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 Friday, 22 November, 2002, 13:17 GMT
Will the real James Bond stand up?

Four decades of battling evil madmen should have taken its toll, so how has James Bond evolved to carry on spying into the 21st Century?
He was born in Scotland in 1924, but the septuagenarian appears as virile as ever, despite many years of smoking an estimated 70 unfiltered Turkish cigarettes a day and drinking countless Vodka Martinis, "shaken, not stirred".

Roger Moore in The Man With The Golden Gun
Girls and guns, the Bond constants
The creation of real life intelligence operative and old Etonian Ian Fleming, Bond borrowed his 007 title from Dr John Dee. The 16th century British secret agent used the code for his messages to Queen Elizabeth I. The two zeros meant "for your eyes only".

A decade after the first Bond novel was published in 1952, Bond arrived in the cinema, through an unlikely duo of independent producers, Harry Saltzman and "Cubby" Broccoli.

Gone for a Burton

They couldn't afford their preferred choices: David Niven, Richard Burton or James Mason. So they ended up casting an unknown, Sean Connery.

Since then more than two billion people have watched 007 save the world. Having exhausted Fleming's 14 novels, the screenwriters have been inventing new storylines for some years now, while retaining the original formula of guns, gadgets and girls.

Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever
Is 007 really New Man material?
Some have dubbed Bond a social anachronism since the early 1970s, when Roger Moore donned his elegant guise. While others have perceived changes in the hero's nature.

Pierce Brosnan - now in his fourth Bond adventure - has seen no need to modify his attitude to women. "He is sexist, completely. And if you don't make him that, then you don't have a Bond movie".

Even Bond devotees are now giving serious consideration to the notion that Brosnan might be the first serious rival to Connery as the supreme 007.

Sssch-ophisticated Sean

Connery, a former merchant sailor, bodybuilder and milkman, might as well have inhabited a different planet to Ian Fleming's invention, oozing sophistication from every pore.

Pierce Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough
Bond is still a sexist, says Brosnan
But even though he had to wear a hairpiece, Connery's instinctive feel for the character's detached, sardonic response to every predicament made him the hardest act to follow.

Few can remember much about George Lazenby's single appearance in the role. And critics felt Roger Moore played it too much for laughs, despite great success at the box-office.

And many fans believed that in the mouth of the Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton, Bond's one-liners - "He met his Waterloo" (when his adversary has been felled by a statue of the Duke of Wellington) - were anything but crushing.

New enemies

Along the way, the world has changed dramatically and the end of the Cold War has meant a search for new villains. However, US agents still play second fiddle to Britain's man.

Timothy Dalton
'Bond, sire. James Bond.' Shakespearean Bond
That doesn't trouble MGM, who've largely been kept afloat by the commercial success of the films, which earn an average pre-tax profit of more than $100million.

But while the Coca-Colonisation of global culture is kept at bay, the exploitation of the Bond movies for global marketing, or product placement, is growing.

The Aston Martin or Walther PPK may be essential, but the Ericsson phone and the Calvin Klein sunglasses are regarded as undesirable intrusions by some fans.

Stubbed out

There have been other changes. The new Bond is seemingly more aware of health risks, cutting down on his smoking and his alcohol intake.

George Lazenby
Lazenby: model looks, but a model Bond?
And Brosnan's Bond suffers, as never before, in Die Another Day as he is tortured by the North Koreans.

Battered, bruised, dirty and demoralised, it's part of the attempt by writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to bring back Fleming's hero. "Bond's trials bring out his vulnerable side", says Wade.

Brosnan's co-star, Halle Berry, apart from endowing the film with the prestige of Best Actress Oscar-winner, also ventures into new territory.

Undercover action

Previously we were lucky if we stayed for the sexual foreplay, but "sex with Berry comes closer to orgasm in this film than one ever thought to see, though not to imagine", says Alexander Walker, the respected film critic of the London Evening Standard.

Berry sees her character as "the next step in the evolution of the Bond woman".

Halle Berry in Die Another Day
Is Halle Berry a different kind of Bond girl?
"Year after year they've got a little stronger and a little smarter," she says, "while still retaining their sexiness".

Or, as Alexander Walker puts it, "no longer the expendable totty...but a pro-active co-star".

Despite the intelligence she brings to her role, Halle Berry confesses that the biggest attraction for her was the same Bond ingredient that keeps audiences buying tickets: fun.

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