Thursday 27 October 2016

What is it about James Bond that makes men want to be him and women be with him? His Irishness

John Daly

Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30

Daniel Craig has played James Bond in four films Picture: PA
Daniel Craig has played James Bond in four films Picture: PA

It's enough to make one take up acting. Daniel Craig has reportedly been offered $150m to star in two more James Bond movies, and he's thinking about it.

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The man's either had one too many Martinis, or else is one of the cutest negotiators ever to stroll the Hollywood walk of fame. The 48-year-old, who's played 007 for the past decade, and made billions for the studios, famously announced he'd "rather slash my wrists" than do it one more time with feeling.

Created in the 1950s by author Ian Fleming as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking ladies' man with a penchant for international espionage, his Bond was the quintessential Englishman - a cool, clean hero complete with rough edges for the Cold War. Interestingly, Fleming's inspiration for 007 might have been influenced by, of all things, a Kerryman. William Melville, born in 1850 in the tiny hamlet of Direenaclaurig Cross, near Sneem, led a life packed with more villains and global intrigue than the Bond author could dream of.

Taking himself to London as a teenager, presumably because the local bartenders hadn't mastered the knack for a perfectly shaken martini, he joined the Metropolitan Police, going on to become one of the country's most decorated coppers. Melville played central roles in foiling the Jubilee Plot to assassinate Queen Victoria; tracking the man many believed was Jack the Ripper; and becoming chief protector of the Russian Tsar, who rewarded him with a Faberge egg. Ironically, Melville remained a proud Irish Catholic who named his house in South London Kenmare, but was unequivocal in his determination to prevent terrorism of all kinds - including attacks on the crown by the Fenians.

Capping off a glittering career, the Kerryman went on to construct the first European espionage network ahead of WWI, becoming England's top spymaster as head of the emerging Secret Service and MI6.

Melville was known only as 'M' - a shadowy title in an era of danger that would later inspire the many adventures of Fleming's agent 'with a licence to kill'. As a Kerryman at the very heart of the British Empire, he'd come a very long way from Direenaclaurig Cross.

But if it was a Kerryman who inspired Fleming's Bond in the novels, it was a Dub who took the world's most famous secret agent into a truly global orbit in the movies. Kevin McClory, born in 1926, led a life with touches of 007 himself as a screenwriter, producer, lover of Elizabeth Taylor, and one time owner of Straffan House, now the K Club. Rejecting much of Fleming's ruthless and austere creation from the books, McClory saw Bond as a more worldly, humorous icon, a man capable of pulling the trigger of a Walther PPK with one hand while effortlessly unfastening bikini hooks with the other.

Scenting the social and sexual liberation coming through in the 1960s, his hero was a man of steel with worldly tastes. Given his bloodline to the Bronte sisters, McClory was no slouch at penmanship, and went on to co-create with Fleming the script for 'Thunderball' - the film that catapulted Bond into an international legend. As well as the action sequences that grew more daring over the years, 007 had some killer lines added to his throbbing arsenal. "I was wrong about you," he tells femme fatale Christmas Jones. "How so?" she inquires. "I thought Christmas only comes once a year." Boom boom.

Proving his own worth as a tough adversary, McClory eventually took Fleming to court over ownership rights to 'Thunderball'.

Ranged against the old Etonian and former British Naval Intelligence operative, few gave the Dubliner much of a chance of success in the British legal system.

They didn't know the street-fighter they were tangling with - after just nine days Fleming's team caved in, giving the case to McClory.

So what is it about James Bond, what's this guy got that men want to emulate and women want to…well, you know? Is it really a quintessential English quality? Not from where I'm standing.

Bond is hard-living, self-assured and confident. He talks a good game anywhere he's placed, and has a roaming bad-boy eye no lady can resist. He's as fast with his knuckles as he is with a cocktail shaker, and no matter how many times you knock him down, he keeps getting up. 007 is, more than anything, driven by those qualities most often found in John Bull's Other Island - a license to thrill, born and bred in Kerry and Dublin.

Irish Independent

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