry about that. Freedom comes at a price.
Is there anything you would like to forget?
No way! If there is ever a movie of my life, it will probably be rather like Barney’s Version — some successes, some disasters. Everything is going into the pot.
Is there a plan?
Now there is. I am getting to understand the business. Before, I was grateful for any job that came along. Our business is not all about luck.
Are we all doomed?
You are a miserable paper, aren’t you? But yes, sooner or later, earth is going to bite back. People will tear each other apart, and there are the nuclear bombs. All these things terrify me.
1979 Born in London
1990 Enters Badminton School, Bristol
1996 Plays Juliet in National Youth Theatre production of Romeo and Juliet
1997 Begins studying English literature at Wadham College, Oxford
2002 Stars as Miranda Frost in the James Bond film Die Another Day
2005 Plays Jane in Pride and Prejudice
2009 Cast in Lone Scherfig’s An Education
2010 Appears in Barney’s Version