And the Next James Bond Is... Sean Connery?

April 06, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

No, this isn't turning into one of those movie rumor sites, nor is this intended to be a scoop. But it's not a joke, either. With casting on Bond 21 (Casino Royale) still up in the air (Pierce Brosnan? Clive Owen? Daniel Craig?), it's a safe bet that the next time we hear a new line of dialogue from 007, it will be spoken by Sean Connery - only not in a movie. Connery has lent his vocal services to a video game of his classic film, From Russia with Love. And this opens up a lot of possibilities.

Digital animation isn't quite at the point where it can render flawless images of human beings. Fish, robots, dinosaurs, and animals are no problem. Realistic people, however, are still a few years off. But not much further. Mid-way through the next decade, Hollywood will be able to produce animated films that are indistinguishable from live-action ones. (Cost then becomes the issue - is it cheaper to go all animated or to keep things live action?) The implications are staggering, of course, but I'm only going to touch on one here.

I'm not an advocate of bringing back dead stars to appear in new movies. (Although I wasn't offended by Laurence Olivier's "cameo" in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - it was tastefully done.) But using digital likenesses of actors doesn't have to refer to late actors. How about aging stars who would like to be remembered for roles they did earlier in their careers? What about a new Bond movie featuring Connery? He could provide the vocals and the computers would do the rest. Or William Shatner as a 35-year old Captain Kirk? Or an Indiana Jones movie that allows Indy to do all sorts of stunts despite being voiced by an actor (Harrison Ford) who's a senior citizen? The possibilities are endless.

It's not a matter of "if," but "when." The technology will be there and Hollywood's cutting edge filmmakers will start experimenting. The problem, however, is that there's a line that will be crossed. In order to use the likeness of a dead actor, the image has to be licensed from the star's estate. And many of those estates aren't choosy when it comes to money. So we probably will be seeing some of the icons of yesteryear walking the silver screen again (with impersonators performing the dialogue). And that's a little creepy. Tom Cruise acting alonside John Wayne? Naomi Watts playing Humphrey Bogart's latest femme fatale? I'm not sure those are things I want to see. But if Connery is still alive in 10 years and willing to speak into a microphone, I'll be among the first in line to watch the first Connery Bond movie in 30 years. Never say never, again.