Fleming, adaptation, and the author biopic

Strong, Jeremy (2019) Fleming, adaptation, and the author biopic. In: A Companion to the Biopic. Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 233-246. ISBN 9781119554813

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Abstract

The mini-series Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, which aired in the U.S. on BBC America and in the U.K. on Sky Atlantic in 2014, offered an entertaining and glamorised account of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. Focusing in particular on Fleming’s time during the Second World War, a period in which he served in British Naval Intelligence, successive episodes comprised embroidered accounts of his experiences, with a heavy emphasis on scenes and motifs that chimed with the doings of his most famous character. This approach to the author’s life-story foregrounded the same elements upon which previous small-screen biographies of Ian Fleming had focused, especially his creation of Bond. The TV film Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (1989) addressed his wartime experiences and subsequent Bond writing, while Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (1990) doubled down on its Bond connections by casting Jason Connery (son of original film 007, Sean Connery) as Fleming in a Second World War adventure with numerous James Bond parallels. Likewise, Ian Fleming: Bondmaker (2005) and Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began (2008) both framed Fleming first and foremost in terms of his literary creation.
With high production values, and a strong cast that included Dominic Cooper, Lara Pulver, and Samuel West, Fleming bore several of the hallmarks of what has come to be called “quality television” (Thompson, 1997) , and was heavily promoted in the weeks running up to its broadcast. However, a contemporary review in Wired by Graeme McMillan saw it as evidence of a problematic tendency in recent biopics. McMillan asserted that while such texts were previously “a mix of entertainment, education and guilt-free voyeurism,” they have become “a contradictory mix of hagiography and revisionism, lionizing their subjects while somehow managing to diminish them in comparison to the products of their imagination” (McMillan, 2014). In this chapter I will look to unpick this contention, and—in particular—to approach Fleming and the author biopic in terms of adaptation.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Literature > Adaptation studies
Film and television
Film and television > Film theory
Literature > Popular fiction
Depositing User: Jeremy Strong
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2020 07:27
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2020 10:08
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/6753

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