2002: Turning point for the film and literary 007

Sometimes, you’re not really aware you’ve hit a turning point until well after the fact. For the world of James Bond — in both his cinema and literary incarnations — one such turning point was 2002.

At the time, the year seemed to be normal for 007. The 40th anniversary of the film series hit and included Die Another Day, the 20th film in the series produced by Eon Productions. Box office receipts certainly seemed good (the film had two straight weeks as No. 1). Meanwhile, another continuation novel, The Man With the Red Tatoo was published. It seemed liked everything would continue.

However, the seeds for change were already being sown. Despite Pierce Brosnan saying publicly he had been asked back by Eon, the film makers were again talking about how exhausting the Bond series was and not being sure where the Bond films would go next. Within 18 months, Brosnan was out as 007 and Eon began a search that would end with the casting of Daniel Craig.

On the literary side, a new regime had taken over at the former Glidrose, now calling itself Ian Fleming Publications. Raymond Benson’s run as author of 007 continuation novels was over after six novels. In an interview on the Commander Bond site, Benson said the change was by mutual agreement.

Bond fans are still feeling those chanes today. There hasn’t been a “regular” Bond movie since Die Another Day. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace essentially were a two-part “Bond Begins” reboot.

Despite the recent announcement about a Bond 23 screenwriting team, there hasn’t been a firm release date disclosed. 2011 would seem to be the earliest date possible. Over on the literary side, there has only been one adult Bond novel since 2002: Devil May Care, published last year — and published as a one-shot, with author Sebastian Faulks saying he won’t do a second. What’s more, Devil May Care reflected one major change of course, having the story be a period piece instead of a timeshifted tale, a la the continuation novels of John Gardner and Raymond Benson.

Where all this is leading remains to be seen. But what is clear is that 2002 was the last year of business as ususal for 007, something that wasn’t readily apparent at the time.