Iíd better be honest about this: I started reading the James Bond books when I was
at school. Not only was Ian Fleming still alive then, he had only written half-a-dozen 007
novels. And no one had even thought of turning one of them into a movie. The best
was yet to come. My English master wouldnít have agreed: for him, more Bond was
definitely not better Bond. Coming across me engrossed in Dr No one day, he tore it from
my hands and threw it across the room. "What are you reading this junk for?" he
Schools were different then: teachers could get away with that kind of stuff. I mean, I
wasnít even in an English class. But it didnít stop me reading the books. I
carried on, right through to the end, until Fleming died (on August 12, 1964). I even
almost met him once.
By 1964, of course, Flemingís most famous creation had become a movie star,
striding (in the shape of a 33-year-old Sean Connery with a full head of hair) along an
impossibly white Caribbean beach towards a gleamingly wet Ursula Andress emerging from the
waters wearing a bikini never to be forgotten - certainly not by Michael Apted, who has
just finished directing Bond 19, aka The World Is Not Enough.
"My testosterone never recovered from it." Michael
"Like any young man of my generation," says Apted, "I had been
permanently influenced by Ursula Andress and her bikini. My testosterone never recovered
One interesting thing, though: over the 36 years and 17 movies that followed Dr No,
James Bond in all his incarnations - from Connery via George Lazenby to Roger Moore,
Timothy Dalton and now, in perhaps his most successful embodiment, Pierce Brosnan - has
executed a distinct sideways movement across the social scene.
In 1962, when Dr No came out at the cinema and On Her Majestyís Secret Service was
in Britainís bookshops, Bond was seen as something of a cad - too self-confident to
be truly British; too much of a ladies man to be a gentleman as well. The sort of chap, in
short, youíd be happy to have spy for Queen and country, but would probably not
invite along for a weekendís shooting on the jolly old country estate.
Bond has, however, long since become the epitome of an English gentleman (somewhat
ironically, since his two best portrayers have been a Scot and an Irishman). But it
wasnít the character that had changed: it was England - and, for that matter, the
"a licence to kill, a connoisseur, attractive to
"I think of Bond as a pretty consistent character," says Michael G. Wilson,
stepson of legendary Bond film creator Cubby Broccoli. Wilson co-wrote all the films from
For Your Eyes Only (Bond 12) to Licence to Kill (Bond 16) and has produced or co-produced
everything since A View to a Kill (Bond 14). "Like anyone who lives in his
world," explains Wilson, "Bond is not unaffected by it. Heís mostly the
same character as always, with pretty much the same ideas. But the world has changed
around him, so now itís about how this character interacts with the present world.
"Oneís personal view of the James Bond character depends on whether your
first exposure was from the books or the films," continues Wilson. "And, if it
was from the films, it depends on which actor played the role. In both the books and the
films, Bond is a secret agent with a licence to kill, a connoisseur, attractive to
women... But in the books, he is a more serious character, consumed with self-doubt, often
ruthless and not always successful with women.
"The Sean Connery-style movie Bond had that same ruthless quality - but with
humour, not as serious as the books. Roger Moore played the part with an even lighter
touch. Timothy Dalton introduced a reflective, thoughtful mood to the role. With Pierce
Brosnan, we have gone back to the more serious style established in the earlier films...
but with his particular charm and sense of humour."
Initially major hits in Britain, Australasia and throughout Europe, Bond took slightly
longer to conquer North America, despite the fact that President John F. Kennedy cited
Fleming as one of his favourite writers. But any idea of a quaint British caper movie has
been firmly banished since the early eighties, and rendered seriously inaccurate by the
massive success of the first two Brosnan movies, GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. Now,
the $100-million The World Is Not Enough looks set to take the worldís oldest movie
franchise to new heights.
"replete with the usual array of gadgets"
"I am convinced that the tremendous success of the James Bond series can be
directly attributed to the quality that the pictures have been able to maintain,"
says Wilson. "Cubby always insisted on the films having high production values.
Barbara [Broccoli, Cubbyís daughter] and I will continue to produce the Bond films
the same way and, hopefully, repeat the success of GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never
Bond 19, The World Is Not Enough, comes replete with the usual array of gadgets
(reading glasses which create a blinding flash - plus a spare pair of specs which can
X-ray scan for hidden weapons; a set of bagpipes which are in fact both a gun and a
flame-thrower; a watch fitted with a miniature grappling hook; a ski-jacket equipped with
its own airbag...), girls (French star Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards from Starship
Troopers lead the charge this time, with a cameo appearance from Il Postinoís Maria
Grazia Cucinotta as the mysterious Cigar Girl) and exotic locations (Turkey, Azerbaijan,
France, Spain, the top of Londonís Millennium Dome...).
On the villain front, Robbie Coltrane makes a comeback as ex-KGB controller turned
casino-owner Valentin Zukovsky (whose freelance terrorist agency made things difficult for
Bond in GoldenEye). Except that, this time around, Zukovsky is not 100% on the side of
The same cannot, however, be said for Full Monty star Robert Carlyle, who plays
Renard, a literally ruthless terrorist bent on world domination. He is literally ruthless
because an earlier 00 mission placed a bullet in his brain and rendered him impervious to
"Walking into a Bond film is like coming into a family," says Carlyle, who
recently starred in Antonia Birdís Ravenous and will be seen in Alan Parkerís
Angelaís Ashes quite soon. "Most of the crew have worked on as many as 13 or 14
Bonds, which is quite incredible." That may, of course, also go some way to explain
the consistent quality of the series.
Oscar-winner Dame Judi Dench returns in the role of M, with Samantha Bond back as Miss
Moneypenny. Additionally, the new movie features John Cleese as the assistant Desmond
Llewelyn has long insisted Q ought to have; drum-and-base star Goldie as Zukovskyís
driver, Bull; Fijian-born John Seru - Vulcan in Gladiators - as Gabor, Sophie
Marceauís bodyguard; and Ulrich Thomsen, star of the 1998 Danish Cannes hit The
Celebration, as ex-Mossad man Davidov.
As that eclectic line-up suggests, Bond 19 is set very much in the modern,
pre-millennial world. Having effortlessly survived the demise of the various Eastern-bloc
agencies which furnished its hero with his most fearsome nemeses, the Bond movies now have
to operate in a world without an Iron Curtain. But there are, of course, other problems -
like dwindling natural resources and the huge and somewhat ill-guarded stockpile of
nuclear weapons lying around in the former Soviet Union.
In The World Is Not Enough, Renardís target is apparently the pipeline being built
to channel the oil from a major new field under the Caspian Sea to the West. But, as Bond
gets closer and closer to his latest rival, this turns out to be only a comparatively
minor part of his new adversaryís evil scheme.
And, reckons director Apted - making his Bond debut after a 30-year career which has
included features such as Coalminerís Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist and Gorky Park,
plus documentaries like the award-winning Seven Up-to-Forty-Two Up series - this is what
gives The World Is Not Enough an extra edge.
"fresh and modern"
"With Bond," he says, "Iím inheriting a very successful franchise,
but we have to decide which elements to keep and what to change just a little, so that the
film is fresh and modern. This Bond has a very topical narrative, on the cutting edge of
the news. Itís still escapism - Bond with all the trappings - but itís an
interesting dynamic to have the Bond atmosphere, the Bond ethic, in a contemporary story.
"Whenever it came to decisions about what we should or shouldnít change in
the Bond mythology, I always deferred to Michael and Barbara. They are steeped in the
history of the franchise yet are always open to new ideas. Itís a fine balancing act
to know how to preserve whatís powerful from the past and when to inject new blood to
keep the films alive for this and future generations."
But on one thing all the Bond people are agreed: it is the casting of Pierce Brosnan as
007 that has really revitalised the series. Brosnan, as was widely reported when GoldenEye
came out, had been odds-on favourite for the part back in the mid-eighties, but
hadnít been able to get out of his Remington Steele contract. When the second chance
came around almost a decade later, the Irish actor leapt at the opportunity.
Everyone, from Wilson to Apted to his co-stars and crew, agrees that Brosnan makes the
ideal Bond. But perhaps the ultimate tribute to his playing of the role comes from the
franchiseís oldest participant: 84-year-old Desmond Llewelyn, who has been in an
amazing 17 of the 19 films, having started with From Russia With Love in 1963.
"Pierce has really made the role of Bond his," Desmond
"Pierce has really made the role of Bond his," says Llewelyn. "Heís
got something Sean never had: Irish charm. Iím a Welshman, but I think the Irish can
outdo both the Scots and the Welsh with their odd charm. There is something there that I
donít think any of the other Bonds have had. I may be prejudiced, but it has been
absolutely marvellous working with him."