James Bond and Cuba

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

James Bond novels are many things. But they weren’t necessarily the best predictor of some geopolitical events.

The United States said Dec. 17 it will re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. (CLICK HERE to read The New York Times story.)

The news reminded us of a passage in Ian Fleming’s last 007 novel, The Man With the Golden Gun. In Chapter 4, “The Stars Foretell,” Bond and his former secretary, Mary Goodnight, are in Jamaica and end up discussing recent news in the Caribbean.

Goodnight brings up sugar futures. “Washington’s trying to keep the price down, to upset Cuba’s economy, and (Fidel) Castro’s out to keep the world price up so that he can bargain with Russia.”

She adds the following prediction: “Pretty daft business, isn’t it? I don’t think Castro can hold out much longer. The missile business in Cuba must have cost Russia about a billion pounds…I can’t help thinking they’ll pull out soon and leave Castro to go the way Batista went.”

The novel’s Mary Goodnight seems more with it than her cinematic counterpart. Bond compliments her in the novel. “Goodnight, you’re a treasure. You’ve certainly been doing your homework.”

Ian Fleming wrote the novel in early 1964, more than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. More than a half-century after Fleming wrote the novel, Castro’s brother is running the country even after the end of the Soviet Union. You can’t win them all.

007 in the Olympics, reports proven (mostly) right

It won’t be shown for a few hours in the U.S., but Daniel Craig appeared in character as James Bond in the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics.

Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth in a short film that was part of the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. This image is from MGM, which uploaded an image from the BBC.


The New York Times is LIVE BLOGGING the event.

An excerpt:

A video is showing Daniel Craig (as James Bond) arriving at Buckingham Palace. And the queen is in it! The genuine queen, not some costumed performer. She just said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Bond.” What a trouper! They’re getting in a helicopter (on video). And now they are jumping out of the plane (through special effects). Cute.

This was originally reported in the U.K. press on April 1, but has proven not to be an April Fool’s joke.

UPDATE I: Here’s an account in The Huffington Post. An excerpt:

Army helicopters then flew over the Olympic Stadium with a stuntman who played “Bond.” He then parachuted into the stadium to the tune of the theme from the James Bond movies. The best part? A stunt Queen also dropped in, Union Jack parachute and all.

UPDATE II: One critical thing didn’t happen. The 007 character wasn’t “knighted” by Queen Elizabeth II as reported by the London Standard.

Some Bond fans, especially those who were big fans of Daniel Craig, had argued this would amount to a de facto knighting of Daniel Craig himself. But it didn’t happen, so it’s a moot point.

That isn’t a bad thing because Ian Fleming’s James Bond turned down a knighthood in the author’s final 007 novel, 1965’s The Man With the Golden Gun. Thus the Olympics, by intent or by luck, ended up staying true to Ian Fleming.

UPDATE III: The BBC’s Web site has a video, which you can check out CLICKING HERE. The Queen’s dogs upstaged 007.

UPDATE IV: The video is on YouTube. CLICK HERE to see it.

UPDATE V: The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. has a story that notes the doubles for Daniel Craig and Elizabeth II didn’t actually parachute into the stadium.

`EYE AM A SCOTTISH PEASANT’

In the past few days, there have been reports from the British press that fictional spy James Bond (in the person of Daniel Craig, the current actor playing 007) will receive a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth as part of the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in London.

A humble Scottish peasant? Or a knight of the realm?


Here’s an excerpt from a story in THE TELEGRAPH (which rewrote an article in the Evening Standard):

Daniel Craig, the 007 actor, is reported to have received the ceremonial tap on the shoulder at Buckingham Palace in scenes to be screened during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games.

The Queen is said to have gamely agreed to take part in the action and makes a cameo appearance in the film, which will be beamed around the world.

(snip)

Andrew Lycett, biographer of Bond author Ian Fleming, said a knighthood for the secret agent was long overdue.

“Bond did sterling work for Queen and country and deserves a gong,” he said.

Lycett probably read The Man With the Golden Gun, the last Fleming 007 novel, published in 1965 after the author’s death. Lycett delivered a good quote and it’s not surprising The Telegraph Evening Standard would use it.

Still, we’re reminded of the novel itself, where the literary Bond was offered a knighthood. He receives an “Eyes Only” cable from M. He dictates a response to Mary Goodnight:

EYE BEG YOU PRESENT MY HUMBLE DUTY TO HER MAJESTY AND REQUEST THAT EYE MAY BE PERMITTED COMMA IN ALL HUMILITY COMMA TO DECLINE THE SIGNAL FAVOUR HER MAJESTY IS GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO PROPOSE TO CONFER UPON HER HUMBLE AND OBEDIENT SERVANT…EYE AM A SCOTTISH PEASANT AND EYE WILL ALWAYS FEEL AT HOME BEING A SCOTTISH PEASANT…
(The Man With the Golden Gun, Chapter 17, “Endit”)

The Olympics, of course, is a worldwide sports and media show. It’s inconceivable that a 007 knighthood not be part of the opening ceremonies. Still, for those of us who’ve enjoyed the original Ian Fleming stories, there’s something comfortable with the notion of a British civil servant declining a knighthood.

UPDATE: Here’s a story in THE EVENING STANDARD that may have started this latest wave of publicity.

UPDATE II: One of Fleming’s nieces has Tweeted about how Bond turned down a knighthood in the novel. You can CLICK HERE to check it out.

UPDATE III: Just so we’re all clear, if the Evening Standard and the other publications that have picked up on the story are correct, it’s the *fictional character* of James Bond *as played by Daniel Craig* who will be knighted. And since Bond is a fictional character, it’s not really happening, it’s just part of a film for the Olympics’ opening ceremonies. We only mention it after seeing something on Facebook that may or may not be a joke but indicates someone thinks Craig is actually getting knighted.

The literary James Bond and beer

The product-placement deal between Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, and Heineken has gotten some 007 fans worked up. Yahoo! Movie’s MovieTalk blog did an April 4 post summarizing fan reaction. An exerpt:

"Martini, James?"
"No. Make mine Heineken (R)."

“D**** you, Product Placement,” Doug wrote on Twitter in response to our update on @YahooMovies. Davey C simply tweeted “Screw ’em.” Dave Yakir echoed thoughts with a “what a load of crap” tweet, and Keith Williams typed, “Booooo!!!”

The James Bond of Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories was no stranger to beer, though he didn’t drink it with the same frequency as martinis, bourbon, whiskeys and soda or champagne. But here is a sampling:

Diamonds Are Forever (1956): Bond and Felix Leiter are driving to Saratoga from New York City. The duo “stopped for lunch at The Chicken in the Basket, a log-built Frontier-style road-house with standard equipment…(T)he scrambled eggs and sausages and hot buttered rye toast and the Miller Highlife beer came quickly and were good.”

The Living Daylights (1962): Bond is in Berlin. One one of three nights a British agent will cross the border between East and West and 007 is to shoot a KGB assassin. During one afternoon, after a two-hour walk, has a meal in a restaurant. He has two Molle mit Korn, which we’re told is a double schapps “washed down with draught Lowenbrau.”

The Man With the Golden Gun (1965): Trying to get a lead on killer Fransisco Scaramanga, Bond stops by a brothel and orders a Red Stripe beer. The woman taking his order “deftly uncapped the bottle and put it on the counter besides an almost clean glass.”

In 2006, the Brookston Beer Bulletin blog had a long post (CLICK HERE to read it; the post also has a longer list of other times the literary Bond had beer) that addressed the possibility 007 might have a Heinken in that year’s Casino Royale movie. The blog did not approve of that brand.

But Heineken? Not Heineken. Bond’s character would never drink such swill. He wouldn’t be a snob about wine, food, clothes, cars and practically everything else and then drink such a pedestrian beer.

(snip)

The fictional resort town where most of the (Casino Royale) novel takes place is supposedly near the mouth of the Somme River in the Picardie region, which is only about two hours from Belgium. So while France is not known for its beers, a good selection of Belgian beers would likely be available at the casino and area restaurants. That’s what a beer savvy Bond would order.

We suspect all of this will depend how the Heineken placement is handled. If Daniel Craig’s Bond has a Heineken while still having other drinks, no problem. On the other hand, if it’s handled like this recent Hawaii Five-0 episode with Subway, audiences may wince:

The proprietor of the James Bond Dossier was interviewed by the CBC about product placement and the Heineken deal. Just CLICK HERE to check it out.

UPDATE (April 8): The Scotsman.com Web site has weighed in on the subject and you can CLICK HERE to read it. The article starts off with an anecdote that appears to have been taken from the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. We say appears because the quotes are the same as the ones Turner got from interviewing Guy Hamilton. There’s no attribution of the quotes, however.

UPDATE II (April 9): Looks like the Web site of Bloomberg Businessweek also ran a short article on the subject.

007 new questions about Skyfall (SPOILER)

IF YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE WHO’VE MANAGED TO AVOID THIS WEEK’S SKYFALL SPOILER STOP READING NOW

WE REALLY MEAN IT

This edition of 007 questions is based on the Skyfall news of the week that, for the record, we’ll mention is not officially confirmed but, neverthless, is the talk of James Bond fandom. (If you’ve read this far, no complaints about spoilers will be accepted.)

Judi Dench and Daniel Craig at the November press conference for Skyfall.


001. Were you really surprised by the report on the Best for Film Web site that that a certain character is getting killed off in Skyfall? We’d heard a rumor to that effect but this was the first time we’d seen it written up. Given how it went viral, it would seem that nobody else had written it until now.

002. What’s your reaction? Judi Dench is 77 and the Bond films have been produced at an erratic rate since 2002. Killing off a long-running character (the Dench version of M M debuted 17 years ago in GoldenEye) tends to be dramatic no matter how many times it has occurred in the past with other characters in other movies and television shows.. So it makes sense.

003. Until now, had there been any clues this may happen? Recall that Peter Morgan, originally hired as a “prestige” writer to work with Eon scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, had once said he had devised a “shocking” story for the then-untitled Bond 23. He later said his idea his main idea was still in the script (now with John Logan in place of Morgan). The small amount of publicity relative to previous 007 movies is consistent with trying to keep the lid on a surprise (more about that down below). Finally, the November Skyfall press release described the plot like this:

In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. (emphasis added)

004. So will it be a good or bad thing? The answer, if you’ll pardon the pun, will lay with the execution of the idea.

005. What about having Ralph Fiennes be the new M? (also part of the initial report but not discussed as much) Well, there was a clue when the Skyfall call sheets and related material were sold on eBay and hit the Internet. A cast list said Fiennes’ character was named Mallory, which evokes Admiral Sir Miles Messervy, the original M of Ian Fleming’s novels, played by the late Bernard Lee. The name of Finnes’s character hasn’t been officially disclosed.

006. What’s the fan reaction been like? Everything from, “Of course, everybody knew that,” to “Oh, no!” to “It’s about time!” One of the more interesting comments on one message board was wondering if fans who’ve been wanting the Dench M to exit the series (because she seems to get an expanding amount of screen time with each film) will still find a reason to complain now the character is being killed off.

007. How do you think they’ll do it? We’re not going to guess at this point, but there was one message board where a poster suggested it’d be great showcase for Daniel Craig if his Bond gets to kill M. That left us cold. Blunt instrument is one thing, some fans seem anxious to transform 007 into a glassy eyed sociopath. Meanwhile, yes, the literary Bond did try (unsuccessfully) to kill M in The Man With the Golden Gun, but he had been brainwashed by the KGB.