James Bond leaves Leah McFall feeling shaken, but unstirred

James Bond must appeal to the middle-aged woman whose glory days have faded. As Leah McFall can tell you: it's a hard demographic to crack.
Victoria Birkinshaw
James Bond must appeal to the middle-aged woman whose glory days have faded. As Leah McFall can tell you: it's a hard demographic to crack.

OK, you can roll with most of it. Your need, now, for high-waisted jeans, and the kind of moisturiser which quotes its own chemical compounds and calls itself a serum. Reese Witherspoon promotes cream like this in ad campaigns, aggressively airbrushed to her internal organs. If she needs it, you must need it – I mean, she's younger than you.

You've ditched stilettos for chunky heels with secret cushioned inner-soles. Perhaps you search and destroy the occasional silver hair – not from your scalp, which bristles with them, but your eyebrows. Also, sometimes, something inside you clicks when you bob down.

You're used to All Blacks being half your age. Some of your colleagues were born in the 90s, for goodness' sake – no, the late 90s. They used to say things like: "We can't believe you're 40!" They stopped saying this six years ago.

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The last time you got excited was when you realised Uncle Ben makes heat-and-eat quinoa. Even so, you've still got it. I mean, you may not ever have had it, not really. But you hadn't let go of it, until today. Today, you no longer fancy James Bond.

I mean, hang up your boots, ladies. Why play on? You must now accept you are juiceless: a desiccated husk.

It's not Daniel Craig's fault. Arguably, he's a great Bond – a true sexual democrat, who had something for practically everyone. Straight women. Gay men. Straight men, who had no idea they were in love with him. I mean, who could say no to that chin, in those togs?

But seven years along and Craig's Bond is starting to look uncomfortably like Vladimir Putin. The iceberg eyes, the camera-ready torso, the inability to emote with the bulk of humanity. Bond is supposed to be the good guy, outwitting and dispatching shadowy Russian bad guys. We shouldn't easily mistake him for someone who might – and let's just be imaginative – mastermind an illegal operation to fire on and seize Ukrainian naval ships off the Crimean Peninsula.

The best Bond actors are indistinguishable from the role and for a while there, you couldn't tell Craig and Bond apart: they both wore impeccable suits, even on weekends. Their default response to any bad news was the same as their response to a joke: tacit acknowledgement, followed by lack of expression. They smouldered with self-conscious sexuality.

But then Craig told an interviewer he was only in it for the money. Wrong! You were in it for Queen and country, James! Then he married Rachel Weisz, fathered a baby, and was papped in a front pack blinking painfully in the sunlight, looking like five kinds of crap. As I, too, spent several years looking equally rough after the successive birth of two children, I felt nothing but sympathy for him. Sympathy is a more powerful emotion than lust; and that's when I went off James Bond.

Barbara Broccoli wants me to get my juice back. No, she's not my therapist. She's a titanic Hollywood producer at the helm of the Bond franchise. I've got to get it back or she might be forced to sell something like a superyacht, or an island, to pay for her helicopters.

Rumour has it, Barbara has been hunting for a new Bond – someone with so much undiluted heteronormative masculinity they'd be cinema catnip for anyone with a spare two hours and a total lack of sexual imagination.

This man must appeal even to that hardest-to-crack demographic: the middle-aged woman, burdened by the juggle of work, kids and the mental load; overlooked in most places, under-served in others, who may have spent the 90s being catcalled in Rome, serenaded in Barcelona and offered bratwurst in Dusseldorf, but whose glory days have faded. For this woman, as Barbara knows, it's been a long time between frankfurters.

I hear they've just slashed the odds on Bodyguard star Richard Madden, an ambitious 32-year-old Scot. He's a vanilla choice compared to Idris Elba, but sent millions of viewers into a frenzy when his character had illicit sex with the Home Secretary, possibly while plotting her assassination. It wasn't his readiness to sleep with one of us that did it for mid-40s viewers, but his ability to have two competing thoughts in his head. Hot!

Still, Madden's ripe sex appeal is lost on me. Maybe because he looks like someone's kid brother? Actually, and I looked this up, he is someone's kid brother. Barbara needs me to fancy him for the franchise to succeed but while the lizard part of my brain is knocking, my frontal cortex won't let it in.

I don't know, Barbara. Before I unlock my desire and convert it into a movie ticket, just answer me this. Can he cook?

Sunday Magazine