Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 4: Q

“Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic laws.” — Q (Desmond Llewelyn)

In light of the latest 007 news, it seems appropriate that I continue my efforts from a few weeks ago of fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates. (Of course, I already had this planned and nearly finished before the news broke.) My latest is for the beloved ‘Q’….

Q

The Four (Major) Qs

As you all know, I’m sure, ‘Q’ (short for “Quartermaster”) is the brilliant and innovative engineer who provides Bond (and other agents) with tricked-out sports cars and various weapons and other devices intended to help keep Bond alive and accomplish his missions. In fact, ‘Q’ is the head of Q Branch/Division, MI6’s fictional R&D labs. As per Wikipedia, “Charles Fraser-Smith is widely credited as the inspiration for Q due to the spy gadgets he built for the Special Operations Executive. These were called Q-devices, after the Royal Navy’s World War I Q-ships….”

The character has been portrayed by six men altogether, though only the four pictured here were in official Bond films by Eon Productions: Peter Burton (1962), Desmond Llewelyn (1963-1999), John Cleese (2002), Ben Whishaw (2012-present). Burton played the armourer “Major Boothroyd” in Dr. No, a character Ian Fleming named after Geoffrey Boothroyd, a firearms expert in Glasgow, Scotland, who had given him some suggestions for improving Bond’s firearms. Boothroyd returned in From Russia with Love, this time played by Llewelyn. But, from Goldfinger (1964) forward, the character was referred to as ‘Q’. Llewelyn died in late 1999 and Q’s assistant, ‘R’ (Cleese), got a promotion in Die Another Day (2002). Alas, ‘Q’ was recast along with everyone else for the Craig-era films.

Llewelyn and Brosnan

I am not aware of any physical description given for Boothroyd/’Q’ by Fleming in the original novels, though there may be. However, the point is fairly moot, since (like ‘M’) the title has been held by more than one individual over the years. Most of them have been relatively slender and at least 6′ tall. Whishaw is only 5’9″, though, and also seems to be the only one under 40. The older, “consummate professional” versions of ‘Q’ are typically of mixed feelings toward Bond, recognizing the agent’s successful track record, yet often annoyed by his short attention span and a “playful lack of respect for his equipment”. There is usually a bit of verbal sparring between the two, though usually limited to lighthearted teasing, nothing heated. Despite this, the respect is mutual. The dynamic is somewhat different with the now-younger and less experienced ‘Q’, but Bond recognizes and appreciates the younger man’s skills.

My preference would be to cast someone in their 40s to 60s, though I’m flexible on height and general build. In addition to my final three, there were only two actors that I seriously considered for the role before ruling them out, and they happen to be my oldest and youngest candidates, respectively. Brendan Gleeson (6’2″,b.1955) has, of course, been in many things over the past three decades, including genre productions like Braveheart, Turbulence, Mission: Impossible II, Edge of Tomorrow, and three Harry Potter films. James Corden (5’8″,b.1978), on the other hand, has been acting (e.g., “Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story”, Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman, Gulliver’s Travels, “Doctor Who”) for about 20 years but is most known these days as the popular, silly host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” here in the States. Though they didn’t survive my “Top 3” cut, I still think either Gleeson or Corden could do a wonderful job — Gleeson in particular playing Q as uptight and humorless, whereas Corden would be best playing it rather more eccentric, perhaps even goofy.

I’m going to throw a couple Americans out for your consideration first. I think you’ll see, though, how these “out of the box” choices might be surprisingly good candidates for ‘Q’. The last (and oldest) might be a more traditional choice….

Masi Oka

A certified genius, Masayori “Masi” Oka (5’6″,b.1974) graduated from Brown University with degrees in math and computer science and a minor in theater arts. He appeared in various small roles in TV and film, while working as a CGI artist for Industrial Light & Magic. He became a genre star with his breakout role as Hiro Nakamura in “Heroes” (and later “Heroes Reborn”). Since then, he has become a semi-regular as Dr. Max Bergman on “Hawaii Five-O” (see pic). His quirky performance and straightforward, somewhat wordy explanations of his findings (to the mild annoyance of the other characters) would, I think, work quite well as a version of ‘Q’, too. If he can’t do a passable British accent, they could have fun with his being a “Yank”.

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris (6′,b.1973) came to prominence as a child actor playing “Doogie Howser, M.D.”. He also did voice work (e.g., “Capitol Critters”) and appeared in genre shows like “Quantum Leap” and “The Outer Limits”. Later genre work includes Starship Troopers, “Joan of Arc”, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (see pic), and lots more voice work (e.g., “Justice League”, “Spider-Man”). Since his sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother”, ended, he has appeared in Gone Girl, “American Horror Story”, and stars in the new “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Harris is multi-talented, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he could pull off a good British accent. He could play ‘Q’ as a by-the-book, humorless/sarcastic straight man (pun intended), OR he could play him as a rather fun and eccentric character. Either way, he’d make a great Quartermaster.

Kenneth Branagh

I think the first thing I remember taking note of Kenneth Branagh (5’9.5″,b.1960) in was Dead Again, though I don’t much remember the movie. I was, of course, aware of his work in Henry V, and he went on to do other Shakespearean works, as well. I next saw him in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Robert De Niro. Other genre work includes Wild Wild West, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Valkyrie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, “Wallander”, and the recent Dunkirk. Branagh is another top-notch talent — heck, he could direct the film, too — who could do a terrific job as a semi-comedic foil / ally for Agent 007. He is also old enough to be a quasi-mentor or fatherly figure for our 30-something Bond.

I can’t decide which one I like best. You?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 3: Miss Moneypenny

“Flattery will get you nowhere… but don’t stop trying.”  — Miss Moneypenny, Dr. No

As promised, I continue fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates this week with the ever-loyal Miss Moneypenny.

Miss Moneypenny

Moneypenny is the private secretary and assistant to “M”, head of MI-6, and holds the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy (actually, the Women’s Royal Naval Service until it was integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993). The latest version even did a bit of fieldwork before deciding she was better suited to administrative duties. As with “M”, the character’s creation appears to have been inspired by a mix of various real-life acquaintances/associates of creator Ian Fleming — from Kathleen Pettigrew (personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, the actual head of MI-6 from 1939-1952) to Joan Howe (Fleming’s own secretary at The Times in the 1950s, who typed the original Casino Royale manuscript).

The Four (Primary) Moneypennys

Moneypenny is incredibly attracted to — perhaps I should say infatuated/smitten with? — the dashing and roguish Agent 007, often daydreaming about marrying him or, at the very least, enjoying an illicit tryst. Knowing that this will likely never happen, she has (mostly) resigned herself to playful flirting with Bond. She is smart, efficient, and quite loyal.

Lois Maxwell played the role for all Connery and Moore films, as well as Lazenby’s one film. (The only exception was 1983’s non-official Never Say Never Again, in which Pamela Salem filled in.) Caroline Bliss was Dalton’s Moneypenny in 1987 and 1989, with the conveniently-named Samantha Bond taking over for Brosnan’s run. Craig’s first two films had no Moneypenny, but Naomie Harris has had the role since 2012’s Skyfall, which also gave her the first name “Eve”. I am not aware of any physical description given for the character, but the movie versions have obviously varied a bit. What does seem fairly consistent is that she is slim, attractive, and her age is roughly that of Bond, give or take. Over the years, the actresses ranged in age from mid-30s to late-50s, as did the Bond actors (though Moore was a bit older).

For the next reboot, I’d like to see Bond and Moneypenny continue to be about the same age: early- to mid-30s, though a slightly older Moneypenny would be OK. I would also like to keep a bit of sexual tension and Moneypenny’s unrequited feelings, which were barely there in Fleming’s original novels but have become identified with the character in the movies and later novels. To that end, attractive 30-something actresses are naturally my focus here.

Let me begin by saying that there are a couple Americans who I considered: Alison Brie (5’3″,b.1982) and Emma Stone (5’6″,b.1988). They would each bring different qualities to the role, and I thought they might do a good job. Assuming we want to stick with someone from the UK, though, I considered Emma Watson (5’5″,b.1990). However, she may be a bit too young (barely 30 by the time a reboot might shoot), and I’m not sure how well she’d fit the role. On the other hand, I thought Hayley Atwell (5’7″,b.1982) would be a fun choice. The reason I ultimately rejected her is that I’d rather see her as a “Bond girl”, in particular as an agent of some sort, so she can show off her “Agent Carter” moves.

Which brings me to my three preferred candidates for Miss Moneypenny…

Sienna Miller (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

First choice: Sienna Miller (5’5″,b.1981). You might remember her from “Keen Eddie”, Layer Cake (w/ Daniel Craig), Stardust, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, American Sniper, or the recent The Lost City of Z. The British-American former model seems to have the right mix of prettiness and spunkiness (like Harris) that makes for a fun and interesting Moneypenny.

Keira Knightley

Next up: Miller’s close friend (and co-star in The Edge of Love), Keira Knightley (5’7″,b.1985). If you somehow don’t remember, Knightley has appeared in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, The Hole, several Pirates of the Caribbean films, King Arthur, The Jacket, Domino, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Everest, etc. Like Miller, Knightley is a very attractive and talented actress who could have a lot of fun with this relatively small, supporting role.

Honeysuckle Weeks

My third choice is less known, a tad older, and more “cute” than “pretty”, IMO. Honeysuckle Weeks (5’7″,b.1979) came to my attention as the driver/aide to Detective Foyle in “Foyle’s War”, so this casting would be especially appropriate(?) if Michael Kitchen (who played Foyle) became the next M. She was also in various British mysteries, as well as Red Mercury, “The Bill”, The Wicker Tree, “Inspector Lewis”, and “The Five”. I can definitely see her as Moneypenny.

That about does it. Have ideas of your own for Moneypenny? Let us know in the comments! I think I’ll take a break for now, but I’ll take a stab at fan-casting ‘Q’ and Felix Leiter in the coming weeks/months.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 2: M

“Go to hell with ‘dignity’. I’ll leave when the job’s done.”  — M, Skyfall

A little over a month ago, I did some fan-casting for legendary British intelligence officer, James Bond, aka Agent 007. I promised to eventually follow up with casting suggestions for Bond’s closest associates. So, assuming another reboot when Daniel Craig leaves the franchise in a few years, this week I’d like to take a shot at finding a new “M”. (I was going to do “Miss Moneypenny”, too, but I decided they each needed a separate post.)

M

The Four Ms

Apparently inspired by various individuals that Ian Fleming knew or was familiar with, M is the Head of the Foreign Intelligence branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, i.e., Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) (aka MI-6). As a member of the 00 Section, Bond reports directly to M. The tradition of the head of MI-6 signing his/her name with a single letter came from the agency’s real-life first director, Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming, KCMG, CB (1 April 1859 – 14 June 1923), who used to sign “C”. Some, but not all, of those holding the office in the novels and movies have had the initial “M”, but the single-letter title seems to have stuck.

As per Wikipedia, “A naval theme runs throughout Fleming’s description of M and his surroundings, and his character was described by journalist and Bond scholar Ben Macintyre as “every inch the naval martinet”. Macintyre also notes that in his study of Fleming’s work, Kingsley Amis outlined the way Fleming had described M’s voice, being: angry (three times); brutal, cold (seven times); curt, dry (five times); gruff (seven times); stern, testy (five times).” The character often clashes with Bond, while simultaneously trusting the agent’s intel and respecting his end-results. I am not aware of any physical description given for M. Of course, there have been multiple people to hold the office (four in the movies, not sure about the novels), including a woman, so that would all vary, anyway. But, we do know that the sorts of people who are appointed are very smart, accomplished, usually with military experience, and not averse to doing a little field work.

If casting someone in their 70s (by the time a post-Craig film went before the cameras), I can think of three distinguished British actors that could do the role justice. First, there is Jeremy Irons (6’2″,b.1948), known to genre fans for everything from Dead Ringers and Die Hard with a Vengeance to The Man in the Iron Mask, The Time Machine (2002), Eragon, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Michael Kitchen (5’7″,b.1948) hasn’t done much genre work, though he did appear in Dracula A.D. 1972, “Thriller”, “Tales of the Unexpected”, The Russia House, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, and he played the recurring ‘Bill Tanner’ character in Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough. (He came to my attention when he starred in the “Foyle’s War” series of TV movies.) Then, of course, there is the amazing Helen Mirren (5’4″,b.1945). In addition to starring in the various “Prime Suspect” mini-series, Mirren can be seen in “Thriller”, Excalibur, 2010, White Knights, “The Twilight Zone”, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, State of Play, RED & RED 2, with some voice work thrown in.

If I had my druthers, though, I’d like to see someone a little younger in the role, if for no other reason than to increase the odds of their staying with the franchise for several years. So, here are a couple of candidates:

Colin Salmon

Once suggested by Pierce Brosnan to replace him as Bond, Colin Salmon (6’4.5″,b.1962) would be a terrific M! First appearing in “Prime Suspect 2”, Salmon went on to appear in such genre fare as “Tales from the Crypt”, Immortality, Resident Evil, “Dinotopia”, “Keen Eddie”, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, “Hex”, “Doctor Who”, Punisher: War Zone, “Merlin”, “Strike Back”, “MI-5”, “Arrow”, “24: Live Another Day”, etc. And, oh yes, he played M’s Chief of Staff, Charles Robinson, in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Salmon is a wonderful actor with a commanding voice and presence. It might even make sense for the Robinson character to be promoted into the M position.

Stephen Dillane

“Game of Thrones” fans know him best as would-be king ‘Stannis Baratheon’. But, Stephen Dillane (6′,b.1957) has been around for awhile and appeared in plenty of other genre productions. These include “The One Game”, “Super Soldier”, Welcome to Sarajevo, Spy Game, King Arthur, Freakdog, 44 Inch Chest, “Eternal Law”, “Hunted” (in which he played the head of a small office of spies), “Secret State”, Zero Dark Thirty, and the current “The Tunnel” series. His characters are often cold, stern, by-the-book types, which fit perfectly with Fleming’s original characterization of M. I think Dillane would be a great choice.

If I was more familiar with British TV and movies, I could probably come up with a couple more. But, those will have to do for now. Comments?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.