SHE’S the Cuban-born actress who could barely speak a word of English six years ago and left her homeland to find Hollywood fame with just £150 in her pocket.
But now stunning Ana De Armas, who plays 007’s love interest in the hotly anticipated No Time To Die, has told how she is defying the Bond girl stereotype by being the toughest in the franchise’s 59-year history.
Explaining her role in the movie, which is out on Thursday, Ana, 33, said: “Paloma is a really complete character. She’s definitely something else that I don’t think we’ve seen in other Bond girls in previous movies. She’s a lot of fun — very active, very badass.”
Ana also told how her friendship with Daniel Craig, 53 – playing 007 for the fifth and final time – put her at ease.
Ana said: “It was so easy working with him because we had become friends, so I didn’t feel out of place being part of a huge production that you have with a Bond film.
“I love Daniel. He’s relentless. It doesn’t matter how exhausted he is, or how many broken bones he has, he still shows up and goes to work every day. It’s so inspiring.”
Today Ana reveals that she learned to act as a kid by performing scenes in movies she had seen at a neighbour’s house in front of her hard-up family.
And she tells how she was inspired to learn English by Penelope Cruz — and was once told by a Hollywood director that she would never land a role until she spoke the language better.
No Time To Die is the most expensive Bond film in history, costing around £250million to make, and after its release was delayed by a year due to the pandemic, the movie needs to make an estimated £700million just to break even due to studio interest costs.
Audiences across the 130 countries it is being released in will see Ana playing CIA agent Paloma.
But the bright lights of Hollywood were a far cry from the small town in Cuba she called home.
Ana and older brother Javier were brought up in a breeze-block apartment by their mum, a government worker also called Ana, and dad Ramon, a teacher who worked part-time in an oil refinery.
Speaking of life in Santa Cruz Del Norte, which is 30 miles from Havana, she said: “I had there, in front of my eyes, people who were not working or who didn’t have money.
“On television I would see nothing more than old re-runs of soap operas or things that were of poor quality.”
She decided she first wanted to be an actress aged 12, when she used to perform for her family, re-enacting those scenes.
She said: “I don’t really remember a specific day that I said, ‘I’m going to be an actress’.
“In my home, we never had videos, DVDs or VHS. We used to watch movies at my neighbour’s home. If I saw a scene played by a woman or a man that I really liked, I would run to the mirror and repeat it.
“Then I would come back home and do the movie for my brother because he didn’t see it.
“I couldn’t dream of anything else outside Cuba. You grow up thinking that it’s good enough, it’s all you need, which in some way is true.
“You can dream big in Cuba but very few people can go outside and have the balls to make it happen.”
So, aged 18, Ana packed her bags, took her life savings of around £150 and went to find work as an actress in Spain.
She said: “I had the balls and a Spanish passport. When I was 18 and graduated from school, it just came to my mind.
“I wanted to go to Spain and just try — audition for something and see what happens.
“So I bought a ticket, and I told my mum, ‘When I run out of money, I’ll come back’. I was lucky. I met a big casting director a week after I got there.
“He cast me for one of the biggest TV series ever made in Spain and I never went back.
“I started shooting, and it was like a 180-degree change in my life.”