My last post was a review of Skyfall.
Since I was a huge 007 fan as an adolescent, every 007 movie revives that in me. So I couldn’t resist thinking of what the next 007 movie should be and why.
We know Casino Royale with Daniel Craig rebooted the entire franchise with a fresh take that is actually more true to Ian Fleming’s novels than any of the previous twenty-one. Casino itself was based off the first novel and was pretty true to the story. With Quantum they wrote an original story as a sequel to Casino named after the title of another Bond story. Skyfall is yet another original, and forms somewhat of a trilogy, since (I won’t give it away) the movie brings a sort of closure to a certain character’s storyline, and embarks a new era for Bond.
It seems we’ve used three movies to reestablish Bond’s place. Since this “trilogy” is now done, I think it’s time to once again go back to the novels for more direct inspiration. After Casino, the next novel Fleming published was Live and Let Die. If you remember the movie version, it was Roger Moore’s first, known as the “blaxploitation” one, about voodoo and Harlem jazz and drugs and Yaphet Kotto playing Mr. Big, and that weird painted guy Baron Samedei that kept laughing. It obviously deviates from the book, which is why I think it deserves a new treatment. Bring in Tarantino as co-director or consultant to make an interesting blaxploitation take on Bond. Here’s how I imagine it going down…
In the novel, Bond is sent to investigate Buonapart Ignace Gallia (BIG), a Jamaican voodoo leader with smuggling connections to Harlem. Turns out he’s smuggling gold coins from a pirate ship to finance Russian spies. Bond teams up with Felix Leiter (CIA) and meets Mr. BIG’s celibate fortune teller mistress Solitare as he investigates in Harlem, Florida, and Jamaica. In the novel Bond finds out the coins are smuggled in the bottom of exotic fish tanks. Felix is fed to a shark and left crippled. This scene was so brutal it wasn’t in the movie, but they later put it in License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, which was a lot darker. Bond ends up sneaking on BIG’s yacht and planting a mine, but BIG captures him and Solitaire and keelhauls them, dragging them under the boat and cutting them up on the coral to attract sharks. But the mine blows the ship up and they survive and BIG dies. The keelhauling scene was really tense too but they borrowed it later in For Your Eyes Only.
The first film version changed it from pirate treasure to heroine, with BIG’s plan to flood the market with free heroine and get everyone hooked. Solitaire was white, because back then mainstream audiences couldn’t handle a white ending up with a black girl.
This could be adapted into a timely film. The original novel played on fears of Communists working through the black power movement. The reboot could play on fears of immigration and the drug trade, or terrorists using black Muslims in the American South, or focus on the opium trade in the Middle East and of the fears of Muslim extremists there. Our top national security fears seem to be terrorism and economic warfare.Either way, using drugs to finance terrorism is topical. The novel controversially reflected Flemings’ and other white peoples’ fears of the rising power of blacks in the 50s, so this novel could examine America and Britian’s fears of Muslims and/or immigrants.
Buonapart Ignace Gallia is a character few think Kotto gave justice in the original film.
Old Mr. BIG New Mr. BIG
An idea is to use someone like 50 Cent, Jay Z or DMX to make BIG a gangsta (50’s done this before in Righteous Kill, and it’ll attract more diverse viewers since 007 has been more of a stiff white guy’s action star) who works for a bigger drug lord in Haiti or Jamaica. The novel dealt a lot with jazz culture, so today a gangsta rapper could play a drug smuggler operating out of a club (why Bond would need Felix’s help as an undercover, naturally). He could even do the movie title song, since we have yet to have a hip hop artist do the opener.
The real villain would operate from a Caribbean island, painting his enforcers up and having them and perform brutal executions and litter the place with dead bodies as totems to intimidate local officials. A rising star I think could be used is Giancarlo Esposito, who played Gus Fring in Breaking Bad. He’s Chilean, but has that “versatile ethnicity” that works on Americans who often can’t tell one non-caucasian from another. His zen-like approach to criminal characters is classic Bond-ish (I’d love to see him in a knife fight), and a cold and ominous pairing with a company of “savage”, ghostly butchers under his command. Or the character himself could play dramatically into his own voodoo act, though not quite as corny as Baron Samedai. Another good choice would be Djimon Hounso (from Gladiator) or Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes) as BIG. They’d probably go with someone Americans haven’t heard of as usual and cast someone like Seydou Boro.
However, the twist could be that even with BIG and the “voodoo butchers”, the true “mastermind” to turns out to be a Calypso-like pirate/smuggler woman who orchestrates the whole thing (and may possibly be working for Quantum—the SPECTRE of the reboot series, appatently). The islanders could call her “Solitaire” because she surrounds herself with men yet is chaste, and circles around the actual island operating from a stolen cruise liner that she uses to smuggle drugs, weapons, etc. Not some seductive woman who toys with Bond, but a real nasty one the men fear. Imagine Hazelle Goodman, who played Evelda Drumgo in Hannibal.
They could actually call the film Property of a Lady (since it’s the name of a story and hasn’t been used as a Bond movie title yet). Bond will be sent by the Queen to bid for a lost sunken artifact treasure belonging to the royal family, only to sniff out that the current owner, a “treasure diver”, is underbidding the item to bump up the price to finance the drug trade similar to the short story, which they also use in Octopussy). Moneypenny and Q can assist him.
So the pun would be on the Queen’s property, the idea of the Queen once “owning” the world through Empire, the idea of a woman being the villain who owns her drug empire, and the long-lasting effects of colonialism and empire. If the film takes place in the Middle East instead of America and Jamaica, it would also be interesting to have a woman be the “main baddie” in a country in which we would assume women are a sub-class. I’m reminded of an episode of Law and Order: SVU in which a female Muslim extremist infiltrates an American slave trade as a sex slave. Hey giveaway is that since Islam forbids tattoos, they discover her fake slave house tattoo is painted on.
Another reason to use LaLD is the Felix plot. They left Felix out of Skyfall because it’s all about MI6. He should return for the next film and grow closer with Bond as the “two empires” work together investigating the islands (or Middle-East, or even South America). The feeding of Felix to a shark (or some other brutal fate sincethis was used in LTK) is dark enough for the new series, and can explore the theme of friendship that’s in the book (in Quantum remember that Bond holds Mathis as he dies, and the scene was so tender it was almost weird for a 007 movie). Felix survives but is disfigured for life. They actually leave him in a body bag for Bond to find with a note: “He disagreed with something that ate him“. This would once again test his limits of seeking revenge on a mission. Likewise, they could use the scene of Bond and “the Bond girl” being drug across a coral reef, or some similar kind of torture, only to be rescued by a mine or something. Imagine Bond battling through a sinking pirated cruise ship to save the girl and elude the villain, like in Uncharted 3. Imagine the defeated villain shooting the glass of a submerged foyer and the water cascading down in an effort to drown Bond also.
So, I predict they use the novel Live and Let Die, possibly given the title Property of a Lady, as the next 007 film. Bond investigates an auction for the Queen, steps into a drug deal in the Caribbean/Americas (or the Middle-East) that funds terrorism, a club owner played by a rapper, Buonapart Ignace Gallia played by a prominent actor and having skull-painted psycho henchmen, only for an imposing woman to be the villain behind the curtain, one who hides out on a cruise ship made into palace/smuggling rig. Felix gets fed to some animal, Bond and the token girl (Poker Summore, Juicy Cotoure, Fanny J Crosby—whatever they name her) get tortured and rescued thanks some Q gadget. It could explore the remnants of colonialism and foreign policy and the drug wars and terrorism and race all in one relevant post-9/11 Bond film. And it would attract a long-lost minority audience.
I enjoyed writing this post. It brought out the 7th grader in me. Now I want to just quit blogging and rewrite that adolescent spy novel about the nuclear bomb that’s the size of a billiards ball.