Last week the Daily Mail published a piece by Baz Bamigboye in which he claimed Bond 24 director Sam Mendes – along with Daniel Craig and producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli – liked Naomie Harris so much her character, Eve Moneypenny, would have a much larger role in Bond 24.
Rather than being desk bound, as Miss Moneypenny has always tended to be to date, she would be more of a sidekick to 007; instead of being M’s personal secretary, she would be Bond’s assistant.
In many respects this looks like a typical tabloid story based on little more than the need to create a story out of thin air. It also seems to be describing her role at the beginning of Skyfall.
A grain of truth?
Unfortunately, while I’d love to be able to dismiss the story, Bamigboye was right on a number of Skyfall scoops, including the one that said Eve was in fact Miss Moneypenny; after starting out as a field agent in Skyfall, by the of the film it looked as if we’d finally come full circle and 007 was – finally – the 007 we have known and loved since Dr No.
However, if Bamigboye’s story does turn out to be right then does it mean that expected continuity won’t happen?
After deciding to take a desk job working for the new M, has she found out that he is too demanding as a boss and finds it better in the field?
What happened to business as usual for 007?
If so, this is a big change from Ian Fleming’s books for both the character of Moneypenny as well as James Bond himself. Although he regularly had some kind of assistance on missions, such as Felix Leiter and Rene Mathis of the CIA (and later Pinkertons) and Deuxieme Bureau respectively; or Darko Kerim, head of Station T (Turkey).
And then there are the Bond girls, who provide assistance either in an official capacity (Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and Mary Goodnight in The Man With The Golden Gun, for instance). In the books he often relies upon these people for local information, or calls them in as reinforcements when needed.
On the whole Bond is a lone wolf who prefers to just get on with the job; early on in the film series started to became a know-it-all and, later, a one man army.
More recently, though, there has been a tendency in the films give subsidiary characters larger roles.
Bond and friends
Just look at M’s role in The World Is Not Enough, in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and then, in Skyfall, two M’s with expanded roles. And what about how much Eve and Q appear onscreen in Skyfall?
While the expanded role of M was integral to the plot of both The World Is Not Enough and Skyfall, It makes no sense for the head of MI6 to be out in the field in Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace.
The question is, why have they made M’s role so large in recent films? Rather than being a film about James Bond, it becomes one about MI6. Perhaps there is a place for a movie or series of movies featuring other characters from the Bond universe, much like a Jinx Johnson series was planned (and canned).
One reason could be that the actors they use in these roles now tend to be well known faces and they feel that because of this they should expand their roles rather than simply take cameo roles. Think of Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw here.
Perhaps because they are bigger names they are paid more; because of the bigger pay packets the producers want a bit more than walk on, walk off parts.
But I think we can discard this idea as their pay packets must also be related to how large a role they play.
Whatever the reason, for me this is too much of a change, although some of the feedback I’ve seen in social media channels is positive. One of the reasons I believe James Bond is so popular and has stood the test of time is simply that he possesses – apparently at least – the self-confidence and knowledge to get by in any situation thrown at him.
Bond is truly self reliant, a quality we would all like to possess.
The perfect Bond mission
Therefore he doesn’t need a sidekick to help him on his missions, he just needs to get on with the job. He doesn’t need HQ instructing him on every move while out in the field either.
In Bond 24 I’d like to see James Bond briefed by M before jetting off to an exostic locale; I’d like to see him overcome hurdles and henchmen, kill the villain and destroy his or her evil plan; and while he’s doing all this I want him bedding the girls, driving the cars and drinking the martinis.
He doesn’t need Miss Moneypenny to hold his hand while doing so.