I was born poor – it’s grounded me as a movie star
From brooding Bond girl to Tom Cruise’s co-star, Ukrainian beauty Olga Kurylenko has risen to the very top thanks to her powerful self belief – and a ‘miracle’ at 13
Olga Kurylenko, 33, grew up in poverty in Ukraine until she was discovered by a model agent on a trip to Moscow at 13 with her art teacher mother. She moved to Paris aged just 16 to pursue a modelling career, which led to her move into acting. She has been married and divorced twice — to the French photographer Cedric Van Mol from 2000 to 2004 and to the American mobile phone mogul Damian Gabrielle from 2006 to 2007. Olga shot to fame as sultry Bond girl Camille Montes in 2008’s Quantum Of Solace, and last year she starred in the darkly comic Martin McDonagh-directed Seven Psychopaths as well as Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder. Olga, who now lives in London, flew into Dublin last week with Tom Cruise to promote their current film, Oblivion.
Being a Bond girl changed my life. It’s impossible to overestimate the global power of Bond. The entire world is in love with the Bond movies. Other movies might make an actor famous. But Bond fame is another dimension altogether. It can be dangerous for an actor because there is the risk of always being known as a Bond girl. I realised that and made my choices accordingly. I realised that I would have to take a wide variety of parts to establish myself in other ways. I think I’ve managed to achieve that. But, wherever I go in the world, most people will always recognise me as the girl from Quantum Of Solace. That’s fine with me.
Talent is contagious. To get up in the morning, go to work on Seven Psychopaths and know you’re going to be on set with Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits, Christopher Wa lken… how much genius can one movie take? With talent like that around you, it’s easy to raise your game and become a better actor.
I believe in miracles. At the age of 13 I was on holiday in Moscow with my mother. It was the only trip I took in my whole childhood. We stepped off a metro train and were approached by a talent scout who told me that she wanted to sign me to her modelling
agency. That was the start of everything for me. If I hadn’t been a model, I couldn’t have become a movie actress. If I’d stepped off the train a minute later, maybe none of this would have happened. To me, that chance meeting was a miracle, like something from a fairy tale. I’m one of the funniest women who has ever walked
on this Earth. At least, that’s what people tell me. I’ve been told so many times that I should branch out into comedy films. Seven Psychopaths was my first comedy. It has given me the thirst to do more.
After playing the action girl so many times, comedy is a breeze by comparison. Being born poor is what keeps me grounded as a
movie star. Growing up, I was extremely poor. I lived in a tiny Soviet communal apartment with four small rooms shared by six adults from my extended family and several children. My mother had no money to me buy me clothes so everything I wore had to be patched up, then patched again. I’ll never forget what it’s like to go without. It means that I have very few extravagances.
I squirrel my earnings away. The only thing I like to splash out on is food. I remember what it’s like to be hungry and to dream of beautiful meals. Growing up without a father didn’t cause me
any problems. I’ve had very little contact with my dad [her parents, Konstantin and Marina, divorced when she was three]. I was eight when I met him for the first time. We were at home and the doorbell rang. I said, ‘Mum, there is a man here and I don’t know who he is.’ And she said, ‘Oh, I must introduce you, that’s your father.’ I met him again when I was 13. I saw him in my life only three times. My mother gave me all the love I needed and more. Some directors make you want to tear your heart out and serve it up on a plate. Terrence Malick is one of those. Working with him was the thrill of my life. His method is very spontaneous. The actors don’t know what is expected of them until the last minute. Then he’ll take them on a car ride and deliver instructions. When it comes to doing a scene he makes it feel real, not like acting.
If life knocks me, I refuse to give up. I’ve never let setbacks destroy my confidence. In 2006 I went to LA to find an agent. Nobody was interested. They dismissed me without bothering to check out my work. I walked away from those meetings with the belief they would soon be on the phone, begging to represent me. I had that much faith in my abilities. Sure enough, those same people came calling.
Sensitivity is both a blessing and a curse. I feel everything very intensely. In some ways this is a positive. It makes me feel that I’m truly alive and that I’m not missing anything. I’m like a sponge. I absorb everything in my path.
I don’t understand fish and chips. I moved to London in 2009 and at first I found it to be a very confusing city. To me, it was like a labyrinth. I could never work out where one street ended and another started. The house numbers were baffling to me. Every day I would get lost and end up wandering around like a stray dog. Now I’ve got it sorted. The only thing I don’t get is fish and chips.
Tom Cruise is a fantastic person. I could watch him all day long. I learned so much from him. He is one of the most generous actors.
Oblivion is showing in cinemas now