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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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."