06/11/2012 10:10 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Bond With the Best: 007 Does Not Need a Licence to Kill in Bed


If there was a trophy for asking a stupid question we could ask: What is common between Sherlock Holmes and James Bond? A more sensible question would be: How were they different? Holmes used his power of observation and deduction to solve cases. Bond had a licence to kill and the latest gizmos to help him destroy the roots of evil in its myriad forms. Holmes preferred opium more than women. Bond did not need a licence to kill in bed. Each time he went out to combat evil his luck in bed never deserted him.

We see a third spy sulking in the cold. Sorry Hercules Poirot, you were good but not in the same league as Holmes and Bond. But yes, a part of the twentieth century belonged as much to Poirot as it did to the two legendary British crime-busters. But Poirot had few films made on him. On the other hand Holmes can claim to have followed Bond into the new millennium. In 2009 Guy Ritchie reinvented the famous detective and asked Robert Downey to play the role. The jury is still out on whether the audiences gave the thumbs up to the action packed version of Holmes.

While discussing Holmes and Bond we must remember that the pipe-smoking detective was essentially a twentieth century phenomenon. But 007 with his licence to kill is a thriving industry which has survived five decades of change in popular taste. If Bond were to die, who would give Dr No and Blofeld a second look? And all the voluptuous blondes would enter their dotage as virgins. Popular opinion kept Holmes alive. Popular cinema will not let Bond die. Given his prowess for survival 007 may live even beyond the end of times!

Anyway why look beyond tomorrow when James Bond is here today, this time to prove his loyalty to M as her past comes back to haunt her? As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how...Skyfall promises to be as entertaining and as gripping as the earlier 22 Bond movies.

The early 007 films were based on Ian Fleming's novels. However Eon Productions, which has sustained viewers' interest in the daredevil spy for five decades, hired its own story-writers to continue the series. It has kept up an average of producing one Bond film every second year.

The first attempt to transfer a Bond novel to the screen was made in 1954. It resulted in a television adaptation called Climax, based on Casino Royale. An American actor Barry Nelson appeared in the TV episode as Jimmy Bond.

Ian Fleming, however, wanted James Bond on the big screen. He approached producer Alexander Korda to make a film based on either Moonraker or Live and Let Die. Korda showed interest in the project but later withdrew. Fleming did not give up. In 1959 he wrote an original film script for producer Kevin McClory under the simple title of James Bond, Secret Agent.

Most film buffs are familiar with the actors who have played 007. What they do not know is that Sir Richard Burton would have been the first to play James Bond on the big screen, but he turned down the offer. What is more interesting is the fact that Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, rejected the offer to direct what would have been the first Bond movie. A disappointed Fleming turned the script into another Bond novel called Thunderball.

In fact finding the actor to play Bond proved to be a tough nut to crack. Albert R. Broccoli showed an interest in making a film on Bond. He roped in Harry Saltzman to assist him. When the normal channels failed to throw up the right character for the role a contest was arranged to "find James Bond". Six finalists were chosen and screen-tested by Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, and Fleming. Peter Anthony, a 28-year-old model won the contest. According to Broccoli he had a Gregory Peck like quality. However, he failed to cope with the demands of the role.

The desperate trio turned to Sean Connery, and the rest, as they say, is history. Only Roger Moore has played Bond more number of times than Connery. Connery must count himself as the luckiest actor of his era. Before plumping for him Broccoli and Fleming had rejected Richard Johnson, James Mason, Rex Harrison, David Niven, Trevor Howard and Cary Grant for "various contractual impasses".

Connery was already balding when he was offered the role. He wore a wig on all his Bond movies. Yet he remains the most popular Bond now being played by Daniel Craig in Skyfall.

Although 007 is a fictional character but Fleming borrowed the name from an ornithologist he knew. He later told the bird expert's wife that "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born".

Of course, almost all fiction is borrowed from real life incidents. Since Fleming was a Naval Intelligence Officer before he took to writing fiction he did borrow heavily from real-life incidents or events he had read about. There is speculation in certain circles that the character of James Bond itself is based on a real spy or a combination of spies.

The Bond legend does not merely revolve around blondes and acts of bravado. There is a third dimension that has helped sustain the Bond mystique. They are his famous oneliners. My favorite is the one in which he mutters to himself before unzipping a blonde - 'Oh the things I have to do for England'.