Bond, James Bond, Tha' Knows

Bond, James Bond, Tha' Knows

When the producers of the James Bond movies were looking to refresh the franchise in 2005 they wanted a grittier, more realistic portrayal of the secret agent. "We very much thought it was time for a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is Bond," said Chief Executive Associate Chief Producer Godfrey Cabbage. "That's very much what we wanted. And after considering a number of options, we very much decided that he should be a Yorkshireman."

Silhouette

Of course, Ian Fleming didn't make Bond a Yorkshireman in his original novels, but then he didn't give him an invisible car and fire him into space either, so there is a precedent for the film series taking liberties with the character. In fact, the decision was very much a reaction to some of the comic-book excesses of earlier movies, as Head Chief Top Associate Managing Executive Producer Godfrey Cabbage explains.

"It was the case, we very much thought, that modern audiences did not want to see the hero infiltrating an enemy stronghold disguised as a crocodile or spazzing around Venice in a hovercraft gondola. A Yorkshire Bond, we very much felt, would not allow himself to get involved in anything so absurd. Ask him to escape down a snow-capped mountain on a cello case and he'd waste no time in telling you where to get off."

However, there were clearly problems with the initial versions of the screenplay. Although the characterisation of Bond's new persona was certainly authentic, there were concerns that it was a little rough around the edges, as this early draft shows.

After knocking out the two sentries with a cricket bat, Bond penetrates the control centre of SPECTRE's underground lair. As he walks into the dimly lit room, a shadowy figure swivels his chair to meet him. He leans forward and the light falls on his face. It is Blofeld. He sits, contemplating Bond as he strokes the white cat on his lap.

Bond:

How do. The name's Bond, James Bond, licenced t'kill, so think on. What's tha doin' wi that silly moggy? Tha wants to get thesen a ferret, tha knows.

Blofeld:

Ah Mr Bond, we meet at last! May I congratulate you on your excellent disguise. A flat cap and a dufflecoat must be difficult for someone of your excellent sartorial sensibilities to countenance.

Bond:

Aye well, it's reet parky outside. You don't expect me to catch pneumonia, does thee?

Blofeld:

No Mr Bond, I expect you to die. But first, let us be civilised. A drink, Mr Bond - I believe you favour vodka martini, shaken not stirred?

Bond:

Martini be blowed. Get a brew on, I'm spitting feathers here.

 

Hot burny fire

In the hope of developing a more sophisticated version of Bond, producers turned to Alan Bennett. Hailing from Yorkshire himself, it was felt that Bennett's mastery of idiom and dialogue would provide the franchise with a fully-rounded and believable character.

However, some of Bennett's ideas were questionable. For example, he was keen on creating a new villain, more rooted in real life. Bond's nemesis was to have been called Trevor Hardcastle and would have been the senior revenues officer for Calderdale Borough Council. The following excerpt is from the film's epic denouement, in which Bond finally stands face to face with his archenemy.

Bond, his arms firmly pinioned by two muscular gentlemen, is roughly escorted to Trevor Hardcastle's centre of operations. Mr Hardcastle is sat behind his desk, enjoying a cup of Earl Grey and a fondant fancy. He looks up as Bond enters and delivers an evil smile.

Mr Hardcastle:

Ah Mr Bond, we meet at last. I'm so glad you could find time in your busy schedule to visit me. Although I think that you will come to regret the intrusion. I'm afraid you owe me a debt and I believe that the day of reckoning has finally arrived.

Bond:

I don't owe thee nowt, Hardcastle. Now tell these fellas to let us go, or I'll chin thee.

Mr Hardcastle:

Oh come now, Mr Bond. Can you have forgotten so quickly? You owe Calderdale Borough Council eight months' worth of council tax. It's no good struggling, there's no escape. We'll go to court and get a liability order if we have to.

Bond:

You monster! You'll never get away with this! And what have you done with Gloria Chest?

Mr Hardcastle:

Ah, Miss Chest, your glamourous companion. I'm afraid you will never see the beautiful Miss Chest again.

Bond:

Oh no, you don't mean -

Mr Hardcastle:

Yes, she's working for me in the accounts department.

Bond:

Swine!

Mr Hardcastle:

Ha, ha! Now, Mr Bond, sign this direct debit mandate.

Bond:

Let's not beat about t'bush wi' all this 'direct debit mandate' nonsense. I know what you're really after - you want to take over the world.

Mr Hardcastle:

Take over the world! Good gracious, no. I really couldn't cope with all that bother. So much fuss and nonsense - and think of the admin. Oh no, no, no, I couldn't be doing with that, at all.

Bond:

Oh no? Then what is it you really want?

Mr Hardcastle:

Well. I wouldn't say no to a slice of fruitcake. And there's many an occasion when I find myself yearning after a chocolate digestive. So, if you could just sign here and Julie will give you a receipt on your way out.

Bennett was confident that Mr Hardcastle could have been a recurring character, and even thought there was potential for him to have a spin off movie of his own. But although there were many things that producers liked about Bennett's take on the franchise, they ultimately decided that something was missing. "We very much agreed that the lack of car chases, stunt sequences and explosions left too great a vacuum," said Associate Head Executive Overlord Chief Executive Producer Executive Godfrey Cabbage. "We thought that the sequence where Bond gets off the bus at the wrong stop was wonderfully tense, very much so, but it wasn't enough to sustain audience interest for the duration of the movie."

Flaming dancer

What the film needed was a script that delivered blistering, fast-moving action sequences, and it became clear that there was only one man for the job. For thirty years the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine had delighted audiences with high-octane thrills and spills as it followed the adventures of three senile old men wandering around the hills and valleys of Yorkshire. Who can forget the classic 'Compo Careers Down a Hill on Tea Tray' episode, the thrilling 'Compo Careers Down a Hill in a Wheelbarrow', or the harrowing 'Nora Batty Gets Shot While Trying to Infiltrate a Secret Underground Missile Installation'.

Writer Roy Clarke was an obvious choice for the job, and he didn't disappoint. He turned in a script in which James Bond and his fellow spies, Foggy and Clegg, convert an old ice cream van into a submarine in order to penetrate a secret SPECTRE base at the bottom of Ogden Reservoir. They destroy it using plastic explosive hidden in Bond's wellies, then escape by surfing to the shore on bits of the wreckage.

Not only was the script replete with action sequences, it also managed the very difficult balancing act of grounding the film in day-to-day life. Take for example this scene, in which several of the spies' wives gather in Mrs Bond's kitchen for a coffee and a natter.

Mrs Tanner:

Where's your James today, then?

Mrs Bond:

Up to no good, I shouldn't wonder. You know what spies are like as soon as you let them out of your sight.

Mrs Leiter:

Ooh, you don't need to tell me. My Felix stops out till all hours, then sneaks home at night, covered in blood and with his trousers riddled with bullet holes. And they think we don't notice!

Mrs Tanner:

I should say so! Well, I've told my Bill that the next time some henchman lunges at him with a knife, he can darn his own shirt. I said to him, you watch the kind of people you're mixing with, I said. One of these days someone is going to get hurt, so you think on.

Mrs Bond:

My James is no different. Always coming home with his clothes torn.

Mrs Leiter:

Aye, well, there's torn and there's torn, isn't there?

Mrs Bond:

Now, just what do you mean by that, Myrtle Leiter?

Mrs Leiter:

Nothing. Only that we've all seen the way your James carries on with that Miss Moneypenny from the launderette. I'm not saying that there's anything improper in it but, well, happen there's no smoke without fire.

With the major obstacles overcome, the film was set to go into production. The movie had a working title, There's Nowt So Dead as Folk, Sean Bean had been cast as the new Bond and the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band were going to do the theme tune. Why the project didn't go ahead is not entirely clear, although it's thought that producers got cold feet.

"We very much feared that the whole movie might turn out to be a bit crap," intimated Top Whack Chief Executive Head Honcho Producer Godfrey Cabbage. So, There's Nowt So Dead as Folk, was shelved and we ended up with Casino Royale instead, although we can at least be grateful that the studio retained the scene where Daniel Craig escapes from Le Chiffre by careering down a hill in a bathtub.

 

There's Nowt so Dead as Folk

 

Really obvious list of films

 

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