James Bond must move on

Sarah Posted by Sarah at January 16, 2020 15:00:58 January 16, 2020 15:00:58

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond movie and Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007, comes out in April. In advance of that, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson gave an interview to Variety that comes across as half reckoning with the end of Craig’s tenure and half reckoning with the constant public pressure to do something different with the character after 50 years of white dudes in the role. Broccoli and Wilson are half-siblings, the children of OG Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, and I am WAY more interested in the way their family works than anything they have to say about James Bond. As we know from the royal family, the inner workings are always more fascinating than the public show.

Sadly, the Broccoli-Wilsons are too controlled and professional for that—although there is a suggestion that Wilson’s levity irritates his sister, DO GO ON—so we’ll have to make do with boring old Bond. It’s all the usual stuff on that front: Daniel Craig is really done, even if they wish he’d stay on forever; Daniel Craig was a surprising choice for Bond; No Time to Die will be a satisfying conclusion to Craig’s (very uneven) era of Bond. We’ll see about that last one in a few months, but it is true that back in 2006, when Casino Royale came out, Craig was an against-the-grain choice for Bond. That was back in the olden days, when “not classically handsome” was considered diverse.

Now, however, people are demanding a bit more from a new Bond in the 21st century. The constant refrain of “Idris Elba for Bond” isn’t just a desire to see Idris Elba being suave in a suit. It’s a lot that, but at heart, the “Idris Elba for Bond” campaign is about the audience’s desire for something NEW. Bond has been so consistent for over 50 years that casting a blonde guy was a shock. I personally support Dev Patel for Bond because I think, besides being a great actor and convincing with spy stuff, Patel presents an interesting opportunity to interrogate Bond’s roots as a symbol of England’s colonial past. Ian Fleming created Bond to uphold a particular fantasy of England as a cosmopolitan superpower, representing the pinnacle of civilization to the rest of the world. Imagine a Bond coming from the colonial diaspora of England’s former empire, and how that might challenge Fleming’s power fantasy. James Bond, approaching his 60th cinematic year, is instantly fresh and new.

There has also been a steady social media drumbeat to reimagine Bond as a woman. But Broccoli doubles down on her assertion that Bond “is male”. She goes on to say, “I believe we should be creating new characters for women—strong female characters. I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.”

This is a common refrain whenever discussing increasing opportunities for women, especially in big-budget studio blockbusters. Why not just make something new with women, instead of remaking something old with women? Well, in the current IP-crazed studio environment, it’s harder to make something new with ANYONE, let alone with women. Also, qualifying what women are eligible to make is limiting and reductive, and that is the kind of status quo thinking that holds back progress. But there is an interesting detail in this interview that adds a new dimension to Broccoli’s comments. It turns out that she wanted to make a spin-off centered on Jinx, the American spy/Bond girl played by Halle Berry in 2002’s Die Another Day. MGM deep-sixed it, though, apparently over an $80 million budget. 

2002 was much less hospitable to women leading big budget action movies—not that now is all that hospitable, either. But it was definitely even less common eighteen years ago. Given that Broccoli really did try to make a female-led spin-off happen, why not try again now? Lashana Lynch will be playing a new 00-agent in No Time to Die. Perhaps she is eligible for a spin-off? Or how about Ana de Armas, who will play a CIA agent? Or even just a brand new character who exists in the same world as Bond? There are options, is what I’m saying. 

Options, and an audience actively hungry for more women in action movies. Would some people complain about a female-fronted Bond spin-off? Sure. You know who they are. But if one of the new female characters breaks out, why not spin her off? Hell, why not bring back Halle Berry as Jinx? She was AWESOME in John Wick Chapter 3. Halle Berry is still kicking ass and taking names, she can still headline an action movie. If Barbara Broccoli really means that she believes it is more interesting to create new characters for women in the Bond universe than gender-swap Bond, then let’s see it. Make a female-led spin-off. Because until then, all this is just talk, and talk is cheap. Talk is excuses. Stop making excuses and do the work.
 
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Photos:
Slaven Vlasic/ Getty Images

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