9. From Russia With Love - Bond Gets Slappy
Apologies to Barry Nelson and David Niven, but Sean Connery is and always will be the best Bond. Unlike the actors who followed, he had the perfect balance of physicality and wit, effectively blurring the line between actor and character. Of course, in real life, Big Tam was (and may still be) a miserable penny pinching Scots git with a receding hairline- trust me, I know my own kind- but in one very awkward way he exactly mirrors his most famous role. In From Russia with Love, Bond assists in the defection of a beautiful Russian cypher clerk, Tanya. She has access to a much sought after decoding device, but she's also the bait in a trap to discredit 007's reputation. Bond, on discovering this, takes exactly the appropriate course of action to save that reputation- he slaps Tanya hard in the face. The ferocity of that crack is a striking moment of cinematic hypocrisy. For a character defined as a 'gentleman spy', Bond often acts horrifically towards women, while Tanya's hysterical reaction isn't intended to elicit audience sympathy for her- it's designed to justify Bond's assault as an essential corrective for an emotionally unstable woman. You could make the argument that Bond's behaviour in this scene is extreme and exceptional- and certainly he is portrayed as a more vulnerable character here- but then you'd be going against the views of a man who knows James Bond better than anybody. Namely, the man who played him for nine years. When interviewed by Playboy magazine in 1965, Connery advocated an open-handed slap as the perfect solution for any woman with the temerity to stand up to his overweening macho bulls**t. Nobody much cared, because it was an interview in Playboy magazine in 1965. However, there comes a time in every man's life when he must repeat the same inflammatory statement he made twenty two years earlier, only this time to one of America's most famous female newscasters. The Connery interview with Barbara Walters turned him into the patron saint of self-described women bashers, with the added effect that now every time you see him hit a fictional woman in a fictional film, you know he really bloody meant it. I'm not suggesting he literally slapped Daniella Bianchi, the actress who played Tanya, but he has literally slapped other women, and that in itself makes the scene too real for comfort. Just like the posters said, Sean Connery IS James Bond. In about the most awkward way possible.