Making Love (and Death) Means "Never Say Never Again"
A beautiful actress demonstrates the shade of evil is Fatima Blush as she seduces Sean Connery in this biggest Bond year of them all.
By RICHARD SCHENKMAN
There's more lo great beauty than good looks. There's style and poise. There's a look in the eyes which hints at what's happening behind them. And perhaps more importantly, there's altitude.
When someone beautiful walks into a room, people know it, and respond. Conversations turn into murmurs. Envy, desire, disbelief all flash across the faces of the observers. The presence spreads, making itself known in every corner. Attitude is a tangible thing; you can see it, touch it, regulate it.
The restaurant hostess never had to have seen Centennial or The Island of Dr. Moreau to know the brunette in the white dress was someone special. "Movie star" is as much a state of mind as a financial position. So, the hostess showed the tall, gorgeously tanned woman to a window table in the closed section of the restaurant. The request for a fresh fish dish not listed on the menu was immediately fulfilled. And even her guest, shabbily dressed and clearly not possessed of such charisma, was treated as though some of the magic might have rubbed off onto him. Barbara Carrera is charming, warm, open—and she can af-ford to be. Self-sufficient, happy and living well, she has reached a position often aspired to hut rarely attained: she is a working actress. She loves her work. Having started as a model and switched careers, Barbara Carrera delights in the steady growth of her skills in her chosen profession.
A Model Actress
She was born in Nicaragua, where the people speak French and live in the sun. There Carrera stayed until the age of 10, when her parents, wanting her to have the advantage of an American education, sent her to the St. Joseph Academy in Memphis, Tennessee. At 16, she moved to New York and lived with friends of her family.
Having been advised to try modeling by several legitimate sources, Carrera visited the Eileen Ford Agency where she developed into a top fashion "mannequin." as they say in France. Her successful career took her all over the world, and all over the fashion business. "I was with all the agencies—Ford, Wilhelmina. Casablanca. Models switch back and forth all the time," she recalls. But after awhile even the parties and jet-setting begin to pall. Carrera didn't know she wanted to be an actress, but she did know there was life outside of Vogue. "I was very happy to give it all up, because I was ready to do something else. A model's life is over at 25. Finished. You're over the hill. It's a very superficial life. Beauty is everything, the whole conversation is beauty. And, god forbid that you walk into the studio with dark circles under your eyes, or a pimple."
Photo: S.P.E.C.T.R.E. evil conspires in Never Say Never Again: mastermind Ernst Blofeld (Max Von Sydow) and his lady assassin Fatima Blush (Carrera).
Photo: Fatima Blush (Carrera) encounters Agent 007 (Sean Connery).
One day, as Carrera walked the sunny beaches in the south of France, a country she considers home, she was discovered. "This producer saw some pictures of me in a magazine, and called my agency in New York. He asked if I would come do a screen test. I did the test, and that's how the acting began." The test ended a six-month search for the
right face by actor/producer Tom (Billy Jack) Laughlin, who was casting The Master Gunfighter. Carrera started out with a starring role, but as production rolled on in 1975, the period Western changed shape, and she now questions the importance of her presence. It was the beginning, although Carrera immediately returned to modeling, not having particularly enjoyed her brush with the Master (which flopped in theaters).
Her role in 1976's Embryo, however, convinced her to exchange still cameras for moving ones. Despite having heard a "prediction" that she would get the part, many obstacles stood between Carrera and the Rock Hudson film. However, she explains, "When I did that film, I decided I would make motion pictures my career. I loved acting, I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life."
Burt Lancaster starred in Carrera's next film, the 1977 adaptation of the H.G. Wells SF classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau. It was not only her most successful film to date (being the first distributed internationally), but also the turning point in her acting career.
She went on the road to promote the film, meeting many movers and shakers in the movie business. She learned a great deal from her co-stars. And she learned to get the most from any role, no matter how small—or how good—the part. "I felt like I was an apprentice," Carrera recalls. "It wasn't so important to me that the role be Academy Award material; what was important for me, at the time, was to keep working at it. That's the only way you really learn. Luckily, acting was able to support my lifestyle, too." Despite her training by fire, Carrera began taking acting lessons. She stayed with them until acting itself left her with no time to learn except on the job.
One of the studio's The Island of Dr. Moreau promotions relied on a steamy Playboy pictorial featuring an unclad Carrera. She has appeared in that magazine several times—and graced its cover just last year—but does she feel such public exposure brings the desired attention? "It has had a big effect on my career," the actress admits. "People are very interested in each other's physical forms, and they really must be, because the magazine is the highest-selling magazine all over the world. If you want to be known, if you want to say ‘Hello' to the world, appear on the cover of Playboy. Anyhow, it is one form of advertising a film."
Audiences have also seen Carrera in When Time Ran Out, Condorman, I, the Jury, and Lone Wolf McQuade. Of such roles, she notes, "Now, I feel that I have paid my dues," but she looks with respect upon what directors have asked her to do. Each role is an adventure. That's the reason, for example, for appearing in I, the Jury. "It was different, a challenge," she explains. "Prior to I, the Jury, all the characters I played were very sweet. I, the Jury was so different; call it a stretch."
Now, when her old films play on television, Carrera doesn't watch. "I never see them," she says. "I don't like to see them because I keep working and progressing with everything I do. When I look at my old films, all I see are old mistakes."
An Actress Assassin
Barbara Carrera's newest—and certainly biggest—motion picture is Never Say Never Again, the long-awaited James Bond adventure in which Sean Connery returns to the part he created so many years ago. Carrera portrays Fatima Blush, a lovely, but lethal lady currently employed by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (The Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), and commanded by arch-fiend Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer). NSNA, technically a remake of Thunderball (for more on its origins, see STARLOG #68,71,73), involves the theft of several nuclear devices, the subsequent extortion demands, and, of course, the world's rescue by its favorite superspy. Since Fatima is a major character, the assassin who loves and pursues 007, Carrera was with the production for five months, from France to Nassau to London, not counting all the pre-production time.
"1 met Irving Kershner, the director, on Eyes of Laura Mars," Carrera recalls. "He wanted me to do that movie, except no one really knew who 1 was, and they wanted someone with a bigger name, so they went with Faye Dunaway.
"Since then, Mr. Kershner said, he was watching my career. I ran into him in January 1982 in Manila. A month-and-a-half later, he said he wanted me for this film. He told me about Never Say Never Again. He was very excited and literally talked me into doing it with him and Sean Connery without a script!"
Carrera had to turn down other work while waiting through several delays before production began, but she still felt confident from the start. "Somehow, Kershner's enthusiasm and his excitement got me hooked on it," she explains. "The first time I saw the script, for instance, I wasn't at all happy with it. It was too late because I was already committed to the film! I thought, ‘My god! I'm making a dreadful mistake!' But then writers came in, and it just kept improving every day, more and more."
In Nassau, the Bahamas, Carrera was in her element. Her natural activities include walking and swimming, and the islands are perfect for both endeavors—especially for an outdoors-type who loves to be tan. "I don't just lay in the sun,"she comments. "I know I shouldn't get this dark, but all the rest of my scenes here are underwater, and the tan will fade by the time we get back to London.
"When Never Say Never Again premieres, I am going to have more offers for physical parts! I do so many physical things in this film—and so many physical things I have never done before. I had to learn to scuba dive, I had to learn how to drive a stick-shift Renault turbo, to water-ski—wait until you see the water skiing I do! The activities are tremendous."
One activity Carrera learned to love was scuba diving. "Today," she explains in late winter, "I went down for the first time to 18 feet and stayed down 45 minutes. That, to me, is the greatest accomplishment!"
In addition to the beautiful fish and coral, the actress notes an element common to both diving and acting. "You don't notice the pain in your head because of the beauty," she says. "It's a painful joy, and on a movie, you don't mind the long hours and hard work because you are all working on something in which you believe.
"Making movies is fun because I love it, I really do. Even though it's difficult because of all the problems, it's still fun because
you're doing what you love. Acting." Carrera's favorite roles, thus far, have been in Masada and Centennial, two TV mini-series. Masada took nine months out of her life, Centennial even more: she aged from 15 to 89! "These have been the most important pans of my career, and they both come from television. They're the most important, because we had the time to work with the characters and allow those characters to grow very slowly. In film, you don't have that time to nurture your character; you must let your character be exposed and understood by the audience as soon as possible."
She did have the time, however, to develop a strong sense about her role as Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, and she brings many things to the character. "It's fascinating, the human mind, isn't it?" she asks. "You know what I get off on most of all, being an actress? I realize that there are millions of ways to see the truth. Everyone perceives their own truth. So, in developing a character, you have the choice to give her all these different traits. That's why I gave Fatima all these things; I want to make her a special kind of a ‘femme fatale,' a villainess or whatever you call her. I don't want to make her anything which has been done before. I want to make her a new kind of villainess, someone who goes beyond just villainy. If she does an assassination, for instance, she should do it in the best, most fantastic, artistic way."
Carrera brought such elements as Kali (a concept of operating outside of society through the strength of one's own personal code) and sexual appetite to her role: Fatima Blush sensuously makes love to a man before she cold-bloodedily kills him.
Klaus Brandauer and Carrera became very friendly during the lensing of Never Say Never Again. They play the evil flip-side to James Bond and Domino (Connery and Kim Basinger); the deranged villains. But Carrera sympathizes with the bad guys' situation. "What is nuts?" she wonders. "Everyone will find somebody else a nut because they're doing things the way they want to see them done. Every time you see someone doing something totally different, you think they're nuts! But they feel totally comfortable about it because they've discovered another reality. So, who's to say who is nuts? The one who is perceiving the nut, or the one being called a nut?"
For now, Carrera is relaxing, waiting before she takes on her next screen role. Of Never Say Never Again, she says, "1 think we've got a great film. Of course, it's had its ups and down, but it looks really good." Certainly, Barbara Carrera will do all she can to help promote the new James Bond adventure, perhaps even returning to Playboy. As for the next part, the beautiful actress has only one request: "All I ask is that they be interesting, have transitions, and color. I don't care if it's cinema, theater, or television. If I find a character who stimulates me very much, I will do the role, because I'm an actress first—and foremost."
RICHARD SCHENKMAN, a producer with MTV and an espionage expert, is President of The James Bond Fan Club (PO Box 414, Bronxville, NY 10708). He visited the set of Never Say Never Again in STARLOG #68.
[Source: Starlog #75, October 1983, P.22-24,61]