The tale of two 007s: would Daniel Day-Lewis be a good Bond?

The gap between Fleming’s Bond and the one on film grows ever wider


Is it any wonder that the James Bond industry continues to do a roaring trade? 007 has become one of our most endearing and enduring exports. By turns a suave negotiator and brutal killer, the superspy has sold hundreds of millions of cinema tickets and tens of thousands of novels, the latest of which is written by William Boyd. The acclaimed author headed a glitzy press conference at The Dorchester yesterday flanked by air hostesses and Jensen cars for the  publication of Solo, his novel written in the style of original author Ian Fleming.

Breathing new life into an iconic character is always risky, but Boyd, a self-confessed obsessive fan of Ian Fleming’s novels has gone back to basics. For the book that looks like a wise move as the James Bond of the original novels and the contemporary spy that explodes across the cinema screen are now two very different animals, and the gulf is getting wider. Boyd’s Bond is not the thuggish blond muscleman of Skyfall but the one described by Fleming as looking like 1940s singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael; a “tall, lean, rangy very dark-haired, good looking man”.

This is the Bond who chain-smokes 70 cigarettes a day and is rarely seen without a drink in his hand. The Bond who is attempting to stop a civil war in West Africa, rather than the one portrayed by Daniel Craig trying to defeat a cyber-terrorist who had brought MI6 to its knees and mayhem to central London.

Boyd himself stressed that the link between the character devised by Fleming and the one thrilling cinema audiences “gets fainter and fainter” each year. The celluloid Bond is a product of the year in which the film was made. The follow up to Skyfall – which took $1bn worldwide – will be released in 2015 “and will show the world of 2014” according to Boyd. His novel, by contrast, shows the world of the 1960s still shaped by the Second World War and the Cold War.

Arguably the most successful continuations, by authors including Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks and Charlie Higson, left Bond in his original period. Jeffery Deaver made him a post 9/11 agent in Carte Blanche two years ago, while John Gardner and Raymond Benson’s novels took him through the 1980s and into the new century. None of these met with a wide acclaim, either popular or critical. But leaving Bond where he is without sanitising him raises  serious questions about how to remain true to the time and deal with the misogyny and racism rife in  the Fleming books.

Boyd has dealt with the issue deftly. By setting Solo in 1969 – the last Fleming work ends six years earlier – he creates an older, wiser Bond who has noted the huge social shifts during the decade and adapted accordingly. So he is in his original era, and out of it at the same time.

Perhaps it is no surprise that, were his book to be filmed, Boyd would choose Daniel  Day-Lewis as his ideal Bond, one of the few actors of such talent that would be able to reconcile this ever changing yet strangely immutable character.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific