At a London event marking the end of a seven-day James Bond relay across England, former Bond girl Britt Ekland said the key to the legendary secret agent’s longevity is his “Britishness.”
“It’s a thoroughly British thing. It has always retained its Britishness,” the 69-year-old actress told the Telegraph. “I think that’s very important because foreigners, particularly Americans, think that British people are very quaint and strange and speak with a very strange accent, and they played on that.”
“I’ve been in it,” said the Swedish actress, who played Mary Goodnight in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, “and a lot of the villains have been foreigners, but the key to it is the Britishness.”
Ekland was at Monday’s event in London to celebrate the release of all 22 Bond films in an anniversary Blu-ray box set. She was joined by actor Richard Kiel, who played the character Jaws in two of the movies, beginning with The Man the Golden Gun.
Ekland had no doubt about who was the best Bond girl: that honor, she says, belongs to Ursula Andress, who played Honey Rider in Dr. No.
“I think Mary Goodnight pales in comparison to Ursula Andress. I don’t think anybody ever made that impact on the screen, ever. We were all good at what we did, but she was just absolutely magnificent,” Ekland said. “There were Bond girls that were prettier than her, maybe had even better figures than her, but she made the biggest impact.”
Ekland, who played opposite Roger Moore, also thinks he was the best 007.
“I think Roger is the best Bond, of course – not just because of being my Bond, but because if you read the early Ian Fleming books describing him, that’s how he was,”
At the same time, Ekland had high words of praise for Daniel Craig, whom she described as a “very, very good Bond, because he is modern Bond.” Craig’s 007, she said, “is an action hero, what the young people want. They would just laugh at me and Roger today.”
• Britt Ekland isn’t the only one playing the “who’s the best Bond?” game. The Guardian is using the current Bond-mania as a peg to launch a series titled “My favourite Bond film”. (The extra “U” is, of course, for U.K.)
Interestingly, the two columns the Guardian has run so far explore different aspects of a similar notion, namely, that there’s a powerful tendency to claim as our favorite Bond movie the one we saw first.
“From Russia With Love is my favorite James Bond movie,” Peter Bradshaw wrote in the inaugural column, “simply because it is the first Bond I ever saw at the cinema.”
In yesterday’s piece, Philip French wrote that even though Casino Royale is “arguably” the best of the books and that the 2006 Daniel Craig movie version “was unquestionably the closest the movie series has come to capturing the spirit of Fleming’s early work,” he still says he likes 1962’s Dr. No “far more than any of its successors.”
Much of what French likes about Dr. No is deeply intertwined with the fact that it was the first movie.
He cites as his reasons all the things that became trademarks throughout the series: the first shot of Sean Connery as Bond at the gaming tables with his now iconic self-introduction (“My name is Bond, James Bond.”), the outlandish villain hellbent on world domination, the inventive production design by Ken Adam, humorous quips, and Bond girls.
But French likes all those things in Dr. No precisely because they were new and not yet part of a formula.
“They are freshly hatched, unselfconscious, curiously innocent, less knowing, not yet stamped with copyright signs declaring their proprietary nature,” he writes.
“The Bond series,” he points out, “was not then a franchise (a term that was not to be applied to the cinema for decades to come). Nor was it an institution, or a curious, outdated source of national pride, or an embarrassingly archaic badge of national pride, of a Britain continuing to punch above its weight on the international scene.”
Ouch! Take that, Britt Ekland!
What’s your favorite Bond movie?