BBC America’s upcoming miniseries “Fleming” opens with the James Bond creator joking about killing his new wife with a speargun. So those who delight in deconstructing 007’s relationships with women will also find plenty of room for debate about Ian Fleming’s attitudes.
“His relationship with women was by modern standards very problematic,” “Fleming” director Mat Whitecross said Saturday at a Television Critics Association panel. “I mean he was quite misogynistic.”
“I think probably Fleming used his mother as that archetypal Bond villain,” added Douglas Rae, executive producer of the series. It finds Dominic Cooper portraying Fleming as he rises from failed journalist to master of espionage and author.
Fleming modeled Bond partly on himself. But the women of “Fleming” get deeper characterizations than the typical Bond girl. The most prominent is Ann O’Neill. She and Fleming married after a long affair, and the show opens with them skindiving on their honeymoon. When he shoots an squid with a speargun, he jokes about aiming for her.
“There’s four really strong female characters in it and you get to see his kind of very dysfunctional relationship with his mother, which is hugely influential on his choice of girlfriend and complete disdain — well, she doesn’t really approve at all of his dating O’Neill,” said Lara Pulver, who plays O’Neill. “And there’s a really interesting dynamic as well with his finally standing up to his mother.”
Also interesting is the dynamic between Fleming and his wife. She is married to one man and having an affair with a Daily Mail heir when she begins the affair with Fleming.
“They had an S&M relationship which was fascinating. I think even now it’s quite shocking. And they were both very forward thinking for the time,” said Whitecross. “Even now, someone living her life in the way Ann did, I think it would be quite shocking. She hung out with Churchill, with artists, and in many ways she was his superior. He had to up his game.”