Olga Kurylenko as Ophelia and Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English star in the movie Johnny English Strikes Again.
Olga Kurylenko as Ophelia and Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English star in the movie Johnny English Strikes Again. Giles Keyte

Comedy masterclass: Bond girl learns from the best

Whether you're saving the world or just trying to make it laugh, starring in a spy film is serious business.

Olga Kurylenko should know. The Ukranian-born actor starred opposite Daniel Craig in his second outing as James Bond in Quantum of Solace.

Now she's putting her comedy chops, most recently seen in The Death of Stalin, to good use in Johnny English Strikes Again.

Kurylenko plays Ophelia, a mysterious woman who appears to be working for tech billionaire Jason Volta in funny man Rowan Atkinson's latest spy spoof.

"Funnily enough on set it's all pretty serious,” she says. "It's work. Everything has to be co-ordinated, the scene needs to be right and the funny bit needs to be right. There's a lot of concentration around it and it's very serious when you're there, but at the same time there is this light side because the scenes you're doing are funny.

"And of course having a partner like Rowan right in front of you making faces is quite pleasant.”

Despite his long and illustrious career in comedy spanning nearly four decades, Atkinson was a calming presence on the set.

"He's a calm and very thoughtful person, not at all like his characters,” Kurylenko says.

"I'm a fan of his, but once we started working I was more learning from him, and observing. It's so different from what he is in real life and what he does on camera, and when they go 'action' you see that very thoughtful concentrated and serious person suddenly go into the silliest face. Then from take to take, he changes and searches. He's one of the most interesting people to look at on the screen.

"I would just come to watch even if I wasn't in the scene. You just hear huge laughs from the people behind the monitor. That doesn't happen on other films.”

After a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all of the active undercover agents in Britain, Johnny English is forced to come out of retirement to find the mastermind hacker.

His investigation leads him to a yacht owned by Volta, where he stumbles into Ophelia working undercover. The two spies team up in the hopes of thwarting his grand scheme at the G20 Summit in Scotland.

Ophelia is certainly not the type of woman who sits on the sidelines and she proves to be a useful ally for English.

"It's always nice when there's a real action and purpose to the character,” Kurylenko says.

"Of course she is on her own mission and we discover what she's about. Obviously it's great to have a character who's not just a bit of sparkling arm candy.

"What's interesting about her is she is professional and dangerous and all of that, but she is quite glamorous as well. She's got it all. She is the real deal.”

Kurylenko took part in her fair share of action thanks to Atkinson's brand of physical comedy and the requirements of international espionage.

"I love it when I get to do stunts,” she says.

"There was a point there where I was doing quite a few action films back to back, but then I went away from that. I realised I missed it, which is another reason why it's so much fun to be in this film. When they told me I had to be hit in the face by a door (for one scene) I got really excited. Whenever I see the stunt guys coming I go 'Are we going to do this or are we going to do this?'

"I feel like I'm in my own element doing comedy, I don't know why, but if there is more coming my way I'll take it.”

Johnny English Strikes Again is in cinemas now.

STARS: Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Ben Miller

DIRECTOR: David Kerr


REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: Atkinson's physical comedy certainly hasn't diminished with age, much like his bumbling English spy. This is good, silly fun.

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