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Die Another Day - Meeting the villains



Compiled by: Jack Foley

IT HAS often been said that James Bond is only as good as his villains are bad; so with this in mind, the creators of Die Another Day set about delivering audiences three of the better Bond baddies of recent years - namely Toby Stephens as megalomaniac, Gustav Graves, Rick Yune, as the heavily-scarred Zao, and Rosamund Pike as the turncoat Miranda Frost.

They also sought to make 007 himself more vulnerable, by having him captured at the start of the movie, tortured during the titles sequence, and then stripped of his '00' tag and licence to kill by a British government that has all but turned its back on him.

But it is a move which, according to writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and the villains themselves, was necessary in order to keep Bond contemporary.

"Fans of the novels would see Bond's capture as being in keeping with the books," explained Purvis. "At the beginning of Man With The Golden Gun, he's been brainwashed and comes back and tries to kill M and a big steel something comes down and separates the two of them. So we were sort of referring to that a little bit in having the glass separate M and Bond on the ship at the beginning of this one."

Wade adds: "We felt that it would be good for the films to establish Bond as a human being, rather than a superhero. He's not Spider-Man. He's someone who can get caught and hurt and we just thought that this would maybe make it a more interesting film. Also, for the actor, Pierce, it gives him something to do."

It is a point with which Stephens concurs, especially since the task of creating a Bond villain is far more easier than playing the secret agent himself.

"I think that within the Bond movies, there is more latitude for the villains," he told the London press conference for Die Another Day. "I mean, Pierce has already established himself as Bond, and once you are established as Bond, you don't have much room for manouevre. The only room to manouevre is what situation you are put in as that character, whereas assumng the villain, you have carte blanche, really, to go wherever you want with it.

"So it was a lot of fun to do that within the parameters of the script, and this one is quite a novel one, in that there is a duality to the character. You start off as one person and then there is a change. And that was great because you're really playing two characters for the price of one, and any actor is pleased to do that as it means that you're not just playing a one-dimensional thing all the way through. It was fun for me to do."

Stephens maintains that part of Bond's incredible success story is his ability to move within the times and reflect current world threats, albeit in a heightened sense - and he was delighted to have been offered the chance to be part of it.

"This is a Bond film, and it's not aspiring to be gritty realism, so it does function in the realm of fantasy, in a heightened sense," he continued. "The villains, in particular, are richer than rich, more evil than evil, and they have enormous ambitions, which works within a Bond framework; it's what people want.

"But I do think, though, that Bond had to change to survive, it had to keep up with the times. Back when the Cold War was around, when it was Ian Fleming as the source material, it operated within a world where that was the test. Now, the Iron Curtain has come down, and Bond had to keep up with the times.

"And I think that one of the successful things about Bond, and the reasons why it has survived, is that it feeds on current neuroses in culture, whether it's the Iron Curtain or, in this case, the genetics of North Korea. It uses these things and puts it in a realm which is, in a way, safe, because it's not saying 'look, this is really what's going on', it's saying 'this is the world of Bond, and this is how we choose to use it', which is what makes it fun."

Ironically, Graves is one of the actors who was being touted as a possible replacement for Pierce Brosnan once he hung up his Walter PPK, but the actor had no qualms about forgoing the possibility once he was offered the chance to take on Graves.

Indeed, laughing at the irony of it all, he said: "Yes, inevitably one forgoes the glittering prize of Bondhood, but if someone had said to me, two years ago, that you're going to be in a Bond film and you're going to be playing a Bond villain, I would have rolled around in hysterics, thinking they were being absurd.

"So actually finding myself as a Bond villain, and being lucky enough to be offered the role, was like, well, I'm not going to be churlish and say, 'yeah, but what about playing...', you know? I was very happy and whoever does get Bond, whoever they are, I wish them all the best."

The same could be said for Yune (of The Fast and the Furious fame), who was equally excited about taking on the role of Zao and getting to play with all of the gadgets.

"I'm still working on acquiring a car," he joked, before seeking any offers of assistance from members of the press. But he also was keen to praise the work of his make-up artist for helping to create such a memorable looking villain - one which can be compared favourably to the likes of Scaramanga, with his three nipples, or Jaws, with his metallic teeth.

"In a lot of ways, the make-up was the character," he explained. "There was the possibility that he could be the joke of it all, so to make him so extreme, and to keep him real, you were in the hands of the people around you, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the genius of my make-up artist."

Yune is not the only one who would like to be compared favourably with previous Bond villains, though, for when asked which baddies Stephens found most impressive, the actor attempted to outline the two he felt could bring most to the role of Graves.

"My favourite [Bond villain] is Bob Shaw, of From Russia With Love fame. Although he wasn't the arch villain, he was the face of the villain, I thought he gave a wonderfully controlled performance. It was this controlled aggression, which made you deeply nervous of him losing that control. You know, I really didn't want to be around when he loses it.

"I also love Donald Pleasance, because he had this really sinister, rather detached, feel to him, and what I wanted in this one was a sort of combination of someone who is arrogant, aggressive, but also quite unhinged and sinister."

While Stephens and Yune looked to the past to help them create the villains of the future, however, Rosamund Pike was keen to dispel the notion that Bond girls had to be mere 'bimbos' and views the transformation of the 'Bond babe' as an integral part of what attracted her to the role. Indeed, she describes the character of Miranda Frost as the type of adversary that Bond has seldom rubbed up against before.

"Both Halle and my character kind of play Bond at his own game, which is what attracted me about this film," she revealed. "The sexual politics of the film are quite unusual for a Bond movie, in that they're much more mutual. There's a lot more of people using sex as a weapon.

"I mean Miranda is MI6, she's infiltrated MI6, she's read the file on Bond and she knows the games he plays. She knows who the man is. I don't think there's been many other girls that have known, in such black and white terms what they're dealing with when they come up against Bond.

"So there's no illusion that she might fall in love with him or that she was the only girl in the world for him, which I think other girls in the past have been seduced into believing.

"And you know, Jinx and Bond go to bed and it's kind of like a kick for both of them, it's not only Bond who benefits, or kind of initiates.

"Plus, we're both taken seriously in top jobs - Halle is NSA and Miranda is MI6 - so there's no kind of joke at our expense on that score. If someone said before, that they were a top fighter pilot, it belonged in the realm of fantasy, but now it belongs in a much more real world."

 

 

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