John Cleese Says James Bond Became ‘Gritty And Humorless’ To Please Asian Markets

I swear I didn’t plan for this story, the story about Chinese product placement in Trans4mers, and the China Film Group story all to hit on the same day, it’s just a massive case of accidental synergy. In any case, in a recent interview with UK’s Radio Times, John Cleese says part of the reason he isn’t doing James Bond movies anymore is that the franchise switched to a more humorless tone to suit the increasingly important Asian markets. Where people don’t value humor, only sneakiness. Okay, just kidding, but the first part is true.

“I did two James Bond movies [1999’s The World Is Not Enough, and 2002’s Die Another Day, playing Q], and then I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humourless.

“Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw. The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.” [Radio Times]

It’s hard to deny that big-budget films (“tentpoles”) like James Bond are trying harder to kowtow to Asia, and especially China, where, as I pointed out in the last story, one state-run company distributes all foreign films for a market of a billion people. But to say the Bond films did away with humor to suit Asian tastes is giving Hollywood too much credit. I doubt the thought process went much further than seeing Bourne make a ton of money and going “HEY WE SHOULD DO THAT.”

Poor John Cleese, those dull Asian bastards would never understand the subtle British class humor of a government ministry devoted to walking silly. So much nuanced wordplay to unpack.