Grace Jones Vs. 007
"Trouble Follows Me Around!"
By ADAM PIRANl
Teeth bared, eyes smiling, the beautiful singer/actress who tamed "Conan the Destroyer" tackles James Bond, Agent 007 with "A View To A Kill."
Black boots with side Zips open to expose a metallic silver lining. An armless black dress spotted with white polka dots, stretching up into a black balaclava helmet covering ears and hair. Over that, a black beret perforated on one side by decorative, finger-width metal ringlets. Sunglasses.
Grace Jones has arrived.
Taking off the sunglasses, she displays a dazzling smile. Just back from Paris, she is scheduled to leave England the next day for the start of a week-long trip to Acapulco. And this is a "rest" period from her work on A View To A Kill, James Bond's latest cinematic mission. Relaxing on a sofa in the elegant apartment in London's fashionable Kensington and Chelsea district hired for her by the 007 production company, the charismatic actress is vivacious and energetic.
She has good cause to feel energized. Grace Jones, queen of disco, recording artist extraordinaire and former model, is becoming Grace Jones, film star. She joined Conan the Destroyer for a savage sword-and-sorcery venture into the unknown in her first major movie role. Now, she's face-to-face with debonair superspy Roger Moore.
The role of May Day, one of Bond's opponents in A View To A Kill, was a natural for Jones. "I loved the script!" she claims. "I'm a big fan of James Bond movies, I love action. And I love the fact that I have love scenes with both Christopher Walken and Roger Moore." The dazzling smile returns and she laughs loudly. "So, it's a good chance to show a wider range of acting. I play one the typical villainesses—that is, killing people, trying to get rid of Bond in general and being very stylish, sexy, feminine and tough."
May Day works for Max Zorin, portrayed by Walken. "We're the bad guys," Jones says. "I'm his lover and bodyguard, so l'm a martial artist. I do all the dirty work for him. Zorin is a German emigrant, quite wealthy and very, very brilliant. He's working in the microchip industry. Actually, he's collecting microchips that are very important as far as a nuclear disaster is concerned. And San Francisco stands in his way!"
Battles with Bond
If James Bond is involved, movie action at its best is virtually guaranteed. And May Day, assassin and aide-de-camp, is in the thick of it—even jumping off the Eiffel Tower. "I like the action stuff a lot," Jones explains. "I do some of the stunts—that's the best part! I'm at a very physical stage of my life, so I like doing a lot of the physical work. I did the stunt with the horse, even though they brought a stuntwoman in—they had to paint her black, because the dress I'm in shows my whole back.
"I had worked on horses quite a bit in Conan the Destroyer, so I just said to director [John Glen], 'Listen, let me try it.' I have to restrain a horse that starts, that rears, that goes out of control. He's a racehorse, so he was quite spirited, and he had a tendency to throw his leg off on the right. So he could just step on you, you know, smash your face in. But I said, 'I'm not an idiot, I'm not going to stand there and let the horse step on me.' So, they let me do that stunt."
Though Jones isn't allowed to execute the "really dangerous stuff," some shots just can't work without her. "I had to lift up a man who weighed about 170 pounds. I was just going to throw him off and kill him!"
It's not the stunt scenes
which really concern her. "I think the hardest thing is when you have to do a love scene with somebody," she says. "It's also the easiest, because it's the funniest. Roger's very funny. I'm very shy sometimes—you wouldn't believe it! But there are moments where you think about it a lot before you're actually going to do a love scene, thinking of ways to break the ice. So, you end up laughing rather than being serious.
"I used to hear stories that Roger always played tricks on all the girls with whom he had love scenes, like pulling out dildos and things like that. Maybe. I don't know.
"So, I decided, during our scene, to get back at him before he got to me." What did Jones do? "Oh, I can't say. I'm not going to tell! They recorded it on film, too. But it won't be shown."
On-set antics are matched by a flexible approach to filmmaking. "The whole film is spontaneous," Jones reveals. "The script is there as a guideline, but Roger is very spontaneous, and so is Chris, and so the whole thing is changing all the time. You don't really 'Study the script' and 'Get there' and 'Stick to the script.' You read it through, make a few little notes, and then you put it down. You think more about the character rather than what they're saying. It's more, how would you move, how would you look, how would you speak? So, everyone is very spontaneous. I think that the director really meant it to be that way when the script was written.
"That's what's great about film, because it's constantly changing up until the very last minute when it's 'OK. Action,' and you start shooting. So, lines change and hopefully funny things come up. If an idea comes up, we do it. I like working like that."
Although this is her first encounter with Bond, many of the View to a Kill crew at England's Pinewood Studios are veterans of some of 007's previous 13 adventures through out the past 22 years. Jones fit into the company quickly. "I'm a family-oriented person," she explains, "so it was quite easy. I've always had a big family, and I like lots of people. I'm not the introverted kind who doesn't go to lunch in the restaurant and stays in the dressing room and only peeks out when it's time to work. I like jokes, and I like to talk a lot. And I like dirty jokes, and the crew likes dirty jokes, so it's quite fun. We're one big family. Which is great."
Since Dr. No, every Bond movie has been surrounded by a huge flood of publicity. Jones is happy to participate in the process. "I don't mind—until they write bad publicity," she laughs. "Then, I won't do it any more. It is a lot. I mean, I can't take doing it on the set, it's too distracting usually. It's good just to do it all and then stop."
She's also a big fan of the earlier Bond movies. "I collect them. I've bought all of them, all the ones available. I watch them all the time. I love Goldfinger and I love Live And Let Die — I really love them all."
Combat with Conan
A top movie role merely confirms the colorful stardom Jones has already experienced in the music field. Born in Jamaica, her father a clergyman, she came to live in Syracuse, New York with her family at age 12. By 18, she was a successful model with New York City's prestigious Wilhelmina Modeling Agency. Acting ambitions had to wait while Jones traveled to Europe, where she appeared on the covers of Elle, Vogue and the German weekly news magazine Der Stem.
Jones was offered a recording contract. Five albums—and international acclaim—followed. Her bestselling singles included 1981 's "Pull up to the Bumper." And she began appearing in discos, performing her own style of "disco theater." Manhattan's Studio 54 and discos across the U.S. and Europe showcased Jones on stage in bizarre costumes, riding motorbikes, and on one memorable occasion, interacting with live tigers and leopards.
Then came the Conan the Destroyer offer. "I wasn't going to do it," she reveals. "I had turned down that role for about half the year they were after me, and I just kept saying, 'No, no.' There was another film that I was going to do in Italy with Dino De Laurentiis' nephew, and they really wanted me for Conan the Destroyer. In the end, the other movie fell through, and I didn't want to do another record. I did some research on Conan, on the role of Zula, and I found it quite interesting that Zula was a man in the comics. He appears several times, he meets Conan in a prison, helps him escape, and they become friends.
"In the script, Zula was a woman. I don't even think they knew that the character had been a man. Then, I met [director] Richard Fleischer [STARLOG #85] who was really nice, and with everyone's cooperation—I had a lot to say about how I looked and all that stuff, so I thought it was a really good idea to do it. Plus, no one expected me to do a film like Conan the Destroyer, so I think that's why I did it."
Undaunted by harsh Mexican locations, Jones brought everything to her role as the savage warrior woman, holding her own in a cast that included Arnold Schwarzenegger (STARLOG #82), Sarah (Superman II) Douglas and former basketball star Wilt Chamberlain. She got on well with her co-stars. "Arnold reminded me a lot of Roger Moore," Jones notes. "Not physically, but in spirit. They both have quite a sense of humor, the same kind of sense of humor.
"I came out of the music world where I worked solo—with musicians, but basically I work on my own, and I'm more or less 100% in control of what I do. Going into film, where you don't have that control, it was good that all the people turned out to be nice to work with."
Rumors that Jones got carried away using Zula's eight-foot-long fighting stick while combating the armies of stuntmen were not exaggerated. "I had to learn to look like I grew up with that stick," she asserts. "I was probably over-enthusiastic. The director really didn't want me to be preoccupied with pulling my punches, so it was just 'Go get 'em!' Just do it. Otherwise, if you think about stopping one inch from someone's eye, if you start thinking about that, then you lose the whole thrust of what you're doing. It's no longer convincing. At least, with me, it wouldn't have been!
"So, the stuntmen just took their chances. And I would laugh and give them a kiss afterwards."
Maneuvers with Music
Becoming an actress wasn't just a music star's whim, and Jones isn't an actress who will wait patiently for a good script to turn up in the mail. "The whole thing is a longterm plan: I'm doing now what I started doing," she says. "I started acting before I did anything, and this is really what I wanted to do. Fortunately for the music world, I got addicted to music, otherwise I wouldn't do it anymore, because acting is really what I had planned to do.
"That's why I did my whole music career in a way that was a visual career. For the first three years, my music was not really considered
in the 'Hall of Fame' of music, except for a few numbers like 'I Need a Man' which was right for the time, and 'La Vie en Rose.' But I would say after Warm Leatherette and Chris Blackwell producing my music, it began to fit more like a glove and I started sinking into it.
"Many people wonder now if I'm going to give up music, and if it hadn't really gotten into my blood at this point, I would just stop it. Because it's difficult doing both I things at the same time."
Although she says she will "definitely" continue her music career, movies loom large in Jones' future. "I've got a couple of i projects of my own that I want to do," she says. "I write, and—I know, destiny-wise, where I'm supposed to fit in,'in the whole realm of things, and I plan to work in that direction. But it's good that I get this drawging power and ticket-selling power, in order to control what my next projects will be."
There are no definite productions on the horizon, but Jones is confident of what her own role will be: "Actress, and partially producing, meaning choosing the other actors, controlling what I look like, who will do the lights, who will direct: the kind of thing that Sylvester Stallone did with Rocky."
She intends to take control of her screen appearances "quite soon, within a couple of years I would imagine." Jones expects that A View To A Kill will provide the momentum she needs to set her production career rolling. "I hope to start doing it after this film; I think after this one, I can do it."
The actress-singer has a five-year-old son, but she is still able to concentrate on a full career. "His time is his own," she says. "You know, he's not a baby-any more. The most difficult time is when they're babies and you're breast-feeding. Then, you have to be there all the time.
"He's in school; he goes on vacations, he has a big family to visit, and he comes on the set. He's active just as I'm active, so it's not difficult at all. The bad parts come if he were to be really deathly ill or something like that. But then I would do that for anyone, friend, or animal...I would say, 'Well, my career has to wait a little bit.' I have a lifetime for my career, so that's not hard."
Meanwhile, there's a bit more lensing before A View To A Kill will be finished and ready for its May 24 premiere. Setting a glass of tea down next to her sunglasses on a nearby table, Jones is nonchalant about maintaining her sometimes outrageous image. "I don't have to maintain that," she says. "That just sort of comes with me, it follows me around! Trouble follows me around!" She laughs again, and with another flash of that dazzling smile, there can be no doubt that, in the movie world, Grace Jones is here to stay.
(Photo) This is one lady you don't want to cross. She's Grace Jones, portraying May Day with A View To A Kill, and trouble does follow her around. Here, she's about to dispose of it, tossing away Russian agent Klotkoff (Bogdan Mokinowski).
(Photos) Opposite: The four faces of Grace Jones as May Day: Lovely companion. Exercised opponent. Dark-clad assassin. Cunning businesswoman.
(Photo) Evil Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) gets the upper hand on his aid-de-camp May Day (Jones) in a workout—and he takes his reward.
(Photo) Jones and co-star Patrick Macnee enjoy some off-camera camaraderie. On screen, their relationship is a bit combative.
(Photo) With Jones as Zula in Conan the Destroyer, "the stuntmen just took their chances." She didn't pull her punches.
[Source: Starlog #95 p.30-33]