Citing the idea as “revolutionary”, Sam Mendes — director of the new Bond movie, Spectre — revealed the script’s ground breaking twist.
Ooooh, what could it be — James Bond to be played by the magnificent Idris Elba? The splendid Rupert Everett? Nah.
“A bit too rough,” said Anthony Horowitz, author of the new Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, of Elba.
“A bit too street.”
And besides, James Bond is not black. Nor is he gay. Or happy, according to the man who plays him, but we will come back to that.
No, the astonishing “concept” within the new movie, says Mendes, is that Bond will “have a story with a mature woman”.
Oh really? Daniel Craig is 47 — so how old will his next on-screen female companion be: someone in their 60s, like Kim Basinger? Jessica Lange? Meryl Streep? No. Don’t be silly.
They are all far too ancient. Bond’s “mature” woman will be Italian goddess Monica Bellucci, who at 50, is all of three years older than Craig.
Here are some Bond maths. The average age of 007 in the 23 movies so far is 42.8 years, while the average age of his lady companion is 28.6. (My thanks to the online statistician who saved me the tedium of working that out.) So the average age difference is 14.2 years.
Roger Moore’s Bond was responsible for the most preposterous age gaps of all.
He was 53 in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, while his female companion was 23; he was 28 years older than her replacement in 1985’s A View To A Kill. A wrinkly 57 to her nubile 29.
Not that the age gap decreased much as we moved into the 21st century. 2002’s Die Another Day saw a 14-year age gap between Pierce Brosnan’s Bond and his on-screen lover, while Craig has been 12 years older than both his female counterparts in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Hence the “revolutionary” coupling of a 47-year-old and a 50-year-old.
Craig is hopeful 2015’s Bond has evolved a bit since the dinosaur gender politics of the 1960s.
Although having said that, in 1964’s Goldfinger, Pussy Galore was played by Honor Blackman, who was 39, while Bond was played by a 34-year-old Sean Connery; the year before, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diana Rigg was one year older.
They were, however, very much the exception to the Bond rule of dating daughter-aged women.
Perhaps mildly embarrassed at playing the spy whom feminism forgot, Craig said in a recent interview he thought Bond was a “sad” character, given his innate inability to relate to women as actual people.
“There’s a great sadness. He’s got these beautiful women but then they leave. It’s sad,” he said.
“And as a man gets older it’s not a good look. It might be a nice fantasy, that’ s debatable, but the reality, after a couple of months...”
Well, yes. But while Craig is anxious to distance himself from the character of Bond (“I am certainly not that person”), and says Spectre has “weight and meaning”, the fact remains women in Bond movies have, over the decades, weathered racism, misogyny, disposability, and trivialisation.
They were never anything more than sexualised props.
Their names are more of a giveaway than their ages. It’s as though Ian Fleming and their subsequent creators swallowed an innuendo dictionary, from the Viz-like Pussy Galore and Plenty O’Toole of the 60s to Holly Goodhead and Mary Goodnight in the 70s.
Asian Bond Girls endured names like Kissy Suzuki and Chew Mee in the 70s, and Wai Lin in 1997. Black Bond Girls were rare.
The most famous black Bond Girl, Halle Berry, was named merely Jinx.
The names of Eastern European Bond Girls were also generally given a Viz innuendo makeover, most notably Xenia Onatopp in 1995.
Of the 75 or so Bond Girls many had one name only.
Octopussy, Solitaire, Zora, Vida, Bonita, Manuela, Magda, Bianca, Felicca, Dink, Aki, Ling, Saida, Severine, Caroline, Linda, Nancy, Marie, Naomi — a cornucopia of male tastes catered for.
In the 90s, the writers came up with the idea of adding ‘Dr’ or ‘Professor’ in front of the women’s names — resulting in characters like Dr Molly Warmflash.
2002 saw a female Asian character named Peaceful Fountains of Desire and in 2008 there was a Bond Girl called Strawberry Fields.
But at least they had names, right? In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond has a sexual encounter with Log Cabin Girl; in 1979, he gets it on with Private Jet Hostess.
These days he’d be treated for sex addiction, but in the most recent Bond movie, Skyfall, there is a love interest credited simply as “Bond’s Lover”.
No wonder Craig is at pains not to personally identify with the character which has made him a household name.
And yet Bond himself is hardly more than a collection of social tics, rather than a fleshed out credible character. He is comprised of manners, martinis, gadgets and dinner jackets, held together with one-liners and an inability to be killed.
The writer Kingsley Amis, himself a Bond fan who wrote the first sequel in 1968 after Bond’s creator Ian Fleming died, also wrote The Bond Dossier, which was the first publication to look closely at Fleming’s invention.
Bond, noted Amis, was the ultimate Byronic hero, “an intruder from another age”.
We don’t want to hang out with Bond, he suggested — we want to be him. ‘We’ being the male readership, obviously. Nobody in their right mind would want to sexually involved with Bond — you’d end up duped, discarded, dead, or all three.
"Even Kingsley Amis, famous for his fantastically dodgy attitude towards women, called the Bond character “narcissistic” and a “hopelessly out of date persona inside the shell of a secret agent”.
And now we have Spectre bearing down upon us with its “revolutionary” idea of a similarly aged Bond cavorting not with his Bond Girl, but Bond Woman. Or Bond Lady, as Monica Bellucci jokingly referred to her role.
A 50-year-old female love interest in a Bond movie is nothing short of radical. Which is utterly tragic, but will probably not stop us from flocking to the cinemas to see the ravishing Ms Bellucci bonding with Daniel Craig.
We can’t help ourselves. James Bond movies are like Christmas — totally naff and come around far too quickly, but once it’s here, we just can’t help ourselves.