From the Czech Republic with Love
Bond... James Bond... famous words of introduction: Daniel Craig - the sixth actor to portray Her Majesty's Greatest super spy turned down a request to say them at a press conference in Prague back in February - but soon audiences everywhere will hear the actor say them for the very first time in Casino Royale, the latest instalment, for the very first time. As it happens, in the Czech Republic the film premieres in Prague on November 16th - a day before the anniversary of the country's Velvet Revolution that marked the end of communism in Czechoslovakia. Given Bond's cold war history, what could be more appropriate!
As one Czech journalist told me the Bond stories held irrepressible glamour for many here, for obvious reasons.
First there was the spy's obvious opposition to the Soviet Union in defence of the West. Good reason. But there were other reasons too: quite simply that the Bond films have always been very well made, in the past the title sequences alone were worth the price of admission. And, though it's a comic book rendition of life, with Bond it never mattered because it was all tongue-in-cheek, all in obvious humour. That, many would agree, has always been one of the franchises' greatest strengths.
No Pierce Brosnan either - cheered on by that Czech GoldenEye audience. Brosnan did perhaps more than anyone else to re-invigorate the character for the franchise after the cold war was done. Even when his appeal gradually wore off, it was less his fault than the films' becoming more spectacle than story. The "baddies" too somehow lost their bite once what Reagan called the Evil Empire - cartoonishly portrayed in the Bond pictures - was no more. I'm not surprised the production team opted now for a completely different look with Casino Royale: going with the blond Mr Craig whose far grittier and less than classical features saw him criticised long before filming even began, but he is so different it might just do the trick.
November 16th, 19:45 pm, the Czech capital.
In the end the joke was on me and I have to laugh recalling the production's team's insistance early in the year that Prague was featuring as itself in the movie. Having just attended one of the first screenings of the Bond film here, I can say Prague got maybe about ten seconds and you wouldn't know it was the Czech capital if there wasn't a title saying as much. Oh well, next time. At least Prague got the honor of opening the film in a black and white sequence that will no doubt be famous in years to come, showing how the secret agent earned his license to kill.