Surely 007 will be all the greater if, instead of fighting them, he embraces the ministrations of the HSE inspectors
Marina Hyde – The Guardian
News that there has been an explosion on the set of the new James Bond movie is highly significant, for both the crew member reported to have sustained a minor injury, and for the United Kingdom as a whole.
As covered in this column previously, the Bond franchise is one of those things whose health is always discussed as though it were powerfully bound up with the health of this nation. If it is ailing, we are all – in some inexplicably linked way – ailing, too. See also: the porosity or otherwise of Man United’s back four and M&S lingerie sales. These are our bellwethers. I strongly expect Labour’s next manifesto to announce that Bond movies will be nationalised, so that the grumpily ripped superspy can shag incredibly hot women in spa hotels for the many, and not for whoever he’s doing it now. The Queen, I think? I rarely understand the plots.
Anyway, each time a new Bond film is announced, shot and released, every aspect of it is picked over for clues as to Where We’re At, in a form of divination upon which we’ll confer the working title Bondomancy. How, then, are we to interpret news that there has not simply been an explosion on set of the latest iteration of the series, but that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has begun an investigation? We shall come to various facetious answers to that question shortly.
First, the details. Speaking of working titles, the movie in question is the 25th Bond film, and it was reported back in February that it would be called Shatterhand. Shatterhand was one of Blofeld’s aliases in the Fleming books – but, much more importantly, it’s just an innately silly word. Indeed, after the internet had spent a day having fun and games with it, Barbara Broccoli was fairly swift to stamp on suggestions that this was going to be the real title.
That remains shrouded in secrecy, but the movie is filming at Pinewood studios, in west London, and it was here, on Tuesday, that the explosion took place. According to various reports, it occurred on a set dressed as a Porton Down lab, with an excess of gas causing a bigger series of explosions than was planned, which injured the crew member.
But it is the involvement of the HSE that has captured the imagination. The body is rivalled only by the EU as a ludicrously miscast national bogeyman, and its arrival on the Bond set to begin inquiries has sent some into overdrive. Relishing the chance to unite two of its favourite obsessions, the Daily Mail suggested that the HSE will be Bond’s “most difficult opponent yet”.
But all credit to the Sun, whose report features my Most Hyperrealistic Anonymous Source of the Week. Here we go: “A Bond source said: ‘Forget new villain Rami Malek, the only people putting the stoppers on 007 right now are the government suits. They marched in with their briefcases and told the Bond bigwigs they were investigating what had gone on. It takes a lot to put Bond in his place, but this lot have.’”
My GOD – this is EXACTLY how humans talk! I hope the producers get this guy on board as a writer, as a sop to their endless quest to making the franchise feel fresh, modern and real. If not, he could literally write Sun copy at his talking speed, and should consequently be hired by that newspaper without delay.
In the meantime, instead of resisting the ministrations of Health and Safety, surely the franchise should embrace them. What is Duty of Care, if not a ready-made Bond title in the mould of Quantum of Solace? Or even better: how about Tort of Negligence? Can definitely see Ed Sheeran finding a rhyme for that.
Furthermore, couldn’t Health and Safety become an actual character in the movies, appearing in hi-vis jacket and hard hat at opportune moments? Here he comes just as Bond’s about to have to shag some secrets out of someone, with the instruction to use a condom. Here he is again, sealing off the Casino Royale in Montenegro after Le Chiffre’s bleeding-eye poker tell has let him down again, and refusing to reopen it until he is satisfied that no high-stakes gamblers have been exposed to blood-borne pathogens.
Or perhaps the HSE character could serve as a sort of devoted bag carrier to 007, like Gary in Veep, always on hand with his bag of amenities to provide Bond with wound disinfectant, accident-in-the-workplace forms, or a warrant to inspect the cable installation in an evildoer’s lair? Something for producers to bear in mind, given the enormity of what the franchise represents.
We’re safe in the hands of Tony Stark
It was in Iron Man 2 that Tony Stark announced he had “privatised world peace” – a notion we ultimately don’t have time to discuss today. But which arguably tends toward the dystopic.
Or does it? Perhaps inspired by his most famous role, Robert Downey Jr took to the stage at an Amazon futurology event this week to announce that he was setting up a project to use advanced technologies to end pollution on Earth. “Between robotics and nanotechnology we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely,” he declared, “within a decade.”
I feel like “probably” is doing a lot of heavy lifting, there, but hey – at least he’s trying. I don’t see Chris Hemsworth announcing a robot asteroid mining firm that will free humanity from the bonds of labour this side of 2030.
If Thor were to want to make such a declaration, though, the place to do it seems to be the conference Downey was at. Called Amazon re:Mars, it is hosted in a Las Vegas resort by world boss Jeff Bezos, one of those guys who absolutely believes in his unparalleled ability to make the planet a better place. Although not by doing little-people stuff such as paying tax, or decent wages, or taking steps so that his warehouse workers don’t have to piss in bottles to avoid getting the sack. Big stuff, you know. We should definitely trust him.
As for Downey’s new enterprise, it is to be called the Footprint Coalition, and is quite the most eye-catching Hollywood environmental initiative since James Cameron demanded a meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Titanic director had been watching the news footage of attempts to plug the spill, and concluded that “those morons don’t know what they’re doing”. He submitted a 25-page report to the agency and then … well, over to him. “[The report] was promptly ignored by everyone,” Cameron later explained, complaining that it took 60 days before they arrived at its conclusions themselves. “At the end of the day, they did exactly what we recommended. I’m not saying they did it because we recommended it. I think they did it because it was the right thing to do. But they basically did exactly what we said should be done.”
So who’s to say that Downey couldn’t be just as right? Certainly not the experts he cited during his presentation at re:Mars. “God I love experts,” he told the audience. “They’re like Wikipedia with character defects.” A slogan for Michael Gove’s Tory leadership campaign, there, and we can only wish him all the best. (Robert, not Michael, obviously. That would be absurd.)