Sunday, 7 July 2013

Article: Four Directions of Bond

The James Bond 007 film series is far better known for its stars than for its directors.

Even the series’ most notable helmers (Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, Michael Apted and Martin Campbell among them) are best known for their Bonds (Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball; Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun; The World is Not Enough; Goldeneye and the 2006 Casino Royale respectively), rather than for their other works.

Bond’s latest outing Skyfall was a change of pace from this, for it was directed by Sam Mendes, an already-respected figure in recent filmmaking (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) who had an established artistic identity and substantial fanbase before taking on the Bond brand.

After seeing Skyfall I wondered what if other distinctive filmmakers contributed to the Bond legacy?

In this article I will choose four filmmakers and imagine what their pros and cons would be to this end, as well as who and what their potential Bonds, villains and plots might be, based on their filmographies.

Rodriguez had a chameleonic, ego-free ability to emulate Frank Miller’s comic-book style for his Sin City movie; maybe he could likewise adapt to the Cubby Broccoli Bond formula and aesthetic.

He is also a proficient action director, and is great at making the most out of his money: Desperado was an action flick he made for only $7 million, but looked like it could have cost ten times that amount. Give Rodriguez a $100 million Bond budget, and you’ll see every penny on the screen.

Rodriguez is also popular with actors, which means he would attract a stellar cast.

If Rodriguez made a Bond, it would probably err on the side of camp and exploitation (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Machete), which may have been ideal during Connery’s or Moore’s tenures, but not so much nowadays.

Definitely set in South and Latin America, perhaps involving a maniacal drug lord taking over countries.

Fantastic scenery in the Galápagos Islands and Chilean mountains, an action sequence in Aztec ruins, chase scenes in Brazilian cities, and an evil base in the Amazon rainforest.

Floralis Genérica, the gigantic Argentinian robotic, solar powered flower sculpture, is straight out of classic Bond.

Clive Owen, who actually did compete for the role after Pierce Brosnan’s departure. Also in the running was Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Dominic West and Henry ‘Mr. Superman-but-formerly-Mr. Almost’ Cavill.

I’m sure Rodriguez could also rustle up a gorgeous Latin love interest or two; he’s worked with Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes and Jessica Alba before...

Incidentally, Penélope Cruz is currently attached to the as-yet untitled Bond 24.

Loads of great options: Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Michael Parks, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Madsen and Antonio Banderas (who proved he could do evil in The Skin I Live In). Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke and/or Tom Savini as the muscle.

Tarantino could write a fantastic story with all kinds of unpredictable twists. He has a gift for dialogue, and has already proved that he can write a top-drawer villain – Hans Landa (Inglourious) and Calvin Candie (Django Unchained) were crazy, threatening and partial to delivering florid soliloquies.

I’m sure he’d also write a great Mexican stand-off scene between Bond and villain (plus any number of additional participants).

While Robert Rodriguez’s ego is moderate and his style is malleable, Tarantino’s ego is massive, and his style unwavering. He even admits it himself in an Empire feature 'Close But No Cigar':

‘It would have been my James Bond film and not a Cubby Broccoli film. And I’d have done it with Pierce Brosnan.’ (Citation below.)

Tarantino’s tendency to make extremely talky films with non-linear editing makes me question how well his M.O. could fit into the rhythm and structure of the Bond franchise.

Also, I’m not sure how well he could construct effective action/chase sequences without making them huge bloodbaths.

Tarantino has been on a period kick recently, so maybe he could do one set during the Cold War.

Maybe Bond has to defuse a dramatic, high-tension Cuban Missile-style international crisis. Red scare paranoia, nuclear submarines and old-school espionage abound.

This could be a throwback to the old Bonds, who occasionally battled the Soviets and the Red Chinese (when he wasn't up against the non-country-specific SPECTRE.)

However, I don't think that a Commie-fighting Bond (even if it is a period movie) would be conducive to distribution in today's hugely lucrative foreign market.

None other than the Bender of Fasses himself; Michael Fassbender.

The actor’s fluency in German could somehow be incorporated into the plot; in Tomorrow Never Dies we learn that Bond knows Dutch, and in You Only Live Twice he says he ‘took a First in Oriental languages at Cambridge’. However, in the former he only speaks Dutch briefly, and in the latter he only says he knows Oriental languages. The possibility of a proper Polyglot Bond in action could open up new and interesting story possibilities.

Either that or Tarantino would bring back Brosnan, apparently.

For Bond girls, Diane Kruger and Mélanie Laurent. I know both those examples are from Inglourious, but other actresses Quentin's worked with just wouldn't make good Bond girls: Uma Thurman, Pam Grier and Rosario Dawson? I don't think so.

I’d say Christoph Waltz, but after seeing Inglourious and Django, I’ve had my fill of his partnership with Tarantino.

However, Waltz was relatively obscure until Tarantino discovered him; maybe Tarantino could find another great unknown. Anyone would want to work with him.

Hitchcock would have been a pretty meta choice, because his suspense films – especially North by Northwest - were a huge inspiration to the Bond series. Bond producer Cubby Broccoli and Hitchcock were also chums:

'Broccoli would often nag his good friend Hitch about turning his hand to Bond. [Hitchcock] was interested in directing Thunderball, but Broccoli fretted over his salary demands and the amount of control Hitchcock would take.’ (Same Empire article, citation below)

The early Bonds took so many cues from Hitchcock that perhaps a Hitchcock-directed iteration would have been similar to the point of redundancy.

Tricky. I’d say a confined, train-based thriller, but From Russia with Love already did that. Or a plot wherein Bond becomes bewitched by a woman, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the ‘06 Casino Royale did that, as well.

Again, they probably nicked both of those ideas from Hitchcock.

The debonair Cary Grant. In a Hitchcockian twist, Ian Fleming may have been partly inspired by Grant's role in Notorious to create the Bond character (Casino Royale, the first novel, was published in 1953; Notorious came out in ’46).

Look at him in my screen-shot. He’s (immaculately) dressed just like Bond, seven years before Bond even existed!

Although Grant was still spry enough to do his own stunts in North by Northwest, he was already long in the tooth (55 years old) at the time. That was in 1959, so even if Grant had been cast in the very first 1962 Bond film, he would have been a - perhaps creaky - 58.

Having said that, Roger Moore was also 58 when A View to a Kill, the last Bond of his tenure, was released.

In any event, I suppose it’s a bit silly for me to wonder which actors could/should have been cast in a hypothetical alternative version of a 50-year-old film.

Anyway, in terms of hypothetical Bond girls, Hitchcock had an impressive roster of ladies to choose from: Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Vera Miles, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint and Janet Leigh among them.

Maybe Jimmy Stewart would be a good idea; him against Grant would mean Hitch’s two prime leading men going toe-to-toe. Ray Milland would be another good choice - he was deliciously evil in Dial M for Murder.

Fincher is an expert at creating moods of dread, intrigue and suspense. He is also skilled with fast-paced action and snappy dialogue alike.

Like Rodriguez and Tarantino, he’d have to scale back the graphic violence typical of his oeuvre.

Finch would also have to do away with his typically hardcore and horrific themes, which to date have included homicidal aliens, gruesome serial killings, misogyny and rape, and Mark Zuckerberg.

It would have be one of Bond’s darkest stories (much more so than Dalton’s Bonds). Something involving an international terrorist movement, which Bond must pursue through many countries. This could hearken back to early Bonds such as Dr. No, wherein Bond actually has to use interrogation and detective techniques to move from place to place, rather than travel via action sequence.

Maybe Fincher could make a great new take on the mysterious Quantum organization, which we all know was handled so lamely before.

Daniel Craig. The Layer Cake star has a potential for intensity that would make for the most (and arguably, more) physically-adept Bond since Connery. Hopefully audiences won't mind that Craig has blond hair.

Also, Mark Ruffalo could be an American Intelligence cohort. New Felix Leiter, anyone?

Fincher's macabre catalogue throws up many great possibilities: Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, Forest Whitaker, Michael Douglas, Kevin Spacey and seasoned villain Brian Cox. Or Perhaps Brad Pitt or Edward Norton? Or both together?


The Bond series is the second-highest grossing series in film history (behind the Harry Potter films - which Bond will soon overtake, since there’s no more of those now.) Of the $6 billion-plus that the series made, 1.2 comes from just Skyfall, which explains the return of Mendes for Bond 24.

I'm fairly certain none of the guys on my list will ever actually make a Bond movie (certainly not Hitchcock), but I raise my dry vodka martini glass to Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Penélope Cruz, and Bond 24. ETA 2016.

Further Reading

For more of my 'articles', you can see my posts entitled 'The Hobbit and the Phantom Menace Effect' and 'Fantasia and Racism Reparations in Old Cartoons'.

Empire magazine citation: Nathan, Ian. "Close But No Cigar: Seven Major Directors who have flirted with Bond." Empire Magazine June 2012: 55. Print.


Sin City was produced by Dimension Films and Troublemaker Studios. The UK DVD was distributed by Dimension/Miramax Home Entertainment.

Inglourious Basterds was produced by Universal Pictures, The Weinstein Company, A Band Apart, Zehnte Babelsberg and Visiona Romantica. The UK DVD was distributed by Universal Pictures, (UK) Ltd.

Notorious was produced by Vanguard Films and RKO Radio Pictures. The UK DVD was distributed by ABC Motion Pictures Inc.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was produced by Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions, Yellow Bird Films, Film Rites and Ground Control. The UK DVD was distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Inc.
© Nicholas Gonzalez Brown and 'NickGBrown On Films', 2012-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas Gonzalez Brown and NickGBrown On Films with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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