PASADENA — Fleming — Ian Fleming — gave the world it's most famous secret agent when he authored the series of books starring the man with a license to kill, James Bond. A new four-part BBC America series reveals that everything from Bond's way with women to his famous shaken-not-stirred drink could be rooted in the author's own life.
"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond" tells the story of how Fleming (Dominic Cooper) went from playboy to war hero with the outbreak of World War II. Partly as a way to escape from the shadow of his more popular brother, Peter (Rupert Evans), and to win favor with his formidable mother Eve (Lesley Manville), Fleming becomes part of Britain's Naval Intelligence. He soon finds that he has a knack for working in the cloak-and-dagger world.
Cooper — a longtime fan of the Bond movies (especially the Sean Connery ones) — didn't know a lot about Fleming before taking on the role. He quickly caught up on the author's life by reading two biographies and then relied on the script to fill in the other pieces. Just like Bond's exploits are so outrageous to believe, Cooper found himself questioning the accuracy of the accounts of Fleming's life because so much happened to him in a very short period of time.
It helped when Cooper realized that this is a dramatized version of Fleming's life, which means some liberties can be taken.
"The truth was that when you're making a biographical piece, you certainly want certain elements of yourself to be in some way, at least, resemble that person. I look nothing like him. There's no way I could possibly ever, ever be him. So I knew that we were starting from quite a fictitious place," Cooper says. "It became clear that actually we were using that as the foundation of this very exciting drama about this man.
"I was sort of at liberty to make him, in many ways, what I thought he probably would have wanted to be, or how he would have wanted to be perceived, which gave me a lot of freedom in terms of what I could do with the character."
The series looks at Fleming's military service from the opulence of high society London to the dangers of being behind enemy lines.
In each adventure, Fleming battles his own personal demons while facing life-threatening assignments.
Executive producer Douglas Rae says the series is more than just another spy story.
"Anyone who knows the background of Ian, he was such an enigmatic, chameleon kind of character. But for me, the fascination was doing a film about the man who desperately wanted to be somebody else, his alter ego, this heroic kind of all-action hero," Rae says.
Originally, the project was to be a feature film but because Fleming's life took so many twists and turns the first script would have been a four-hour movie. Instead of cutting out large portions of his life, the project became the short television series.
"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond": 10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, on BBC America
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.