André Millard

 

On his book Equipping James Bond: Guns, Gadgets, and Technological Enthusiasm

Cover Interview of July 24, 2019

A close-up

For the average movie goer who thinks of James Bond as the secret agent with the gadgets, I would suggest Chapter 11 “Gadgets” This chapter works through Bond’s equipment film by film, filling in the development of each technology and how its use in the film compared with the reality of espionage. This chapter also tells the story of how the producers of the films managed to acquire the latest devices used by the armed forces and secret services. Bond had many fans among the world’s intelligence services and when agents were not showing some of their newest toys to the film’s producers, they were inquiring about obtaining some of the gadgets they had noticed in the latest 007 film. The tiny rebreather device used in Thunderball which allows Bond to swim underwater for long periods brought in many enquiries from the world’s intelligence services (even though it was simply put together by the film’s prop department and could never work).

Both Russian and American intelligence officers reported that during the heyday of Bondmania in the 1960s and 1970s their operatives often asked them “Why don’t we have all those neat toys and technical gadgets that Q makes for Bond?” This book shows that art can influence life.

For the hard-core Bond fan—the person who not only sees all the films but also buys the merchandise—Chapter 16 “Keeping Up With the Times” should be required reading. This chapter follows the commercialization of the James Bond character into a consumer brand and explains how the Bond films became a potent force in advertising high-end luxury goods. Some of Bond’s critics have called his adventures a wealth fantasy. Fleming included the brand names of what he called “quality products” in the Bond books because he wanted his hero to have the best of everything, from the soap he uses to the car he drives. As the Finlandia vodka advert pointed out “James Bond is only associated with the best things in life, the best cars, the best women, and the best vodka.”


rorotoko.comJames Bond Board Game.

As the films became more popular any product showcased in Bond’s hands enjoyed a huge surge in sales. Fleming told Sean Connery that the product placements were “nothing but padding” but now they are essential both to the Bond formula and to the financing of the films. With budgets of each film reaching up to $300 million, the financial contributions of the brand partners are essential. In the latter part of the twentieth century the typical Bond villain moved from the bad guys of World War 2 and Cold War to corporate criminals such as successful industrialists like Hugo Drax (Moonraker) and media moguls like Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies). It is ironic that the world’s most famous secret agent has become a highly paid huckster for corporate interests.