Dench bond with M never shaken

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

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.

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