(We interviewed author Paul Simpson, who just released the critically acclaimed book Bond vs Bond. Paul was able to cut through the chase and give us some facts about the world’s greatest (fictional) agent that will surprise and entertain fans!)
AFG: Why does the world have a fascination with James Bond?
PS: The films are pure escapism and they’ve developed a momentum of their own over the years. Who will be the “Bond girl”? What great action set piece will there be? Will Daniel Craig be seen swimming? They’re two hours or so of pure entertainment.
AFG: What do you think that Fleming would be making of it all?
PS: I’m sure he’d be delighted that the franchise continued to rake in profits!
AFG: If you had to name one Bond, which one would you say is your favorite?
PS: In terms of films, Skyfall is still my favorite Bond movie—sure, there are places it doesn’t hang together fully, and when you think about it, Bond doesn’t actually win, but it’s terrific entertainment. Regarding a favorite Bond actor, to a large extent my choice is dictated by how close they come to Fleming for me, so that’s still Timothy Dalton. I’d have loved to see him do the Craig-script version of Casino Royale.
AFG: In my field of business, we have what are called “rivals” of Sherlock Holmes. Who in your view could be rivals of James Bond—does that number two position go to Harry Palmer?
PS: Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin! (Particularly when you remember that Ian Fleming was involved at the start of The Man From UNCLE.) And third place would go to Jason Bourne—the Matt Damon, not Richard Chamberlain, version. My personal favorite, though, has to be Quiller—Adam Hall’s character, played on the big screen by George Segal and on the small by Michael Jayston.
AFG: How long have you been interested in the character of Bond?
PS: My mother introduced me to Fleming’s novels when I was eight or nine, which led to an interest in the movies as they came out, starting with Live and Let Die in 1973. A very long time, in other words!
AFG: Which villain would you say stands out as the best or the worst?
PS: The worst one—because of the scripting, not the performance—has to be Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies; the best still has to be Gert Fröbe as Goldfinger.
AFG: What did you think of the new film?
PS: I thoroughly enjoyed it (my review is up at http://scifibulletin.com/film-reviews/superheroes/review-007-spectre/).
AFG: Have you had a chance to meet any of the Bond actors?
PS: Yes, but not when they were playing Bond! I’ve met George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and (in passing at a launch) Daniel Craig, but I worked with Timothy Dalton on a stage production the year before he became 007.
AFG: How do you think Bond has evolved? What I love about the Craig movies is that he’s more complex and the political situation is more mature and nuanced than some of the older films.
PS: The point about the 20th-century films, including Die Another Day, is that the character basically doesn’t evolve; sure, there’s the occasional back-reference to the death of his wife in On His Majesty’s Secret Service, but even in the film that followed that—Diamonds are Forever—Bond is back to his usual activities. The rebooted Bond, played by Craig, is quite deliberately about the evolution of an agent.
They’ve reacted to events to an extent—the end of the Cold War, the rise of terrorism—but they’re expected to be escapist, which leads to a problem balancing the two.
AFG: Favorite Bond score?
PS: Any of David Arnold’s work (Tomorrow Never Dies to Quantum of Solace).
AFG: Anything we should know about Bond and we don’t that you’d like to add?
PS: There’s a wealth of new Bond adventures most fans don’t know about that appeared as newspaper strips between 1966 and 1983.