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Expert Comment: A new kind of Bond Girl?

Bond film Tuesday 9 December 2014

As production starts on the latest James Bond film, Dr Elena Boschi, Lecturer in Visual Communication at Liverpool Hope, looks at the casting choices for its female characters.

Filming has now begun for the 24th Bond movie after the opening event at Pinewood Studios in London on Thursday when cast and title were revealed. Spectre will be in cinemas on 6th November 2015 and, while Agent 007 will still be played by Daniel Craig, there are a few interesting casting choices for the Bond girls.

Bond films have often attracted criticism for their regressive gender politics. Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), notoriously pointed out Bond’s right-wing politics, calling him ‘a misogynist, an old-fashioned imperialist’, unlike Bourne who ‘is an outsider on the run […] fighting against them’.

Interestingly, there aren’t any ‘Bourne girls’ in the Bourne franchise. Despite the epic scene where Judi Dench’s M reprimanded Bond for being a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur’ in Goldeneye (Martin Campbell, 1995) and despite the changes which seemingly steered the Bond franchise towards enlightened representations of 007 as a psychologically complex protagonist operating alongside leading females, there are still problematic moments.

Eve (Naomie Harris), the field agent working alongside Bond in the opening sequence of Skyfall, goes back to working in the MI6 offices after almost killing Bond who minutes earlier makes mocking remarks about her driving. M is ‘offered’ early retirement and after her death a man takes her job. However convinced we might be about Skyfall being ‘a less sexist Bond film’ as Jane Martison defined it, these are interesting strategic changes which undoubtedly deserve scrutiny, as Bond films learn the rules of the game which is performing equality – often without any substantial changes.

The casting choices announced for the Bond girls are crucial. French actor Léa Seydoux and Italian model and actor Monica Bellucci might succeed in pleasing both fans of Bond’s new image and those who prefer his old-fashioned incarnation. Seydoux will bring the indie credentials accrued in the roles she has had until now, which include small parts in films by Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, and Quentin Tarantino, and a leading role in Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013), where she plays a young woman who loves another woman.

Besides Seydoux’s experiences working for major directors, her earlier roles playing unconventional, independent women are quite important and may prefigure a different Bond girl. Daniel Craig’s casting was similarly thought out, as the actor brought serious credentials and mixed roles – from Ted Hughes in the Sylvia Plath biopic Sylvia (Christine Jeffs, 2003) to ruthless gangster in Layer Cake (Matthew Vaughn, 2004).

While Seydoux can attract those who might otherwise avoid Bond films for the afore-mentioned reasons, Monica Bellucci is sure to please old-school Bond fans if her cameo in the Matrix movies is anything to go by. Details about the Bond girls and their roles are still top secret, but for now these interesting casting choices display strategic attention to questions of gender.

 Can Léa Seydoux dissipate the old spectre of a misogynist Bond? This question will remain unanswered until the movie’s release, but whether the old misogynist Bond decides to die another day or not, I suspect he will have learned to play dead even if he is still alive and kicking.      

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