Ian Fleming in trilby

How well do you know the creator of 007? There was a rare but welcome re-screening of the BBC-TV docudrama Ian Fleming: Bondmaker on the evening of Thursday, 23rd March. The biographical production about the life and career of the author of the James Bond novels was shown on ‘London Live’, the special cable channel for Britain’s capital city.

Made by the ‘Wall to Wall’ television company for the BBC back in 2005, and directed by John Alexander, the docudrama starred the acclaimed film, TV and theatre actor Ben Daniels (most recently seen as General Merrick in the Star Wars movie spin-off Rogue One). During filming, both Daniels and the docudrama’s writers were determined to bring many of the key aspects and watershed moments of the life of Fleming fully to life by using material from his own archives and numerous private letters.

As with a number of other biographical studies of the 007 creator, Bondmaker contended that Fleming, in creating the character of his famous secret agent, very much drew from his own wartime experiences as a Naval Intelligence officer working in Whitehall, together with his own personal wish-fulfilment about the life he fantasised about leading; he also equipped James Bond with some of his own characteristics (such as the love of good food, drink, women and exotic locations).

In fact, in its own way, Bondmaker explored what the historian and Bond expert Ben Macintyre (writing in 2014) has called the ‘enduring problem’ faced by all Bondologists when it comes to portraying the life of Fleming: ‘knowing where Ian Fleming ends and where James Bond begins: how much of 007 is based on the life of his creator and how much is made up?’ Macintyre’s comments were made in relation to Fleming, the 4-part drama from Sky, which starred Dominic Cooper as the Bond author. However, compared to Bondmaker, the Cooper drama tended to focus more on the Bond-style fantasy and entertainment aspects rather than on the reality of Fleming’s career. Ben Daniels and the team behind Bondmaker, on the other hand, were clearly more interested (as far as was possible) in grounding their docudrama more in the actual reality of the 007 creator’s fascinating life and career. It’s well worth a viewing if you can catch it.

Did You Know?

Ian’s niece, Lucy Fleming – speaking to the London Evening Standard newspaper in 2012 about the Bond films going back to their literary roots – revealed that she loved Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale in 2006, partly because Daniel Craig’s Bond was ‘very tough’ but also because he ‘felt pain’, and partly because the film was as close to a loyal period piece as a modern film could be.

Daniel Craig as James Bond 007

One of the first publicity stills for Craig’s ‘Casino Royale’ in 2006