Cleese and Bond-age

John Cleese recently gave an interview to the Radio Times that’s been causing a bit of a stir. He appeared as Q in two Bond films (The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day), the last two Pierce Brosnan Bonds, and then the producers decided to hire Daniel Craig, jettisoning Cleese and any lighter approach they had taken up to that point.

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He said “I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humourless.

“Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw. The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.” 

The Daniel Craig Bonds have been doing rather well internationally, so it’s hard to fault the producers. However, for those of us in the English-speaking world, it’s all been rather unrelentingly grim, with explicitly sado-masochistic villains, and beloved supporting characters dying violently.

Many of us lived through the Roger Moore Bond years, when the misguided humor was as thick as the car chases. Anyone who saw Roger Moore tangling with Jaws and a buffoonish Southern sheriff didn’t complain about the Cleesian touches in the Pierce Brosnan films.

I was working for John when the producers decided to go grim and gritty, and John was philosophical. The Daniel Craig movies are, like the Bournes, Die-Hards and other big budget action flicks, all about the visuals, at the expense of character, humanity, and any subtlety. John understood that, but it wasn’t a direction in which he was very interested in going. And, at risk of sounding like a bore, neither am I.

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2 thoughts on “Cleese and Bond-age

  1. Tony Papaleo

    I can agree with what you say regarding the humanity of the characters – I’ve read all the Ian Fleming books, and what made Bond unusual as a literary character in that genre was his humanity and sensitivity. I only differ on the assessment of the grimness and sometimes sadistic violence: That was also a part of the Fleming books. especially Dr. No and From Russia With Love. In the books, I forget which, there is a scene where Bond is tied to a chair with a hole in seat for his nuts to hang through. The bad guy essentially plays a little upside-down whack-a-mole on Bond’s junk. As I recall, something similar happened in one of the Craig-Bond editions. Point is: Extremely personal/damaging violence is part of the Bond oeuvre. But I totally agree with Cleese’s points about missing some of the wry dialogue.

  2. howardjohnson1985 Post author

    Oh, yes, there was sadism. And violence. But if it isn’t balanced with more human touches and observations, and a human p.o.v. character like Q, it loses something for me…

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