The Fleming Paracosm

Diamonds Are Forever Lazember
Alternative Lazenby Diamond Are Forever

As we enter a new chapter in the James Bond movie franchise, staunch fans like myself are apprehensive or intensely curious about what direction the franchise will take, and about who will be chosen to play the next 007. The naming of the actor to play the MI6 spy appears to have turned into a cultural festival that runs every decade or so, much like the naming of who will host the next Olympic Games. It’s a media tradition ever since George Lazenby famously turned his back on the franchise.

This is a tradition that revolves around a list of candidates, sourced mostly from public opinion and a little from industry insiders, and necessitates rounds and rounds of gossip and speculation.

MI6 Recruits

As of the time of writing, this is the list in order of whom I think will get the role.

  • Tom Hiddleston – With ex-head of MI6, Dame Judi Dench advocating him and reports that Barbara Broccoli is giving it serious thought, and the fact he’s coveting the role overtly, positioning himself with the right roles such as The Night Manager and the Jaguar commercials, I suspect he may snatch the role.
  • Aidan Turner – Well, he was involved in “talks” to play 007 last year, and is the right age and at the right point in his career, much like his rival Hiddlestone, and similar to Craig when he got the nod in 2006.
  • Tom Hardy – Occupies this spot because he can, without a doubt, pull off the Bond character without a hitch. But he may not want to do it, (and end up regretting it like Burt Reynolds) or his price tag may be a bit too high.
  • Damian Lewis – Looks like he was used by producers to intimidate Craig, just like they did with James Brolin when Roger Moore had second thoughts about playing Bond. He’d do the role easily, but I think time is against him if Eon Productions want to do another four to five films. And the fact that his ‘ginger’ hair doesn’t qualify him is ridiculous. He could do it but do only one, Lazenby style. Or do two, Dalton style. Gone are the days of a James Bond in his late 50s snuggling up with a twenty-something beauty.
  • Idris Elba – The general public has placed him as a contender. Again he’s in the same position as Lewis. He definitely can pull it off just as well as Lewis. But unless Sony and co. decide to do a one-off Bond film as a breaker between the Purvis-Wade-Haggis-Logan story arc and the next 007 story arc then I think this is not going to happen for him.

Resume for 00’s

What does an actor have to do to build a resume to be a serious 007 contender? Easy. Do a spy thriller (or something very similar) that has a bondesque element to it.

Roger Moore did The Saint (1962-1969) and The Persuaders (1971).
Timothy Dalton did Permission to Kill (1975)
Pierce Brosnan did Remington Steele (1982-87) and The Fourth Protocol (1987)
Daniel Craig did Road to Perdition (2002), Layer Cake (2004) and Munich (2005). Okay, he played gangsters in most, but he wore a suit.

George Lazenby was the only one who actually did nothing at all. He simply walked off the street and pronounced to Cubby that he was his next Bond. And Lazenby to this day is the closest actor to emulate Ian Fleming’s character.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

See, anyone can be James Bond. The notion that actors who are “gingers” or have “non-English English” backgrounds can’t play James Bond is absurd.

Anything and everything can happen in Bond movies.

  • Ian Fleming added Scottish ancestry to James Bond’s family history after seeing Connery in action on the big screen. Lazenby broke the fourth wall during the pre-title sequence, “that never happened to the other guy.”
  • Moore went into space and fought bad guys with lasers. Not to mention the blaxploitation, the Kung-fu exploitation and… did I mention the blatant Star Wars exploitation?
  • Bond faced off with Bond in 1983 as Kevin McClory took on the Broccoli clan. What a strange moment that was. That’s the thing with Bond fans, their loyalties are to Ian Fleming’s material, not some film studio.

Dalton escapes this one clean, well, that winking fish statue was ridiculous.

Then we have Brosnan, who after a solid stint as 007, ended up playing with invisible cars and space lasers and ice castle… these guys… How do you start the damn thing so good and ended up making it so bad?

Evolve Bond, Now.

Anyway, the thing with James Bond is that he evolves. He has gone from strangling women with bikini tops and slapping them around, to metrosexual to sensitive new-age brute. This is how MI6 Agent 007 has stayed alive all these decades. The producers have painstakingly stuck to a formula that works and balanced it with modern relevance. Yes, it has many times devolved into ridiculousness, but they have learned this lesson. For Your Eyes Only (1981) is a perfect example of when they learn, so too is Goldeneye (1995). Unfortunately, they forgot these lessons in Die Another Day (2002), with invisible cars, space lasers and …ice castles.

James Bond - Connery Style

But the team at Eon may have backed itself into a corner with Purvis-Wade-Haggis-Logan story arc. Before Casino Royale (2006), there existed no interconnected storylines between the movies. Dr. No/Goldfinger was basically a template for all the other films that followed. No narrative was carried from the previous film. It took six films for Bond to acknowledge the death of his wife, and even then, in the same film (FYEO), they killed off Ernst Stavro Blofeld, just one of the few carryovers in the franchise, just to spite McClory who had won the rights to Blofeld, SPECTRE, and Thunderball at the time.

Reboots are Forever

James Bond. Casino Royale.

By ‘rebooting’ 007 and having each film as direct sequels; with Bond earning his 00 status, exploring his Skyfall heritage and facing off with his long lost ‘stepbrother’, who turned out to be, yep Ernst Stavro Blofeld; for them to attempt another reboot to accommodate the actor or director, at this stage would be tiresome for even the staunchest of James Bond aficionados. The Spiderman franchise is a classic example, how many times do we have to see the damn spider bite Peter Parker? But wait, now that Sony has relented and joined the Marvel Universe, how can they ever disengage themselves from it? This current 007 story arc and style of character still has a cycle to go before a major makeover would be required.
The Bond that exists now can be only softened a little or hardened a little, modified to a certain degree, otherwise Ian Fleming’s Bond ceases being Ian Fleming’s Bond.

It’s a hard balance, keeping the James Bond tradition and canon intact as well as keeping him invigorated and relevant. How do you change or maintain the franchise without abandoning a formula, backstory, and continuity built up since 1953?

I think Eon might be missing an opportunity with this behemoth IP, the oldest continuous media franchise of its kind ever. As other IP owners grapple with their own never-ending story universes, Paracosms are what they are calling them, Eon is faced with either pressing the repeat button, or they could venture out into a brave new world.

The motion picture arts are always evolving.

It started with adaptations. As the new medium was born there was a mountain of books available for filmmakers to base their stories. The Birth of a Nation (1915) was an adaption from the novel The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon, Jr.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace was first adapted in 1907 as a short B/W silent film. No one sort permission to use the book’s IP at the time, which was standard until somebody sued for copyright infringement and gave birth to the beginning of what would a hundred years later become conglomerate media franchises, i.e. paracosms.

Remakes became a good way to retell an old story and milk a known story to death. The 1925 version of Ben Hur, also a black and white silent film, was remade again in 1959, in Technicolor… with Charlton Heston. In 2003 it was remade as an animation and again starring Charlton Heston. Now in 2016, we have another remake coming and this time it’s in 3D. They call them “reimaginings”, “reinterpretations”, “re-adaptations”, or “new interpretations” depending on how shit they are. If it’s good, then it’s just a remake.

Sequels have their beginnings in early novels and novellas as authors sort to protect and expand their income streams. The first-ever film sequel is considered to be The Fall of a Nation (1916), a sequel to The Birth of a Nation released the year before. It’s all about market forces, if people want more, they get more. When they get served rubbish, they stay away.

Prequels first appeared in novels and were used to explore the backstory of a story. In cinema, it was Star Wars that popularize this type of sequel.

Reboots are all technically prequels. They came about as the early paracosms began to evolve. It was the exhaustion of the sequel format that brought this on. When a sequel can’t be maintained past number three, producers hit a brick wall. Reboots; when done right you end up with Casino Royale. Done wrong you end up with the Hulk, and a second Hulk until producers saw the light and went down the road of the Marvel Paracosm.

All this is an evolutionary process towards media paracosms.

Broccoli proved a character can basically live forever, Lucas proved paracosms exist, and Marvel is doing it. Now every content producer is diving in.

Now back to Bond.

What would a Fleming Paracosm look like? Who are the other superspies ready to serve Queen and country? Well, there are all the other Double O’s in waiting, each one unique in personality, skill set and backstory. When 007 sat in at a briefing during Thunderball, with all the other 00 agents, there was Eon’s Paracosm.

The need to pump out the same old movie is eliminated. MGM/Sony can do what Disney is doing with Star Wars, pump out spin-off movies between the main story arc. Instead of trying to please all audiences at once, they can explore, take risks, target different markets, and expand the fan base, without endangering the main canon established by Ian Fleming.

You can set one back in the ’60s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015) style, and revisit the Connery era. Guy Ritchie’s U.N.C.L.E really worked in my opinion, and when you consider Fleming created Napoleon Solo, there is no reason why MGM/Sony can’t do something similar.

A more violent, sexier, R-rated 00 agent? The market is there. Look at how competitors like Deadpool (2016) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) have stirred up this market.

And MI6 has plenty of 00 agents ready to get this job done.

001 – Edward Donne

002 – Bill Fairbanks

Accompanied 002 and 007 to Gibraltar in The Living Daylights film; murdered by an individual pretending to be a KGB agent who left a tag on the body that read "Death to Spies" in Russian.

003 – Jason Walters / Jack Mason

004 – Aidan Flemmings

005 – Stuart Thomas

006 – Alec Trevelyan

007 – James Bond

008 – Bill Timothy

009 – Peter Smith

In The Living Daylights (film version), another 002, played by Glyn Baker, was in the training exercise at Gibraltar, with 004 and 007. james bond
Assassinated by Mischka and Grischka in the film version of Octopussy. james bond

0010 – John Wolfgramm

0011 – Cederic

0012 – Sam Johnston

0013 – Briony Thorne

James Bond can do a cameo, come to an agent’s aid or compete with them. Imagine the charm factor when two egos clash, especially when one steals an asset meant for the other as what 007 did to 009 in SPECTRE (2015), a scene that really worked. A new agent can be introduced during the main canon film, and if taken in by audiences, a spin-off movie could follow. How about a 00 agent that continuously breaks the fourth wall? The possibilities in a Fleming Paracosm are endless.

John Gardner 007 james bond
John Gardner 007 james bond
Raymond Benson 007 james bond