Chris Gelderd on the top ten James Bond allies…
You can’t save the world alone.
Very true, even when you’re the world’s greatest secret agent. During the 58 years on screen, James Bond has travelled the world and defeated the most dangerous and brilliant criminal minds ever seen. But for all the bullets, bombs and brazen attitude, 007 never saves the day without help.
The allies who populate the James Bond universe could be bit-players or lead roles, but the one thing they have in common is that without their contribution, Bond wouldn’t be the effective agent he is. And of course, these allies are a mix of both Ian Fleming creations in the novels and original characters from the films.
From government officials to international spies, from small town fishermen, dancers, industrialists and police officers, Bond’s allies come in all guises. A wonderful diverse collection of selfless people out to do their job, willing to do whatever it takes even at the risk of their own safety. These are the people who make it possible for 007 to save the world. And in the words of Major Boothroyd from 1989s Licence To Kill; “Remember, if it hadn’t of been for Q-Branch, you’d have been dead long ago!”
Thinking about everything from their allegiance, their greatest moment and who portrayed them on screen, let’s have a look at the top ten allies who risked it all across the current 24 films. Following this, we will see who is returning to lend a helping hand to 007 in No Time To Die. We will collate different actors across one role, due to the fact they represent the same character, allegiance and authority over the franchise however much re-cast / rebooted.
00-10: Bill Tanner (Michael Goodliffe, 1974 / James Villiers, 1981 / Michael Kitchen, 1995-1999 / Rory Kinnear, 2008 – Present)
Role: The MI6 Chief of Staff, Bill Tanner acts as the bridge between M and 007. His dedication to serving MI6 and M is unquestionable, but whenever he can help Bond off the record with intel and support, he does, even risking his own role. Tanner is Bond’s closest friend within the walls of MI6.
Defining moment: Tanner risks it all when MI6 and M come under scrutiny from the government. He provides Bond breaking information from official meetings to help in the hunt for SPECTRE, and shows the faith he has in Bond is unwavering.
Memorable quote: “Seems your hunch was right, 007. It’s too bad the evil Queen of Numbers wouldn’t let you play it.”
00-09: General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies, 1987)
Role: General Pushkin is the new head of the KGB. He is making new changes and eradicating old policies to secure the strength of the Soviets going forward, whilst also securing new alliances and relations with powerful groups across the world.
Defining moment: Faced with death at the hands of 007 in The Living Daylights, General Pushkin sees beyond the politics and understands the role he must play to protect the fate of two nations, and the world, and chooses to help 007 in doing so.
Memorable quote: “You are professional. You do not kill without reason.”
00-8: René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini, 2006 – 2008)
Role: A serving French espionage agent, Mathis has appeared in four novels and two feature films. With his intelligence and leads, he helps Bond in European assignments where possible, often using his vast connections to assist Bond in finding his targets or knowing where to look for them.
Defining moment: After being setup to look like a traitor in the investigation against Le Chiffre and taken into MI6 custody in Casino Royale, Mathis looks beyond the error and still aids Bond when it becomes clear he is the only man who can really be trusted during Quantum Of Solace.
Memorable quote: “I have pills for everything. Some make you taller… some make you forget.”
00-7: Milos Columbo (Chaim Topol, 1981)
Role: A former Greek soldier now turned smuggler, Columbo is pitted against his one-time ally Aris Kristatos working with the KGB. Columbo has a powerful empire, and will not let anyone tarnish that attempting to cover up their crimes.
Defining moment: When faced with accusations that he himself is the enemy 007 seeks, Columbo puts truth over his ego and helps set the record straight. He risks his whole operation to help Bond bring down the real villains at an Albanian dockyard during For Your Eyes Only.
Memorable quote: “I’m a good judge of man. You have what the Greeks call “thrausos” – guts!”
00-6: Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell, 1962 – 1985 / Caroline Bliss, 1987 – 1989 / Samantha Bond, 1995-2002 / Naomi Harris, 2012 – Present)
Role: M’s personal secretary who has been present across the franchise in both literature and film, even with her own spin-off books. Miss Moneypenny once longed for Bond’s affections, but has since become a confidant and supportive figure who has faith in 007, even when he doesn’t.
Defining moment: No moment defines Moneypenny, as over 50 years of faithful service to Queen, Country and 007 have made her an invaluable ally with a warm heart and spirit.
Memorable quote: “Flattery will get you nowhere. But don’t stop trying.”
00-5: Saunders (Thomas Wheatly, 1987)
Role: Saunders is MI6 Operative Head of Section V (Vienna) and assigned to help 007 in the defection of former KGB General Georgi Koskov. Throughout the assignment, Saunders is there to provide lead after lead for Bond, even when his patience is tested.
Defining moment: Saunders provides Bond with a final lead to an American arms dealer and where to find him in The Living Daylights. Saunders parts ways for the last time, but not before Bond shows true appreciation for the help provided under such stressful and dangerous circumstances.
Memorable quote: “Forget the ladies for once, Bond.”
00-4: Ali Kerim Bay (Pedro Armendariz, 1963)
Role: Kerim Bay was head of British Intelligence’s “Station T” in Istanbul. With a life aiding the English in secret operations, Kerim Bay had a wealth of connections both due to his line of work and his family, aware of all criminal operatives and crime bosses. This made him the perfect operative across Eastern Europe
Defining moment: Aiding 007 and Tatiana Romanova steal the Lektor machine away from Soviet operatives in From Russia With Love, Kerim Bay sets up an escape route to England on the Orient Express. He uses his well-connected family to line the route and ensure all areas are covered, even going as far as protecting Bond on the train itself.
Memorable quote: “I’ve had a particularly fascinating life – would you like to hear about it?”
00-3: M (Bernard Lee, 1962-1979 / Robert Brown, 1983 – 1989 / Dame Judi Dench, 1995 – 2012, Ralph Fiennes, 2012 – Present)
Role: Head of the British Secret Service and superior to 007, M has been the one who has guided operatives through decades of social and political change. When the world changes around the SIS, M changes with it and makes sure the service is always relevant, reliable and proud of what they do for Queen and Country.
Defining moment: Regardless of the backlash or pressure from the Government in taking action, M stands by 007 and his actions. The prickly relationship they have has stood the test of time, and the trust goes both ways in getting the job done and securing the fragile peace and security both long for.
Memorable quote: “When you carry a 00 number, you have a license to kill, not get killed.”
00-2: Felix Leiter (Jack Lord, 1962 / Cec Linder, 1964 / Rik Van Nutter, 1965 / Norman Bunton, 1971 / David Hedison, 1973 & 1989 / John Terry, 1987, Jeffrey Wright, 2006-Present)
Role: A CIA / DEA operative appearing in both novels and films, Felix acts as 007’s contact in America when assignments cross international borders. He acts as help when MI6 can’t, and provides a wealth of intelligence and support from within the CIA and DEA to help Bond bring down the target and prevent international incidents.
Defining moment: When Felix and his wife Della are attacked by drug baron Franz Sanchez in 1989s Licence To Kill, the friendship he and Bond share is accentuated and understood by the path of revenge it puts Bond on, and is one of the few people he would risk his life – and career – for.
Memorable quote: “I should have introduced myself, seeing as we’re related. Felix Leiter, a brother from Langley.”
00-1: Major Boothroyd / Q (Peter Burton, 1962 / Desmond Llewelyn, 1963 – 1999, John Cleese 1999 – 2002 / Ben Whishaw 2012 – Present)
Role: Quartermaster for MI6, Major Boothroyd, commonly known as Q being the head of the department, provides all active agents with hi-tech gadgetry, weaponry and vehicles for use in the field. While often cantankerous, low on patience and busy, Q has a soft spot for 007, and vice-versa. Their unique relationship is cemented by the fact 007 owes his life to Q’s department and support.
Defining moment: During 1964s Goldfinger, Q reveals the full extent of his department when presenting the gadget laden Aston Martin DB5. From this moment, the expectation of Q-Branch was sky-high with lethal gadgets, weapons and trickery galore to present to Bond on each mission.
Memorable quote: “I never joke about my work, 007.”
The established roster of allies seen in the newly rebooted Daniel Craig era have proven to go above and beyond what it means to be a Bond ally. Newcomers to the franchise have re-invented timeless characters for a new generation of fans, but continued to be dependable and likeable as much as the portrayals that have come before.
Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright and Rory Kinnear continue in their roles established over the Craig era, bringing international espionage back into play to contend with Rami Malek’s Safin and the looming shadow of SPECTRE.
They’ve brought real gravitas to the often two-dimensional roles, presenting them as humans with layers and story arcs to explore and continue alongside James Bond himself. In that respect, when our allies are presented with danger in service, it resonates far more with audiences when they get involved. It’s this combination of star talent and engaging stories that have continued to push the 007 franchise into new territory wrapped up in a familiar bubble.
Will No Time To Die bring in new faces to sit along the best of the allies in the franchise? Are the expectations of what it means to be an ally going to be met, or will Cory Fukunaga throw in some curveballs to re-define the role? We’ll find out this November…
Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
No Time To Die stars Daniel Craig (James Bond), Ralph Fiennes (M), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Léa Seydoux (Madeleine Swann), Ben Whishaw (Q), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Christoph Waltz (Blofeld), while new additions include Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049), Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel), Billy Magnussen (Velvet Buzzsaw), Dali Benssalah (A Faithful Man) and David Dencik (Top of the Lake).