Tony Fyler proposes a radical notion for Bond going forward.
When is a Bond movie not a Bond movie?
Arguably, when it’s actually a 007 movie.
Bond has become an action-movie Hamlet, with each actor who’s stepped into the tuxedo and picked up the Walther redefining the role – and to some extent the nature of the man – as they’ve played him. But one thing that always appears to be the case is that Bond is the same man. Whether he’s played by a Scottish (Connery), English (Moore and Craig), Welsh (Dalton), Irish (Brosnan) or an Australian actor (Lazenby), Bond is always the same Bond, the one with the family home in Scotland, as visited in Skyfall.
At the risk of being shot by Bondies the world over, that’s a mistake.
A mistake with an obvious solution, as seen in recent British spy thriller Kingsman. There, there are a round table full of Kingsman agents, each with the name of one of King Arthur’s knights – Galahad, Percival, Lancelot etc.
That feels like what James Bond, 007, should actually be. An identity, a legend, a way of living, inhabitable by any agent good enough to be Bond.
Why, why, why would that be any kind of good idea?
Well first and foremost it would appeal to those who like timelines to be uncomplicated. The events of Casino Royale seem to define the nature of Bond for quite some time in the books, but the movie didn’t arrive (barring remembrance of the Niven Bond here for the sake of convenience) till 2006, meaning essentially that the backstory of Bond could only arrive significantly after events and a mindset that that backstory put in place. With each new actor being ‘a new Bond’, rather than simply ‘Bond…The Same Bond’, things like that could be ironed out, and the impact of Vesper on Bond could be seen as being the impact on only the Craig Bond.
Secondly it would make a consistent sort of sense. We’ve seen at least four Ms. Believe it or not, we’ve seen six Moneypennys. We’ve had three Qs and an R – in each case, clearly the ‘name’ is assigned to a role. Why would agents be any different? In a genuinely secret service, why would ‘James Bond’ not be simply the most convenient cover story for the agent designated 007 at the time?
And thirdly and most importantly, it would allow the character to have a broader range, to bring new challenges to the Bond format, and interpret those challenges with a greater range of acting choices. In essence, it would open the action drama’s Hamlet up to everyone (and yes, I do mean everyone), not just that small section of actors who look convincingly like Bonds that have gone before. We’ve already had a blond Bond of course, but that’s no more than a dye job away from explanation. If we freed the role from its determination to persuade us that Bond is the same one man he’s always been, we would open the role out for re-interpretation by any actor. Yes, to some extent, that’s achievable now – but not without retconning the audience even more than we currently allow when we consider that a fully grown man who was a spy in the 60s is still a spy in 2015, and looks younger now than he did then. We’ve grown accustomed to thinking that this is ‘just what Bond does’. With this one simple move, there could be, at last, an in-universe reason why this is what Bond does.
Bond movies of course are fantastic at what they do – they’re spy fantasy thrill-rides with cool tech, witty quips, the day saved from a supervillain and lots of raunch along the way. But while all the Bonds we’ve had have saved the world in their own way, giving their own take on the character, freedom from the backstory of The Bond would allow the kind of variety currently enjoyed by Doctor Who fans every time a new actor takes over the TV version of the pop culture Hamlet – what will this Doctor be like? Friendly, aloof, dark or chatty? The same freedom could be granted to Bond, while still maintaining the parameters of what the character has to be – a seriously kickass secret agent for the British government, who saves the world from megalomaniac evildoers. That’s the fundamental Bond, but freedom from backstory would mean there would be, for instance, an explanation of the difference in style between Connery and Moore. An explanation for the more naturalistic Bond of Lazenby. An explanation of the relatively chatty Brosnan Bond and the barely-ten-lines-a-movie taciturn Bond of Craig.
We came so close, once, to this ‘many Bonds’ scenario – with George Lazenby quipping that ‘this never happened to the other fellow.’ Maybe, just maybe, when Daniel Craig puts down his gun, it might be time to officially make James Bond simply the alias of the current 007, and free the character up to have adventures legitimately in a range of bodies for the next 50 years or more.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk