“[James] Bond is a male character, that is just a fact,” longtime franchise producer Barbara Broccoli told Good Morning Britain during the launch event for Bond 25 aka No Time to Die. “We have to make movies about women and women’s stories,” Broccoli explained, “but we have to create female characters and not just for a gimmick turn a male character into a woman.”
Broccoli’s comments were made all the way back in April 2019 before the pandemic delayed the film over and over and over again. No Time to Die’s long road to hitting theaters has been shaded by the debate over whether there’s for a woman to take on the 007 role after Daniel Craig hangs up his tux later this year.
In the wake of discourse over Hollywood’s inability to foster female action talent, the general gender imbalance in major blockbusters, and James Bond’s long history of misogyny, many have recognized the need for a shake-up in the nearly 60-year-old movie franchise. If Doctor Who could finally imagine a female Doctor, maybe Ian Fleming’s written-male super spy could support a gender-bending twist. In September 2019, even ex-Bond Pierce Brosnan championed the idea. “I think we’ve watched the guys do it for the last 40 years,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter. “Get out of the way, guys, and put a woman up there. I think it would be exhilarating, it would be exciting.”
Broccoli poo-pooing the notion means there’s little chance of dramatic change in Bond’s future (though after years of pushing producers to consider Idris Elba for the iconic role as soon as Craig was done, one hopes that some amount of change might be possible). But a new hype-worthy featurette for No Time to Die suggests the criticism against the series has been heard: While Bond 25 may be a last hurrah for Craig’s iteration of the character, it’ll introduce at least two new female characters more than capable of keeping up with his running and gunning. Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) costars as Nomi, previously revealed as an agent who assists Bond in his mission to take down a tech-savvy villain, Safrin (Rami Malek). Adding to the significance of Lynch’s involvement, reports suggest Nomi will be the first woman and person of color to work under the moniker of 007, as Bond, who is in retirement in Jamaica when the film begins, supposedly passes on his code number either before or during the events of the film.
“I think they were just looking for someone who would be able to be a match for Bond,” says Lynch in a new profile in The Guardian. “Who would be able to stand up and be vocal and forthright and strong and able to handle a weapon, able to handle herself and not someone who takes any crap from anybody at all. Then, as it unfolded, she became this quite complicated, free, open-minded vocal human being who brings a really nice twist to MI6.”
Along with Lynch, Craig’s joined in the new installment by his Knives Out costar Ana de Armas, who plays Cuban agent Paloma. The first substantial footage of the character highlights action, with de Armas wielding two machine guns in a ballroom gown — that is to say, an extremely Bond moment. The video also shows both de Armas and Lynch’s training regiment, which looks brutal and more John Wickian than anything in the Bond canon.
In The Guardian profile, Lynch discusses a bit about working with Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge to punch up the No Time to Die script, and elevate the female characters away from the traditional “Bond Girl” set dressing roles.
“I said, I want her to be a real woman, but I don’t want her work to make her masculine. She’s not slick. She has it together, she’s highly competent and very highly skilled, but she’s a real human being and sometimes she’s awkward. And that’s what is so clever about Phoebe’s writing. Once we’d had a conversation about her possibly being awkward, there were some moments that I read that were just like, ‘Oh no, is she really going to say that in the scene? I’m so here for it!’”
The spectrum of “Bond Girls” ranges from femme fatales to one-dimensional bombshells and, in more recent years, women like Vesper Lynd, who for all her capability still existed to live, die, and emotionally prop up a male hero. Those days may be behind the promiscuous secret agent, if No Time to Die’s emphasis on tough, feminine agents is indicative of the finished product. Big if.
Will we ever see a female Bond? Probably not. Will we need one? Depends if producers Jinx the newcomers.