Friday, November 13, 2015

Licence to thrill

 cover story

Even after five decades on the big screen, James Bond still continues to rule the box office

His name is Bond. James Bond. And he is the most successful secret agent in the (cinematic) universe.

With billions of dollars in box office intake, Bond is one of the highest grossing protagonists of all time, and it is fairly easy to see why - the debonair spy is cool, charismatic, and classy. Armed with a licence to kill, he surfs through danger with the help of high-tech gadgets and gorgeous women, delivering bad guys their comeuppance along the way.

His appeal is timeless, as is clearly obvious by the fact that the Bond series remains the longest continually running franchise in movie history, and even after 24 instalments, 007’s popularity is showing no signs of waning, thanks to the fact that his globetrotting, action-packed outings are chock full of thrilling twists and turns, guaranteed to captivate his fans. And the latest Bond film, Spectre, is no exception.

But how exactly did everyone’s favourite spy come into being? James Bond’s journey, like most good things, began with a book.


The character - an intelligence officer in the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service - was created by British novelist Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964) in the 1950s, and based on a number of individuals he came across while working for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. Bestowed with many of Fleming’s own characteristic and sharing a resemble with both American singer Hoagy Carmichael and the writer himself, 007 debuted in the author’s first novel, Casino Royale (1953), which garnered much success. Fleming ultimately wrote a total of twelve Bond novels as well as two short story collections before his death, two of which were published posthumously. The Bond saga - which has since been continued by other writers - has gone on to rank among the best-selling book series of all time, having shifted over 100 million copies worldwide, and has been adapted into other medium, including ventures in television, radio, comics, video games, and of course the immensely popular films.

The film series

The Eon Productions series which started in 1962 with Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as the first actor to portray Bond, has gone on to become the third highest grossing franchise to date with an over $6 billion haul so far, and is actually the single most successful series when the revenues are adjusted for inflation. Because of their continued, lasting appeal, these movies are usually among the most anticipated films of the year, and often give a boost to the careers of the unestablished actors and actresses who weren’t well known before appearing in these projects.

From the girls to the villains, the gadgets to the cars, the Bond style has been emulated by many other films, and the series is also cited for its influence within the cinematic spy realm, attributed with popularizing the genre.

The actors

Here’s a big reason behind Bond’s popularity: he’s very well cast!

Sure there have been some misfires (Hello Pierce Brosnan!) but the part has usually been played by suave Brits who have won the hearts of their audiences and looked dapper in the process. Six actors have taken on the celebrated role so far, and all viewers have their own opinions and preference about who played the part best. Sean Connery and Roger Moore (who appeared as Bond more times than any other performer) remain fan favourites, and Daniel Craig has also made a place for himself in this category, despite initially receiving unfounded criticism prior to the release of his first Bond film. Craig is now the most successful actor to portray 007; his film Skyfall (2012) is the highest grossing movie in the series, having earned $1.1 billion at the box office (the first Bond film to cross the $1 billion mark), and there has been much speculation about whether he will return for another film and reprise the role once again.

The latest release: Spectre

The secret agent is now on the big screen for the 24th time, and his latest adventure is called Spectre. The film finds Bond on a trail to uncover the titular global criminal organization but along the way reveals a chilling connection between him and his enemy. The movie does not use an original Ian Fleming title, and is not based as such on any of his stories, although it does draw on some of Fleming’s source material.

Sam Mendes returns for his second consecutive effort in the director’s chair, while Daniel Craig stars in his fourth portrayal of the lead character. The baddie, this time round, is being played by Christoph Waltz, who depicts the mysterious mastermind behind the sinister Spectre (which was originally stylised SPECTRE and stood for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion).

Of course no Bond film is complete without a bevy of gorgeous, exotic women. In Spectre, the part of the main sidekick is being played by Léa Seydoux, who appears as Dr. Madeleine Swann, a psychologist working at a clinic in the Austrian Alps. The Spectre Bond girls also include Stephanie Sigman and Monica Bellucci, the latter becoming the oldest actress to play the role of a Bond girl at the age of fifty.

Another popular Bond staple is the theme song, the track which is played during the title sequence of each film and has previously been sung by well-known popular singers including the likes of Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Tina Turner and Adele. The Spectre theme, titled ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, was co-written and performed by singer Sam Smith. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the song has gone on to become the first Bond theme to reach the coveted number one spot in the UK Singles Chart.

So, movie buffs, head to your nearest cinemas and enjoy the latest adventure of one of the world’s most famous characters; it promises to be an action-packed, thrilling ride!

The Bond actors and their filmography

- Sean Connery
6 films: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

- George Lazenby
1 film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

- Roger Moore
7 films: Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985)

- Timothy Dalton
2 films: The Living Daylights (1987), Licence to Kill (1989)

- Pierce Brosnan
4 films: GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002)

- Daniel Craig
4 films: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015)

The current Bond

Daniel Wroughton Craig

- Born on the 2nd of March 1968 in Cheshire, England.
- Has an older sister, Lea.
- Parents divorced when he was young.
- Began acting in school plays at the age of six.
- Started training at the National Youth Theatre in his teens; then attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican, graduating in 1991.
- Made his film debut with a role in The Power of One (1992), and went on to appear in films including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Road to Perdition (2002), Sylvia (2003), Munich (2005), The Golden Compass (2007), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).
- Was chosen to portray James Bond in 2005, a decision that initially received criticism before the release of his first Bond film, Casino Royale (2006), which subsequently went on to become the highest grossing movie in the franchise, a record that was beaten by his third Bond instalment, Skyfall (2012).
- Is the first actor to portray James Bond to have been born after the Bond series started, and after Ian Fleming’s death.
- Has been married twice: to actresses Fiona Loudon (1992 - 1994; divorced; they have a daughter, Ella) and Rachel Weisz (2011 - present).
- Is a fan of football and rugby.
- Was appointed by the United Nations as a global advocate for the elimination of mines and explosive hazards in April 2015.

Spectre trivia

- Had a budget of around $300 million, and is the most expensive film in the series.
- Sees James Bond drive an Aston Martin DB10. Is the thirteenth movie in the franchise to feature an Aston Martin vehicle.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor was considered for the role of the villain.
- Penelope Cruz, Helen Flanagan, and Kate Upton were all rumoured to be in consideration for a Bond girl role.
- Sam Mendes was originally reluctant to work on another James Bond film after Skyfall (2012), but was ultimately convinced to return as director. Christopher Nolan had reportedly been considered as his potential replacement.
- Score composed by Thomas Newman.
- Is the first Bond film not to feature trumpeter Derek Watkins who passed away shortly after the release of Skyfall (2012).

- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 13th November, 2015 *

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