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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

In praise of a strong Bond

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

George Lazenby lacks the swagger of Sean Connery, but this 1969 black sheep is possibly the best 007 film ever.

ON Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS) had a lot to live up to. As far as the entire world was concerned, Sean Connery was James Bond. And here was some impostor – worse, an impostor from the colonies, George Lazenby, whom nobody had heard of – waltzing in to take his place. It wasn't right. It wouldn't do. To rub everyone's noses in it even further, OHMSS deliberately stuck closely to the book, which meant no audience-pleasing whizz-bang gadgets. And what's with the bummer of an ending? No wonder the film only took half the amount of You Only Live Twice at the box office.

And yet, I will fight anyone who dares to tell me that they don't like OHMSS. Because they are flat out wrong. In the 45 years since it was released, it stands out as one of the best 007 films ever. Possibly even the best. It has the best soundtrack. It pushes the character into difficult new places. And that ending: that's not just a great James Bond ending, it's probably in the top 10 film endings of all time.

If you've never seen OHMSS, you should watch it. If you've seen it before, you should watch it again. And if you don't like it, I'm serious about fighting you.

Bond (George Lazenby) allowed himself one moment to be human when he married Tracey Draco (Diana Rigg), and paid the price for it -- a price hardly acknowledged later in the series.

Bond (George Lazenby) allowed himself one moment to be human when he married Tracey Draco (Diana Rigg), and paid the price for it – a price hardly acknowledged later in the series.

By George!

First things first: We need to talk about George. Lazenby isn't Connery. He lacks the swagger, the element of constant danger that his predecessor (and successor, since he returned to the role for Diamonds Are Forever) made his own. His voice is a bit all over the place. It doesn't help that he spends a huge portion of the film pretending to be a bespectacled, milquetoast man called Hilary Bray, nor that he was partially dubbed by English actor and writer, George Baker.

But what Lazenby does have, when he's allowed, is brute strength. Less slender than Connery, he is better equipped for stunt work, like in the pre-title sequence where he basically bodyslams a baddie into a tent. His awkwardness, too, ends up being his major strength. None of the other Bond actors could do vulnerability very well but, whether intentionally or not, Lazenby is an open sore. He's ruffled more easily, caught out more. He even displays palpable fear at one point.

And, of course, it helps that his Bond girl is Diana Rigg. Although she didn't have an awful lot to live up to – all previous Bond girls were more or less content to stand there and blink in bikinis – she's almost 007's equal here. She's spiky and uninterested, and initially uses him more than he does her. So, when tenderness between them grows, it's tangible. Not permanent – an hour into the film, he's in bed with someone else – but it's easily the most committed relationship we've seen him in.

All the time in the world

Not to bang on about it too much, but the final few moments of OHMSS are what sent the whole thing into the stratosphere. After defeating Blofeld, Bond rolls around in the snow with a St Bernard for a moment or two. Then, almost immediately afterwards, he's married. Diana Rigg cries with happiness. They cut the cake. Moneypenny's heartbroken, but puts on a brave face. They drive away to embark on their honeymoon. They discuss the family they're going to have. It's the first ending to a James Bond film that isn't just sex as a cathartic reaction to death. For once, maybe for the first time ever, he's actually content.

And then she dies.

That's how the film ends: with James Bond sobbing and cradling his murdered wife, refusing to believe that she's really gone.

It's a sucker punch, and there isn't a single trace of redemption, no matter how hard you look. There are no quips, no raised eyebrows; just the stark image of a bullet hole in a windscreen. Bond had allowed himself to be human, and he paid the price.


1. Then, of course, the whole thing was forgotten. As soon as OHMSS ended, Bond would only get increasingly campy. The loss Bond felt at the end of this film wouldn't be referenced in any meaningful way until Licence To Kill, and then only as particularly oblique subtext. What a wasted opportunity.

2. That's unless you count For Your Eyes Only, in which Bond lays flowers at Tracy's grave before dropping Blofeld down a chimney in what's quite clearly the most abysmal five minutes of the entire Bond franchise.

3. And don't forget that this is the film with the Gumbold office safecracking scene, possibly the most suspenseful in the series, even if it does come to nothing and 007 spends much of it gurning at boobs.

4. Also: Louis Armstrong's musical contribution of We Have All The Time In The World. That really can't be overstated enough, can it?

5. One aspect where I will agree with the OHMSS haters – the opening James Bond theme. It's rejigged here, and it sounds like a kitten trying to eat a stylophone. Horrible.

6. And fine, you might have a point about all the callbacks. The address to camera at the start. The whistled Goldfinger theme. This wasn't just a horrible portent of things to come, it actively ground away at the film's morose heart. – Guardian News & Media

Hailee Steinfeld is lethal

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Hailee Steinfeld dishes on cigarettes, college and dancing with Kevin Costner.

IN the three years since earning an Oscar nomination at age 14 for her film debut in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld has had barely a moment to catch her breath.

Last year, she tackled sci-fi (Ender's Game) and Shakespearean tragedy (Romeo And Juliet). And the 17-year-old high school junior has a cluster of films completed, including 3 Days To Kill.

Penned by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak and directed by McG, the spy thriller-drama finds Steinfeld playing Zoey, the estranged teenage daughter of a dying CIA assassin (Kevin Costner).

Also in the pipeline for the actress are the Toronto Film Festival fave Can A Song Save Your Life?, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman and the action-comedy Barely Lethal – in this one, she's the assassin.

So, the Internet was abuzz last week with pictures of you smoking.

I did get a phone call from my dad after those pictures got out.

What did he say when you told him they were actually herbal cigarettes and the pictures were from the set of Ten Thousand Saints?

He's like, "It's all part of the game." I get it. It's cool. The movie, which involves a lot of things including smoking, drugs and alcohol, has been an interesting learning experience for me.

Speaking of interesting experiences, what was it like being on location in Paris for 3 Days To Kill?

Oh, my God, that alone was so incredible! It was my first time spending more than a weekend there. I watched the film for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It's heart-pounding to watch.

There's a quiet moment where Costner teaches you how to dance.

That was one of my favourite scenes in the movie. We had a great, great time. Kevin and McG worked with me in creating something really special.

You also just worked with Tommy Lee Jones, who not only stars in but also directs The Homesman.

That is a period piece. I don't know if it is sort of classified as a Western, but I play a very, very, small part in it. I will say I don't think I have ever been more nervous in my life as I was when I was doing one scene with Tommy Lee Jones. I had like three lines and they wouldn't come out of my mouth. I get nervous about pretty much everything.

Really? Even when you were just 14 and going through the Academy Awards three years ago, you seemed unflappable.

The thing I find as I get older that I think, maybe, I get more nervous because I have become aware of what is actually happening.

When I was 13 and shooting True Grit and when I was at the Oscars, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It took me a very long time to realise just how incredibly special that entire time in my life was. I enjoyed every single minute. But I would do anything to sort of relive it. But, I have been so fortunate to have had amazing experiences since then.

You're a home-schooled high school junior. Are you thinking about college?

Last year, I was thinking about it nonstop. The norm is that you go after you graduate from high school. I don't know where in the world I will be next week and I don't know where I will be in a year, so I was sort of worked up over that.

I had conversations with my parents and my teachers. That brought to my realisation that college is always there. That is a comforting feeling. I hope that I can find a good time to do that. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

3 Days To Kill is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.

Delving into Xerxes

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Rodrigo Santoro on playing the Persian God-King in '300: Rise Of An Empire'.

IN 300: Rise Of An Empire, Rodrigo Santoro plays the role of Persian God-King Xerxes. While in reality, eight years have passed since 300 was released, in the film the audience finds out exactly what happens to Xerxes after 300 ends.

In an interview with SFX magazine, the 38-year-old Brazilian says: "I'm not 20 any more, so it's a little different. I remember having to watch the scene in the first one – right after the 300 are dead and Xerxes has just had a spear cut his face – and thinking, 'Oh my god ... I have to connect right after that battle. How do I do it?' It's the same character, but what can I do to make it fresh for myself?"

It helped that the film delves into his character's past, revealing how the mortal Persian turns into a gigantic tyrant. "We get to know a little about how and why Xerxes becomes the God King."

Related story:

300: Rise Of An Empires takes to the high seas


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