Dench bond with M never shaken
OTHING is so much of a boys’ club as a James Bond movie. That is, except when Judi Dench is on screen.
As MI6 head M, Dench has been the Bond matriarch: the strong-willed, nononsense mainstay of feminine authority in a movie franchise that has, more often than not, featured slightly more superficial womanly traits.
Skyfall is Dench’s seventh Bond film, an unimpeachable reign that has encompassed both the Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan eras of the British spy.
For a number of reasons, Skyfall is her most notable Bond film. For the first time, Dench isn’t just dictating orders from headquarters, but is thrown directly into the action when a former MI6 agent (Javier Bardem) is bent on revenge against her.
‘‘It’s very nice to be out from behind the desk,’’ she says.
‘‘It’s extremely nice to get a go in the field, as it were, and get a bit of the action. It made me feel very grown-up. It’s not just the fellas who are spinning about and shooting guns – I get a go.’’
As soon as Dench entered the world of Bond, she made it clear she was a force to be reckoned with – certainly not one that some gun-toting playboy would push around. Introducing herself to Bond in 1995’s Goldeneye, the bourbondrinking M promptly informs Brosnan’s Bond that she isn’t a ‘‘bean-counter’’, as Bond admits to thinking.
‘‘Good, because I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,’’ retorts M.
‘‘A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to the young lady I sent out to evaluate you.’’
She then states she has ‘‘the balls’’ to send Bond to his death, if need be.
‘‘A man saying that to Bond is one thing, but a woman saying that to him was quite another,’’ says Dench.
Partly because of that scene, Dench considered the role a ‘‘cracking’’ one. She says she didn’t then realise the import many would assign to a woman playing M, or the length that her service would turn out to be. Her husband, the late Michael Williams, cheered the decision: ‘‘He thought living with a Bond woman was very exciting.’’
So on seven films in 17 years, Dench – a revered Shakespearean stage actress and star of films such as Notes on a Scandal and Shakespeare in Love – has earned acclaim in a blockbuster movie franchise. Dench, 77, inherited the role of M from Robert Brown, who played the character from 1983’s Octopussy through 1989’s Licence to Kill. Bernard Lee initiated Ian Fleming’s secret service head, playing him for 11 films to 1979’s Moonraker.
opens on November 22, with previews at selected cinemas on Monday.