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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam