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A new exhibition lifts the lid on the craftsmanship and creativity behind the design and appeal of Britain's secret agent 007

James Bond turns 50 this year, the world’s most famous cinematic) secret agent still looking pretty sharp for a middle-aged bloke.

And, half a century on, audiences still hold a special place in their hearts for 007 (and his women). The enduring appeal is part sexy style, part reinvention. Ever since Ursula Andress emerged from the surf in a striking white bikini in the ’62 franchise starter, Dr No, the Bond story has captured the public’s attention.

From the swinging Sixties and conspiracy-laden Cold War Seventies to Eighties extravagances and reinvention in the Nineties and Noughties, the films have remained sharp and current. Not even newbie Jason Bourne has been able to come close to matching the franchise’s onscreen charisma.

This cinematic majesty is no fluke, however. No matter how suave the actor playing 007 has been, Bond would be nothing were it not for his dapper dress sense and the stylised gadgets Q tools him up with. As times have changed, fashions have too.

Forget the actors for a minute; it has fallen to the bods behind the scenes to ensure Bond stays in his prized place ahead of the rest. Years of tireless behind-the-scenes planning and design have gone into the 23 films, the latest of which, Skyfall, is due out this October.

In honour of all this hard graft, an exhibition, Designing 007: Fifty Years Of Bond Style, is currently being showcased at the Barbican in London.

“It’s a retrospective,” co-curator Bronwyn Cosgrave says. “Because, designing James Bond, from the get-go, the films have always been ahead of contemporary. This is the only Eon production where James Bond is a supporting character.

“The sets, costumes and gadgets are now considered as iconic as the man himself. And that is what we hope
to illuminate.”

Co-curator and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming points out that Bond has become more international with time. “When [the films started] they were an English phenomenon, which spread across the world so it made sense to dress Bond in an English wardrobe,“ she says.

“But tailoring has changed immeasurably, and the suits that people wear have changed, so it would be strange if you didn’t let Bond change with the times.”

From those bespoke outfits and the eye-catching wardrobe of the numerous Bond babes to Scaramanga’s pen-for-a-barrel golden gun and the famous Aston Martin, Bond’s styles, fashions and iconic invention is the focus here.

There’s Oddjob’s deadly decapitating bowler hat and the bikini Halle Berry’s Jinx Johnson wore in a homage to Andress in 2002’s Die Another Day. Latest Bond Daniel Craig’s similarly lusted-after blue trunks are also among the wardrobe and costume offerings.

Taking an immersive audio-visual approach, there are props aplenty, as well as commentaries, HD screens with various behind the scenes anecdotes, and sketches, storyboards, and props from the movies. Terri Hatcher’s £140,000 diamond necklace from Brosnan era Tomorrow Never Dies, even features in this painstaking procession.

“It’s about the people underpinning the film process,“ Barbican managing director Nick Kenyon says. “This show is a fitting tribute to the artists, craftsmen, technicians and the cast, too, who make these movies possible.”


Styling a screen legend: James Bond exhibition celebrates 50 years of style
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