My recent post on recasting the iconic POW's of The Great Escape has got some really nice feedback, so why not go for one more while we're enjoying it?
In 1962, Cubby Broccoli unleashed 007, James Bond onto the collective public consciousness with Dr. No. It was a different type of movie to which had been seen before, the lead was rugged, handsome, and brutal in both his put downs and his prowess. Sean Connery brought enough suave charm, physicality and arrogance to make Ian Fleming's character leap off the page, even going so far as to sing some calypso and make names like Pussfella not seem silly and the concept of a "license to kill" work.
Connery was not alone in being the key ingredient though, Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, rising from the waves gave our dad's their likely first fantasies and in Dr. No, we saw the first "real" movie villain, someone who was whip smart, had physical advantages despite a "deformity" and the resources to make an evil plan work for him, overthrowing his former masters.
John Barry's theme was also iconic, but the real start of the "Bond Opening" trend was the simple concept of "Three Blind Mice", to a calypso beat and 3 Jamaican assassins, pretending to be blind and ruthlessly murdering both a man and woman. Kingston Calypso gave birth to the concept of a song being written for each film, fitting the themes of the movie itself. Simply put, Dr. No is pretty close to cinematic perfection, after all, how many other movies have sequels being made over 50 years later?
So it's sacrilege to "go there" and remake it...right?
Daniel Craig has recently announced that he is hanging up his Walther PPK, and Sony will be losing the Bond rights after Spectre is released.
So someone new is going to step into the shoes, even if the remainder of the cast were to stay, it could mean another "reboot" so to speak as Craig's Bond works for "those" type of movies. Another studio may decide to get back to being "fun" and what better way to do so that to remake Dr. No?
It's likely to be a little bit of both... the Bond series has generally only ever recast when essential for the main supporting roles, but straight remakes haven't yet been attempted. The Bond makers are known to be a relatively loyal bunch by Hollywood standards, but that being said they are not slavish to cast members either, and have jettisoned more than one in the past.
For my casting, I am going somewhere in the middle, but there is one thing I seriously am basing it on that I think will happen. Disney will end up with the rights to Bond.
They are going to be VERY cash rich by the end of this year and are constantly looking for IP to purchase. With a billion dollar Avengers AND Star Wars out this year, Bond is another golden property they can do a lot with, animations, movies, merch, hell even a potential MCU version, but that's another post.
For this casting, Disney have just bought those rights to Bond, or at least done the deal to replace Sony in the mix, hence remaking Dr. No as the first of THEIR Bond movies.
As with the last casting, we go with the ensemble before the star.
I don't need to say much about what Ursula Andress brought to this role, if you need to know, watch the breakdown by Johnny Lee Miller from Trainspotting, you'll get it.
One of the criticisms of Andress and the "Bond Girl" phenomenon is general is they put looks over brains and were not always holding up the feminist ideals. The reality is while some Bond girls were trained killers, computer programmers, scientists or vengeful villainesses. Some were just women in a bad situation. Honey Ryder fell into that category, she was supposed to be a very young, barely out of her teens girl, where she shouldn't have been, had no real agenda and then she meets this guy and her world completely changes. She's not a rocket scientist to be where she shouldn't be, knowing what goes on there... yet she's still there and that shows the courage and strength, even if she does wear a bikini nearly the whole film.
Take that away or make the character too feminist and it ruins the concept, that's not sexism by the way, it's just how Bond has worked, and we've all watched and enjoyed so it's not changing now.
We need someone who is going to be like Andress, can show strength and sexiness without needing to be an equal to Bond because the character isn't.
The person I've gone for has the look that could make you believe she is from the Caribbean setting of the movie , is someone you could see as putting herself in a bad situation and show some fire and grit when needed, as she's done so in other movies. That she's also very hot also helps.
Monneypenny is arguably the true Bond woman, she flirts with Bond but has never been there, she has fire, is not a fool and is arguably as good as Bond at what SHE does.
She was played ably enough by Naomie Harris in the Craig era, but it just didn't "feel" like Moneypenny. Lois Maxwell played the iconic version and while Caroline Bliss was totally forgettable, Samantha Bond played her closer to who I have chosen would. She's whip smart, has the attitude and could expand the role as required...she's also someone who you imagine Bond having an attraction to, as most of the planet does.
Yes, it could be a little "Hermione" but as Moneypenny, she could portray the "unattainable" character as more grown up. She could carry the humor of the banter that Bond and she have and come across as that equal character. I did think Hayley Attwell, but she's doing too well with Peggy Carter to take "the step down". This is the kind of role Emma Watson could dip into every few years to fund more serious endeavors and her name on the cast list would get people into the film. One thing though, has to be the pixie hair, just think that would work perfectly.
We've just had a new M, do we need another?
Unfortunately, my casting of Moneypenny probably necessitates it. Make no mistake, Ralph Fiennes is more than adequate, but it'd be a little too weird having Voldemort and Hermione in an office, it would take people out of the movie, and that's not what we're after here.
As good as Dench was, I always come back to Bernard Lee, the grizzly old veteran who tolerates Bond's ways, despite constantly being driven to distraction by them and a general dislike for Bond thrown in. Lee's M saw Bond as a tool, a necessary evil, rather than a son figure like Dench's portrayal.
There was a guy I had in mind but sadly he's already played a very similar role and it would be a bad move to use him. Michael Caine, sorry but it's not you. For the same reason Fiennes is out, so are Brendan Gleeson (the closest to Lee I can imagine) and Bill Nighy. But I have found someone I think could not only do the role justice but make it a long term gig as he's now freed up from his TV commitments and ironically, he was once a minor Bond villain himself.
Dance is the perfect M, the right age to show experience, the right attitude and he has great visibility from his role as Tywin Lannister on Game Of Thrones, he can play a guy who sends people to their deaths or a guy fed up of covering for Bond's mistakes or who could more importantly, utter the "tired" orders to dismiss pleasantries with Moneypenny etc. His voice is also a major factor, when he's talking you listen and you could buy Bond listening to him.
Dr. No was the first outing for Bond's CIA counterpart and arguably the coolest version. Jack Lord was pre Hawaii Five-O at the time, indeed this role helped land him that part. The role grew over the years through several actors and while Jeffery Wright was good, he's not right for this new era. We're not making him an "equal of Bond" or Jack Bauer here, he's a suit, a logistics guy but someone who can get what Bond needs when he needs it. The actor chosen has played a similar, albiet villainous role in the past, but he played it SO well that I think he's the perfect Leiter.
Wilson is a great actor in an ensemble, he's someone who is likeable, even if he's being bad but he's the right guy to play Bond's best "friend" in the business.
He'd be more Dan Dreiburg from Watchmen here than Lynch from the A-Team however, a bit overweight, definitely a guy with a desk who only ever gets called into the field by Bond. In these early movies he's almost the Q as I'd save that for the second movie. at least, maybe even the fourth. I did think about using Josh Brolin here as he has a lot of the qualities I'd look for in Leiter, but his Marvel gig probably would now prevent it. I also seriously considered Idris Elba (sorry guys HE IS NOT BOND...EVER...) and also looked seriously at Colin Farrell but Wilson to me is the standout guy.
Bond's fisherman friend is an undervalued role in the original, he is likable but he is also the guy who teaches you that being Bond's friend probably means you're going to die. It's also one of the first examples of Bond forming attachments, although it doesn't pay off until Live & Let Die where Quarrel Jr is introduced, Bond clearly cared enough about the death to keep in contact with his son.
Here is where I bring in a Hollywood heavyweight, even if it's for a smaller role, this is someone I feel would do justice to the role and would also bring in some casual movie goers.
Denzel has the charm to make Quarrel likeable, that he could be Bond's man on the ground and convincing as a retired agent living out his days as a fisherman. Denzel dies well on screen as well, so his death would be a satisfying gutpunch to spur Bond and the viewers on to the final act.
I did have an idea of casting Lenny Kravitz here and have Honey being his daughter, she gets involved after his death. But that might have been a little too much.
Dent is the first "coldblooded" victim of Bond and more importantly the man who teaches Bond not to trust anyone. One of the major reasons the first movie did so well was that terrifying tarantula sequence, Dent was the man responsible and when Bond shoots him dead in an ambush it shows what kind of man James Bond is, he will punish traitors and if you try to kill him, you'd better not miss.
Another smaller but crucial role, I've gone for an actor who is currently playing a good guy on the TV, but who has a lot more range and would be excellent in this role.
Gregg has the charm to be a wolf in sheep's clothing to both the viewer and Bond and is the kind of guy who could play a geologist (add a beard) who is in over his head convincingly. More importantly he's someone you will root for Bond killing when you realize the extent of his treachery.
Who could take an iconic villain like Dr. No and put their "own" spin on it? Would Dr. No still be Chinese as in the first or a renegade from Putin's "new" Russia? Would he be a renegade from India's nuclear programme or even a rouge US operative? Would he rock the Nehru collar again or did Dr. Evil kill that for everyone?
I've been thinking about this all week, I was going to make him a rouge Russian and he was going to be a Bond alum. Mads Mikkelsen was coming back as Dr. No. Then I went and saw Jurassic World tonight and it hit me who the right guy was.
While the Indian magnate villain is becoming a bit of a cliche, the idea of someone from that part of the world, stealing technology and decamping to the Caribbean makes a lot of sense, the same climate but none of the disadvantages of being in that part of the world.
In Jurassic World he showed me he could be Dr. No, in a way he didn't in Spiderman... Dr. No is the guy who set the tone for all Bond villains, he was a gentleman, invited his "guests" to dinner, gave them clothes and probably didn't intend to kill them until Bond committed the faux pas by trying to pocket a knife. I can picture Khan's disgust at such behavior, and Bond actually goading him into deciding to kill him. I can see Khan as a guy who people will die for and actually believing what he is doing is right and he of course keeps the iconic hand, but with modern technology that is now far more feasible than it was in 1962.
So we come to the man himself.
As I already said, it's not Idris... It's really not a colour thing, I just don't think he is the right fit, as an actor, age wise or even suave enough. He's too much of a "geezer" in real life for me to ever see him as Bond. Some actors have also ruled themselves out with roles they've taken, Henry Cavill is now in U.N.C.L.E so he's not Bond, some guys are too involved in franchises like Fassbender, Hemsworth and Statham (it's not if but when he goes to Marvel) to commit. Chris Pratt ain't gonna work here either... Oscar Issac would have worked, but Star Wars is gonna take all his time.
What does a Disney led Bond need to be?
He needs to be relatively young, late 30's at the maximum, but Bond needs to be played as mid 30's... a younger Bond who will grow as we see the old tales retold. Looks are clearly important but acting chops will matter more than actual blockbuster experience. If their name is known then that will be enough.
Who it's not.
I came SO close to casting Daniel Radcliffe it's not funny, I just think Emma Watson as Moneypenny is too good to risk putting Harry and Hermione together again. Radcliffe is in many ways what Bond needs, a younger guy, who with the right training physically could be believable as someone who is either a new 007 or who has been at it only a couple of years, long enough to make some friends like Leiter and to need a mentor type figure like Quarrel as played by Denzel. But after a lot of thought it's not Daniel Radcliffe but if he got the role in real life I wouldn't be at all upset.
It's not Richard Armitage... Again, close but not quite right, while he has that "big movie" experience and is now flexing his acting chops as Dollarhyde in Hannibal, he's not quite the right age.
It's not Domnall Gleeson. A ginger Bond isn't gonna work, even if I think in spite of the Potter connection above, with the right prep he could be an excellent Bond.
It's not Dwayne Johnson... No... Just No...
So who is it?
After a lot of thought, I've gone for a guy who has had a few "big" movies now but not really launched his own franchise yet.
Evans has the experience of the driving stunts required from Fast 6, he has the look of Bond and with the right prep could easily be in the shape required. He also has a solid action ability from the Hobbit movies, where he had to carry a good portion of the acting burden. He's someone believable as a bit of a misogynist, cocky and deadly. I can see him and Zoe Kravitz having great chemistry, I can see he and Denzel having a light moment that turns serious as Quarrel tells the story of Dr. No's island and I can see him being flirty with Emma Watson and pissing Charles Dance off.
So what do you think? More sacrilege? Or potentially a great Bond remake cast?