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Can Boris save Bond?

- Bonds Market · Movies · Financial Markets · Finance · Business · James Bond film series · United Kingdom · MGM · Ian Fleming · Eton College · Queen · Elizabeth II · Oliver Dowden · Boris Johnson · London · The Queen · Daniel Craig · Bond 23 · Eton · Downton Abbey · Downton · Bourne

James Bond has turned his back on Bri­tain. It is hard to draw any other con­clu­sion from the news that Eon Pro­duc­tions has once again post­poned the re­lease of the lat­est film, No Time to Die – it was meant to be next month, now it’s been knocked all the way to April 2021.

Bri­tain’s cin­ema com­pa­nies have all re­cently found them­selves turn­ing into Miss Moneypenny, fever­ishly count­ing down the minutes un­til Bond puts in an ap­pear­ance and gets bums back on the re­duced-ca­pac­ity seats. But the de­lay has spelt in­stant dis­as­ter for Cineworld, the UK’S ma­jor cin­ema chain, which has an­nounced the in­def­i­nite clo­sure of all 127 of its UK cin­e­mas on Thurs­day. Oth­ers are likely to fol­low suit.

It is all par­tic­u­larly dispir­it­ing be­cause the at­ti­tude of the stu­dios and Bond pro­duc­ers – MGM, Uni­ver­sal and the Eon supre­mos Michael G Wil­son and Bar­bara Broc­coli are be­hind the de­ci­sion – seems to fly in the face of the val­ues we as­so­ciate with Bond.

The rai­son d’être of Bond is to come along and save the day in the nick of time. He could have added cin­ema’s sal­va­tion to this name, now he’s got wreck­age. He could have helped the Bri­tish peo­ple shed a few of the un­char­ac­ter­is­tic safety-first habits they’ve ac­quired this year and take the small risk of watch­ing a film on a big screen (the stats have it that not a sin­gle Covid case has arisen in Bri­tain from those at­tend­ing cin­ema screen­ings).

One rather sad as­pect of this whole sce­nario is that it has cre­ated an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween Bond and money-grub­bing thanks to the launch date flip-flop­ping in the quest for greater re­turns. Bond would never have sunk so low.

As Ian Flem­ing spec­i­fied in the orig­i­nal nov­els, in the Fifties Bond earns “£1,500 a year, the salary of a Prin­ci­pal Of­fi­cer in the Civil Ser­vice” – some­thing less than £50,000 to­day, which I sus­pect com­pares rather un­favourably with the earn­ings of most of his fel­low old Eto­ni­ans.

Hardly dan­ger money, then, and yet Bond re­peat­edly risks his life for Queen and coun­try. If, for ex­am­ple, Bond can run the sui­ci­dal risk of ven­tur­ing into Blofeld’s moun­tain­top lair in On Her Majesty’s Se­cret Ser­vice to save Bri­tain’s agri­cul­tural econ­omy (Blofeld is brain­wash­ing peo­ple into smug­gling crop and live­stock pests into Bri­tain), why can’t MGM and Eon take a bit of a hit to save our cin­e­mas?

Still, business is business, and in the view of many peo­ple the real vil­lains of the piece are the Prime Min­is­ter and Oliver Dow­den, the Cul­ture Sec­re­tary, for fail­ing to pro­vide enough fi­nan­cial aid to tide our be­lea­guered cin­e­mas over. Boris John­son has called for peo­ple to sup­port their lo­cal cin­e­mas, but the bail-out has so far ar­rived piece­meal, and in­suf­fi­cient.

It seems to me like of­fer­ing a stick­ing plas­ter to some­body who’s been on the business end of Rosa Klebb’s right shoe. What Mr John­son should be do­ing is set­ting up ne­go­ti­a­tions with MGM and Eon to get Bond out. In­stead he looks like he’s back­ing away from a fight.

Mr John­son could make some vague noises about with­draw­ing some of the ex­tremely gen­er­ous tax re­lief of­fered to com­pa­nies that make films in Bri­tain – for where would a Bond film be with­out a London back­drop? But, even if he’s wor­ried that his eye will start to bleed like Le Chiffre’s if he tries to bluff, he could sim­ply re-em­pha­sise a sim­ple truth: Bri­tain needs Bond and Bond needs Bri­tain.

Bond is soft power. Visitbri­tain has or­gan­ised cam­paigns around the re­lease of the last two Bond films, with the slo­gan “Bond is Great … Bri­tain”. The Queen con­sented to let Daniel Craig into the vicin­ity of her corgis and to (sort of) jump out of an aero­plane in the London Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony promo be­cause she knew that the Bond films present a pos­i­tive im­age of Bri­tain as a player on the world stage.

He should be set­ting up meet­ings with MGM and Eon to get Bond out

The Bond films are not set in Bri­tain as a favour – both ben­e­fit from the re­la­tion­ship

And it suits the film’s pro­duc­ers for the movies to have a very Bri­tish sen­si­bil­ity. In the old days, there were jokey scenes in­volv­ing dou­ble-decker buses, traf­fic war­dens and the Mil­len­nium Dome; and in the more se­ri­ous Craig era, Sky­fall in par­tic­u­lar, is a con­veyor belt of great Bri­tish land­marks.

The in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence recog­nises and ap­pre­ci­ates Bri­tain’s dis­tinc­tive cul­ture, or the ver­sion of it re­fracted through the Bond films. They en­joy the stereo­type of the English­man who learnt the value of fair play on the play­ing fields of Eton, and the pi­quancy of the fact that he learnt some­thing else in bed with one of the Eton cham­ber­maids, and was ex­pelled for it. They love the films for their quasi-classy ve­neer, for the el­e­ments they have in com­mon with Down­ton Abbey as much as with the Bourne movies.

The Bond films are not set in Bri­tain as a favour to us, in other words, but rather be­cause Bri­tain and Bond both ben­e­fit from the re­la­tion­ship. If it floun­ders, both will suf­fer – the fact that the Queen will never again agree to take the part of a Bond Girl will be the least of it.

So please, Mr Bond, help us in our time of need. There’s a phrase they must surely have taught you at Eton: cometh the hour, cometh the man.

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 ??  ?? On Her Majesty’s not-so-se­cret ser­vice: the Queen ap­peared with Daniel Craig in this sketch for the 2012 Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony
On Her Majesty’s not-so-se­cret ser­vice: the Queen ap­peared with Daniel Craig in this sketch for the 2012 Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony

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