By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com September 26 2012 4:00 AM ET
This is surely the fall of James Bond. Skyfall, the 23rd adventure in the world's longest-running film franchise, hits theaters Nov. 9, with hunky Daniel Craig and two gay-adjacent actors in bigger roles than ever: Judi Dench (who played lesbian in Notes on a Scandal) will be at the center of Skyfall when she returns as M, while Javier Bardem (who played gay in Before Night Falls) joins the fun as the movie’s villain. Oh, and the theme song — an institution previously sung by everyone from Madonna to Duran Duran — will be sung by none other than Adele.
Don’t wait until November, though, to let your Bond freak flag fly. Oct. 5 is Global James Bond Day, and a worldwide series of events have been planned to sponsor the 50-year-old film hero, including a online and live charity auction at Christie’s in London, a month-long film retrospective at Museum of Modern Art in New York, a fashion exhibition at Toronto’s TIFF called “Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style,” and a Music of Bond night hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.
On Monday, for the first time ever, MGM released all 22 Bond films in one Blu-ray collection called BOND 50, and AMC celebrated by showing the original Bond film, Dr. No, starring Sean Connery, at 50 theaters nationwide and giving away Commemorative 50 Years of James Bond prints and DVD sets.
The fall’s best Bond bet though, is gay author Mark O’Connell’s new book, Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan (Splendid Books UK). The funny memoir recounts O’Connell’s childhood obsession with James Bond during his Margaret Thatcher-era childhood in the U.K. (where his grandfather Jimmy O’Connell worked as a chauffeur for 007 producers and stars Roger Moore and Sean Connery). How Bond affected his closeted adolescence and later his adult life as a comedy writer is deeply moving, and O'Connell's funny memoir feels like a incisive and quirky love letter to all things Bond.
We asked the witty author about why gays love Bond, what his partner thinks, and the films that inspired his gay childhood.
The Advocate: The Bond films had such a huge impact on your growing up and coming of age at a time when we didn't have Netflix and Hulu and instant access to movies. Do you think there are little gay boys today who are having a similar Bond experience you had, or is that lost in new technology?
Mark O'Connell: I love the retro visual of closeted gay boys of yesteryear secretly smuggling Bond films into their homes inside copies of beefcake mags and Elizabeth Taylor pictorials. “Honey, what is this?!" The movie rationing my generation had in those medieval times of no DVDs, Netflix, or Hulu certainly meant that watching these Bond movies was indeed an occasion to be savoured, and Catching Bullets celebrates that very different era of pre home-cinema moviegoing. Of course there is a new generation of gay boys only just discovering the Bond movies and the buff-with-the-smooth charms of Daniel Craig—I would never have left my bedroom if he was my first Bond! There will always be new technology. I’m sure watching Quantum of Solace on a cell phone at the mall will one day be amusingly antiquated, if it’s not already. I am just jealous of any kids encountering these films for the first time, regardless of how.
You and I have something in common: we both love Roger Moore as Bond. Tell me why he's your favorite Bond.
Fantastic! Another member for my Roger Moore Appreciation Group. We meet every other Tuesday in the local YMCA. Bring food. He was my first Bond, for starters. When I was a mere fledgling, I cracked out of my Bond fan eggshell to see Roger Moore towering over me like a flared and Bollinger-clutching colossus. Instantly he was my Bond. The rest would merely be pretenders to the throne, or my "Step Bonds." Moore is a pure matinee idol, an old-school professional who gets far less praise than is deserved — even from himself. There is the wrong assumption that Roger forever camps it up into some Paul Lynde routine. But his Bond, like all the Bonds, is also a 007 with an icy resolve, the ability to turn genuinely nasty, and the knack of sending out proper voltage as he enters a hotel, casino, or a lady’s shower cubicle. He has fun with the role, but rarely sends it up. And a walk-in wardrobe of safari suits was always going to be in his favour.
Have you found other gay Bond fans in your life?
I have encountered many a gay Bond fan, and they are introducing themselves to me through the book, which is great. There are a myriad of reasons why homosexual moths steer toward the 007 flame. Shirley Bassey, Ken Adam-designed apartments some of us would quite gladly turn to prostitution in order to own, Tom Ford tailoring, Daniel Craig sporting Ursula Andress’s second-hand skimpies, and enough bombastic brass and disco synths to power the dance floors of San Francisco for a whole decade. As lazy feminists try to attack the films for being sexist — sexy is never the same as sexist — they fail to note how these films are also custom-made for women and gay men. Everyone is thrown a bone, so to speak. There is always a great deal of effort and style thrown into a Bond film. Come on, the gays love a show.
Does your partner love Bond the way you do?
As we all did, my partner grew up with Bond films being an event on the TV, but he had never seen one in a movie theater. Shocking, I know. Angelina [Jolie] has flown to Africa for less. I swiftly broke his theatrical cherry with an early morning trip to see Die Another Day. And had he not fortuitously gone to the bathroom at the ghastly point Brosnan infamously ice-surfed, we would not be still together 10 years later.
Any big plans for Skyfall?
Skyfall? Are they doing another one? With Roger? Seriously, I am literally counting the days until the sky falls in on me. I’m contemplating organizing a 007-themed fancy-dress trip to the cinema with friends. Can a white boy from England get away with a Grace Jones headpiece and cape? It’s the golden anniversary, after all. Early word on Skyfall is electric and the caliber of creativity involved — director Sam Mendes of American Beauty and Road To Perdition, cinematographer Roger Deakins of True Grit, tunesmith Thomas Newman, an interstellar cast, and Eon Productions at the helm — suggest Skyfall is a perfect and potentially classic way to mark 50 years of Bond. I certainly think the 007 bosses are quietly proud of it.