By Michael Scorsese
- Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (2006). This reporter could hardly focus on the plot with Denmark’s Sexiest Man onscreen. From his sexy accent to his sharp clothes and even sharper cheekbones, he couldn’t be further from the Donald Pleasence/Gert Fröbe archetype. In fact, the filmmaker’s decision to give the character a token dead eye and an inhaler – because Bond only ever seems to have disabled nemeses – only draws more attention to just how handsome he is. Nothing can detract from it.
- Sean Bean as 006, a.k.a. Alec Trevelyan in Goldeneye (1995). Bond’s one-time friend, now his enemy, Sean Bean manages to exude almost as much raw sex as Pierce Brosnan, or indeed Mads Mikkelsen. Interestingly, like Mads in Casino Royale, Sean Bean got slapped with some heavy facial scars. Like, half his face is just fucked. Nevertheless, it only takes half of that face to cruise to number two on our list.
- Idk, Sophie Marceau or someone. It’s genuinely ridiculous how attractive the villains of Goldeneye and Casino Royale are. There is no other case where a male character so directly challenges Bond’s sexuality. If there is, then it’s in one of the many Bond films I haven’t seen. These two films mark director Michael Campbell’s only two entries into the franchise, and they seem to take a harder look at the protagonist than any others. There’s this throwaway line in Goldeneye, when M is briefing our hero.
‘Because I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War…’
Most of the film doesn’t follow through on M’s reading of it – there is little to suggest that the Cold War is no longer real, or to suggest that Bond’s methods are ineffective or even immoral. However, the very presence of Sean Bean’s sexy tuchus in the frame does begin to challenge him. For the first time, we meet another double O agent. He’s just as reckless as Bond, just as charming, but he dies in the opening scene.
When he returns from the dead, he looks very much like a warped, bizarro mirror of the veteran spy. Physically, I mean. His new codename, Janus, makes the slightly laboured point that he represents the more disfigured side of Bond. And yet, Sean Bean’s performance remains so heady and intoxicating that you can forgive virtually everything he does. At least, I can.
With Le Chiffre, all of this is heightened. Perhaps Campbell had a little more license to convey nuance (I hoped that would rhyme with kill, oh well) in Daniel Craig’s first film. Le Chiffre not only looks even more handsome than Alec Trevelyan, he mirrors Bond far more closely. In this one scene a warlord breaks into the villain’s hotel room demanding a return on his investment. He threatens to cut off the hand of Le Chiffre’s girlfriend. Mads Mikkelsen looks about as expressive as Daniel Craig does in the two scenes that bookend the film: first when he sees Solange’s corpse, and later when he can’t save Vesper:
‘The job’s done and the bitch is dead.’
It’s not about whether either character is performing their masculinity or their coldness. The point I took away was that the two are the same. Sexy repressed Daniel Craig and sexy psychopathic Mads Mikkelsen might as well be the same character. If anything, I would argue that Le Chiffre is about as repressed as they come, with the steamy naked torture scene in mind:
‘Wow. You’ve taken good care of your body. Such… a waste.’
I, however, am not repressed. Their being sexy is extremely relevant. I think that a lot of it relates to the honesty they represent – Bond is absolutely exposed by these two villains, and that is only possible because they are as hot as he is.
Michael Scorsese’s favourite breakfast pint is an Old Speckled Hen.