FILM / James Bond, for screen and country : a new generation of British writers and film-makers suggest how Bond could freshen up his act

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The Independent Culture
Daniel Easterman, thriller writer

Daniel Easterman is a thriller writer whose books include 'The Last Assassin', 'The Seventh Sanctuary', 'The Ninth Buddha' and 'The Brotherhood of the Tomb'. His latest novel, 'The Name of the Beast', is published by Harper Collins in November.

'My bet is that he goes to the Middle East. That's where most of the action is, and that's where the new thrillers are being set. He may have trouble with the women, but at least they won't talk back.

'Bond's sophisticated charm always worked well as a foil to the presumed greyness of our Cold War enemy. How better to deploy 007 than as the antithesis of grey Islamic fundamentalism or a beacon of Western hope in Baghdad, Beirut, or Tripoli. He'll have plenty to do, of course. There will be hostages to rescue, nuclear installations to disable, fudamentalist coups to render harmless, beautiful women to rescue from the hands of lustful sheiks. The bad guys will be formidable, exotic, and wholly lacking in any sense of irony: Libyans, Iraqis, Shi'ite fanatics. He could take on the crazed leaders of unstable Third World regimes, men bearing startling resemblances to Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The possibilities for stereotyping are almost endless. There is a long heritage of fear and suspicion on which to draw.'

Steve Wooley, producer

Stephen Wooley is the producer of films including 'The Company of Wolves', 'Mona Lisa', 'High Spirits', 'Scandal', 'The Big Man', 'A Rage in Harlem', 'The Pope Must Die' and 'Waterland'. Forthcoming films include Neil Jordan's 'The Crying Game'.

'My idea would be to take all the coldness, all the aloofness of the James Bond character and turn him into a woman: Jane Bond. It's the obvious thing to do. If you cast someone like Joanne Whalley-Kilmer in the Jane Bond role, she could have all the seductiveness and erotic charm of the original without the inherent problem of sexism. She could maintain the perfect English manners and travel around the world knocking off lots and lots of treacherous foreign men. The humour would still come out of the sex, but she'd always have the upper hand and be in charge. The end of the Cold War wouldn't present too much of a problem, though you could make the character disenchanted with working in a system that's falling apart. A lot of the James Bond stories are on about the same level as Thunderbirds, in that they weren't really that political to start with: they were more about mad dictators with their fingers on the button. If you wanted to add contemporary relevence, you could always send Jane Bond to Yugoslavia or Iran, or even South Africa.'

Richard Stanley, director

Richard Stanley, director of 'Hardware' and 'Dust Devil' (to be released in the New Year), has written a secret agent spoof (in which a spy has been brainwashed so many times he is no longer sure which side he is on). He hopes to film it in the near future.

'The problem for Bond in recent years is that the world has got a lot greyer. In his heyday, it was always black and white; there were identifiable baddies. Now the answer to the question 'who's the baddie?' keeps changing. What with the break-up of the Soviet Union, Bond has lost his focus. And he wouldn't look terribly good in Yugoslavia right now. Afghanistan was the last decent black and white conflict. Rambo did that one, and look how quickly he went out of date. Maybe they should make Bond more ambiguous, like the Dark Knight. Alternatively, you could develop him like Patrick McGoohan developed The Prisoner from Danger Man - which the James Bond films sprung out of. McGoohan couldn't take the spy thing seriously anymore and created a mad sequel as an antidote to the straight, shoot-'em-up style of the original. You could develop Bond on to a different, more surrealistic plateau. Perhaps the films could dabble in genetic engineering - that would be fun. But I think this might just be one tight corner that Bond can't get out of.'

Mary Selway, casting director

Mary Selway has cast more than 80 films over the last 25 years including 'The Russia House', 'Out of Africa', 'Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. She produced 'Wuthering Heights' which opens in London on 16 Oct.

'To survive in the Nineties there are two alternatives which I would consider to bring Bond's image up to date. Either you make Bond a woman, someone like Modesty Blaise (an update of the 1960's cartoon strip and film character) and have some fun; or, if you want to stay with a sexy man, then you have to make the character more poetic and move away from the trademark machismo. He must be absolutely beautiful, yet have grace and complexity. Casting Bond would have to take in to account the current images of men in advertising; yet while the actor is important the fundamental problem with Bond is that it's a tired formula. Bond as a hero just does not work in an age when almost every adventure film has a superhero like Bruce Willis in it. Equally, the special effects which so amazed audiences in the beginning no longer have much impact. It has been difficult for anyone to match Sean Connery as Bond. He gave the character such wonderful irony, taking the audience into his confidence and somehow letting the audience know that he thought it was all a great laugh.'

(Photographs omitted)