Photo: Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale
Photo: Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale

FILM

What would make James Bond less of a sexist cliche? A woman director

If the next Bond isn’t directed by either Patty Jenkins or Kathryn Bigelow, the franchise is making a serious mistake, says Jonathan Dean

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By Jonathan Dean on

So, finally, we know that Daniel Craig will play James Bond for the fifth time. This is not a shock, given he was signed up for this – the 25th 007 film – all along, but the internet enjoyed speculating he might be replaced by Idris Elba or, more likely, someone white. They took the line about how he would rather "slash my wrists" than do another Bond movie, while ignoring the "Now?" at the start of that quote. He was talking after the slog of Spectre, when he needed a rest. He's had one now and, in 2019, he will be back.

Sam Mendes, however, won't be. The director was never going to return, leaving the second most vital job open. Mendes was a statement appointment, bringing both theatrical class and Hollywood nous, and, frankly, if the studio want their new director to be anywhere near as interesting as he was, they need to give the job to Kathryn Bigelow or Patty Jenkins. Yes, a woman. A female director of a James Bond film. If producer Barbara Broccoli doesn't try to do this, she will not only have missed an opportunity, but also be running out of excuses.

This year, Bigelow and Jenkins have both made well-received films – Detroit and Wonder Woman respectively – that generated money and headlines. To be fair, the former has done this for years, with kinetic hits like Point Break and Hurt Locker; but with Wonder Woman, Jenkins achieved something groundbreaking.

In Spectre, the sight of Craig's old-man skin touching Lea Seydoux's considerably younger hand was creepy

Before this year, female directors weren't trusted with big budgets, largely because studios are run by men who insisted on precedents before handing over wads of millions. Wonder Woman has made nearly $800 million from a $149 million kitty, leaving the argument women can't make successful blockbusters in tatters. Weird keyboard warriors might insist the fictional character of Bond has to be a white male, or else the world will end, but not even they could claim the film can't be directed by a woman, right?     

Because given the misogyny surrounding this franchise, appointing Bigelow or Jenkins would not only be interesting, but smart too. “Bond's a misogynist,” Craig told me back in 2015. “That’s clear. He’s got serious fucking problems.” In Spectre, the sight of Craig's old-man skin touching Lea Seydoux's considerably younger hand was creepy; and that's before the issue of the misuse of Monica Bellucci. It would be nice to watch the spy doing some fighting and loving without thinking he is just a massive sex pest and appointing a woman in the hot seat would head off the perennial "He's just a hoary old sexist!" criticism and, hopefully, make the whole thing less leery, more cheery.

This isn't just naming a female director for the sake of it. Sofia Coppola’s Bond would be too pastel; Nancy Meyers would make him constantly take brunch; Angelina Jolie would shoehorn in a lengthy scene in Cambodia. Bigelow and Jenkins, though, are genuine contenders for a film that needs an update. Spectre was poor and the next one needs to feel as fresh as when Craig first donned the tux, for Casino Royale, 11 years ago.

What's more, the new film needs someone who can do both violence and emotion; which both those women can. Of course Craig is back for the money, but my suspicion is that he wants to do something major with his next appearance as Bond. He is a hugely arrogant man who is aware 007 is his legacy and, therefore, will want to take him somewhere nobody has before. Maybe he will kill him off. Perhaps they will find an illegitimate child. He must have a few. Either way, don't expect more of the dated same, and hope for something very different.

@JonathanDean_

 

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Photo: Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale
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