Art & Culture

Why Stephen Hawking would make a great Bond villain

Sandipan Deb
Sandipan DebDec 07, 2014 | 17:13

Why Stephen Hawking would make a great Bond villain

On Thursday, it was announced that Bond 24, which will start shooting in a few days time, will be called Spectre, and will star, along with Daniel Craig on his fourth outing as 007, Christoph Waltz and Monica Bellucci.

Interestingly, just a couple of days before, British media revealed that Professor Stephen Hawking, in an interview in the upcoming January issue of Wired magazine, has said that he would love to play a James Bond villain. “I think the wheelchair and the computer voice would fit the part,” is what the renowned astrophysicist who suffers from a crippling motor neuron disease and speaks through a machine, reportedly believes.



Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea, actually! Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, delighted in thinking up villains who were, well, strange. Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun had three nipples, and Donald Grant, the KGB assassin in From Russia with Love became desperate to kill someone on full night nights. The film makers have gone further, creating Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), a seven-foot giant with steel teeth; Renard the terrorist in The World Is Not Enough who has a bullet lodged in his brain that has killed all sense of pain, and Le Chiffre in Casino Royale who bleeds from one eye when under stress.

Hawking would certainly have been an interesting choice, and would definitely have brought the crowds in. Instead, the film makers have opted for the wonderful Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who will most probably play Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond’s arch-enemy. Blofeld hasn’t been seen in an official Bond film (produced by Eon Productions which holds the rights to the stories and characters; the original Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again are not part of this series) since Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. Unless you count the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only, in which Bond drops a nasty-looking fellow who seems to be Blofeld down a factory chimney.


The cat-loving Blofeld heads Spectre, your typical all-powerful evil organisation which keeps thinking up various schemes to control the planet, or if that’s a stretch, at least blow up half of it. Spectre stands for Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion—clearly, subtlety is not one of the strong points of these criminal masterminds. Eon Productions has refused to confirm that Waltz will be Blofeld, but if the film is called Spectre, and Waltz is in the cast, what other role could he be playing? And Blofeld should have a German accent, accent?

In fact, ever since the Bond franchise was rebooted with Craig and Casino Royale, the producers have opted every time for a critically acclaimed European actor to play the big baddy. Casino Royale had Mads Mikkelsen of Denmark, Quantum of Solace Mathieu Amalric from France, and Skyfall the Spaniard Javier Bardem. All three are big stars of their national film industries (Bardem is of course a global film star) and also much-awarded actors.


Since his Hollywood debut in 2009, Waltz has already won two Oscars, for Inglourious Basterds, in which he played one of the most chilling Jew-hunting Nazis ever portrayed on screen, and Django Unchained, where he was a bounty hunter with a heart of gold fighting racism in the American South — two characters that are absolutely polar opposites.


The Craig-Bond films are very different in tone from most earlier 007 films. Craig’s Bond is a troubled man with an icy bleakness of the soul. He is also more human. He falls in love (Casino Royale), which is the only the second time in history, and the first time, in In Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was in 1971 (incidentally, Blofeld killed the girl). He cries (in Casino Royale, and as far as I remember, in Skyfall), which was something unheard of. He gets hurt, and bleeds—yes, the strange fact is that Bond bled for the first time on screen in Die Another Day, Bond 20, and Craig took over the role from Bond 21.

Craig’s Bond does not even have the sex drive that characterised previous incarnations, nor does he indulge in cheap post-coital humour (In The World Is Not Enough, after having sex with Christmas Jones, Pierce Brosnan-Bond says: “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.”).

The current Bond is a ruthless killing machine — he knows that and is stoical about it. In Casino Royale, when Vesper Lynd asks him: “It doesn’t bother you; killing all these people?” he replies: “Well, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did.” In Skyfall, in a rapid word association test MI6 puts him through to gauge his mental fitness, when the word “murder” is thrown at him, he responds with “employment.”


And he does not do what all previous Bonds have excelled in – the “cool” oneliner after despatching a nasty. Like harpooning someone and saying: “I think he got the point” (Thunderball). Or stuffing someone with inflatable gas pellets, causing him to swell up like a balloon and explode, and observing: “He always did have an inflated opinion of himself”. James Bond as defined by Daniel Craig is in a deadly serious business where there’s no space for a snarky attitude. He is irreverent, of course, but it’s a dark irreverence.

So now the countdown begins. Spectre will be released in October 2015, and obviously millions of Bond fans all over the world will be waiting impatiently. There will be rumours galore on the net, much speculation about the storyline, and supposed leaks from the sets, even though Bond films are usually shot with the sort of tight secrecy that marks a nuclear programme. Which, for all we know, is what Spectre is fiddling with spectre.

But I can’t get this thought out of my head: that Stephen Hawking as a Bond supervillain would have been great fun.

Last updated: January 08, 2016 | 15:31
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