Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Guns, Girls, Booze – Part II: The other ‘spirited’ diversions of James Bond

For James Bond fans who have grown up seeing the super spy live the good life as he went about saving the world

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For James Bond fans who have grown up seeing the super spy live the good life as he went about saving the world, it must have come as a shock to watch Daniel Craig pouring himself a glass of Heinekens zero-alcohol beer in the ‘Well worth the wait commercial aired all across Europe in the run-up to the September 30 theatrical release of ‘No Time to Die.

One associates Commander Bond with bubbles of the stature of a Dom Perignon, or a Bollinger, the champagne that became synonymous with the 007 franchise after it first appeared in the Roger Moore-starrer ‘Moonraker’ (1979). The brand could not have asked for a better endorsement than in ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985), also starring Moore, when a character declares admiringly: “Bollinger ’75! I see you are a connoisseur, Mr Bond.”

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Unlike Smirnoff, which has been a part of the 007 film lore since ‘Dr No’ (1962), Champagne Bollinger was favoured by Ian Fleming’s James Bond as well – we encounter it for the first time in the Jamaica-based English writer’s third 007 novel, ‘Diamond Are Forever’ (1956), when the smuggler Tiffany Case sends him a quarter bottle on board the luxury liner, Queen Elizabeth.

To celebrate this enduring partnership, Champagne Bollinger has brought out a black-silver-and-gold limited edition gift box that features the silhouette of James Bond alongside his trusted Aston Martin DB5 (first seen in the 1964 film ‘Goldfinger’) in time for the much-delayed release of ‘No Time to Die’.

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The champagne brand had, in fact, rolled out a limited edition of its 2011 vintage to mark the film’s original release year – 2019. The distinguishing feature of the jet-black bottle is the number ‘25′ formed from the titles of the 24 Bond films that preceded ‘No Time to Die’. But then, creative differences between the producers and the film’s first director, Danny Boyle, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, jettisoned the release date of the 25th Bond film.

So, how did Heineken, the famous Dutch beer associated in the past with the UEFA Champions League and the Rugby World Cup, get associated with ‘No Time to Die’? The brand’s tie-up dates back to the Pierce Brosnan-starrer ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997). Interestingly, James Bond is seen drinking the beer only in two films – Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) – and in Ian Fleming’s novels, the superspy only occasionally quaffs beer, that too a Lowenbrau, or a Miller High Life, or Red Stripes.

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In an interview with ‘Vanity Fair’, Daniel Craig was candid about the film’s association with a mass brand such as Heineken. Its money helped to meet the film’s costs, the actor said without hedging. “A movie like this costs $118 million to make – it’s the nature of it, the size of the movie. And it costs another $200 million to sell it. So the $200 million has to come from somewhere,” Craig said in the interview quoted by the ‘Mirror’ newspaper.

He then went on to make a statement that would have made Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, the co-creator of the James Bond franchise, proud of him. Craig said in his interview to ‘Vanity Fair’: “Product placement, whichever way you look at it, whether you like it or you think it’s disgusting or whatever, it’s what it is. Heineken gave us a ton of money for there to be Heineken in a shot in a bar. … Without them, the movie couldn’t get sold.”

That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of product placement in Bond films, which have seen brands ranging from the defunct airline, Pan Am, to KFC and Toblerone, and of course, Heineken and Bollinger, fork out tidy sums to bask in the reflected glory of 007.

–By Sourish Bhattacharyya

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