06 August 2021 557 Views

FLEMING FRIDAY: Off Duty 007

by James Murphy

What does James Bond do for ‘fun’? And what of the actors who played him?

We know about the girls/gadgets/guns/suits/watches etc. Hobbies, though: pastimes, sports, leisure etc = different matter. 

Bond himself has little in the way of scheduled ‘free’ time. It tends to be downtime mid mission on stakeout, awaiting orders / equipment in the field. So he’s unlikely to get himself lost in a boxset or do endless gym work. Hence, filler activities such as card games, drinking, smoking, womanising, fine food and wine etc.

Bond of the Fleming novels is a good swimmer and uses showers as punctuation in his day. ‘James Bond took a cold shower’. ‘James Bond had a shower’. ‘James Bond enjoyed another..shower’. I paraphrase a bit but it’s there on the page.

Continuation novels sometimes went further. One had Bond take up work as a commercial head-hunter, which made credible sense, given his background both professionally and socially.

IE: Casual contract assignments in the civilian world, without conflict of interest to his possible reactivated identity as a field agent for Her Majesty’s Government. 

 

In terms of cash? James is not paper wealthy. Forget that muddled bollox with the Scottish castle yet still being some blue collar resentful thug (sorry, Daniel Craig era: love you but your social backstory for 007 is just wrong).

Part of James’ charm is that he enjoys the high life and indeed was born to it. But his choice of career, however exotic its method, is ultimately that of a civil servant. He lives beyond his means because tomorrow he could be dead. It’s a question of enjoying what you can, while you can, devoid of pretence to the contrary. The cold realities of economics are there but they can wait. 

He’d have his Royal Navy rank and pension but the spy role is a rather thankless and unglamorous one, despite Bond himself bringing in new allure to that trade.

It would therefore be perfectly logical (once again, vetting procedures permitting?) for James Bond to keep an healthy share and stock option portfolio and possibly even take on a few non exec directorships.

That extra income would bolster his love of cars /fine dining / high class female company, whilst facilitating and punctuating the drab mundanity of state sanctioned spying and the occasional kill. The two worlds would coexist and even enable each other, nicely. 

007 is a scratch golfer, naturally. He plays with Bill Tanner (Chief of Staff at Mi6). The sport was adopted by Sir Sean Connery as he prepared for GOLDFINGER (1964). Golf joined his lifelong passions for education, Scottish patriotism and history. Sean loved art, too and his beloved wife (Lady Micheline) is a fantastic painter as well as lady Golfer. Their shared love of theatre and painting crossed over in producing the play ART, which is almost always being staged, somewhere.

Moving along..

..Bond is by no means a ‘nice’ man and if he were then he’d be a terrible field agent, surely? He’s not getting cats out of trees or helping little old ladies across streets. But he is a gentleman, who abhors vulgarity, pretension, criminality and needless ostentatiousness.

In that sense, Sir Roger Moore was every inch the Fleming Bond, both on and offscreen. A stickler for good manners, he opposed any trivialisation of bad behaviour or gangster culture (he blocked the idea of a Ronnie Biggs cameo in MOONRAKER, so legend had it). A humanitarian, Rog’ did great work for UNICEF: an inspirational legacy. He was a talented raconteur, cartoonist, writer, chef, skier and horseman, too!

But even James Bond and his actors cannot be either sole focus specialists or necessarily good at everything. Can they?

007 is an everyman, much like any good field agent. If you serve in Her Majesty’s SAS, for example, it is your pervasive and adaptable competence which mark you out as an exceptional Officer. As in they tell you ‘become overnight expert on this‘ and you do it, no question.

The most convincing Bond on that score is to my mind, George Lazenby. Because he is a real life everyman super competent survivor. Sports player, racing car driver, model, actor, businessman. The guy can do anything and playing Bond was just one adventure for him.

Speaking of adventure: Timothy Dalton loves to fish, sail, explore the wilderness and see obscure wildlife in its natural habitat. In that sense he remains every bit the definitive Heathcliff? You can picture him, on the Moors, brooding, smoking and musing on the world. We know he smoked while playing Bond (Silk Cut, purple: so they don’t count?) and enjoys a pint of Guinness, while wearing a fisherman’s sweater and looking very cool. Rumours abound that Tim is very particular about flower arranging, too. 😉

Pierce Brosnan paints, brilliantly. Seriously. I am not biased when I say he has a Dali like gift in his artwork. A dedicated family man (happy anniversary, btw!), Pierce campaigns passionately for cancer research and conservation causes. He helps his beloved Ireland wherever possible in tourism drives. He too loves a Guinness, in moderation. You might bump into Pierce at Johnnie Fox’s. Or: the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, where a perfect pint is served at its Horseshoe Bar. 

 

Daniel Craig is a very private man off-screen. But we know he’s game for a laugh and happy to try his hand at just about anything. Rugby is a passion (he played at school) and he’s been spotted at Liverpool FC football games. Politically prima facie non partisan (bit like Bond?) but speaks out when he feels the need: supporting NHS and counterpart American initiatives for social care.  Though he ‘can’t ski’ by his own admission (cf: SPECTRE having an ice plane chase, instead), Daniel does convince as a Bond who loves to sail and read military history, with NO TIME TO DIE working in those hobbies, rather nicely!

 

TRANSMISSION ENDS. JAMES BOND WILL RETURN! HAVE A LOVELY WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. X



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