It’s time to wrap up our four-part Bond retrospective in honor of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films with a look at the two most recent actors to take on the role: Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
After the disappointing performance of “License to Kill,” the Bond franchise went into a bit of a hibernation period. There were briefly plans to do a third film with Timothy Dalton, tentatively called “The Property of a Lady.” However, serious legal issues going all the way back to 1961 and the rights to “Thunderball” finally came to a head, effectively killing the project. By the time the ball started rolling again, Dalton was no longer interested in the role. Pierce Brosnan, who had come within an inch of being Bond in 1987, was called up once again, and eagerly jumped at the chance in 1994, and began to film the first of his outings, 1995’s “GoldenEye,” named for Ian Fleming’s old Jamaican home.
Not pictured: giant doomsday laser cannon to hold the United Nations hostage.
By this point, the Bond series had fallen into a sort of dated, formulaic pattern, punctuated by strangely campy moments that seemed both out of touch with modern audiences’ tastes, as well as Fleming’s original stories.
Also, in the interim, the Cold War had ended, ending the main dynamic the Bond films had centered on: the espionage-heavy era of an undeclared war fought in secret over decades. Suddenly, the world was a lot more peaceful, as well as a lot more complicated. And so it was decided that for this new Bond film, all of the old mistakes and stagnation would be jettisoned, including the wardrobe, starting completely from scratch. Enter Lindy Hemming.
Hemming, at that point best known for her work on “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” was a huge fan of Bond in her own right, having actually written her college thesis on Bond’s film wardrobe! The film’s producers wanted her for the job of Costume Designer almost immediately, and decided early on that unlike in earlier films, which featured a cornucopia of people making decisions on Bond’s clothing, only Hemming would be making decisions, making Bond’s entire wardrobe the product of one person’s taste.
That hair really is impressive…
The increased production quality for the series created a new hurdle. In earlier films, there was frequently only one copy of each suit for the film. Now, up to FIFTY suits would be necessary for the action scenes, for the sake of continuity. There was absolutely no way any of the small firms on Saville Row would be able to keep up. So Hemming turned to Italian firm Brioni, who had offered to give 50 suits to the production for free. The quality is certainly different. Brioni’s suits are tailor-made, but they are not bespoke. The day of the bespoke Bond was officially over, thanks to the needs of the modern action film. But c’est la vie, Bond must go on!
Now that that’s taken care of, where’s did I park my invisible spy car?
For all four Brosnan Bond films, Hemming settled on a system for dressing Brosnan, based around carefully planned and coordinated outfits. She is fond of unusual color combinations, like blue and brown with charcoal accents. She also is fond of three-piece suits, and of using the classic Brioni straight shoulder to good effect.
In 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies,” (originally titled “Tomorrow Never Lies,” which makes far more sense, but that’s another blog…) Hemming kept the same style, but added in an unusual 1930s touch to Bond’s dinner suit from early in the Hamburg portion of the film. Five buttons in a V-formation on the vest, strong shoulders and wide lapels are unusual indeed for a 1997 dinner suit.
Also in the film, a very interestingly atypical bronze tie/blue suit combo, with an overcoat matching the tie rather than the suit!
Continuing into 1999’s “The World is Not Enough,” Brosnan’s look remained fairly consistent, which the major exception being one of the black-on-black suits Brosnan wears in his outings, a Cheviot tweed suit in charcoal, appropriate considering the character had just attended a funeral…
…And a herringbone linen suit worn near the end of the film in Istanbul, which is absolutely bonkers for the dark tone of the scenes it appears in. A three-button fronted, four-button cuffed, with tan chorizo buttons, the suit otherwise has the typical Brioni lines.
Finally for Brosnan, in 2002’s “Die Another Day,” his wardrobe stays the course, including the same one-button midnight blue peak lapel jacket that both the Brosnan and Craig Bonds pretty much always wear to formal engagements.
Well… There was one out-of-nowhere outfit in “Die Another Day”…
…But the less said about that, the better.
At this point, Brosnan retired from the series under slightly mysterious and acrimonious circumstances. Once again, life in the meantime had a way of influencing the direction the films would go next. The Jason Bourne series had effectively one-upped the bloated Bond franchise, showing a much more gritty and realistic look at espionage. And 2005’s “Batman Begins” showed that taking even the most iconic of characters deadly seriously could work wonders. The Bond producers chose Daniel Craig for the role of James Bond, deciding a very different-looking (blond!) actor was necessary for what would essentially be a reboot of the series.
Behind the camera, however, the cast of characters remained mostly the same, including Lindy Hemming. But while she may have carried her basic sensibility with her, both Craig’s look and the gritty and deadly-realistic portrayal of the character he brought to the role invariably took Bond in a more rumpled, informal direction.
How YOU doin’?
However, 2006’s “Casino Royale” and 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” did provide plenty of opportunities for Bond to look his best in-between all the dressed-down action. Case in point, this great worsted wool suit in a subtle plaid of charcoal grey and navy blue.
Or the now-iconic perfectly tailored dinner suit from “Casino Royale’s” poker scenes.
Or, for that matter, an amazingly perfect, but updated, copy of Sean Connery’s dinner suit from “Dr. No.”
And this slick charcoal suit from “Quantum of Solace.”
The Hollywood Writers’ Strike of 2008 threw a lot of the industry out of whack, and it took a few years for the Bond film series to get back on track, just in time for the 50th anniversary of “Dr. No” (and this blog!), with 2012’s “Skyfall.”
With “Skyfall,” a new costume designer was on board, Jany Temime, and Craig had gotten, somehow, even craggier and more gritty-looking in the meantime! Temime decided to go with Tom Ford on suits, and to bring back the more basic color scheme of the earlier Bond films, likely as part of the “everything old is new again” direction of the film in general. This includes this number, a glen plaid in mid grey and black.
She also added a true British icon to the film’s climax, the waxed cotton Barbour jacket…
And, of course, the dinner suit for the film, a dark navy Tom Ford O’Connor outfit, very tightly fitted and a tad too short, deliberately, apparently, Temime said she was going for an “iconic for 2012” look.
In short, the lines and lapels of the suits in the film were very ’60s, but the cuts and the fits were very modern.
And with that, we’ve caught up to the present. What does the future hold for everyone’s favorite bespoke superspy? Well, another film, for starters, already in pre-production, supposedly with Craig still on board. But whoever is holding the “shaken, not stirred” martinis, there are two things we can always count on: he will be dressed in gorgeous, tailored suits, and he will save the world in them.
With an equally bespoke Lord Voldemort always at his side.