Arts: Tomorrow Never Dies, And Nor Does 007 Bond

After 35 years of active service, most people would retire. But James Bond is about to take on his 18th mission. Jasper Rees raises a glass to his health, while David Thomson would rather he received a bullet all the villians who tried to fire a bullet

Jasper Rees
Sunday 30 November 1997 00:02 GMT


They Say there have been problems on the set of Tomorrow Never Dies. "I'm not sure they're having a very jolly time," I was told earlier this year by one of the film's stars who had already shot her scenes. Is anyone still surprised by this? Bond movies may deliver a hymn to effortlessness, in which a man with a impeccable parting saves the planet and still has enough juice in his tank for the coital fade-out. But it takes a muck sweat to look that laid back.

An insight into the bizarre modus operandi of movie-making Bond-style is offered by Dick Clement, who with his writing partner Ian La Frenais was hired to doctor the script on Never Say Never Again. "The script was a terrible mess," says Clement. "For example, the scene moves from the south of France to the Bahamas, and we looked and looked and looked and said, 'There isn't one line in this script to actually suggest why they've gone to the Bahamas.' I went to the producer and said, 'Why are they in the Bahamas? And he said, 'That's a very good question. Mostly because there's a film unit already shooting sharks there.' I said, 'I think we can improve on that'."

Bond movies are always doing that: putting the cart before the horse, the shark-infested location before the plot. And you know what? Who cares? 007 works his charm on us for a series of absurdly anti-cinematic reasons. We already know the narrative inside out, who gets it when, where and with what (M16's local operative in Mauritius, casing out the evil genius's underwater lair, second reel, harpooned in the kidney). And we like that. Most movies are guided by the principle that they must surprise you; uniquely, Bond strives to do precisely the opposite, to press the same buttons he pressed last time. More than with any action hero, we treat 007 as a repository of consoling certainties - political, moral, aesthetic, the whole bang- shoot.

And he is an action hero in his quintessence. He stands for a brand of manhood that can get by without a psyche: he keeps all those new-fangled emotions not only buttoned up but zipped up, tucked into a tux which is itself snug inside a wet suit.

Bond is essentially a refugee from the 1950s, a period when this island's inhabitants still thought it was great to be British, rather than deluding themselves that it is cool. The poignant irony is that no one ever made Britishness look cooler, and he did it by setting up shop in a yesterday when Britain's permanent place on the Security Council didn't split sides the world over. Bond was already at it in Dr No, when his mission was to make 1962 feel like 1952. 007's in his Aston, we're wallowing in the past, and all's right with the world.

Actually, it wasn't so much Bond as Connery who made Britishness look cool. Bond's nationality has been parcelled out around the Union and beyond. If we can forget about George Lazenby (and I think we can), it turns out that Roger Moore is the only English Bond of any durability. It's the dastardly villains he vanquishes who are always more likely to embody the froideur that is England's cinematic calling card. Have you heard the one about the Scotsman (Connery), the Irishman (Pierce Brosnan) and the Welshman (Timothy Dalton)? His name's Bond, James Bond. Middle England got a bit hot under the collar with Brosnan's appointment, but not as inchoately disturbed as it was by a Bond from the Principality with flat vowels and wild mood swings. No wonder they took away his licence to kill.

But let's not forget Roger Moore, to whom I think we've all been unfair. He was dashing once. You can't blame him that Connery threw in the towel in the early 1970s, when it was harder to pretend that Bond was still living in the 1950s of the trim black two-piece suit. Moore took on the task of bringing 007 into the regrettably tasteless present. It was just bad luck that his tenure coincided with the glory years of the short-sleeved safari jacket. The moral of Moore's stint is that Bond is resistant to modernisation. His best shot for the future is to retreat to the decade that spawned him, to take his palaeolithic values, his unprotected sex and ye olde exploding fountain pen, back where they came from and not try to bust into the 21st century. For Bond, tomorrow never dies because tomorrow hasn't even been born. JR

It Always seemed to me that Bond, or 007 (he hardly deserved a name), was the comforter to those outcasts and discards from the 1939- 45 shebang. He looked modern, to be sure, but he was a throwback. His arrogance was designed to appease those jittery survivors and would-be heroes who struggled to ignore the steady, climatic ineptitude of Britain's real war, trying to pretend that their uniformed careers had been bigger or braver than was the case, and longing to edge in on the hallowed emotional territory of "the few". He was vindication for those who wanted to believe there had been some right stuff that pulled us through, instead of just the patience to outlast a grisly mess.

So Bond was a gift to peacetime misfits, equally horrified at the impoverished largesse of the Labour years and the Super Mac vulgarity of the late 1950s. I mean men like the League of Gentlemen from 1960 - can we credit that there was a moment in this land when Jack Hawkins, Nigel Patrick, Roger Livesey, Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes were ideal maverick spirits? Such figures hardly knew which was more scary - the real war, with men drowning in the North Sea, being roasted in tanks, or rendered futile in Singapore - or trying to cope afterwards in a Britain that could no longer fund the old humbug and assurance. Not that they had ever fully grasped the war. They saw turning points over Tangmere, at El Alamein and in the Normandy campaign, while hardly "getting" such foreign interests as Communism v Fascism; the huge maps of Russia and the Pacific; the concentration camps and the atom bomb. Bond had a modish gloss of cynicism, but deep down he was sentimental on the warming myth that Britain had been, and still was, central.

Thus, Ian Fleming's books began to appear within a few years of our first discovery that MI5 or 6, or whatever, was a foolishly run club for old boys, shaped and smoothed over by privilege, private deals, and the nightmare folly by which well-born rebels persuaded themselves that they cherished the common man (so long as that didn't aggravate the servant problem, or interfere with the thrill of rough trade).

And so, Bond's hysterical success rate (along with the eccentric company of M and Miss Moneypenny) sustained the fancy that British "Intelligence" was casual yet tip-top still - and that Harold Macmillan was a "partner" with John Kennedy (a real Bond fan) in the ground-zero days of October 1962 (instead of just a shabby hanger-on insinuating himself in the big show). In reality, we had the chance to see that our secret service was rotted through with old school ties, falldown drunks, vulnerable queers and the Crazy Gang parade of Burgess, MacLean, Philby and Blunt. Yes, these were five brains and public-school men, Oxbridge or whatever, and clubmen in the best bogus tradition, who had brought the country close to ridicule.

Next to them, James Bond was immaculate, futuristic, rootless and totally implausible (that's why it was so acute to have a reformed Scots accent, and the son of a lorry-driver and a charwoman, in the lead role). Where did Bond come from, in terms of class or place? Nowhere. He was Fleming's bizarre dream of a now-classless efficiency - or he was one of Mosley's handsome thugs given a year at acting school and tarted up with mannerisms like shaking a Martini, not stirring it. (He was Aston Martini man.) There was not the least suggestion that this Bond had parents, a home, friends, education, or anything. He was just there, smooth, streamlined and sinister, like a bomb. Or like a robot, for in hindsight isn't 007 the forerunner of those movie stooges we have nowadays who are androids, replicants, machines or terminators, as well-muscled but as mindless as the sculpted plastic toys that come with the movies?

Yes, Sean Connery was remarkable and crucial, for surely he gave the first films their insolent edge, just as he left a hole no successor could fill (the other Bonds are all Basildon). Still, compare his Bond with what Connery would do later and recognise how bland, blank and restricted 007 was. That Connery survived the series, and kept his greater store of humanity in reserve, in a measure of his long-term strategies.

The films made a fortune, of course, and no doubt they won the Queen's Award for Industry more than any other kind of movie. (She jumps on any bandwagon.) But they were badly and perfunctorily made, with decor and effects increasingly covering up the human nullity. They became routine, dead-end ventures, coinciding in an eerie way with the ruminative depth of John Le Carre's Smiley. That Bond and Smiley were contemporaries is like having Night and Fog and The Dam Busters made in the same brief span.

I leave to last the treatment of women in the Bond pictures. From the outset, we noticed the caricatures, the tasteless jeering in a name like Pussy Galore; we know it was damaging and unforgivable, yet the large "we" forgave it all for the fun, the old superiority and the schoolboy reassurance that you should trust no woman, just fuck them all, and shoot them if they complained. There are some who will ask: why be so solemn when looking at entertainment movies? Rubbish. The entertainment film (what other kind is there?) has always been a medium for gilding or excusing our worst instincts - and encouraging the best. In romantic comedies of the 1930s, say, men and women found a true argumentative equality and confusion that was valuable for everyone. And in the James Bond films it was asserted, truculently, that women were pin-ups and tear-downs, gorgeous or butch, treacherous and carnal. It went with the territoriality of these cruel but anxiety-ridden films that God (or the MCC) had ordained women for the pleasure and the bored dispatch of men. But men as dumb, reactionary and crippled as Bond - for he was always the one tied up. DT


Allow me to introduce myself

He says, "The name's Bond. James Bond" - 30 times in 17 films.

Some random facts

Bond is the only Westerner to be awarded the Order of Lenin.

The first person to point a gun at him is Felix Leiter, his CIA buddy, in Dr No.

M's first name is Miles (or was, until M became a woman).

00 is a real secret-service code, and the division's cover is Universal Export.

Bond is an orphan. His father (a known Nazi sympathiser) and his mother were killed in a climbing accident when he was 11.

Bond sings once, in Dr No - the first line of "Underneath the Mango Tree".

He also cooks once - a "quiche des cadenets", with peppers and olives, in A View to a Kill.

He hates the Beatles. He says in Goldfinger that drinking unchilled Dom Perignon would be like "listening to the Beatles without ear-muffs".

Moneypenny, to the possible dismay of her many admirers, is a fan of Barry Manilow.

Bond runs out of fuel eight times.

Bond dances the tango once - with Kim Basinger in Never Say Never Again.

Bond's sexual appetites have always got him into trouble. After only two terms at Eton, he was expelled because of an embarrassing incident with a maid.

Bond lost his virginity aged 16 in a Paris brothel to a woman named Martha Debrant, whom he later murdered in a sports car she bought him.

Several of Bond's gadgets really are used by the Secret Service, notably the underwater snorkel helmet disguised as a seagull, seen in Goldfinger.

If he's 007, who are 001-006, 008 and 009?

Bond's M16 colleagues have made fleeting appearances. 009 was killed while disguised as a clown in Octopussy (1983). 003 froze to death in Siberia in A View to a Kill. M threatens to use 008 instead of Bond in Goldfinger. 002 Bill Fairbanks is killed by Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). 002 and 004 are killed by KGB rebels in a war game with the SAS on Gibraltar in The Living Daylights. In GoldenEye, 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) turns out to be the villain. Conclusion: 001, 005, and 008 have survived just as long as Bond, without getting quite as much credit.

And their opposite numbers in SPECTRE?

No 2 is three people: Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, Emilio Largo in Thunderball, and Osato in You Only Live Twice (1967). No 1 is usually Blofeld; in Never Say Never Again (1983), it's Maximilian Largo. Bond kills No 6 in Thunderball and No 12 in Never Say Never Again. No 11 is killed by her own side in You Only Live Twice, as is No 5 (grandmaster Kronsteen) in From Russia ...

What SPECTRE spells, apart from trouble

Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

Five good lines ...

Bond to Dr No, when the good doctor has spelt out his plans: "World domination, eh? Same old dream."

Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), hardboiled love interest in Goldfinger, to Bond: "You like close shaves, don't you?"

Bond, threatened by Major Anya Masova in The Spy Who Loved Me: "In my country we are usually granted a last request." Masova: "Very well." Bond: "Let's get out of these wet things."

Bond to snake in Octopussy: "Hiss off."

M (Judi Dench) to Bond in GoldenEye: "You are a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War."

Bond, in Live and Let Die (1973), when Felix Leiter speaks to him on a radio hidden in a car cigarette lighter: "Ah, a genuine Felix lighter. How illuminating."

Kananga in Live and Let Die has a compressed-air pellet shoved in his mouth, swells up and explodes. Bond: "He always did have an inflated opinion of himself."

Bond, declining Felix's dinner invite over the phone while seducing Jill Masterson in Goldfinger: "I can't, something big has just come up."

Bond and Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) are in orbit and in flagrante delicto in Moonraker (1979). Minister: "What is Bond doing?" Q, not watching: "I think he's attempting re-entry, sir."

Sanchez in The Living Daylights (1987) blows a man to bits all over a pile of money. Sidekick: "What about the money, boss?" Sanchez: "Launder it."

The name's not Bond

Bond has used a variety of inventive pseudonyms, including David Somerset (holidaymaker), James Stock (FT reporter), Robert Stirling (marine biologist) and Sir John St John-Smythe (stable owner).

Q: What do these people have in common? Steven Berkoff, Christopher Walken, Rowan Atkinson, Vijay Amritraj, Grace Jones, Ronald Pickup, Charles Gray, Donald Pleasance, Burt Kwouk (Kato in the Clouseau films), Joss

Ackland and Charles Dance.

A: They all appear in Bond films.

Marriages made in hell

The best baddies also tend to have the best hitmen and henchmen. Some examples:

Ernst Stavro Blofeld: SPECTRE chief in From Russia With Love. All we see is his hand, stroking a white cat. Playing USSR and West off against each other. Survives. Henchman: Grant (Robert Shaw). KGB officer. Tall, blond, silent. Uses cheese wire. Stabbed on the Orient Express.

Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in Goldfinger. Fat, bald, cheats at cards. Steals gold from Fort Knox using invisible nerve gas. Sucked out of a plane. Henchman: Odd Job. Korean. Fat, silent, grins a lot. Dispatches enemies with spinning top- hat. Electrocuted.

Blofeld (Charles Gray) in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). James Goldsmith lookalike. Has laser which runs on diamonds to hold world to ransom. Fate unknown. Hitmen: Mr Wint and Mr Kydd. Chatty, apparently gay. Thrown into sea in flames.

Dr Kananga/Mr Big (Yaphet Kotto) in Live and Let Die. Plump drug baron and PM of San Monique. Plots to get the world addicted to heroin by giving it away. Explodes. Henchman: Hook. Black, cackling. Uses hook. Flung from train.

Drax (Michael Lonsdale) in Moonraker. Small, dark, bearded. Is creating master-race in space and bombing Earth with lethal virus. Hurled into space. Henchman: Jaws (Richard Kiel). Massive, silent except for four words - "Here's to us, then," sipping Dom Perignon with tiny pig-tailed girlfriend on space station. Uses teeth a lot.

Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) in GoldenEye. Corrupt M16 agent and Cossack. Wants to destroy London, because Britain refused his parents asylum, forcing them to return to Stalinist Russia, where they were killed. Holds a personal grudge against Bond, who scarred his face while trying to save his life. Snappy dresser, pseudo-posh accent, half-burnt face. Henchwoman: Xenia Onatopp. Femme fatale with a good line in PVC army suits and killer orgasm. Crushed to death.

All this, and intertexuality too

In Moonraker, the code to get into a lab is the Close Encounters theme, and when Bond is in poncho and sombrero, we hear the Magnificent Seven theme. As he mono-skis in Siberia in View to a Kill, "California Girls" strikes up.

Self-conscious, moi?

Early in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Lazenby turns to the camera when Diana Rigg has eluded him by speeding off in her car and says, "This never happened to the other fella."

In Never Say Never Again, Algy, a Q-alike, says: "Now that you're back, Mr Bond, I hope we're going to have some gratuitous sex and violence." Connery: "Oh, I hope so too."

Big fish in small pools

Bond seldom encounters an opponent who does not have a keen interest in marine biology. Dr No, Blofeld, Largo, Kananga, Stromberg, Sanchez, Octopussy and Drax all have aquariums or shark pools. Bond sees off sharks eight times. He also tangles with animals: three snakes, two lots of crocodiles, a tarantula, a tiger and a leech.

You just can't get the staff

He is unlucky with hotels. Of the 11 he has booked into, only two are neither bugged nor corrupt.

A just impediment?

Contrary to popular belief, Bond has been married twice. And there's a hint of bigamy. According to him, the first and only time was to the Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) when he was George Lazenby in OHMSS: she was shot by Blofeld as she and James went away in the Aston Martin. But he'd been married when he was Connery. It was in Japan, an arranged marriage with agent Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), going undercover as a provincial girl, while he was doing same as a deeply unconvincing Japanese fisherman, in You Only Live Twice. The question is: was this marriage annulled in time for the other one?

What, no bungee-jumping?

He watches or plays 19 sports: golf, racing, shooting (clay-pigeon and pheasant), weights, fishing, waterskiing, sumo, karate, Thai boxing, skiing, bobsleigh, stock-car racing, jetskiing, sailing, ice hockey, hang-gliding, triathlon, rock-climbing, sky-diving.

Or Cluedo, come to that

He also plays indoor games, always for money and often for sex. He plays chemin de fer five times, for four of which he deals; also craps, blackjack, gin rummy, baccarat, backgammon, a Thai game which bears a strange resemblance to bingo, and Largo's self-designed video-game, Domination.

Q's greatest hits

Bond's best-loved gadgets: Little Nellie, a helicopter built from two suitcases (You Only Live Twice). Key-ring which emits stun gas and is activated by whistling "Rule Britannia". Keys that fit 90 per cent of the world's locks (The Living Daylights). Dentanite toothpaste for that special clean. Explosive alarm clock, guaranteed never to wake up anyone who uses it (Licence to Kill). Homing egg with microphone (Never Say Never Again). A hand grenade disguised as a pen (GoldenEye).

Shaking, and blurred?

He orders 24 vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred, and preferably made with Russian vodka, which makes one wonder (what with endless bottles of Dom Perignon - invariably of about 10 years' vintage) if he is always entirely sober.

Au revoir

He resigns or goes Awol four times. His enemies say "Goodbye, Mr Bond", or something similar - ranging from Largo's simple and psychotic "Bye" to Drax's polite, formal "Mr Bond, I bid you farewell" - no fewer than 32 times.

A man of the world

Bond goes to 35 countries, evenly spread around the world, although he does have (or is it his enemies?) a penchant for the Bahamas. He has been to outer space once.

Those girls in full

There are 60 Bond girls to date, 20 of whom die. Twenty-four are blondes, four are redheads and 32 are brunettes (two of whom are Afro-Caribbean Americans, and four Oriental). Teri Hatcher is the latest, playing Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies. Thirty-three are European (14 English), 15 are American (including two South Americans), and six are Russian. There is one Lebanese and one Egyptian. Together they say "Oh, James" an ego-enhancing 20 times. Their five most improbable names: Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood; "named after your father, I trust," Moore cannot resist noting), Dink (unknown), Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen).

Your place or mine?

Bond has sex (or as near as the old "A" certificate allowed) all over the place: an athletic 77 times in 17 films. The locations range from the mundane (18 times in his hotel room) to the dangerous (24 times underwater, twice at her boyfriend's place) to the ridiculous (three times in a forest, twice in a gypsy tent and once in a motorised iceberg). No wonder the Commander is in such good shape.

Girl power?

As 007 prepares to move into the next millennium, a new genre of Bond female is emerging. Gone are the gun-wielding lovelies who go all dewy- eyed at the sight of James's manly chest. The Nineties Bond girl, epitomised by Izabella Scorupco in GoldenEye, wears combat trousers, whacks the baddy in the face, and saves the day with her vastly superior computer skills. Even the old-boy network of M16 has been infiltrated, with Judi Dench taking on the previously male role of M.

A man of many parts

Felix Leiter has joined Bond on eight missions in seven guises. He has been blond three times, dark four times, and black once.

A better class of peeping Tom

Bond has been witnessed making love by sundry heads of the KGB, Presidents Johnson and Carter, the Queen, and Margaret (and Denis) Thatcher. But he has not spoken to any of them.

Your car, Mr Bond

Apart from the grey Aston Martin DB5 which has an ejector seat and the white Lotus Esprit which is also a submarine, he drives a black Phantom 337, a red Mustang, a brown Range Rover, a blue Rolls-Royce, a blue Renault 14, and a yellow 2CV. In later films the DB5 is replaced by a Volante, and he also drives an Audi Quattro and an Audi Avant. Plus countless motorbikes, vans and lorries, a fire engine and a double-decker bus. He's currently endorsing BMWs.

Political correctness (I)

Black people are superstitious, open to bribes, and in need of leadership. Half-castes are invariably crooked, even though Bond himself is of mixed race - half Scot, half Swiss. Japan is populated only by dodgy businessmen and geisha girls. Americans, with the lone exception of Leiter, are vulgar and incompetent.

Political correctness (II)

When Tiger Tanaka says: "In Japan men always come first, women come second," Bond replies: "I might just retire here."

The giveaway

You know when Connery and Moore are in their last Bond films: they have their own hairdressers.

Make your own Bond

1 Dust off amusingly amateurish, bullet-hole graphic and aged theme tune.

2 Devise self-contained sequence culminating in gratuitous set-piece

in snow.

3 Design titles using guns, swimming nymphs and tune destined for much air-play on Radio 2.

4 Have supervillain in armchair showing sidekicks price of failure by electrocuting one of them, then explaining what latest plot is while giving quick aside on beauty and deadliness of fish.

5 Cast someone as Bond. Anyone will do these days. He wanders into M's office, throws hat on hat-stand, exchanges banter with Moneypenny. M and minister explain mission; Bond shows off universal expertise and photographic memory.

6 Bring Q in to give him some gadgets and tell him not to break or lose them.

7 Put Bond on plane to warm place. He is hijacked at airport but gets away. Arrives at hotel (whose receptionist looks longingly at him), and has fight with reptile or hitman posing as waiter.

8 Goes to casino. Wins loads of money off baddie by betting against odds, and with it the affections of baddie's girlfriend. Ambushed on way home; does attackers in using only a cigarette case.

9 Visits baddie's lair, posing as mild-mannered scientist. Rumbled, flees, has run-in with shark.

10 Finds minor goodie killed by man of inhuman strength and psychological inadequacy. Has sex.

11 Rides monorail system round lair, dresses as lab technician or astronaut, is captured. Angry but courteous baddie tells full story. Bond narrowly escapes humiliating death, grabs girl, blows up lair, swims away while Western servicemen drop dinghy for him to snog in.

'Tomorrow Never Dies' opens nationwide 10 Dec.

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