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James Bond: acclaimed writers explain how they would reinvent 007

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Nicola Dove/AP</span>
Photograph: Nicola Dove/AP

There are few commercial principles more reliable than this: there will always be another James Bond movie.

It isn’t always easy to see how he’ll get to where he’s going next – and the franchise’s producer, Barbara Broccoli, isn’t sure either.

Speaking earlier this week, she admitted she hadn’t settled on how to reconcile the final scenes of No Time To Die – those who haven’t seen the film should turn away now – with the promise in the final credits that “James Bond will return”.

With that in mind, the Guardian turned to some expert writers to see how they would revive 007.

None of them suggested amnesia, evil twins, or even having been a dream.

A miracle recovery – and a quest to save his daughter

John Banville, the revered Irish literary novelist with his own crime-writing twin under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, hadn’t seen the film, but was surprised to learn of Bond’s apparent demise.

“I wonder why they killed him.”

As for a resurrection, he sees little to fuss about: why shouldn’t the most indestructible secret agent of all time be granted a miracle recovery?

“It’s always easy to bring a character back. Oh, he got blown up by a missile – well, just say, he’s been in hospital for nine months, and now he’s safe and well and ready to go out and kill again.

“Somehow he’s blown aside rather than blown up – it does happen. I knew someone who was standing over an IRA bomb when it went off, and he survived, even though the people around him were killed.”

Informed of the other big Bond news – the existence of his daughter – he incorporates it seamlessly: “Well, someone has stolen his child, and off he goes to rescue her. There you are, you have the plot.”

A daughter in search of revenge

To Charlotte Philby, author of acclaimed thrillers including The Second Woman and Edith and Kim, to be released in March next year, Bond’s death is “the most brilliant opportunity to flip the Bond mould, subverting some of the more dated tropes whilst retaining what is best about the franchise.”

Her solution? “If it were down to me I would make the new main character of the next instalment Bond’s daughter (played by Florence Pugh?),” she writes. “She has the ideal genetic makeup – with a healthy dose of childhood trauma – to take up her father’s mantle, and the quest to avenge his death.”

“In terms of tone, I would like a heady mix of the more cerebral – perhaps starting with her in her early 20s, studying psychology at Cambridge and being approached with a message that is a call-to-arms. Taking advantage of the scope for familial betrayal, young love, and the revelations of until-now secret Bond history, in my imagined revival – where the action, the far-flung destinations, and the sexiness that makes Bond, Bond, is carefully retained – the usual stereotypes are turned on their head, making the film something fresh, new, chilling and ludicrously entertaining, and – crucially – wholly recognisable.”

Make way for a new generation

Manda Scott, the Edgar-award nominated author of A Treachery of Spies sees the denouement of No Time To Die as a very deliberate break with the past.

“Bond didn’t accidentally get blown to a million tiny pieces,” she writes. “This is the end of an era and we need to show its ending unequivocally so there is absolutely no way back.”

“But the old hierarchical, patriarchal, ghastly colonial order for which Bond was always the figurehead can step back now, which is glorious – yay for the old guard knowing when it’s time to let go of the reins of power and doing it with panache and flair (for which he was also always rather well known). He can give way graciously to a younger generation that knows the old rules don’t apply.

“So now 007 is part of the youth insurgency: she’ll be young, perhaps mixed race, definitely gender fluid and she’ll focus on the things that matter most: the climate and ecological emergency and how to wrest from the chaos that’s coming a future she’ll be happy – even proud – to leave to her kids. She might choose to embed deep in her father’s old structures, the better to topple them in the time frame we need, but whatever she does, she’ll have the charisma and self confidence of her heritage, and the wild, beautiful inspiration of youth. This will be a new Bond, utterly different, and utterly compelling.

“It will also, I suspect, be quite a hard journey because not all the old order will give way with such grace: those who fight back will do so with the full weight of their considerable armament. Those who strive for change will not do so unscathed. But then every heroic journey has its challenges: even the old, late Bond knew that. RIP.”

…or just get on with it

“You could do an origin story with Bond coming out of the Royal Navy as a ‘Commander’ and applying to join MI6,” suggested Charles Cumming, author of internationally bestselling spy thrillers including The Moroccan Girl and The Man Between. “Or he might be a young, trainee spy who becomes a Double-O and takes on the name ‘James Bond’ as a permanent alias.”

Plausible though these ideas are, Cumming argues, “all that might take up a lot of unnecessary screen time. The producers could just as well make no reference to what happened at the end of No Time To Die and introduce a new James Bond to a new generation. Audiences won’t care how or why 007 has come back into their lives as long as the script is entertaining and Barbara Broccoli has cast the right actor to play him. Bond is like Hamlet or Sherlock Holmes. He’s eternal.”

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