Judi Dench: Two Ms

Is Judi Dench playing the same character in Casino Royale and the franchise reboot as she played in Pierce Brosnan’s films? True, she played M in all five, but M is a job title. Is she the same person?

In Brosnan’s films, she was a “bean counter” who was promoted into the position of M (code name for the head of MI6) just prior to the post-title opening of GoldenEye. Bond distrusted her because she didn’t have an MI6 background. She says

You don’t like me, Bond. You don’t like my methods. You think I’m an accountant, a bean counter who’s more interested in my numbers than your instincts.

She also specifically dislikes Bond because he’s a “relic of the Cold War.”

In Casino Royale, M has a very different attitude:

In the old days if an agent did something that embarrassing he’d have a good sense to defect. Christ, I miss the Cold War.

It’s counter-intuitive to think that the same actress is playing the same character as two different people in different movies, but I think that’s the case. In interviews, Martin Campbell acknowledged that it didn’t make sense to have Bond “meet the new boss” in GoldenEye, and then be promoted by that boss in Casino Royale. But Dame Judi was just too good to let go of. The writing for M in CR took no account of the M in the past four movies; she’s tougher and more military.

It’s a unique situation in the Bond films, and an interesting one. Thank goodness it’s Dame Judi bringing her gifts to these complex characters!


7 Responses to “Judi Dench: Two Ms”

  1. That is an interesting point. The more I think about it, I think I agree that she is playing 2 versions of M. I like the new one better. She is very good in the role and I am glad they kept her around.

  2. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Both “versions” have interesting plusses and minuses. The new one is harder, tougher.

  3. Zippertuck Says:

    Interesting to think about, but why wouldn’t they cast a new actor for the part if it is a different M? That just doesn’t make sense. Also, why can’t she simply have changed? In this post 9/11 world don’t you think her attitudes would alter? After working with Bond for a few years anyone would be apt to change. Nothing more depressing than a person that doesn’t change over the years and opens or even closes their minds to different things.

    BTW, Deborah got your book and am enjoying very much!

  4. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Thanks for the compliment!

    Thing is, Campbell admitted the only reason it’s still Dench is because she’s such a great actress, and he acknowledged it doesn’t really make sense.

    In GE, she was new to this branch of the Service, a “bean-counter.” In CR, she was so experienced in espionage and the rules of the game that she “missed the Cold War.” It simply can’t be the same person!

  5. Zippertuck Says:

    I really don’t like that!!! If it is a different person they should have used a different actor. I would assume that 99% of “everyday” fans do not realize this and if they did it would be baffling. Although a small aspect of the film, on the whole that makes me dislike CR in many ways. Actually rather sloppy as well. Although when has the handling of important aspects of these stories not been sloppy? I’d give my kingdom to go back in time to make sure they kept everything consistent. Although if I could go back in time I doubt I would worry about James Bond films, although I would make sure Roger Moore never played James Bond. 😉

    Again really enjoying the book and its fine mix of your tastes, opinions and scholarship! Definitely makes me want to go through all of the films and see them again.

  6. Deborah Lipp Says:

    I appreciate why you don’t like it, although you should definitely understand that they’ve never cared about consistency.

    Indeed, because Bond is timeless, and these movies aren’t period pieces, and yet Bond remains roughly the same age, they can’t go for continuity. In a way, the lack of continuity is what has made the franchise last.

  7. I never realized it was the same actress playing two characters. Bond does it to me again.

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