Saving the world is serious business, and so is finding the right balance of James Bond badassery and insouciance. As such, the confirmation that Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been hired onto the upcoming “Bond 25” to help polish the script bodes well for the franchise. Ever since the 1960s when “Dr. No” became the first big-screen adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels, Bond has continued to stay relevant by continuing to update and reinvent itself for every generation.
Enter Waller-Bridge, who’s made a name for herself by creating BBC America’s spy thriller “Killing Eve” and the dramedy “Fleabag” on Amazon. The British actress, writer, playwright, and director may not seem like the most obvious choice to tweak the most masculine of franchises, but her voice and sensibilities actually make her uniquely qualified to give it the punch up it needs. Here’s a look at her qualifications:
A Bond film is never boring; there’s too much action for that. But it’s also important that the films maintain a sense of humor — to balance the weighty international plots 007 must foil but also to give him that extra bit of suave cleverness. Otherwise, the franchise could have another “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on its hands. Although the 1963 adaptation is a solid action flick, George Lazenby’s take on Bond lacked the panache that was expected of the role. Retrospective reviews have been far kinder to the film than the original ones, but it still doesn’t feel like Bond tonally.
Waller-Bridge has shown a mastery of comedic voice that ranges from dry and raunchy to irreverent and ironic. Her way of thinking is just a couple ticks off from center, which gives her jokes zing and freshness. And yet she’s able to land the joke each time because she’s perceptive about the human experience. The success of “Killing Eve” last season is due in large part to that unexpected humor that gets inside the twisted human psyche and spits out seemingly oddball commentary that rings true. And Waller-Bridge was the highlight of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” as the wise-cracking droid who stole Lando’s heart.
Bond would by no means be the first time that Waller-Bridge has taken on British spy novels written by a man since “Killing Eve” is based on the “Codename Villanelle” novellas by Luke Jennings. And keep in mind that she won’t need to actually adapt any stories; she’s only coming in to add extra oomph, of which she has plenty. Her experience creating “Killing Eve” will just make her job that much easier then it comes navigating the British intelligence and espionage world through narrative. One must know the rules before one can break them properly to achieve that next level of art after all.
Waller-Bridge has proven she can get inside both the mind of a psychopathic killer and the MI6 agent who can outthink her. Just think of the possibilities for colorful dialogue for Q or one of those signature Bond villains. Waller-Bridge’s strengths are infusing personality and specificity into dialogue, which would revitalized the tried-and-tried spy genre.
Bond is famous for his lothario ways, coupling up with various vibrant and often brilliant women over the years. Not bad for a guy pushing 70. But it’s not just sex that makes him sexy but also his sybaritic ways. He enjoys nice things just so as one can tell from how he orders his martini to the sharp clothes he wears. He and the franchise epitomize sensuality. Waller-Bridge brings a chicness to each of her projects. Her character on “Fleabag” has an effortless style, and on “Killing Eve” assassin Villanelle is a hedonist who loves expensive champagne and eye-catching ensembles. One could almost imagine her as a villainous match for Bond.
Waller-Bridge has been able to find the sexiness and sensuality in any story. In the upcoming “Fleabag” Season 2, which has already aired in the UK, viewers are treated to a scorching chemistry onscreen from unexpected quarters, and on “Killing Eve,” she’s epitomized undeniable fatal attraction in the cat-and-mouse game that Eve and Villanelle play. Hell, even though Waller-Bridge was never seen onscreen for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” she somehow made L3-37 the sexiest droid in a galaxy far, far away. She’s already livened up one franchise. Just let her sink her mitts into Bond, and the chemistry and sensuality will go off the charts.
Waller-Bridge’s keen sense of voice and tone extends across both comedy and drama. The first season of “Fleabag” takes a surprising and devastating turn, and one of the most effective episodes of “Killing Eve” ever occurs in Season 1 when a beloved character dies.
Therefore, Waller-Bridge can respect Daniel’s Craig’s darker, more traumatized version of Bond but still give the script life. Sometimes a well-timed or well-phrased joke can make a moment more poignant or impactful because frankly, that’s how humans act even in the darkest of times.
Fleming’s original novels often includes specific details about the food and drink 007 enjoys. He’s quite the bon vivant (or is it Bond vivant?). One of his favorite meals is scrambled eggs with bacon or sausage, and Waller-Bridge has proven to have a way with sausages in “Killing Eve.”
Although the films have focused mainly on Bond’s penchant for martinis, giving him back his appetite could add an extra dimension to this man whom everyone thinks they know. What and how a character eats can be a window into a character and their personality. Spies have to eat too; might as well make give him a license to fill up as well. Who better than Waller-Bridge to tap into that hunger?
“Bond 25” will be released in the U.S. on April 8, 2020 and in the U.K. and internationally on April 3, 2020. Meanwhile, ”Killing Eve” is currently airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC America. “Fleabag” returns for its second season on May 17 on Amazon Prime Video.