At the Television Critic’s Association Winter Press Tour, BBC America previewed its new miniseries, FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND, which showcased massive war explosions in the background of some gorgeously filmed and very sexy scenes. As described by BBC America’s General Manager Perry Simon, FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND is “a stunningly produce miniseries that tells the story of Bond creator Ian Fleming, who own life was the inspiration for 007.”
Ian Fleming may have only lived grand spy adventures in his own mind and in putting them on paper for the character James Bond, but he certainly drew from his own wartime efforts to help create his iconic fictional hero. Executive producer Douglas Rae said, “To anyone who knows the background to Ian [Fleming], he was such an enigmatic, chameleon kind of character. But, for me, the fascination was doing a film about the man who desperately wanted to be somebody else, his alter ego, this heroic kind of all-action hero.” Director Mat Whitecross added, “What’s fascinating about Bond . . . he’s a very dark, kind of depressive, quite twisted character . . . he’s actually reactive most of the time. He’s not always an action man. A lot of stuff happens to him or happens around him – and the villain really wins.” He compared Bond’s adventures that to Fleming’s own adventures, “which are like Bond’s, but then he constantly kind of doesn’t come up to scratch – on his own terms, he fails.”
As the miniseries shows, Fleming tried time and time again to make his own contribution to the covert spy efforts to turn the tide in World War II. Whether his account of his contribution is to be fully believed or not, it makes for a fascinating story about what likely inspired him to write the James Bond stories.
The opening scene feels very Bond-esque with an underwater chase and a spear-gun. But it sets the tone perfectly in introducing the vivid life of Ian Fleming, as he perhaps saw himself as the hero of his own story, which inspired him to write the daring tales of 007. Whether it is from the depths of the blue Mediterranean sea or to the snow-capped mountains of Europe or the dazzling London ballrooms, every image and scene is maximized to display its inherent beauty. Co-star Lara Pulver even remarked, “We also had an extraordinary cinematographer, Ed Wild, who has just done such a beautiful job of making it so cinematic and beautiful.” It is a feast for the eyes and you will not be able to look away.
As richly explored in the miniseries, Fleming’s long-standing love affair with Ann Charteris (portrayed by Lara Pulver), was steamy, shocking and violent at times. Their relationship and attraction was quite explosive and it was the one drug neither could give up. For the actors, it required a level of trust to film such scenes together. As Lara Pulver explained, “There was an instant respect and instant trust of each having each other’s backs, which is so vital when you’re depicting two very volatile people . . . where you want to display and explore their extremes. . . You want to feel them at their most vulnerable and exploit them at their most aggressive.” Even director Mat Whitecross admitted, “[Fleming’s] relationship with women was by modern standards very problematic. I think he was quite misogynistic. They had a kind of S&M relationship, which was fascinating, because even now it’s quite shocking. They were both very forward-thinking for the time.” The raw chemistry of Dominic Cooper and Lara Pulver really enhances the feeling of undeniable attraction and how Fleming and Ann could never fight the magnetic pull in each other’s lives.
Modern Spy Craft
If Flemings’ own accounts are to be believed, he was instrumental in helping both the British and Americans come up with some of the most commonly used spy craft and techniques still used to this day. Fleming may be remembered best for his fictional creation, James Bond, but in the real world, he should be remembered for taking his spy instincts and putting them on paper as the backbone of modern spy craft. His rich imagination may have ultimately saved countless lives over the decades. That is a true legacy worth remembering.
Whether Fleming’s life lived up to the grand heroics of James Bond, it does not really matter as his stories have delighted decades upon decades of film-goers and fans around the world. What exactly is the appeal of these tales? Lara Pulver said, “There’s so much storytelling involved with being a spy because you’re constantly creating and living a kind of life, which means that there is no limit. I guess what that creates is an audience who kind of know the truth, but are going along for the ride with this kind of anti-hero.” Hero or anti-hero, fans simply love James Bond. As long as there are stories to tell, fans will keep flocking to buy the books or buy movie tickets.
So while Ian Fleming may have thought his own life never quite measured up to the super spy he had created, star Dominic Cooper summed up the James Bond legacy with, “It’s an amazing franchise that keeps redefining itself so cleverly and brilliantly. And I’m always amazed how its spread across generations who still love it as much.”
To see the miraculous and incredulous adventures that inspired a spy for all ages, be sure to tune in for the 4-hour mini-series FLEMING: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND on Wednesday, January 29th at 9:00 p.m., which airs on 4 consecutive Wednesdays and concluding on February 19th, on BBC America.
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