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You know his name, you’ve memorized his number, and you know how he takes his martinis; but do you really know the man who is Bond, James Bond? It’s hard to say, as he really wasn’t given much opportunity to develop as a character in the first iteration of the decades spanning franchise. It’s something that Sam Mendes intends to explore very thoroughly in Spectre, and he plans to answer some long standing questions about how James became Bond.
Warning: We will get in to spoilers for the Daniel Craig era of Bond.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly during a recent interview, Mendes elaborated on how he changed the franchise with his record-breaking film Skyfall by noting that by the end of the film, the Bond universe was officially and totally rebooted. With the death of Dame Judi Dench’s M, the final vestiges of Bond 1.0 were thrown off and for good, allowing Sam Mendes to push further into material that he hinted at in the third act of the 2012 action adventure film. The driving force of the Bond franchise’s immediate future, according to Mendes, is the following:
The Bond creation myth never happened… I felt there was an opportunity there: What made him? And who were the people who affected him along the way? You’re sort of telling the story backwards of how Bond became Bond.
Throughout Skyfall, we learn that James Bond was orphaned as a child, which is explained in the Fleming source material as the result of a mountain climbing accident that claims his Scottish father and Swiss mother. This not only puts him on a hard scrabble path throughout his life, but it also makes him a perfect candidate for service in the clandestine world of espionage.
This background is, for the most part, never used in the first 20 films that made up the previous incarnation of the James Bond franchise, much like the incident involving Vesper Lynd. A lot of this background was only ever developed in the literary source material, as well as Charlie Higson’s "Young Bond" series of novels – though whether the latter is accepted as canon or not is to be debated. While few have dipped their toes into Ian Fleming’s original literature, Sam Mendes seems to be diving in head first with his films... and it’s about time.
James Bond has always typified the "international man of mystery," but when we first saw him in Dr. No, he was already an operative in the field of espionage. From that point on, and through 20 films, we learned only what we needed to know to follow him along on an adventure and that was it. However, once Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale rebooted the franchise in 2006 – a full 44 years after the first Bond film hit theaters - a new focus on the origins of Bond started to take hold. We saw him not only earn his 00 status, but also witnessed the heartbreak that shaped him from day one. From that moment, James Bond ceased to be an archetype and started to become something he was never allowed to be: a person. It’s that thread of "Bond Begins" that’s followed through both Mendes’ Skyfall, as well as Marc Forster’s misguided Quantum Of Solace, and it’s what the acclaimed stage director wants to follow through on in Spectre.
Of course, this only fuels the previous speculation that Skyfall and Spectre serve as the first two parts to a core trilogy that would help keep the Bond franchise going for another couple of decades, and it’s a good reason why Sam Mendes needs to stay on for a third film. The foundation for Bond 2.0 was laid with Skyfall and is rising quickly with Spectre from what we’ve seen. One more film should help put the character in a good position to carry on with business as usual, as well as provide a fitting swan song for Daniel Craig’s tenure as the character. Though, to be fair, Sam Mendes probably already has those thoughts running through his head, and just as he reneged on his rejection of directing Spectre, we’ll never say never until Bond 25 goes into production without him.
Spectre hits theaters on November 6th.