With ‘No Time to Die’ finally set to hit cinemas, we take a look at how French culture has shaped the James Bond franchise, from stunts and cars to fashion and food
James Bond and France go together like a vodka martini and a twist of lemon peel. Across 40 books, 26 official and two non-official films, Ian Fleming’s suave spy has travelled widely throughout the country, has driven French cars, tucked into Tournedos with sauce Béarnaise, has saved the world in Vuarnet sunglasses and has fallen deeply in love with two French women. It’s not an overstatement, then, to say that without France, the 007 we know and love would not exist. As No Time to Die finally makes it into cinemas here’s a closer look at the ways the country has shaped the James Bond franchise.
Playing a bombmaker pursued on foot by Daniel Craig’s Bond in Madagascar, Sébastien Foucan has about eight minutes’ screentime in Casino Royale. That was more than enough time for the creator of freerunning (a form of parkour) to change the way the world looked at 007 stunts, which, by the time the film was released in 2006, had become ridiculously unrealistic. Showing astonishing dexterity, Foucan brought Bond action scenes back down to earth with a hop, skip and a jump – scaling a crane, pinballing down a liftshaft and bouncing around rooftops. While the scene announced Foucan and freerunning to a global audience, the Frenchman, who now runs the Foucan Freerunning Academy in London, has mixed feelings about the sequence, expressing concern that his character played a part in Hollywood’s typecasting of black actors as villains. He remains fiercely proud, though, of his physical performance on set and the scene’s place among the best Bond action set pieces of all time.
Whether it’s an Aston Martin DB5 with an ejector seat or a Lotus Esprit that becomes a submarine, one of the pillars of any Bond film is the incredible car he drives. That formula was tweaked brilliantly in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only by putting 007 behind the wheel of the very antithesis of a supercar – the Citroën 2CV. First produced in 1948, the tortoise-like French oddity acted as the most unlikely getaway vehicle as Bond (Roger Moore) and Bond girl Melina Havelock (French actress Carole Bouquet) tore around the Spanish countryside (actually Corfu) outfoxing villains in more powerful cars. The use of the 2CV was a deliberate attempt by director John Glen to make 007 more grounded after the spy headed to space two years earlier in Moonraker – the car’s involvement resulting in a unique chase scene. The action sequence was choreographed by legendary French stunt driver Rémy Julienne using a number of modified four-cylinder vehicles. The 2CV’s popularity has grown over the years, with tourist companies in Paris using them for tours around the city.
Do a poll of the greatest James Bond scenes and Ursula Andress emerging from the surf wearing a white bikini in 1962 film Dr No is bound to top the list. It’s an iconic moment – not only in the history of the franchise, but in all of cinema – made possible by a French automobile engineer turned costume designer. Having taken over his mother’s lingerie business, Louis Réard launched the modern two-piece bikini in 1946 after noticing that women tended to roll up the bottom part of their costumes to get a better tan. The skimpy garment caused a mammoth stir and was banned on family beaches. Then Ursula Andress happened. The two-piece – designed by Andress and costume designer Tessa Prendergast – was echoed 40 years later when Halle Berry recreated the Dr No scene wearing an orange bikini in Die Another Day. It showed the enduring appeal of Louis Réard’s daring creation, which, of course, is still hugely popular today.
During Roger Moore’s farewell performance as 007 in 1985’s A View to a Kill, Bond does something we have never seen him do before, or since. Staying over at the San Francisco home of geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), the spy heads to the kitchen to make a meal. His inspiration? French cuisine. While Bond dubs his creation ‘Quiche de Cabinet’ having rummaged through the cabinets to see what’s available, the dish is clearly 007’s take on a Quiche Lorraine. Inevitably, the scene has prompted Bond followers to try and create their own Quiche de Cabinet. One such fan is Edward Biddulph, founder of James Bond Food, a website dedicated to 007’s culinary preferences.
“French food has played a big role in the books and the films and reflects the tastes of Ian Fleming who often visited the country,” he says. “In 1953 the author travelled to Marseille as a journalist and in his reporting mentioned the city’s famous bouillabaisse, which then made it into (1963 novel) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Having studied everything Bond has eaten, Biddulph can say with authority that 007 is a big fan of French food. “Bond has a simplicity when it comes to food,” he says. “He likes the best, but the best doesn’t have to be the most sophisticated. It can be good local or regional fare and that typifies French cooking.”
BOND GIRLS WITH SUBSTANCE
Ask Eva Green about her career-defining turn as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and she talks about how being a Bond girl can be a double-edged sword. “It’s a curse sometimes for Bond girls because you get typecast and never
work again,” says the French actress. “Sometimes you do a red carpet and a journalist will ask, ‘Oh my God, how does it feel to be a Bond girl?’ and you want to die. On the other hand I take it as a compliment because this
Bond girl has a name and she’s complicated.” Vesper Lynd is indeed a Bond girl with substance, Green redefining what 007’s love interest should be. As female roles in Bond films evolved from being wafer thin to fully formed, there were increasingly good parts for women in the franchise leading up to Casino Royale. Lynd was a new high-water mark for Bond girls, though – a complex character who matched 007 every step of the way.
With the casting of Green working out so well, it’s small wonder another French actress was chosen to be the current Bond girl. And like Lynd, Madeleine Swann is a multi-layered, intriguing character Bond falls in love with, played to perfection by Léa Seydoux in 2015’s Spectre and the upcoming No Time to Die. Her casting brings the number of French Bond girls to seven, starting with Claudine Auger in 1965 and followed by Corinne Clery, Carole Bouquet, Sophie Marceau, Green and Bérénice Marlohe. Given the impact they’ve had, Seydoux won’t be the last French actress to leave 007 shaken and stirred.
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