There have been many portrayals of Ian Fleming on screen at this point with varying success; but has anyone ever nailed it? Will anyone ever be able to? After the recent lackluster and frankly inaccurate interpretation ‘Fleming‘, patience is running out and Fleming fans must be concerned about the likelihood of seeing him again for some time. Charles Dance was most convincing in the little-seen 1989 version ‘Goldeneye‘ – perhaps it was 20 years too early?
Whether a TV series of film, here is our list of potentially capable actors to play Commander Fleming:
1. Tom Hiddleston
Followers of literary Bond might remember that Tom read Octopussy and The Living Daylights for the recent audiobook series. An Eton-educated man with mellifluous tones, he’s many people’s top choice and well-known to American audiences for his turn as top villain Loki in the Avengers franchise.
He could bring some star power without being overwhelming.
2. Eddie Redmayne
The man of the moment after scooping an Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything; Redmayne could certainly play a young Ian, perhaps at Eton, his Kitzbuhel years and even into the City. Redmayne, like his friend Hiddleston went to Eton, so he would be quite at home.
A double-hander with an older actor playing Fleming later in life looking back on those years could be a nice take on it.
3. Geoffrey Rush
Rush is probably the closest looking actor to Fleming. Even a doppelganger on first blush. The slightly ruddy complexion and weathered face along with his form in films such as the Tailor of Panama and The King’s Speech, put him very high on many people’s list at least to play the older Fleming.
Has his chance passed him by though?
4. Mark Gatiss
A lifelong Bond fan, writer and actor Gatiss is most known for writing the recent Sherlock and Dr. Who series. He also plays the debonair Mycroft Holmes brilliantly in Sherlock with sufficient mysteriousness and elitism .
He has Fleming’s height and a similar facial structure; his sensibilities as writer and actor could also be an advantage stepping into the Commander’s moccasins.
5. Benedict Cumberbatch
There is no doubt that BC could pull off playing anyone such is his talent. He has the height and bone structure of a young Fleming, but is his star too bright? Would we see beyond the actor?
There has been talk for some while about BC playing Fleming in a version based upon Andrew Lycett’s biography, initially to be directed by David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones and concentrate primarily on his years of service in the Second World War. However, since April 2014, the rumors have gone cold.
6. Hugh Laurie
A dark horse but he would be a very shrewd choice. Hugh is surprisingly tall and can throw his voice to anything; his career-changing role in House proved he could play the curmudgeon, in addition to the upper class twit and even the sinister — see his portrayal as MI6 boss Jools Siviter in the TV series Spooks.
Whether his comedic reputation or House persona would loom too large, might be a reason he would not be considered.
7. Charles Dance
The original – and still the best – actor to have played Fleming. It’s a great shame more people have not seen 1989’s ‘Goldeneye’ since Dance absolutely nails the performance in looks and character.
The script stayed true to Fleming’s life (based on John Pearson’s biography) without needing to be gussied up as a sort of proto-Bond. It also included very early performances by Christoph Waltz and Julian Fellowes.
8. Michael Chance
Michael is the most recent man to play the Commander, not on screen but on stage, in Mark Burgess’ one-man show entitled ‘The Man with the Golden Pen. Received with solid reviews, Michael nailed the feel of Fleming portraying him as he was about to be married. His performance was described as “An extremely stylish and entertaining piece, capturing the essence and spirit of Ian Fleming…” and “a monologue, adeptly delivered by Michael Chance of which we never seem to tire.”
Perhaps he should be given (ahem) a chance.
9. James D’Arcy
Recently on our screens playing suspected killer Lee Ashworth in the series Broadchurch, D’Arcy in fact has played Fleming before in 2011’s Age of Heroes, an interesting, but disappointing take on Fleming’s 30 AU Commando unit.
He does not quite the facial likeness to Fleming and is perhaps too good-looking; has he had his chance already?
10. Damian Lewis
A known Bond fan – he read the novel Diamonds Are Forever for the recent audiobooks – Lewis has the chameleon quality that would be need to capture the similar characteristics in Fleming and a similar upbringing: the son of wealthy City brokers in St. John’s Wood, Eton educated, even his maternal grandfather was Lord Mayor of London.
Does an actor with his CV even need to play Fleming?
9 thoughts on “10 Actors Who Could or Should Play Ian Fleming”
I have long thought that Mark Gatiss would make an excellent older Fleming. That Dominic Cooper two-parter from last year was a waste of time, as far as I’m concerned. How many wartime espionage tv shows have we seen over the years? And this one really didn’t bring anything new to the table.
I would’ve much rather seen a miniseries showing Fleming’s life from the moment he sat down to write the Bond books in Jamaica, his literary success, his marriage, the film rights to Bond being sold, the legal wranglings over “Thunderball”, and the toll it took on his health. Now that would have been interesting.
If they ever decide to show this side of Fleming’s life, Gatiss would be perfect. I basically said as much on Twitter a month or so ago.
I agree completely with Teeritz’s comments with the exception that, as a piece of faction, I thought the Dominic Cooper vehicle was quite enjoyable not least of all for Muriel Wright’s motorcycle leathers!
Regarding the recommendations for actors to play Fleming, all are highly commendable. Rush would have been perfect 15 years ago but the moment has past, as it has for Dance.
Personally I’d discount Cumberbatch on the grounds that it is possible to have too much Cumberbatch. I’d also rule out Lewis because I think he looks too unlike Fleming.
With regards to the remainder, I’d go for any of them but would also add Dominic Cooper to the list – he would be my preferred choice.
What is key to any future version is that it concentrates, as Teeritz says, on Fleming’s time as a writer. At the end of the day, Bond was Fleming’s towering achievment and it was this period that was disappointingly light in Lycett’s biography. It’s years since I read Pearson’s work so I can’t comment as to his coverage of the 007 years but they should certainly be the main focus of any future project.
Okay, Eddie Redmayne as young Fleming, up to the end of the war. Mark Gatiss takes over as post -War Fleming. Intersperse scenes of him flitting between England and Jamaica for the late ’40s/early ’50s as he goes through his “white mischief” years, featuring other debauched English ex-pats as they pass through gin-soaked ‘Goldeneye’ as guests of the Flemings.
Continue with his first books being published, his marriage to Lady Rothermere, the various attempts to bring 007 to the screen, along with a sub-plot featuring Broccoli’s and Saltzman’s independent attempts at securing the rights before they joined forces. The casting of the actor to play Bond (who could be convincing as a young Connery is anybody’s guess!), the court cases, and Fleming’s declining health in idyllic Jamaica in the mid-Sixties.
Ahh, it’ll never happen.
My main issue with the Dominic Cooper miniseries was that, if you replaced the name ‘Ian Fleming’ with say, ‘George Simmons’ or ‘Edward Huntingdon-Smythe’ (I was aiming for two British-sounding names from opposite ends of the class structure), then the series appears rather tame and cliched. I know that Fleming’s wartime exploits didn’t form the basis for Bond’s adventures, but it really felt like not much happened that we hadn’t seen before. Fleming’s literary life seemed richer material for a miniseries. In my view, anyway.
Yes, it should have been in the hands of the BBC or HBO not ‘Sky’ – damned useless. This is why I think movie Bond is a millstone around literary Bond’s neck. We’re not kids, we don’t need guns and explosions.
Given the job, I would have done a 10-parter: Eton, Reuters, The City, War, The Sunday Times, Jamaica etc. Perhaps Mark Gatiss can produce and bring in Stephen Moffat – anyone with pedigree basically.
Indeed – you comment about Gatiss was duely noted!
He could definitely play the post-war, writing years.
Great ideas from Teeritz’s and 009.
Auntie Beeb should get them both on board and get it done. They are probably too busy trying to figure out what to do with the pugilist Clarkson right now but hopefully they’ll get to it.
The real story is yet to find it’s way to the screen.
Geoffrey Rush……hands down.
Agreed – Geoffrey Rush for the older Fleming, c.1955-64. After seeing him in ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers’ playing Peter Sellers when Sellers is playing James Bond (in the satirical ‘Casino Royale’ movie) and seeing each layer in the actor’s portrayal, there seems to be nothing that Rush can’t do.
Based on similarity, I’d vote for Geoffrey Rush or Werner Herzog.