Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Should the Next 007 Be a Woman? Guest Post by M.P. Woodward

Should the Next 007 Be a Woman?

Let’s start with the obvious:  James Bond is dead. 

He was obliterated in 2021 by friendly fire when the HMS Dragon struck the weapons base run by Rami Malek’s evil villain, Lyustifer Safin. Though the title of the film is No Time to Die, Bond did just that—in style, of course. 

Tragically, after finally finding love and a daughter, our hero ordered cruise missiles onto his own head to vanquish a rogue whose name was basically Lucifer Satan. It was a noble death. And it marked the first and only time the Bond character was killed. 


One wonders if Amazon knew of Bond’s pending demise when it negotiated its acquisition of MGM.  Over 61 years, 25 films, and six actors, Bond franchise box office revenues have totaled $7.4 billion—about $1 billion less than Amazon paid for the studio.   Since the spy makes up a big chunk of MGM's profit, the e-commerce giant-turned-movie maker is going to need someone to strap on the Omega and shake the Vesper martinis—quick. 

Henry Cavill, Idris Elba, and Aaron Taylor Johnson are rumored to be on the shortlist for the next Tom Ford tux. Doubtless, any of these Brits could make Monaco’s backless beauties swoon at the gaming table.  They’re all safe double-oh choices.

But is a safe choice what we need in an unsafe world? 

With Putin, Xi, and Un shining up their missiles, we could use a double-oh that meets the moment, someone to take down these real-world madmen—not just a pinkie-in-mouth Dr. Evil. And given the track record of women in espionage, a female spy might get better results.

Let’s face it—somewhere along the way, Bond’s mission got a little hinky.

It wasn’t always thus. In Ian Fleming’s debut novel, Casino Royale (1953), Bond was a Cold Warrior, rooted in rococo realpolitik. His first mission was to defeat a KGB agent, Le Chiffre, who was financing Soviet espionage by winning high-stakes baccarat games. 

But in the Casino Royale of 2006—itself a reboot to introduce Daniel Craig—Le Chiffre was a mere glutton who manipulated financial securities by causing free market mayhem. Why not? Eighteen years ago, few of us gave a whit about geopolitics. We were too busy enjoying a bull market and an as-yet-unburst housing bubble. 

Not so much today.

Amazon’s new 007 will be born into a world that looks more like 1939 than 2006. With the largest European war since WWII raging, we could go for a grittier double-oh.  Do we really want an Aston Martin-driving dandy going after insecure outcasts like SPECTRE, Goldfinger, and Dr. No when Mad Vlad is running amok in the Kremlin? You have to go back 40 years to find the last time Bond battled a deranged Russian who wanted to nuke something—and that was Octopussy (1983).  Yikes.

At least the crazed Soviet general in that gem had a semi-plausible geopolitical mission.  The plans of most Bond villains over the years have been self-serving fantasies cooked up in dubious island lairs.  No, really.
Dr. No (1962), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Man With a Golden Gun (1974), Die Another Day (2002), and No Time to Die (2021) all feature private, self-funded maniacs operating from secret island bases with fantastical technical infrastructure.  No wonder James was so distracted by romantic pursuits—so were his enemies. 

Today calls for a more serious operator.

Think of the stakes. We need look no further than the Chinese Communist Party for a true-to-life Bond villain.  Xi Jinping has actually built missile-studded manmade islands to control the shipping lanes of the South China Sea, through which one-third of the world’s commercial traffic passes. Shouldn’t MI6 be sending its best to battle Beijing?

Just over the Yellow Sea, our resurrected 007 will wake to find a hedonistic, nuclear-armed Kim Jong Un regularly lobbing missiles over Japan and South Korea. He too has many traits of an old-school Bond villain. He drives exotic Italian cars, sips expensive French wine, and dines on lobster. A lot of it, from the look of him.

Let’s go, double-oh:  you have a lot of work to do.

Which begs the question—since the man James Bond was killed in No Time to Die, and since the world is currently threatened by actual megalomaniacs, should Amazon really limit the search for the next 007 to Sexiest Man Alive runners-up? Each will inevitably show weakness when confronted with the beautiful “Bond women” anyway.  If we really need our best spy on the intelligence battlefield, shouldn’t we look to professionals with more focus?

The most grimly effective cinematic spies of recent years have come from the fairer sex.  Keri Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans (2014-2018) showed a woman easily gliding between minivan-driving soccer mom and cold-hearted killer.  Charlize Theron’s MI6 agent Lorrain Broughton used brains, blood, and guts to thwart East German Stazi and the Soviet KGB in Atomic Blonde (2017).  Angelina Jolie’s eponymous CIA officer in Salt (2010) goes on a ruthless rampage to clear her name when she’s accused of being a Russian spy.  Even Bond’s brilliant boss “M” was Dame Judy Dench from Golden Eye (1995) to Skyfall (2012). And don’t forget Ana de Armas’s charming turn as a gun-wielding CIA assassin in No Time to Die. She made James look lost by comparison.

These baddies are a better fit for the moment because they’re all about getting s**t done.  Unlike Bond, they’re not off shagging in space (Moonraker, 1983).   

And speaking of getting things done, many of our most effective real-world spies have been women. 

Elizabeth Sudmeier was a CIA officer who stole blueprints for the most advanced Soviet fighter jet of the day from an agent in Baghdad in ‘54.  She then went on to handle a vast network of spies in the Soviet military. Her CIA peer, Eloise Page, gained crucial intelligence about the Soviet space program in the sixties by cleverly sending American scientists as tourists into Russia. Another female CIA officer, Adelaide Hawkins, used early imagery intelligence to predict the Suez Canal invasion long before it happened.

Even America’s current top spy is a woman.  Before assuming the post of Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines served as a CIA deputy director. That same CIA was run by her female contemporary, Gina Haspel, from 2018 to 2021. Before serving as CIA Director, Ms. Haspel was the deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action.  How’s that for a title?

Yes, back in the days of relative world peace, it was fine for Bond to take on villains like Blofeld, who hollowed out a volcano to hide a doomsday device (You Only Live Twice1967) or Zorin, who tried to blow up Silicon Valley to sell newspapers (A View To a Kill, 1985). But with madmen threatening civilization in real life, it might be time to consider an expansion of the espionage talent pool.

And ask yourself: whom would a male megalomaniac fear more than a woman of intelligence?  

MP Woodward is a veteran of both US intelligence ops and the entertainment industry. As a naval intelligence officer with the US Pacific Command, he scripted scenario moves and countermoves for US war game exercises in the Middle East. In multiple deployments to the Persian Gulf and Far East, he worked alongside US Special Forces, CIA, and NSA. Most recently, Woodward led international distribution for Amazon Prime Video and launched Amazon original content in more than forty countries. The Handler is available now in mass market and Dead Drop will be released on May 24. To learn more, please visit


Anonymous said...

Ian fleming is turning over in his grave. Much of his plots were centered around him being decidedly male!

MI6 said...

I haven’t a clue what the next Bond film will be or who the next 007 should be but whoever is selecting the next James Bond might try and create a hero whose character resembles that of a real spy such as Bill Fairclough (codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington in Beyond Enkription. It’s the first stand-alone fact based thriller in The Burlington Files series. Incidentally, Bill was one of Pemberton’s People in MI6 from the real ministry of ungentlemanly officers (see a news article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website). By the way, Fairclough went to the same school as John Barry who composed the scores for many of the Bond films (as noted in another interesting news article dated 5 November 2022 on that website.

Edward Burlington’s character is hard to pin down but it is multi-faceted and explorable unlike many of those of the 007 card board cut outs in the past. In Beyond Enkription, double agents, disinformation and deception weave wondrously within the relentless twists and turns of evolving events as Burlington fights to survive. Having read dozens of spy novels I find this curious matter of fact original undisputedly exceptional. Whether you're a Cornwell connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic or a Herron hireling, so should you if you want an insight into real espionage and raw tradecraft.

In fact Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote this noir narrative. Atmospherically it's reminiscent of Ted Lewis' Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they'll only have themselves to blame if it doesn't go down in history as a classic espionage thriller.

Kim Hays said...

This was a great read, MP, and I for one would love to see a woman as--what? maybe 008! Thanks for a fun piece.