The BBC’s Publicity Department have now confirmed that the latest 007 radio adaptation, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with Toby Stephens once again playing James Bond, will be transmitted on Saturday, 3 May in the UK.
Produced by Jarvis and Ayres Productions in collaboration with the BBC, the 90-minute play will air at 2.30pm on BBC Radio-4 on 3 May, 2014.
Stephens, who was, of course, the main villain Gustav Graves in EON’s fourth Pierce Brosnan Bond movie Die Another Day (2002), first played secret agent 007 in a BBC radio production of Dr. No back in 2008. After this was well received by critics, Stephens went on to star in two further Ian Fleming adaptations by the same production team, Goldfinger in 2010, and From Russia With Love in 2012, both broadcast on BBC Radio-4 in the UK.
Stephens will be facing up to Alfred Molina in OHMSS, the award-winning London-born theatre and film actor, who is based in the USA and starred in the critically acclaimed John Logan play Red on Broadway in 2010. Molina’s film roles have included The Da Vinci Code, Pink Panther 2, and Spider Man 2 (as Dr. Octopus).
And in some other fascinating news, it has now been revealed that, contrary to previous reports, Joanna Lumley will not be playing Bond’s future wife Tracy in the new radio play, but instead is Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s evil German assistant, who oversaw his ‘Angels of Death’ in the original Fleming story (and also in the EON movie, which starred George Lazenby as 007).
Ironically, Lumley’s first ‘breakthough’ film role of her career was her brief but important appearance as the ‘English girl’, one of Blofeld’s Angels of Death in the original EON film version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. Bunt in the 1969 movie was played by the German theatre and film star Ilse Steppat.
As far back as May, 2013, Lumley, speaking to a local Essex newspaper in the UK, the Echo, revealed that she was about to play Irma Bunt, but this was missed by most commentators (including us!). More recently, speaking to hungertv.com in October, 2013, Joanna confirmed that she had played Blofeld’s assistant, Bunt, ‘so that was the greatest fun’.
Other roles in the new adaptation of OHMSS include Janie Dee as Miss Moneypenny (who returns as M’s loyal secretary for the third time), Lucy Phelps as Sally, Clare Dunne as Violet, Joanne Cassidy as Ruby, and Katherine Masters as Anne.
This new version of OHMSS is the fourth adaptation of an Ian Fleming 007 novel by the highly successful production partnership of Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres, and, as with their previous 007 adaptations, will once again be very faithful to the original Fleming story.
As well as reprising his radio role as 007, London-based Toby Stephens remains very much in demand on stage and in the movies. He recently starred alongside Caity Lotz in the British sci-fi thriller The Machine, and has also been busy making the major new American TV series Black Sails, which promises a more authentic portrayal of eighteenth century pirates.
Stephens recently told the Metro newspaper that the new series ‘is very gritty, very well written, very adult. It’s stripped out all the cliches such as treasure troves – it’s a version of piracy you’ve never seen’. Black Sails has already been commissioned for a second series.
Looking back on his time as a Bond villain in Die Another Day, Stephens, who was aged just 33 at the time, also commented to the Metro: ‘It was totally insane. The director told me: “Your character is a North Korean who has been genetically changed into a Caucasian”. It was great fun and about as ridiculously camp as Bond could get. Then Daniel Craig took over and it all got very serious’.
Trivia Note: Ilse Steppat (1917-1969), who played the memorably sinister Irma Bunt in George Lazenby’s single 007 adventure On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was a famous theatre and movie star in post-war West Germany, and OHMSS was her only english-language film. Tragically, Steppat died of a heart attack in West Berlin on 21 December, 1969, aged just 52, and only four days after the international release of OHMSS.