‘I knew it was a courageous thing to do’: The curious story of Bond’s first gay villains

Hollywood


No Time to Die will probably be remembered for cramming in two of the most important revelations within the historical past of the James Bond franchise. This isn’t to give both of these away, however to disclose a third: that Bond’s helpful gadget man, Q, is gay. “He’ll be here soon!” Ben Whishaw’s Q warns Bond, hurriedly chopping a cucumber forward of his dinner date.

Q’s revelation was important for queer followers who’ve lengthy appreciated Bond’s excessive campness in and round all that brawny machismo. But there hasn’t been an overtly queer character within the franchise for 50 years – not since Diamonds Are Forever, launched in December 1971.

Daniel Craig’s period will probably be rightly celebrated for being far more progressive than the franchise has ever been earlier than, by correctly exploring Bond’s feelings for one. But in phrases of the illustration of sexuality, 007 and his universe have maintained an unrealistically straight picture. (Javier Bardem’s character Silva in Skyfall flirts outrageously, however nonetheless, nothing about his sexual choice was out within the open.)

All of which makes gay henchmen Mr Wint and Mr Kidd again in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, all of the extra exceptional. Together, they’re chargeable for some of probably the most elegant comedian interludes in the entire of the Bond franchise. The two henchmen working for Blofield dispatch one-liners as sharp as their matching fits as they go about murdering individuals and making an attempt to kill off Sean Connery.

They try to cremate Connery’s Bond in a funeral parlour, and in one other scene, blow him up with a bomb disguised as a camp dessert dish. In one other, they conduct a homicidal assault on a helicopter earlier than strolling off hand in hand into the sundown.

They’re nearly probably the most attention-grabbing factor of Diamonds Are Forever, which is remembered by many followers as Connery’s drained last flip within the tux. “Connery’s return is blighted by the rapid ageing that afflicted his career’s mid-section before the Eighties World’s Sexiest Pensioner resurrection,” a BBC critic uncharitably wrote in 2001. After George Lazenby’s one-off look in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R Broccoli paid a then report sum of $1.25m to coerce Connery again – however for a lot of, the diamond smuggling plot lacked sparkle.

However, taking $19m on the US field workplace, Diamonds… grew to become the fifth-highest grossing movie Stateside that yr, above Dirty Harry and A Clockwork Orange. It meant the movie was radical for giving queer illustration a mainstream platform. To give some context, in 1970, the yr the movie was shot,70 per cent of Americans thought homosexual relations were wrong, whereas the UK was solely three years into decriminalisation.

Mr Wint and Mr Kidd had been performed by Bruce Glover and Putter Smith, two straight males, however even then they reportedly riled Connery. Glover, who’s now 89, remembers the star being uncomfortable with homoerotic jokes in the course of the shoot. “I was chest to chest with Sean,” he says. “I like to make jokes, so I said in a kinda wispy voice, ‘I think I’m getting emotionally involved…’”

Glover thought Connery would snort however the robust Scotsman held a agency stare. “He didn’t know me, so he thought I was gay. I could see his little Scottish brain going, ‘Oh my God…’ I thought I should probably say, ‘Sean it was a joke…’ And then I thought, ‘Oh to hell with it, let him worry.’”

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When Connery finally found Glover was heterosexual, he remembers him “grinning at me, waving his finger. He walked over saying ‘you son of a bitch’ about three times…”

Mr Wint and Mr Kidd had been probably the most attention-grabbing factor of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, which is remembered by many followers as Connery’s drained last flip within the tux

(Danjaq/Eon/Ua/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Some audiences had been uncomfortable too. Smith, now 80, remembers the movie being picketed in New York. “A hundred people got together with signs,” he remembers. Smith, a jazz musician who went into performing briefly for the position, skilled the hate firsthand. “A conductor once came to me and said, ‘You know, I boycotted you in New York.’ “I said, ‘Gee, I’m sorry, I didn’t write this shit…’”

In a manner, it’s no marvel there was a backlash. Bond has all the time projected a historically heteronormative excellent, from his perspective in the direction of girls as playthings to coerce into mattress on missions, to the best way movie posters offered him bodily propped up by girls on both aspect. Ian Fleming even mentioned it himself: writing in 1953, he defined that Bond was the pursuit of “red-blooded heterosexuals”.

But it wasn’t a shock that queers, in Diamonds Are Forever, had been the enemies. Villains all through cinema historical past have tended to mirror present “fears” and attitudes, and homosexuals have a lengthy historical past of being vilified. It’s a subject author Vito Russo explores in his seminal 1981 e book The Celluloid Closet, which runs via onscreen queer stereotyping from the Sixties to the Eighties, from Dr Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Sharon Stone’s bisexual Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct.

Glover and director Guy Hamilton had been chargeable for conceiving the characters for the display screen and it feels as in the event that they mined comedy so as to create gay characters suited to themselves and mainstream audiences of the time. “I didn’t want to be that kind of clichéd gay guy,” Glover remembers, pondering maybe of the campness of Richard Burton and Rex Harrison’s gay barbershop couple in 1969’s Staircase. “I realised there was a great opportunity for humour all the way through this piece.”

The most instantly apparent joke is predicated across the appears to be like of each males, who wouldn’t appear out of place on the duvet of a music magazine as we speak and would have, in 1971, been thought-about beatnik varieties. “At the time I was looking hip,” remembers Smith of the audition interval. “Long hair, glasses, it was just the look…”

“He’s hilarious, he’s fun to look at, he’s like a big giant toy,” Glover remembers of his co-star, down the cellphone from Los Angeles.

They weren’t the one characters in Diamonds… who had been queer, both. Another instance of the villainous queer trope, Blofeld – performed by the actor Charles Gray – cross clothes and spends a lot of his display screen time dropping sassy feedback in Bond’s course, exhibiting what one critic calls “wonderfully camp humour”.

Charles Gray’s Blofeld was a ‘sassy’ villain in ‘Diamonds are Forever’

(Danjaq/Eon/Ua/Kobal/Shutterstock)

These characters could have been written for laughs, however quick ahead to 2021 and queering Bond is the intense aspect hustle of a complete on-line group. “For me growing up, Wint and Kidd represented some kind of ideal,” says David Lowbridge-Ellis, founder of the Licence to Queer weblog, which publishes queer evaluations of the Bond movies, in addition to options analyzing every little thing from Bond’s muscle mary standing to how queer his hedonistic methods are. “They are, after all, a loving same-sex couple, something that is still little seen onscreen. In 1971, it was virtually non-existent. Yes, they’re hired assassins who think nothing of drowning little old ladies and offing Las Vegas entertainers in their dressing rooms but, well, nobody’s perfect.”

Lowbridge-Ellis is true: Wint and Kidd are removed from good. For one, there’s barely any intimacy. Speaking of Smith, Glover says: “I looked at his mouth and his moustache and his goofy lips and I went, ‘There is no way I wanna kiss this guy.’” Smith, alternatively, is extra comfy talking concerning the worth of the illustration. “I knew it was a courageous thing to do, but I don’t feel like I was somebody who was fighting for civil rights. I just had this opportunity and took it.”

Lowbridge-Ellis goes as far as to factors out that a lot concerning the characters is, truly, “undeniably homophobic”. From the best way Mr Wint was dispatched with a bomb up his bottom to the apparent indisputable fact that right here had been two straight males making marginalised gay males the butt of their jokes, it’s simple to argue how Wint and Kidd had been exploiting the LGBT+ group slightly than supporting it.

But by merely being onscreen, the duo had represented the gay group – and made a complete crowd together with myself really feel seen – whether or not their creators had meant to or not. Fifty years later, I do know I’m not the one LGBT+ Bond fan quietly trembling when the assassins maintain arms and stroll off into the sundown. After Q’s current popping out, we are able to solely hope that a Bond movie doesn’t wait one other half century to be queered once more. No Time to Die? No time like the current, extra like.



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