There are only two rules to be observed when casting the role of James Bond, apart from the obvious one that he must be tall, dark and handsome. The first is that he must have a Bondian first name. Timothy won't do: it's too like Dorothy. Roger won't do either: it's a civil servant's name, and although that, strictly speaking, is what Bond is, he is seldom civil and never servile. Sean: now that was more like it. A clenched, muscular, brooding monosyllable. Admittedly, Pierce is not a total disaster. As a verb, it has the right ring ('a single gunshot pierced the heavy air of the swamp, and Bond knew he had company'). But as a name, it's just too close to Piers.
The second rule is that you must choose someone who could never conceivably be cast as an actor. (This is actually not a bad rule of cinema casting in general: it's the reason why, say, Gene Hackman is a better screen performer than Robert Stephens.) Whatever else you may say about Bond, he is unfailingly insensitive, undemonstrative, self-reliant, and free from self-doubt: the exact opposite of the actor, or at least of the public image of the acting profession.
Timothy Dalton could play an actor. Roger Moore could too, in so far as he could play anything other than pro-celebrity golf. George Lazenby and David Niven certainly could have. But not Connery: far too curt. And Brosnan? He looks awfully like an actor to me. The languid flop of the hair, the soft embrace of the new-looking leather jacket, the voice that reeks of self- regard, the announcement at Wednesday's press conference that he 'would like to thank the public, not just here and America, but all around the world for supporting me in this role' . . . I give him two films.
IN America they have the cover of Time magazine. In Britain the highest honour bestowed by the media is an invitation to play your Desert Island Discs. Everybody who is really somebody has been on the programme, or has turned it down. So it was a shock the other day to tune in and find Sue Lawley addressing her earnest enquiries to Britt Ekland, the actress best known for playing the roles of Mrs Peter Sellers, Mrs Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats, and not-quite-Mrs Rod Stewart. Last week, the castaway was Milton Shulman, the retired drama critic, a figure in whom even a fellow hack would struggle to work up much interest. Not only is old Milt a rather average writer, but he works for a local paper (the London Standard). Still, he has a distinction now: he is probably the first man to have gone on Desert Island Discs when they would have done better to ask his daughter. As editor of Vogue, Alexandra Shulman has at least reached the top of her tree.
THANK YOU to all the readers who have written in with comments on, objections to and suggestions for Hughes's Guide to Arts Pronunciation (C&W, 29 May). A second instalment follows just as soon as we can check up on some of the more outre (oot-RRRAY) submissions. If you have ever been stumped by a name, and it wasn't on our list, please put it on a postcard to me at the Arts Desk, Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB, or fax it to 071-956 1469.Reuse content