Bond 25: Sex, Snobbery and Sadism – Plus a Bit of Rowing

The scene outside Furnivall Sculling Club, Hammersmith, West London, on Friday, 12 June. ‘B25’ or ‘Bond 25’ is the working title of the presently unnamed 25th James Bond film – which is currently in production. Picture: @007

15 July 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch does not realise that James Bond is a fictional character.

When Ian Fleming published the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1953, the literary critic of the New Statesman called it a litany of ‘sex, snobbery and sadism’ and said that it was ‘without doubt, the nastiest book I have ever read.’ Warming to this theme, in 1958 the Statesman’s review of Dr No said that Bond exemplified ‘the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult.’ Despite (or because of) this, 66 years later, the 24 Bond movies alone have grossed $7 billion. Fleming himself was critical of the character, once telling Playboy ‘He’s got his vices and very few perceptible virtues except patriotism and courage, which are probably not virtues anyway.’

Ian Fleming. Two years ago, Göran R Buckhorn posted a two-part piece on HTBS on Ian Fleming’s family rowing connections.

Considering that he is nearly 100 years old and is on record as at least once holding misogynistic, sexist, racist and homophobic views, it is perhaps surprising that the attraction of James Bond seems as great as ever. Possibly this is because every generation gets the Bond that it needs or wants. The 007 of the 1950s portrayed in Ian Fleming’s books led the life that those men who had been through the Great Depression and the Second World War then wanted to enjoy. Sean Connery encapsulated the 60s before they started to really swing, and Roger Moore was the terrible 70s epitomised. Attitudes change and, in 1995, Judi Dench’s ‘M’ told the Pierce Brosnan Bond that he was ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War, whose boorish charm is wasted on me’ (though the end of the scene suggests that even M was not entirely immune to the Bond allure). Is misogynist dinosaur a Tyrannosaurus Sex?

The first Bond film, “Dr No”, was made on a low budget – hence the lack of costumes for the female characters.

The current Bond, played by Daniel Craig, does not smoke cigarettes, sometimes allows women to have opinions, and has visible frailties and weaknesses (including hints at depression or breakdown). As the British become less reserved, this Bond’s upper lip is not always stiff and is a return to Fleming’s original darker and more fallible character, one very different to most previous film depictions. Further, Bond has yet to suffer as a result of the #MeToo movement or 80 years of smoking, drinking, promiscuity, excessive expenses claims and loss of government property – hence the fact that the 25th film in the franchise is currently in production. The hiring of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, often given the label of ‘feminist scriptwriter’, suggests that Bond 25 will attempt to be more empathetic to its female characters.

The film is due for release in April 2020. Picture: @007. James Bond Trademarks are TM Danjaq.

On 12 July, the travelling three-ring circus that is a modern film production unit took over the riverfront along Lower Mall, Hammersmith, West London, for a day to film a scene for Bond 25 depicting a conversation outside Furnivall Sculling Club between Bond (Daniel Craig), M (Ralph Fiennes) and Bill Tanner, M’s Chief of Staff (Rory Kinnear). The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, decided to complicate this simple scene (no explosions or car chases) by having rowing boats going past in the background. Fours, doubles and singles were crewed by members of Furnivall SC and Fulham Reach Boat Club and they spent many hours going up and down between Hammersmith Bridge and Dove Pier, trying to coordinate their appearance in shot with the actors delivering their lines.

The busy scene with the Bond film crew outside Furnivall Sculling Club (sited to the right of the light blue building). Auriol Kensington Rowing Club, on the far right of the picture, had its bar used as Daniel Craig’s dressing room.
The riverfront from Hammersmith Bridge to Furnivall Green was closed to the public for the day. Local residents and business were compensated for the inconvenience.

The Port of London Authority closed the river when the cameras were running but traffic was allowed through during breaks. Unfortunately, as filming was at high tide, the backlog of craft coming through served to stir the water up just as it was time for another take. The river closure also allowed the usual strict and particular Tideway navigation rules to be suspended to better position the boats for the camera. However, each boat had a radio to receive strict instructions from the marine coordinator, so safety was maintained.

Although Bond was not an oarsman (any chance to row at Eton ended when he was expelled soon after arrival for a dalliance with a maid), he had no objection to getting wet with eight other fit bodies. This is a French poster for “You Only Live Twice”.

The paparazzi were also in attendance at Hammersmith and their efforts can be seen on the fan website MI6 and in an online edition of the Daily Mail (though the 12-year-old interns that produce the Mail Online think that the photographer standing on the south bank of the river opposite Hammersmith was in fact on Central London’s Southbank).

Hammersmith is not the only London location that ‘Bond 25’ has been filming in. Picture: @007

In the 1964 film, Goldfinger, Bond, strapped to a table in the path of a slowly advancing industrial laser, asks Auric Goldfinger ‘You expect me to talk?’. Unusually, he is bettered when he receives the famous reply ‘No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die’. Despite the villain’s expectations, it looks as though James Bond’s demise is not going to happen anytime soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.