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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

From Goldfinger to Scaramanga: 56 years of James Bond villains

The next instalment of the spy movie franchise could feature its first Arab villain. And about time too – they’ve been from just about everywhere else

This Friday is International James Bond Day, celebrating the 56th anniversary of the release of the very first film in the franchise, Dr No, on October 5, 1962.

Bond has been in the news a lot recently, following Danny Boyle’s departure from the director’s chair of Bond 25 over “creative differences”, and Cary Fukunaga being named as his replacement.

Last month, Wonder Woman star Said Taghmaoui also revealed exclusively to The National that he was in the running to play the villain in the next Bond movie, but that there was currently some uncertainty following the departure of Boyle. The film’s producers didn’t know whether the main baddie would now be of Middle Eastern descent, or perhaps Russian.

There’s nothing new about Middle Eastern baddies in films – the region has become a Hollywood watchword for terrorism and fanaticism ever since 9/11, and we’ve often written about Hollywood’s tendency to negatively portray the Arab world and people. Russian baddies also have an impressive Hollywood pedigree, dating back to the height of the cold war, when the red menace was every wholesome American’s ­greatest fear.

Bond, of course, isn’t technically a Hollywood film – it’s British, and headquartered at London’s Pinewood Studios, home of one of the world’s biggest sound stages, the Albert R Broccoli 007 Stage, named after the franchise’s original producer.

But does that mean the movies’ producers are any less prone to cliche and racial profiling when it comes to choosing their baddies? We’ve looked through all 24 of the official Bond movies to date, and identified the nationalities of the main baddies. There’s no shortage of evil plotting Soviets (three Soviet main baddies, though this is augmented by a number of other nationalities who work or worked for the KGB or other Russian agencies, or come from Russian heritage, such as For Your Eyes Only’s Greek KGB man Aristotle ­Kristatos, A View to a Kill’s East German Max Zorin or GoldenEye’s rogue British agent Alec Trevelyan, of Cossack heritage.

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To date, though, the series has not featured a single major Arab baddie – the ­closest we come is Octopussy’s Afghan Prince Kamal Khan. Taghmaoui could be a first here.

In fact, the most frequent nationality among Bond’s adversaries is his fellow Brits, with six main baddies across the 24 films so far. Germany scores highly too – perhaps unsurprisingly given the United Kingdom’s lingering obsession with Nazis – with three villains. Beyond the Brits, Russians and Germans, the movie spreads its net fairly diversely for its villains. China and North Korea feature a baddie each, in line with pervading geopolitics, but so do Britain’s traditional allies such as France, the United States and Sweden. There’s even one fictional nationality – Live and Let Die’s Dr Kananga hails from the non-existent Caribbean island of San Monique. We round-up the cat-stroking, elaborate death-devising, would-be-world-ruling hordes by geography.