‘Jane Bond’ gets some pushback

Atomic Blonde poster

Over the past few years, there have been occasional stories suggesting this actress or that would make a great female James Bond.

Of late, there has been some pushback against that notion.

In April, Rosamund Pike told the Uproxx website she was against the idea of a female James Bond, sometimes referred to “Jane Bond.”

“I’d just say write a new story,” Pike was quoted by Uproxx. “I mean James Bond is a character that Ian Fleming created. I mean, you know of course the brand has become bigger and whatever, but take one of the Bond Girls and give her her own story. I think the character of James Bond is a man. He is really.”

Pike, of course, was in 2002’s Die Another Day. So being a former Bond woman gives Pike a platform that others don’t have in addressing the subject.

This week, a writer for Forbes.com took things a bit further.

Scott Mendelson, who writes about films and the box office they generate, said audiences haven’t supported movies with strong women characters.

His article was titled, “You Don’t Deserve A Female James Bond Or A Lady Indiana Jones.” Here’s an excerpt.

We wouldn’t need a gender swap for Indiana Jones or James Bond if you, dear moviegoers, would actually spend your time and money on the female-led action movies we already get. We actually had a pretty great female James Bond flick last summer. It was called Atomic Blonde, and most of you missed it.

Atomic Blonde’s worldwide box office totaled $95.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That was less than the $109.8 million for 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., widely seen as a flop. Despite that, there’s talk we may get a sequel to Atomic Blonde.

Another example cited by Mendelson was the recent Tomb Raider reboot, starring Alicia Vikander (who also appeared in the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. movie). Tomb Raider’s global box office was $272.5 million,  with $215.3 million of that coming from outside the United States.

The thing is, Mendelson isn’t a “get off my lawn” guy. Here’s one more excerpt.

When you champion gender-swapped variations of traditionally male franchises (that’s good) while ignoring the female-led movies that already exist (that’s bad), you do two things. You show Hollywood that there isn’t a “go to the theaters” interest in female-led action movies and thrillers, and you place a higher value on older white and male franchises versus newer franchises or standalone movies that began with a female lead. You essentially tell women that cosplaying as a famous white dude hero is the ultimate aspiration.

Once upon a time (as the blog was reminded by reader Stuart Basinger in 2016), when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired, producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman.

Recent pushback against the idea suggests fans of “Jane Bond” are no closer today than in Ratoff’s time.

‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

UPDATE (May 25): Alyssa Rosenberg, a pop culture blogger for The Washington Post, has weighed in with an essay titled “No, a woman shouldn’t play James Bond.”  Here’s an excerpt:

If our goal is for Hollywood to create action-oriented jobs for women that will be available for decades to come, then we need franchises that are built around women. We need roles like Bond’s, or Jack Ryan’s, or Captain Kirk’s that are designed to be occupied by a rotating series of women. Borrowing Bond’s tux might be a fun fantasy. But real power means a role we don’t have to give back to the men.