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Archive for the ‘James Bond’ Category

Bond without Bond! 

It was reported earlier today that Kim Sherwood is to write a new trilogy of James Bond novels.  Her agent, C&W has already dubbed it Double O Trilogy and given the following blurb: “James Bond is missing. Meet the new Double O agents in the Double O trilogy by Kim Sherwood, a new series that will blow the world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond wide open.”

This is an exciting if risky move for  Ian Fleming Publications, to open the universe beyond Bond has a world of opportunity, but also removes the familiarity of a much loved character.  The fact that a woman has been hired has already led to speculation that this will be the beginning of “Jane Bond”; the statement “new Double 0 agents” not agent suggests that there will be more than one, and by the law of averages they will be both male and female (or possibly not identify as either!).  We have already had a female 00 in the movies in the Nomi (Lashana Lynch) the new 007 following Bonds retirement.  There have been many female agents in the recent continuation novels notably Scarlett Papava in Devil May Care.  Writen by Sebastian Faulks (in the style of Ian Fleming to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of, the creator of Bond) and set after the events of Goldfinger (Flemings last full novel) where Bond is still not himself following the events of You Only Live Twice.  Papava, an MI6 agent turns out to be far more than a sidekick/Bond girl and is promoted to 00 at the end of the book. 

It isn’t clear when the books will be set, the recent continuation novels have jumped around a little in the timeline: Devil May Care (2008) by Sebastian Faulks (described above) – Carte Blanche (2011) by Jeffery Deaver rebooted the series and made Bond a post-9/11 agent, the 00 section independent of MI5 and MI6. – Solo (2013) by William Boyd, set in 1969, six years after The Man With the Golden Gun and sees Bond celebrating his 45th Birthday. – Trigger Mortis (2015) by Anthony Horowitz is Set in the 1950s two weeks after the events of Goldfinger  and contains previously unreleased material written by Ian Fleming. –  Forever and a Day (2018) also by Anthony Horowitz is a prequel to Casino Royale and tells of Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent.  Based on an idea, and also using unpublished material from Fleming.

The interesting thing will be to see if EON are willing to take the risk of adapting them into movies.  Will they make a film within the Bond universe without the main man?  They have already dipped their toe into the waters of a female agent when they adapted Mark Burnell’s The Rhythm Section (book 1999, film 2020).  The book was excellent, the film terrible!  This despite getting the casting spot on with Blake Lively in the lead. 

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Bond movies have been with us for nearly 60 years, longer than I have been alive.  In that time we have had 25 movies, nearly half of them have featured an Aston Martin.  Every Bond other than Roger Moore (more on that later) drove an Aston at one time or another.  Sean Connery will always be associated with the DB5 from Goldfinger, but he only actually drove the car in that movie and the pre-credit scene in his next movie Thunderball.  I haven’t added up the screen time, but would suggest of all the Bond actors Daniel Craig has spent the most time behind the wheel of an Aston, including two in his latest movie No Time to Die. 

Bond’s relationship with the brand goes all the way back to Goldfinger, not the 1964 movie, but the novel on which it was based.  Fleming’s eight novel, first published in 1958 predates the introduction of SPECTRE (that came two books later in Thunderball), at this time Bonds main adversary was the Russian security service in particular SMERSH.  The chapter where the Aston Martin was introduced is even named after the car “Thoughts in a D.B.III”.  There wasn’t actually a car called the BD III, it was actually, a BD Mark III an evolution of the DB2.  The first mention of the car sees Bond driving the car (fast) towards Sandwich to play golf against Auric Goldfinger at Royal St Mark’s Golf Club (inspired by Royal St George’s Golf Club).  “James Bond flung the DBIII through the last mile of straight and did a racing change down into third and then into second

The next paragraph goes back  to explain how Bond, who up to this point had mainly driven his own Bentley, came to be in an Aston Martin.  “The car was from the pool.  Bond had been offered the Aston  Martin or a Jaguar 3.4.He had taken the DBIII.  Either of the cars would have suited his cover – a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good fast things in life.  But the DBIII had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque, an inconspicuous colour -battleship grey-and certain extras which might or might not come in handy.  These included switches to alter the type and colour of Bond’s front and rear lights if he was following or being followed at night, reinforced steel bumpers, fore and aft, in case he needed to ram, a long-barrelled Colt .45 in a trick compartment under the Driver’s seat, a radio pick-up tuned to receive an apparatus called the Homer, and plenty of concealed space that would fox most Customs men.” 

Not only did this represent the first time Bond Drove an Aston Martin, but it was also the first time he drove a Q Branch car with gadgets.  Other than a re-read of Casino Royale around the time the movie came out, I haven’t read any of the books since the 90’s,but don’t remember any other mentions of Aston Martin.  By the time the film came along, the latest Aston was the short lived but iconic DB5 (just over 1,000 were produced between 1963 and 65).  I probably don’t need to say any more about the most recognisable Bond car, other than to say it represented the first product placement deal in a Bond movie.  The DB5 (the same actual cars used for Goldfinger) returned for Thunderball in 1965, but were only used in the Pre Credit scene.  This was the last we saw of the DB5 until it made memorable return thirty years later.  But there are couple more cars to talk about before we get to that. 

By 1969 and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery had stepped down from the part, and was replaced by George Lazenby, an Australian model with no prior acting credits.  At this time there were two Aston Martins in production, the now dated DB6 that was really an evolution of the DB4 & 5.  And the new more modern looking DBS. This is the car Lazenby drove in the movie. It made sense, a newer more modern car for the new Bond. The car and actor both looked the part, but the Australian’s acting wasn’t that great and diminished what could have been one of the best films in the series. Connery did return to the part for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), his final (official) Bond movie, but didn’t get to drive as Aston this time.  A DBS does feature in the movie, but only as background vehicle.  It can be seen in Q Branch with a missiles being fitted into the engine bay.  Not sure where the engine would go!  Set mainly in America, the “hero” car was a bright red Ford Mustang Mach 1. 

After a false start with Lazenby, Connery’s replacement was found in the shape of Roger More.  Moore never drove an Aston Martin in a Bond film, his most famous car was probably the white Lotus Esprit that turned into a submarine in The Spy who loved me.  And just like that the Story of Bond and Aston Martin ended, Just like the other brand synonymous with Bond, Rolex that has been replaced my Omega as anyone who has seen Casino Royale know. For those that haven’t, seen the movie there is a sledgehammer subtle reference to Bonds new timepiece.

Although he didn’t drive an Aston as Bond, he did have a couple of memorable screen appearances with them. Shortly before he became Bond, Moore appeared in The Persuaders! a TV show that ran for one series of 24 episodes between 1971 and 1972. His character Lord Brett Sinclair drove an Aston Martin DBS.  The car that featured in the show was sold a auctioned a few years ago for a then record for a DBS of £533,500. Moore’s second screen Aston came in the 1981 movie The Cannonball Run, where he played a character called Seymoore, who claimed to be Roger Moore, and drove an Aston Martin DB5 with a lot of the gadgets from the Goldfinger Aston.

The Franchise really lost its way in the mid 80’s with Moores final two movies (Octopussy and A View to a Kill) ranking amongst some of the worst Bond movies.  Fortunately they came back with a bang!  After first choice Pierce Brosnan was unavailable due to TV commitments Timothy Dalton, who had previously turned down the part was convinced to step in.  He may have only made two movies, that while very good, are not amongst  the very best the franchise has to offer.  What he did however was take the character back to something closer to the one from the books.  And, as it turned out it wasn’t the end of the Aston Martin/Bond story. Dalton’s Bond was back where he belonged, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, two actually despite Q’s attempt to make us believe them to be the same car.  We briefly see Bond driving a Aston Martin V8 Volante (their name for a convertible).  Before it is “winterised” by Q (we see a hardtop being lowered into place).  Its worth going on a slight tangent here.  The reason Bond is driving THAT car is down to one man, Victor Gauntlett.  The then owner/chairman of Aston Martin, Gauntlett negotiated the product placement to get Bond back into Aston.  The reason for that particular car was simple, it was Gauntlett’s car and daily drive at the time.  The Volante fitted with the more powerful Vantage engine, an option that had only just released for sale.  The coupe version seen later in the film was the standard V8 (made to look like a vantage).  Filled with even more gadgets than the DB5 back in the day. This is my favourite Bond car.  Partly I think because I saw one of the production cars up close at a car show when I was a kid, and partly just for the car itself.  It has made a surprising but welcome return to the franchise this year. 

Set in America, Bond doesn’t drive his own or a Q branch car in Licence to Kill. Dalton’s third Bond movie was held up by a legal dispute, and ultimately never happened.  This gave the filmmakers a chance to get their man, Pierce Brosnan.  His first, and by far his best movie GoldenEye came out in 1995, the same year as the BMW Z3.  You guessed it, by this time Bond was fully on-board with product placement (the movie is full of them) and  drove the Z3.  Fortunately there is a scene early on in the movie somewhere along the way somebody conceived a fantastic race scene between Bond in an Aston Martin DB5 and the Ferrari F355 driven by Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) who turns out to be the movies main henchwoman.  It is never made clear if this is Bonds own car or a Q car, but it does have a few gadgets. The DB5 makes a brief appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies, more than can be said for The World Is Not Enough where it a scene was shot with the car but left on the cutting room floor. 

Brosnan’s last movie Die Another Day (2002) is possibly the worst Bond eve.  However, it was the start of a product placement deal with Ford (who owned Aston Martin at the time) allowing Bond to drive the Aston Martin Vanquish.  They really jumped the shark with the invisible car,  but the ice chase was the one good part of the movie, not least because they gave the villain an equally tricked out car, a Jaguar XKR. Its worth looking out the making of documentary to see the lengths they went to to prepare the Vanquish for the ice chase. Jaguar and Land Rover that also belonged to Ford at the time were also used, and have continued to be used in Bond movies ever since.

In a post Jason Bourn world 2006’s Casino Royale gave us a new and very different Bond played by Daniel Craig.  For many watching the new Bond drive a Ford Mondeo was something of a joke.  It was actually yet more product placement as it was the Pre-Production version of the yet to be released new car.  Craig commented at the time, as a prototype it was more valuable than all the Astons and they were paranoid about letting him drive it. Things quickly got better when he won a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in a poker game.  The second half of the movie is based on the book of the same name, where in the book he drove his own Bentley here, he is given his “company car” an 07 Aston Martin DBS.  An excellent film, but as with so many Bond cars, things don’t end well for the DBS. Quantum of Solace is the first direct sequel in the franchise, despite the unfortunate ending for his last car Bond is given another DBS. While not a traditionally Bond colour, it looks stunning in black. The film opens with a spectacular car chase; the car does survive, sort of!  

Skyfall (2012) gave us a plot reason to drive an old car.  The one he chose really messes with the continuity  of the series, but if you are worried about continuity, don’t bother with this franchise! Bond doesn’t pick the left hand drive DB5 he won in Casino Royale, but BMT 216A, the same car as in Goldfinger and Goldeneye, including all the gadgets.  Car fans, don’t worry, the one that got destroyed was a 3/4 scale replica. 

Spectre (2015) ends with a DB5 (supposedly the car from Skyfall restored by Q) but earlier in the movie Bond takes the car intended for a different 00 agent, a DB10.  A fictional car made for the movie.  A stunning car, but a strange choice for the movie, one of the movies villains drove a concept car that also never made it into production, the equally stunning Jaguar C-X75.

This brings us up to date with No Time to Die that was finally released in 2021.  The now retired Bond is first seen driving the DB5 he was driving at the end of the last film. Spoilers, the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) drives a DBS Superleggera.  The Valhalla hypercar was promised but only appears as a background vehicle.   If you have seen the trailer, you will know the fate of the DB5, he then visits his London lockup (same one as in Skyfall?) and drives away in my all time favourite Aston Martin, a V8 Vantage that shares its number plate with the similar car from The Living Daylights.  The car ends the movie in way that is a fantastic nod to a similar car in an earlier movie, that’s about as much as I can say without getting into spoiler territory. 

I am sure to have missed something, feel free to comment below.  I will leave you with this thought, a franchise that always has one in on the past and is always willing to nod to a previous movie, it is safe to say we haven’t seen the last of these cars.  Daniel Craig’s Bond has twice visited a London lockup and pulled back a tarpaulin to reveal an immaculately restored car from the characters past.  Maybe the next Bond, or the one after that will do the same, but this time they will drive away with Pierce Brosnan’s Vanquish or Craig’s DBS, because one thing is certain, James Bond WILL return…

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I haven’t seen many movies this month, but have enjoyed most of them.  Here are the contenders:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – The latest instalment in the MCU introduces characters I had never heard of.  A solid entry into the franchise with a cast of likeable and diverse cast.  Like a lot of the MCU, the storytelling is a little saggy in the middle, and the ending is just the usual CGIfest.

Copshop – More bonkers fun from Joe Carnahan in a film that owes a lot to Assault on Precinct 13 and Rio Bravo. Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler are on great form but the real MVP is Alexis Louder.

Prisoners of Ghostown – a bonkers Nicolas Cage movie made was recently my Movie of the Month, this movie won’t get the same accolade, it’s just a mess!

Candyman -Sequel and soft reboot to the excellent 90’s horror. Beautifully shot with a great socio-political subtext, but it lacks the great horror of the original.

Dune – No, I haven’t seen a preview of Denis Villeneuve’s new movie, this is David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation.  I first saw the movie when I was about ten (around five years before I read the book) and loved it.  The film looks amazing and is perfectly cast.  The only issue is the pacing, he really needed over three house to tell the story. 

The Green Knight – David Lowery’s movie adapted from the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Not afraid to embrace its origin, the narrative is poetic and ambiguous.  The photography is stunning, and  Dev Patel is fantastic.  Finally an Arthurian movie to rival Monty Python and John Boorman.  Sadly it didn’t get a much of a release, but believe me its worth the effort to see it on the big screen.

No Time to Die – Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond has really divided opinion.  While it has all the themes and tropes of a Bond movie, the pacing and storytelling is very different from a Bond movie. The performances are great, and Craig is the funniest he has been as Bond. The are a few plot/story choices that are very bold, that I’m not convinced work. On the whole, I liked it but with resonations. 

A couple of Bond movies have been movie of the month, but not this time, my movie of the month has to be:

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We have been waiting a long time for a new James Bond movie.  Development began on No Time To Die all the way back in 2016, a few months after Spectre’s October 2015 release (itself delayed a couple of times).  Danny Boyle was originally attached to direct but left the project in 2018 due to creative differences.  Cary Joji Fukunaga was then hired.  Fukunaga worked with script writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on a new story, the third script/story as Purvis and Wade’s (who had scripted all of Daniel Craig’s previous Bond movies) original idea had been scrapped when Boyle signed on to direct.  This caused the first significant delay with principal photography commencing in  late April 2019, four to five months after it was originally scheduled.  They wrapped around six months later with final pick-up shots taking place in December.  A month after the originally scheduled release date in November 2019.  The release date was immediately pushed to February 2020 when they announced Boyle’s departure, and then to April 2020 during production.  By February it was clear that COVID-19 wasn’t going away anytime soon, and On 4 March 2020, MGM and Eon Productions announced that the release was to be postponed again, this time until 12 November 2020.  Two further delays have been announced, first to  2 April 2021 and then to 8 October 2021, nearly two years after Danny Boyle’s film was scheduled for release. 

Over the past year I have read numerous stories and tweets from Bond Fans who are undertaking marathon re-watches of the whole Bond film series.  But what do you do when you have watched the movies so many times you can remember every Roger Moore quip,  or know just what time to go and put the kettle on t avoid having to watch Sheriff J.W. Pepper?  What are the other spy films to keep Bond fans entertained while they wait for No Time To Die?  Here are a few suggestions, some obvious, others less so:

North By Northwest (1959): Ian Fleming didn’t intend Dr. No to be the first Bond movie, it wasn’t even going to be based on one of his novels, it was going to be an original idea, that eventually became the basis for his eighth novel  Thunderball (yes you guessed it this was where the infamous Legal disputes started). Fleming wanted the Alfred Hitchcock to direct, but he declined as he had only just made a spy thriller and wanted to do something different.  The spy movie he had just made was North by Northwest, the something different turned out to be Psycho, and Thunderball is a great book so it didn’t turn out too bad, but just imagine a Hitchcock Bond movie! For those who don’t know, North By Northwest is my favourite Hitchcock, and one of my favourite movies.  Taken one of the directors well used tropes of “the wrong man” on the run, the film is absolute perfection.  It zips along with such ease and pace I am always staggered how long it is, the time flies by when you watch it. 

The Ipcress File (1965): Based on Len Deighton’s novel The IPCRESS File, despite sharing a producer with Bond, Harry Saltzman this is far from a Bond movie.  Like When Eight Bells Toll, it is intended to be more realistic than Bond, with its sneering look at bureaucracy  it is almost satirical at times.  But the real difference is the main character, Harry Palmer, played by Michael Caine.  Bond loves his job, or more to the point he loves the trappings of his job, his fancy suits, his Swiss Watch, fast cars, fancy hotels.  Harry Palmer is a reluctant spy, British army sergeant forcibly drafted into the security services to avoid a prison sentence! He just wants to do his time, and would like a pay rise.

When Eight Bells Toll (1971): Made with Bond audiences in mind, but with the intention of being more gritty and realistic.  Based on a novel of the same name by Alistair MacLean, British Treasury secret agent Phillip Calvert (Anthony Hopkins) investigates hijacking of cargo ships in the Irish Sea.  Intended as the first in a series around the time when the Bond franchise was rumoured to be in trouble following the departure of Sean Connery.  Further films never materialised, partly due to poor boxoffice numbers in America, and possibly due to Connery returning to Bond later the same year.  Not a classic, but good fun adventure movie, at 95 minutes it won’t outstay its welcome.  I would watch it over Diamonds Are Forever!

The Russia House (1990): I have largely avoided movies based on John le Carré novels here as they are a very different beast to Bond.  More thoughtful and realistic and lacking the action and adventure associated with Ian Fleming’s creation.  I am not including this as it has any of those elements, quite the opposite,  I have chosen it, because it stars Sean Connery, and he is excellent playing a very different part Bond.  

The Rock (1996): Hands down Michael Bay’s best movie low bar, I know but this is genuinely good! The third and final Sean Connery movie on the list, here, he plays a former British SAS captain and MI6 operative.  Some fans have suggested the character is Bond in all but name, but in a lot of ways he is more badass  than his Bond ever was.  The plot is unimportant filled with McGuffin’s and contrivances but the film is great fun, Connery and co star Nicolas Cage are excellent together. 

The Bourne Identity (2002): Probably the most obvious choice on the list, but an excellent one! Based on Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name, this first film in the franchise is the only one to take any real plot from the novel series.  Directed by Doug Liman, and often overshadowed by Paul Greengrass who made a further three movies in the series.  My favourite of the Bourne movies, it has the best story and some great performances throughout.  It is also notable for the impact it had on Bond! Released in the summer of 2002, Die Another Day would have been in the can by this time, but it the next Bond movie, Casino Royale four years later was the closest the franchise has come to a reboot, and it was all the better for it. 

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006): If you want spoof of Bond and other spy movies of the genre it isn’t Austin Powers, it has to be Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, AKA OSS 117.  Both Jean Bruce’s OSS 117 spy novels and the first film adaptations of them predate  Ian Flemings Bond novels and EON’s adaptations of them.  I know nothing of the French novels or films beyond the fact there is a lot of them! However, in 2006 the character was re-imagined  by writer director Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo (Hazanavicius’s wife).  You may recognise these names, they went on to make the multi Oscar winning The Artist (2011).  A parody of the genre, OSS117 is an idiot who a little like Inspector Clouseau solves cases by either luck, or other people doing it for him.  There was a sequel  OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009), and a third film is due out this year OSS 117: Alerte rouge en Afrique noire (2021).

Atomic Blonde (2017): What if John Wick was a woman, and she was a spy? That is pretty much what Atomic Blonde is.  Directed by David Leitch who was an uncredited  co-director with Chad Stahelski on the first John Wick movie.  Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City; set in Berlin in 1989 in the last days of the Berlin wall, the plot is a typical find the McGuffin story, this time a list of double agents.  What sets the film apart from anything else, is the style, and breathtaking action.  Its like a Bond or any other film on this list stripped back and boiled down to its core elements.

Red Sparrow (2018): A fictional version of the real life use of “sexpionage” by the Soviet Union, and possibly Russia in the post soviet era.  A decent film with although it does over rely on the charisma of stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton.  Better than the movie I would recommend the trilogy of books (the movie was based on the first) written by Jason Matthews, a former Central Intelligence Agency Officer.  Matthews sadly passed away a few weeks ago, so these three books are his only books. 

Kingsman (2014): As much as I love the Craig era Bond movies, but to quote Harry Hart when asked if he likes spy movies “Nowadays, they’re all a little serious for my taste. But the old ones… marvellous. Give me a far-fetched theatrical plot any day.”  A truly silly film that manages to be a great spy movie and a great spoof of a spy movie at the same time! 

And finally, a few honourable mentions: Mission Impossible (1996–present): Tom Cruise’s movie series based on the 60’s TV show. Hanna (2011): Saoirse Ronan as a teenage assassin. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015): Guy Ritchie’s movie based on the 60’s TV show had decent reviews but failed to find an audience.  Its good fun id a little lightweight.  Inception (2010) More a high concept sci-fi heist movie than a spy movie, but there are a lot of elements reminiscent of classic Bond movies.  No Way Out (1987) A crime thriller set against a backdrop of espionage. Well worth watching if you haven’t already seen it.   

As infuriating as the delays to No Time To Die are, was the right thing to do, all I really want is to watch the movie in a cinema on the biggest screen I can find.

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I have read a couple of things on twitter recently suggesting certain actors are too old, or too young to play Bond.  But how old is Bond? Ian Fleming made very few explicit references to Bond’s age.  The clearest came in the third novel Moonraker, published in 1955.  Bond states that he is “eight years shy” of mandatory retirement age for a 00, forty-five.  This would make him thirty-seven.  This however only tells us how old he was at the time of this novel as the passage of time between many of the books isn’t always clear.  From reading these I have always seen the character as being late 30’s early 40’s.  But what of the actors who have played the part?

Note: All ages are approximate based on when the film was shot. 

Sean Connery (1930 – 2020) – Connery was 31, in his first Bond movie Dr. No (1962),  He left the role after You Only Live Twice (1967)  age 36.  He returned for Diamonds Are Forever (1971)  age 40 (although he looked about 50!).  He then returned again for the unofficial Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983) age 52, but didn’t look that much older than in his last official Bond movie.

George Lazenby (1939) – Appearing in just one Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the youngest to date Lazenby was just 29 during production. 

Roger Moore (1927 – 2017) – Moore was actually older than Connery, although considered for Bond around 1967 when he was 40, he didn’t actually get the part until, Live and Let Die (1973) at the age of 46.  Having made seven Bond films he is often regarded as the longest serving Bond, but all the films came in just twelve years culminating in A View to a Kill (1985) by the time he was 57.

Timothy Dalton (1946) – Considered for the part multiple times including as early as 1968 when he was just 21.  He has stated, that he turned it down when he was around 25, as he felt he was too young for the part.  His name came up again around 79/80 when he was around 30.  He finally got the part:  The Living Daylights (1987) age 40.  His second and final Bond film came just two years later, Licence to Kill (1989) when he was 42.

Pierce Brosnan (1953) – Like the previous two Bond’s, Brosnan came close before getting the part.  He was offered the role in what became The Living Daylights before Dalton when he was around 33 at the time, but had to drop out due to a conflict with the TV Remington Steele.  He got the part just under a decade later, his first film GoldenEye (1995) age 42.  By the final film Die Another Day (2002), he was 49.

Daniel Craig (1968) – The longest serving (official) Bond based on years in the role, Craig’s first Bond was  Casino Royale (2006) age 37.  His final film was mainly shot last year but isn’t set for release until next year: No Time to Die (2021) he was 51 at the time of shooting.

So there you have it the youngest Bond was 29, and the oldest 57. What next, how old will the next James Bond be?  A lot depends on the story they want to tell.  If they go for another reboot, they could go as young as they want, pre 00 days possibly to his time as a Royal Naval Reserve, or when first recruited into the secret service.  I have long suggested bringing Timothy Dalton back to play an older retired Bond, this idea could now also work with Pierce Brosnan.  Or, they could do what they have done four previous times (five if you count Connery’s return), just drop a new actor into the part with saying a word, well except a joke in the cold open!

Back in September it was reported that major UK bookmakers had stopped taking bets on Tom Hardy, some even suggested he already had the part.  I don’t believe this to be true, and In some ways this could hamper his chances in the end as it will take a lot of air out of the big announcement when finally made.  Born in 1977, he is 43 now.  They are unlikely to start shooting the next film before an official announcement of the star his made, and they are not going to announce the new Bond until after the release of No Time to Die (hopefully, Covid allowing next year), as a result the next film could go into production in 2022 by which time Hardy  will be 45.  A year younger than Moore in Live and Let Die, so not the oldest Bond debut, but not far off.  This delay could present an interesting opportunity; it has already been confirmed Nomi, the character played by Loshana Lynch (just turned 33) is the new 007, promoted to the role after Bond quit/retired.  Assuming her character is any good and doesn’t get “fridged”, why not make film starring her.  As a 00 agent, it would be a Bond film in all but name that should please those calling for woman to play Bond, and appease those who say a woman cannot be Bond!  Most importantly it could begin pre-production now and script allowing, begin filming as soon as the lockdowns ease.       

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I preparation for No Time To Die I have been re-watching the Daniel Craig Bond films. It’s the first time I have watched them all back to back. A few things sprang to mind watching them.Daniel Craig Bond Posters

  • Casino Royale stands alongside From Russia with Love as the best films about Bond, rather than the best Bond Movies, in that they can be appreciated on their own merits away from the franchise and its baggage.
  • Quantum of Solace is the misunderstood and underappreciated masterpiece that I always suspected. A direct sequel to Casino Royale, it takes virtually nothing other than its title from Ian Flemings novels, but in its tone it is probably the closes in style and tone to the source material.
  • Roger Deakins should have won the cinematography Oscar for Skyfall, he was robbed by a CGI spectacular.
  • Spectre is a better film than I gave it credit for, despite the Blofeld reveal that was even worse than I remember.

But, on thing stands out over all of this.  There is a missing film between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

Let me explain; Casino Royale gives us the Young upstart. Quantum of Solace is a direct sequel pick it up moments after Casino Royale’s epilogue.  A slightly jaded, almost broken man working through the loss and apparent betrayal of Vesper, coming out the other side, moulded rather than healed,   the complete Bond, cold, cruel, detached, but able to appreciate, if not enjoy life.  Something akin to the best of Cornery, Dalton or Brosnan, but more importantly the character seen on the pages of Fleming’s books.

But then Skyfall has an older Bond past his prime, fighting for relevance, we are missing a movie. We need to look at M (Judi Dench) aka Basil Exposition for to explain this.  It was M after all who on her first screen meeting with Bond (Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye) called him “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War“.  In Casino Royale (2006) just after giving Bond his 00 status, his licence to kill, she told him “I knew it was too early to promote you” but just six years later in Skyfall (2012) she said “You know the rules of the game. You’ve been playing it long enough“.  Future M, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) tells Bond “It’s a young man’s game.” Craig’s Bond has always been on his way up, or past his best.

The speculation for No Time to Die is that Bond has retired and his 007 codename has passed to Nomi (Lashana Lynch).  This in itself could be problematic, as I can’t see Bond being retired, by the end of the film this means they have to find a way of giving him back his 007 code.  If Nomi is indeed 007, how will this pas back to Bond?  Kill, demote, or incapacitate her, or even worse something akin to 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean).  Let’s not forget, she is potential not only the first female 00, but the first none white one.  Her fate is far more significant than that of 006, 002, 004 (The Living Daylights), and 009 in (Octopussy). Some of the Fun Bond Movies

I’m getting off track; the Daniel Craig movies are the best Bond movies, and I don’t want to see the character turn into the Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan versions of the character, who had far more misses than hits in terms of the quality of their movies.  However, I would have liked to have seen Craig have a film as an established character, not one on the way up or down, and one where he gets to have a little fun with the part, think: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), or GoldenEye (1995).  Sadly this will not happen, but we may get to see the other thing I want to see, Bond coming out of retirement, sadly it won’t be an older Bond; Timothy Dalton, or Pierce Brosnan but it’s still an idea with real millage.  One thing is certain,

James Bond WILL return!

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james bond no time to dieAs the promotion of next spring’s No Time To Die, the 25 James Bond movie gets underway, the merry go round of who will replace Daniel Craig as 007.  The first thing I would say is that I am only talking about male actors, Bond is a man,  and as M (Judi Dench) says in GoldenEye “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War”.  There have been many suggestions that Ian Fleming’s character was actually a closeted or repressed homosexual.  This isn’t as outlandish as it sounds.  The books were written at a time when it was illegal to be gay.  A gay friend, who knows a lot more than me on the subject once told me that the secret services actively recruited gay men at this time.  Putting all this aside, the character would change too much if a woman were cast.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for a female 00 agent.  I would love to see a different film within the same universe.  That said, EON Productions are making a rare departure from Bond with The Rhythm Section due for release early next year, before No Time To Die.  Based on Mark Burnell novel of the same name the film promises to be a more gritty and realistic take on the genre.  Blake Lively stars as Stephanie Patrick an accidental/reluctant spy.  The film has an estimated $50 million budget, as a new property, this is considered a big risk, Bond 25 however cost five times that and will be expecting to smash $1billion in ticket sales.  I hope the film does well for two reasons, the second book is the best in the series, I would love it to see it adapted.  Secondly it would help the idea of a female 00. mark burnell the rhythm section

Back to Bond:  I understand Tom Hiddleston is still favourite, and for my money a good choice.  Tom Hardy, never seems far from the conversation; great actor but I don’t see him as Bond.  Sam Heughan seems to have come out of nowhere, and is the favourite of some bookies.  I didn’t know who he was and had to look him up.  This is often a good thing when it comes to Bond, an A list actor has never been cast in the role.  This also bodes well for lesser know actors: James Norton, and Jack Lowden, as well as TV stars Aidan Turner and Richard Madden.  It isn’t so great for big names: Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Chris Hemsworth.  Of the three my pick would be Fassbender who would make a great brooding Bond in the vein of Timothy Dalton.  Elba would have been a good choice, but I feel the ship has sailed.  At 47, he would be in his 50’s by the time his first movie came out, and his 60’s by the third or fourth.  Hemsworth, I would discount for two reasons: I personally would prefer to see a British or Irish actor in the part, and I would rather see him in more comedic roles.bond

Other actors getting odds of 10/1 or better include Jamie Bell, Cillian Murphy, Henry Cavill, Damian Lewis.  Bell, I don’t see as Bond, I can’t explain why.  Cavill, I think that ship has sailed.  Murphy, I would never have considered, but think he would be an interesting choice (even better if he used his Peaky Blinders accent!).  I’m warming to the idea of Lewis, just as he seems to be dropping out of contention.  The two others who seem to have dropped out of contention are Benedict Cumberbatch and Henry Golding.  Cumberbatch probably comes with too much baggage, If you mention the name of any of the actors who have played Bond: Connery, Lazenby, Morre, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig; Bond is the first think you think of. Cumberbatch is already Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes.  As for Golding, he has dropped out the race as quickly as he entered it.  From what little I have seen of him, he seems to have the looks and the charm, but I haven’t seen anything to convince me he is a very good actor.bond2

So who will be the seventh James Bond?  Probably either nobody from this list, or one of the lesser know actors.  But as strange as it sounds, it doesn’t matter that much.  George Lazenby aside (50 years ago), they have never chosen a poor actor.  How good or bad the films are rests with the script and direction.  I have always maintained that Timothy Dalton is the best Bond, he plays the character closest to the one in Ian Fleming’s novels, but he didn’t make the best films.  With GoldenEye (1995) Pierce Brosnan made one of the best Bond films, but his subsequent films ranged from poor to terrible.  This was purely down to the scripts, and nothing to do with the actor.

bond3

The interesting thing will be the setup.  Will Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw return?  From one point of view, I would like to see them back as they are all great, on the other hand, a clean reboot with a new whole cast would be interesting too.  I like the idea of doing something different, either, going back to the books and making a 1950/60’s set period spy movie.  Or a modern day version, but going back to the start, Bond Year One!  A movie about a younger Bond being recruited.  I have also for a long time advocated bringing back Timothy Dalton, or even Pierce Brosnan to play an older retired Bond.

Given the timescales these movies work to, I would expect to see Bond 26 in 2024/25. 

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In a recent article on the BBC website (quoting an interview in the Guardian) James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli stated her belief that James Bond will “probably” never be played by a woman. “Bond is male. He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.” She went on to say “And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women.” The same article went on to quote an article where Halle Berry also said that Bond should remain male, she however suggested a new Bond type female character could be created.  While it may not be a popular, or politically correct opinion at the moment, I agree that Bond only works as a man.  We are however, at a point in time where Bond casting can be colour-blind, while Bond needs to remain British (and male), we are a multicultural society, despite the views of a vocal minority, you don’t have to be white to be British.  This leaves the door open, not just for Idris Elba, but for any other British actor regardless of race, I believe Henry Golding has joined the debate!The Next James Bond_

To change the sex of Bond would impact on all his interactions with other characters to such an extent it would distract from the story.  Regardless of what I, or anyone else thinks, Broccoli is the person most directly responsible for casting the part, so will ultimately decide the direction it takes. This isn’t to say characters are locked into being one sex.  The BBC article I mention, refers to the new series of Doctor Who, starting tomorrow with the first ever female Doctor.  Ghostbusters (2016), wasn’t terrible because of the idea, or the casting of woman, the cast were good, the issue was with the terrible script. Barbara Broccoli

Back to Halle Berry and her idea: There has previously been a suggestion that her character Jinx Johnson, from Die Another Day (2002) would get her own spiff-off movie or TV show.  Fortunately, this did not happen, she was a terrible character from a terrible film.  The only positive thing I have ever heard about the character, is that she looks good!  Truely representing all that is bad about Bond!  There are far better characters in the Bondverse to get their own movie, characters with a little agency, would be: Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) from Licence to Kill (1989), Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), or Camille (Olga Kurylenko) from Quantum of Solace (2008).  I’m not sure any Bond shared universe is a good idea, do we want a new Bond related film every year?  The current format of a film every few years, reboot every decade or so works. Female Bond Spin-offs

It would be better to start from a clean slate, developed a new completely different character in their own universe and having their own characteristics.  Fortunately, that is exactly what Barbara Broccoli is doing.  In a rare none Bond movie, EON Productions next movie will be The Rhythm Section adapted from the book of the same name by Mark Burnell.  The first of four books about the character Stephanie Patrick.  In the books Stephanie Patrick is a couple of turns short of rock bottom in a downward spiral following a traumatic event.  She is working as a prostitute to fund her drug problem until a revelation from a  journalist sends her life in a completely new direction.  The books are about identity and purpose, but work on a more surface level too, with great action.  There are four books in the series leaving at least three more stories to adapt, but with author Burnell onboard writing the script, there could be more than that.  Blake Lively is staring, and looks like a good choice.blake lively

And finally the elephant in the room, who will be the next Bond?  The name we can’t escape is Idris Elba, I think he would make a fantastic Bond, but fear his time may have passed.  At 46 he is about the right age now, he should be making his second film.  As it is, he would be 50/51 before he made his debut, giving him time to make three film before he is too old.  I am not going to list contendors or speculate on who will take the part, that’s for another day, but I am going to keep banding the drum for my Bond Movie idea, I know it will never happen but it doesn’t stop me modestly suggesting it’s a great idea: Bring Timothy Dalton back to play a long retired James Bond, forced back for one last mission (there are multiple story ideas to facilitate this).  As he gets older, the same idea could also work for Pierce Brosnan. Old Bond

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Following my last two posts about James Bond, I thought I would dip into the archives and re-post something from 6 years ago.  It is an idea I had at the time, it will never happen, but it doesn’t stop me talking about it.  Timothy Dalton is now in his 70’s, but thanks to the TV show Penny Dreadful has a higher profile than when I originally posted the article.  In a lot of ways I think he was the best Bond, but was let down by average films.  I suggested Quentin Tarantino as a director.  I still love his movies, but he is a very different director than he was back in 2010.  I think he is too self indulgent at this time in his career.  My new favourite director for this, or any Bond film is Denis Villeneuve (when he has finished with the Blade Runner sequel). 

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I noticed the other day that former James Bond Timothy Dalton recently celebrated his 66th birthday. This got me thinking it has been some time since I posted anything about James Bond.  So here it is in honour of Timothy Dalton’s birthday an idea for a slightly different Bond movie. 

James Bond, now in his 60’s has retired and is living in Jamaica. For his last few years in the secret service before retiring he took a job training prospective double 0 agents.  Bond receives news from Moneypenny that one of his former students (now 006) was killed on a mission.  Because of the nature of the mission and his undercover status the body has not been recovered and a funeral will not take place. He receives a letter from the agent sent shortly before he was killed.  Bond launches his own investigation and is blocked at every turn by his own government making Bond even more determined get to the bottom of what happened.

For added impact the movie should be made in total secrecy without anyone knowing it is about an older Bond.  In the usual build-up an announcement should be made implying a big name star, but not an obvious choice (I am thinking Colin Farrell) will play Bond.  He will in fact be playing 006 who gets killed at the end of an all action pre-credit sequence.  Enter the real James Bond, Timothy Dalton.  The film would be very plot driven with fantastic dialogue and the odd action set piece, very much like a good detective story. Along the way there can also be a subplot about Bond writing his memoires to the chagrin of his former employers (more on this in a later post).  There is a great opportunity to Have fun with the dynamic of an older Bond without turning the whole thing into a joke. And who could direct such a movie, there is only one man: Quentin Tarantino.

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Following my post about who might be the next Bond, here are a few people who could have been Bond.  I have stuck to British and Irish actors who have been in contention or mentioned since Timothy Dalton hung up his dinner jacket and Walther PPK in the late 80’s.

Ralph Fiennes: There was a time, around 1993 to 1996 (Schindler’s List – Strange Days – The English Patient) when Fiennes came from almost nowhere to become one of the best actors around.  In the last few years he has also added comedy to his repertoire.  He could have been the perfect Bond.  He was under consideration in both 94 and 04.  Did his appearance as John Steed in the terrible The Avengers 1998 end his chances?  He eventually became M, a character with enough hints at his back story to warrant his own movie.Ralph Fiennes james bond

Colin Firth: I have never considered Fiennes’ English Patient co star a contender for Bond, however, I was wrong so wrong.  Anyone who has seen him as Harry Hart in Kingsman will wonder what he he would have been like as Bond.Colin Firth James Bond

Idris Elba: Still in contention and would made a great Bond but as I mentioned in my last post, I think he is too old to get to get the chance now.Idris Elba james bond

Clive Owen: Made his name in the TV show Chancer (1990-91).  He was allegedly on the short (or possibly long) list when Pierce Brosnan got the part in the mid 90’s.  His name came up again in 1998 when he donned a dinner jacket for the film Croupier.  The part as The Driver in a series of BMW commercials cemented him as a fan favourite.  Now 51, he is probably too old, his last chance came and went when Daniel Craig was cast a decade ago.Clive Owen James Bond

Hugh Grant: His name came up a few times but he was never a serious contender.  Had he not become a star playing light comedy he could have been a good dramatic actor, the failure of Extreme Measures (1996) put an end to roles like that.  The Man From Uncle is a close as he is ever likely to get to Bond.Hugh Grant james bond

Liam Neeson: Reported to have turned the role down in 1994 because he wasn’t interested in making action movies.  He must have had a change of heart when he was offered Taken.Liam Neeson James Bond

 

 

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