The new four-part series, made by Ecosse Films and backed by both the BBC and Sky Atlantic, originally had the working title of Fleming during principal shooting, but now appears to have been given a longer title. It is now officially called Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond.
The new TV series, directed by the award-winning director Mat Whitecross, concentrates on Ian Fleming’s early career and, in particular, the key events in his life both on the eve of the Second World War and during the War, when Fleming served as a Naval Intelligence officer in London.
Episode 1 is partly set in London in 1938 and, at one point, will see the discontented Fleming propping up the bar at a jazz club, when he meets the woman who will eventually become his future wife, Ann O’Neill, a wealthy socialite (played by Lara Pulver). Ann turns out to be more than a match for the playboy Fleming, and they engage in a frantic and passionate affair.
Viewers will also be introduced to Fleming’s brother, Peter (played by Rupert Evans), his rather domineering mother, Eve (played by Lesley Manville), and to Admiral John Godfrey (played by Samuel West), who was the Director of the Naval Intelligence Division (NID) in Whitehall.
In some publicity material issued by Sky, in association with the BBC, Dominic Cooper said it had been ‘incredible fun’ to play the future Bond author: ‘It always is with someone like Ian, because they’re living life to the extreme and don’t have the same boundaries that we do’.
Cooper added that Fleming ‘lived quite a packed existence yet he was a very sad and lonely man, who created one of the most successful franchises ever but didn’t really get to see that success. There are very few people who have lived that kind of life’.
Interestingly, the new TV series has also been given a seal of approval by author John Pearson, who knew Ian Fleming when they both worked at the Sunday Times and also went on to write the first major biography of the Bond author, The Life of Ian Fleming.
Pearson said that Cooper more than rises to the challenge, and produces a performance the Bond author would be proud of: ‘It’s very much how Ian would have seen himself. Ian was a very cool man and Dominic is a very cool hero’.
Pearson also suggested that: ‘Ian tends to be sidelined by the cult of Bond, so I hope this series achieves an intelligent attitude towards his own considerable achievement’.
Trivia Note: Historians now know that Peter Fleming (1907-1971), Ian’s elder brother and a famous travel writer, himself played a clandestine intelligence role in World War Two. He helped set up the special units of civilian volunteers who would have acted as a secret army, conducting hit-and-run operations against the enemy, had Britain been invaded by the Germans in 1940.