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The Bond Saga Continues

April 5, 2010
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

People who have watched a James Bond film or read an Ian Fleming book have heard of the U.K. spy agency MI5, the outfit that employed the fictional Bond, James Bond.

The real MI5 is now firing some James Bond-generation agents because according to the agency they haven’t learned how to use social networking and other Internet technologies.

The director-general of MI5 is concerned that the agency is being held back by older agents who don't understand the world of computers.

Of course the secretive spy agency didn't indicate how many are being laid off.

MI5 has about 3,500 agents and plans to expand to 4,100 next year. That’s twice as many as they had in 2001, an indicator of increasing danger in the world. Many of the new agents are in their 20s and 30s.

So as older British spies turn over their shoulder holsters to younger agents, they are following the pattern of the James Bond Movies.

The Bond character sprang to the cinema from the pages of novelist Ian Fleming’s books. The early films about “Agent 007” were based on Fleming's novels and short stories, followed later by movies with new storylines.

The Bond series is the longest continually running film series in history, having been in ongoing production from 1962 to 2010 and it still continues. To this point, the Bond production house, EON Productions has released 22 films, about one every two years, most of them produced at the legendary Pinewood Studios.

The Bond flicks have grossed just over $5 billion at the worldwide box office, which make Bond the second most-successful film series ever, narrowly edged out by the Harry Potter films.

And amazingly, the series has been handed down to one actor after another and still has held onto a multigenerational audience.

Part of the reason is the fantasy of the sophisticated hero with one arm around a Bond girl and the other on the steering wheel of an exotic sports car, engaged in a chase and doing stunts while sipping a vodka martini and not spilling a drop. And, reassuringly, the villains are all brought to justice by the end of the story.

The first and the prototypical Bond was Sean Connery, who portrayed the James Bond character in seven films between 1962 and 1983.

In 1969, an Australian male model George Lazenby became the new 007 in the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" because Timothy Dalton, who became Bond later had turned down the role saying that he was too young. Lazenby's acting experience was a series of chocolate commercials. It turned out that his style was more suited for chocolate commercials.

So Sean Connery came back and did his Bond role again in 1971 for “Diamonds Are Forever.” Diamonds may be forever, but Connery wasn't and was replaced by Roger Moore who had the role from 1973 to 1985.

By then Timothy Dalton figured he had aged enough to take the Bond part so he fired his Walther PPK from 1987–1994. The critics thought he was right to turn it down it down in the first place, and should have stayed on the stage.

Dalton was the Bond character in “The Living Daylights”and the subsequent “License to Kill,” that was shot in Mexico rather than at Pinewood Studios in the U.K. The film's darker and more violent plot elicited calls for cuts by the British Board of Film Classification.

When Pierce Brosnan took over the role in 1995, a Bond controversy broke out in England over his Irish background. Although little attention had been paid to Connery being Scottish, Lazenby's Australian background, or the Welsh ancestry of Dalton, British fans thought there was something wrong with an Irishman playing Bond, and some referred to Pierce Brosnan as "James O' Bond.” He kept the gig until 2004.

In 2006, the sixth actor to portray James Bond was chosen. After 18 long months of speculation for a Brosnan successor, it was announced that the new MI5 agent would be Daniel Craig.

Craig says he found out that he was playing Bond by phone in a Baltimore supermarket. Barbara Broccoli called him and simply said "Over to you, kiddo."

The choice of Craig was not received well when announced in 2005, but after Craig's performances in “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” it was clear that this guy is the best Bond since Sean Connery.

His contract calls for two more of the franchise films, the next one to come out next year.

And the Bond music was perfect, beginning with the opening music that was used across all the films.

Perhaps the most memorable theme song for a Bond flick was “Goldfinger” performed by Shirley Bassey, who sang two theme songs for two other movies, “Moonraker” and “Diamonds Are Forever.”

Lots of interesting pop stars sang Bond movie tunes, like Tom Jones for “Thunderball,” Nancy Sinatra for “You Only Live Twice,” and Carly Simon for “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

One of the worst Bond themes was Paul McCartney and Wings performing the title song, “Live And Let Die.”

But since artists like Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, and Madonna have performed themes for Bond movies, we shouldn't be surprised that a current singer that dresses unconventionally would be chosen for the next Bond movie. It's none other than Lady Gaga.

Ms. Gaga is reportedly in negotiations with movie bosses to record the next James Bond theme tune.

The creator of the superspy Ian Fleming would have liked the pop singer’s name — for a Bond villain.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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