What Tenet Borrowed Directly From Sean Connery’s James Bond, According To The Film’s Costumer

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in Tenet

Back when we were uncertain what, exactly, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was going to be, a shorthand description of the time-bending thriller was, “It’s Nolan’s answer to James Bond.” And as it turns out, the people who were working on Tenet with Nolan used the 007 movies as a reference point, to both set the tone and establish the mood.

Jeffrey Kurland has been doing costume design for Christopher Nolan’s films since Inception, contributing to Dunkirk as well before taking up the task for Tenet. The Oscar-nominated costume designer’s credits also include Ocean’s Eleven, Collateral and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He also collaborated in multiple Woody Allen films during that director’s prime. So yeah, a legend. When discussing with Esquire the influence that the Bond franchise had on Tenet, Kurland pointed at Sean Connery – of course – but not just for the style. For the attitude. Kurland said:

If you’re making a movie like this then Bond is the kingpin. It’s like the big kahuna. But you want to make it different. I was more creating the Sean Connery Bond than anything else. Not necessarily suit styles but the way the suit is worn by the character and the way he looks in the suit, and I was trying to go beyond that. It’s more the character of Sean Connery’s Bond, not necessarily the clothes he was wearing, because obviously those were made in the Sixties. It’s a totally different period. But it still, as a look, lasts and works. You want to achieve the essence of that, without stealing it, but still get the satisfaction that it gave. When you went to your first James Bond movie and saw Sean Connery, you thought: ‘Wow, this guy’s amazing, I want to grow up to be like that.’ You wanted that quality.

Fashion can instill that sense of cool. Jeffrey Kurland absolutely nailed that aesthetic in his Ocean’s Eleven. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and that entire cast looked so amazingly cool, all I wanted to do after watching that film was camp in a casino and plot a theft.

The same can be said for Tenet and, by extension, Sean Connery’s Bond. It calls to mind a conversation that The Protagonist (John David Washington) has with Michael Caine’s character about Brooks Brothers suits, and fitting in to this new world of high-stakes espionage. Often, you have to LOOK the part if you are going to feel like you fit in. Connery’s Bond always looked the part, and I love that Kurland pulled that inspiration to bring it to Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is playing in theaters worldwide, where it can be seen safely. Theater restrictions have limited its financial impact, though the movie has climbed to $250 million worldwide, which – considering its status as the canary in the coal mine – is impressive.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.