Continuing our series on Jews & Crime, Nathan Abrams explores one of James Bond’s ‘Jewish’ villains.
While none of James Bond’s villains in the film versions has been explicitly Jewish, several have been played by Jewish actors. The first-ever Bond villain in 1962’s Dr No, Doctor Julius No, a reclusive Chinese-German scientist, was played by Canadian-Jewish actor, Joseph Wiseman. Later, in Live and Let Die (1973), Yaphet Kotto played the Harlem drug lord known as Mr Big as well as Dr Kananga, a corrupt Caribbean dictator, who rules the fictional island of San Monique. More recently, Mathieu Amalric played Dominic Greene, the main villain of Quantum of Solace (2008). Steven Berkoff also appeared as the Soviet General Orlov in Octopossy (1983).
There is one other in this roster of villains who is based on a real-life Jew. While many reviewers compared Carver to Rupert Murdoch, in reality, screenwriter Bruce Feirstein based the character on Robert Maxwell.
A larger than life figure who died in mysterious circumstances back in 1991, Robert Maxwell has been back in the news because of his daughter Ghislaine’s links to Jeffrey Epstein. But also there is a new biography about him (John Preston’s The Fall) as well as a new podcast (Power: The Maxwells) exploring his life.
The first clue to connecting Carver to Maxwell is in the name of his company, Media Group Network, whose initials MGN echo those of the Mirror Newspaper Group which Maxwell rechristened as ‘MGN’.
The reporting of Carver’s death bears similarities to that of Maxwell. At the end of the film, M suggests the wording for a press release on Carver’s death, saying that Carver was lost at sea having fallen off his luxury yacht, with the authorities believing it was suicide. In reality, Carver has been killed by the British Secret Service with Chinese help. Many people feel that Maxwell was killed by the Mossad.
Reinforcing the link between Carver and Jewishness, the actor who played him — Jonathan Pryce — has been cast in so many Jewish roles, that he’s often mistaken for being Jewish himself. When asked about how much he identifies with Jewishness, he answered, ‘Well, the Welsh are the lost tribe of Israel, as the saying goes. I had the seal of approval when I made a film for Mel Brooks. He took me to lunch at Joe Allen’s and said: “You’re Jewish, right?” I said, “No. My name is Jonathan and my father was Isaac but we’re not Jewish.”’ He told later employers that if he’s Jewish enough for Mel Brooks, he’s Jewish enough for anyone.
Two of those who work for him can be read as Jewish. Cyberterrorist Henry Gupta is played by Ricky Jay and Dr. Kaufman, is a professor of forensic medicine who moonlights as an international professional assassin. But the way he was played by Vincent Schiavelli, his Kaufman recalls the send-ups of Peter Sellers as Dr. Zemph in Lolita and the title character of Dr. Strangelove.
Rife with Jewishness behind the scenes, no doubt building upon those who contributed to the success of the franchise. Bruce Feirstein, who had worked on GoldenEye, wrote the first script. Feirstein claimed that his inspiration was his own experience working with journalism, stating that he aimed to “write something that was grounded in a nightmare of reality.” Feirstein’s script was then passed to director Roger Spottiswoode, who gathered seven Hollywood screenwriters in London to brainstorm, eventually choosing Nicholas Meyer to perform rewrites. Feirstein did the final ‘wash and rise’. (And when turned into a novel, even the author was Jewish, Raymond Benson.)
Tomorrow Never Dies continues Ian Fleming’s penchant for Jewish villains. Like earlier Bond baddies, Carver has an obsession with power, is a megalomaniac, seeking total media domination, showing a sadistic disregard for human life in his pursuit of it. Using liberalism as a front, he looks to achieve world domination by spreading confusion and terror, fostering discontent and unrest. Tomorrow Never Dies, of course, builds upon Ian Fleming’s ‘serpentine’ plots which bothered Mordechai Richler because he saw parallels to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in them. To quote the sage, Lenny Bruce, in the antisemitic imagination to control the media is very Jewish and wanting to dominate the globe is very, very Jewish.
As I have outlined here, in the first Bond book, Casino Royale (1953), remade twice in 1967 and 2006, the main antagonist, Le Chiffre (whose name simply means the number), is described thus: ‘Small ears with large lobes (indicating some Jewish blood).’ He is found wandering in the Dachau displaced persons camp, apparently suffering from amnesia.
And many of the gangsters in Diamonds Are Forever (1957) are implied to be Jewish as is one of antagonist Francisco Scaramanga’s investors in The Man with the Golden Gun (1965). Fleming based the title character of ‘Goldfinger’, on Ernö Goldfinger, the real-life Hungarian-born Modernist architect, and leftist who was his neighbour in north London and whom Fleming despised. His obsession with gold — Fleming renamed him Auric (meaning ‘gold’ in Latin) — plays into long-held Jewish stereotypes. Ironically, the actor who played him in the film, Gert Fröbe, had been a member of the Nazi Party during World War II.