What would James Bond do if he ever left MI6?
It’s a question raised in many 007 films as the British spy is written off at various points as a “has-been” or a “dinosaur” from the Cold War, made obsolete by the digital world.
It is something I’ve wondered myself. I wasn’t convinced that a (temporarily) retired Bond would really spend his days drinking shots and sipping Heineken in a sleazy beach resort, as he did in Skyfall.
When roving the world seeking out baddies, Bond generally poses as some kind of a businessman – imports and exports – but might a second career in academia (international relations?) be better suited to his talents if he were ever kicked out of espionage?
As a tortured loner, he wouldn’t have to have that much contact with colleagues or students if he found the right posting.
Having the famous secret agent leading a seminar might sound ridiculous, but I can reveal that Bond would make a pretty good university lecturer. Or at least, Daniel Craig would as I was once in his class.
While knocking around London after graduation around 2003, I worked briefly as a film extra, spending time on the set of Enduring Love, an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel, starring the future Commander Bond.
Craig played a sociology lecturer pursued by a weirdo stalker (Rhys Ifans) and I was one of the soon-to-be 007’s students, who had to listen to him give a lecture on the nature of love in a University College London classroom.
Craig was fairly unknown at that point (although he’d been brilliant in the BBC’s Our Friends in the North), but his charisma and talent was unmistakable that day.
Due to numerous takes and camera shots, my fellow extras and I had to listen to him give the same few lines of dialogue for hours on end.
But he uttered the words with such conviction and intensity that the day didn’t drag. Craig kept things bearable by joking with us civilians (mostly UCL undergraduates) who’d ended up on the film set.
Having just left university, Craig’s effort at a lecture felt pretty authentic. It was a bit more interactive than those I’d received as a student, so perhaps his character was something of a pedagogical pioneer.
Maybe Bond (or Craig) would follow through on that kind of audience participation?
Would he invite a few students up to the front to demonstrate how to dispatch a psychotic super-villain or a hulking henchman? Of course, he’d probably need to get a PhD and may baulk at having his methods questioned, in this case, by an external examiner or academic mentor.
One of my fellow students that day was an unknown Ben Whishaw – now reunited with Craig as gadget man Q in Spectre.
Sadly, my appearance in that scene (and another filmed in a freezing UCL concourse) ended up on the cutting room floor. Whishaw was playing Hamlet at the Old Vic the following year and is now a key part of the 007 franchise.
Bitterness aside, it was a fascinating few days but academia’s role in the film’s final cut was almost non-existent. It wasn’t exciting enough for cinema – and probably wouldn’t be for Mr Bond either.