The way forward for the James Bond series is simpler than it seems. Here is the way to bring life to 007 in dazzling destinations.
Barbara Broccoli, OBE, produces and controls the 007 James Bond movie franchise. I happen to know that Broccoli frequents La Famiglia, in Chelsea, which is also my favorite London restaurant. It’s one of the only eateries in the world that constantly pings my subconscious with the temptation to fly across the ocean for a table of its Tuscan treats: carabaccia, pasta fagioli, and risotto mantecato and ossobuco alla Milanese
Mariette Maccioni, daughter of the famed, late Chef Alvaro, operates the La Famiglia, which has, since 1966, also served the likes of Princesses Diana and Margaret, Bridget Bardot, Peter Sellers, Michael Caine, members on Langton Street at the World’s End. Maccioni is a spirited sort I was lucky to have lunch with and interview. Since I am someone who adores and supports the 007 series, I hope she might see this and then see fit to share my sentiments with Ms. Broccoli.
Without spoiling the ending of the recent “No Time to Die” (which ended Daniel Craig’s five-film run playing the super spy), I maintain there is no reason for future films to be beholden to the story arc that ran through Craig’s consecutive films. If nothing else, the fact there was film-to-film continuity gives the screenwriters a license to kill that entire pod and return to the basic, original 007. Leave the little “Luke Skywalker” behind (if you know what I mean.)
Bat Man, Spiderman and Superman have all done multiple reboots with new stars and without the shackles of previous scripts or actors and actresses. Daniel Craig’s turn began with something of an origin story showing the first two kills that gave James Bond his “00” status and license to kill, but there is no need to go back to the beginning again this time. Just join in progress and give us 007 at the height of his powers. Previous 007 movies did just that. In fact, each film began with action: a totally unrelated conclusion to an apparently previous mission which had nothing to do with the remainder of the film.
And what about, within reason, Bond period pieces. How would he have handled the IRA? Can he catch a Nazi hiding in Argentina? In a woke world can Taiwan be mentioned? Isis? A Jeffrey Epstein type cavorting with a British Royal?
In any case, just let the new 007 hit the ground running, in any time periods you wish, as standalone movies. No one will complain.
Keep the Destinations Coming
The baked-in travelogue element of 007 movies is more than just icing. It’s delicious the way the settings have been part of the stories – and all the better when the action was infused into iconic cultural events at those destinations.
“Quantum of Solace,” for all its inadequacies, opened by putting the viewer in the middle of the Il Palio, the manic, circular, bareback horse race held twice each year in old world Siena, Italy.
Bond attended another famed horse race, England’s Royal Ascot, in top hat and tails in “A View to a Kill,” and while he found himself in a horse barn near Louisville (and Fort Knox) in “Goldfinger,” he did not have a flutter at the Kentucky Derby. Earlier in the film 007 played poolside poker and frolicked at the famed Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach.
The opening sequence of “Spectre” blends Bond, in a skeleton costume, into the dramatic Dia de los Muertos Day parade in Mexico City. He escapes and is left to die another day than the Day of the Dead.
Observing a jazz funeral procession nearly killed 007 in New Orleans’ French Quarter in “Live and Let Die.” Even though Roger Moore played a spy in television’s “The Saint” before his turn as Bond, he would not have been marching in as one after deflowering Jane Seymour’s card-reading character in the film which also had him face off against voodoo in Jamaica (where Ian Fleming gave birth to the original Bond books.) 007’s lucky escape from a cremation coffin in Las Vegas was deliciously morbid, too.
Bond’s turned up at the Olympics, in “For Your Eyes Only” and in reality with Her Majesty during the Opening Ceremony of the London Games. He’s been both at Las Vegas’ Circus Circus and the actual circus in “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Octopussy,” respectively. And both Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco were more than backdrops when Bond summitted each of them in “A View to a Kill.”
Macau, Monaco, Moscow, Hong Kong, North Korea, Istanbul, Cuba, Rome, Bangkok, Berlin…the list goes on and on, and so do the fan pilgrimages to places seen on the screen in 007 movies. Might the Running of the Bulls; Quebec City Winter Carnival; actual Passion Plays in the Philippines; Burning Man; or the World Cup be in the offing?
“Skyfall,” with its London locations, liberal use of the Union Jack, and even a bulldog Winston Churchill tchotchke, made Bond British again. For a spy headquarters, the striking, modern MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross right on the Thames may be the most visible in all of London. I’ve posed for photos in front of the building which has been displayed in a number of 007 films including its explosive demise in “Skyfall.”
Various Bond movies have used “the Tube” subway, 10 Downing Street, and even a Margaret Thatcher lookalike character. With the current popularity of shows like “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey,” a veddy-veddy British 007 is important and creates separation from the “Jason Bourne,” “Jack Ryan,” “Jack Reacher” and “Mission Impossible” pretenders.
A Director Deal
Since James Bond transcends traditional Hollywood – or, Pinewood, in this case, it might be worth trying a couple of one-off director experiences. Who wouldn’t want to see what a 007 adventure might be like with Guy Ritchie, Chris Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, or even Stephen Spielberg cutting it?
007 is not Star Wars
“Moonraker,” with Space Shuttles and Richard Kiell’s steel-toothed Jaws romance, was the campiest film in the 007 series, but “Die Another Day” was also highly comical with cartoonish CGI of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, battling a guy who had his face morphed in order to use a laser to demolish earth, surfing on the hood of an ice-speeder. That film’s fencing scene in a London club was far more realistic and yet still suspenseful and entertaining.
For my money the close-quarters elevator fight between Sean Connery’s Bond and Peter Franks in Amsterdam is far more gripping than any over-the-top/save the planet struggle. The first 20, intense minutes of Daniel Craig’s “Casino Royale” have it all in terms of physicality, suspense, location and embracing a current fad: parkour.
Don’t get me wrong; the use of technology is cool but it has to be realistic. Seeing, for instance, what a real “HALO” high altitude parachute jump is really like in “Tomorrow Never Dies” was a gas.
Who Plays Bond?
James Bond is a person, an Ian Fleming character, not a political candidate being chosen demographically to garner electoral votes. Honor Fleming and, without shame, let James Bond be James Bond, not Jane Bond.
Personally, I think the resources exist to find a relatively unknown actor to debut as the new 007, not someone who has already played a vampire or masochist or Superman or Bain. Did anyone like Ben Affleck’s Bat Man?
And while we’re at it, let’s let James Bond “pull a bird” without falling in love with her, and the next one, and moaning about his heartache through five films.
Bond is rakish and transactional. Queen and Country first. He’s politically incorrect. And while Brosnan’s Bond showed expressions of disdain when someone forced him to kill, he also showed no hesitation when it was deserved. “I never miss,” he told Sophie Marceau’s lovely character when she dared him. Connery was a “fan” of his license to kill when he swatted an electric one into a bathtub, and even Roger Moore acted out when he used his foot to send a baddie in a car careening down a cliff and dropped Blofeld down a smokestack. (See? Everyone forgot the Blofeld demise scene in “For Your Eyes Only” that scene when Christoph Waltz showed up.)
And Bond is a drinker. A bachelor. A likeable lout who spoils himself with luxury.
The Sum of All Ideas
I think inspiration for the future of the 007 series may be found in recent films such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Courier” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” starring Colin Firth and Michael Caine. Taught yet cheeky.
Give us Savile Row. The Aston Martin DB-5. A vodka martini; shaken, not stirred. We want “M” and Q” and Moneypenny. Throw the cap on the hat rack. And a two Bond-girl minimum, please. The Walther PPK; Omega Seamaster; Bollinger champagne; and a casino scene – even if brief. A hit soundtrack song. Take us to dramatic destinations via British Airways.
Give us glib.
Give us grit.
Give us Bond, James Bond.