Sunday, 7 April 2013

Celebrities recall iconic scenes of Ursula Andress and Daniel Craig

When tennis champion Andy Murray returned to the beach after a swim in the sea in Florida recently, the UK's tabloid press was struck by a remarkable similarity. In that moment, Andy Murray was Daniel Craig's James Bond emerging from the sea in Casino Royale (2006). “Watch out Daniel Craig! Andy Murray has his very own James Bond moment as he emerges from sea after Miami Masters win,” read the Daily Mail headline. The Daily Express reported that Murray “jumped into the sea before emerging to show off his toned torso just like 007 star Daniel Craig.”

Even a cursory glance at the photograph of Andy Murray and the image of Daniel Craig in the sea in Casino Royale shows that the comparison is superficial to say the least. Murray's shorts weren't even close to Craig's La Perla trunks, and the only factors to support the comparison were that both Murray and Craig happened to be in the sea, they were walking towards the beach, and were well-toned. But while the comparison was tenuous, it was also inevitable, as Andy Murray follows a long line of celebrities who have been compared to James Bond simply after being photographed wading out of the sea.

In July 2010, when fashion designer Giorgio Armani was photographed in the sea wearing a pair of unflattering Emporio Armani Speedos, a headline in the Daily Mail read, “Giorgio Armani, 76, fails to pull off the Daniel Craig look in his tight white swimming trunks.” A year later, however, Armani had chosen a better pair of trunks, and this time the Daily Mail reported that he “looked fighting fit on the beach” on the island of Formentera, adding that Armani's reception the previous year, which the Mail reminded readers drew unfavourable comparisons with Daniel Craig, was perhaps what prompted the change of trunks.

Singer Rod Stewart was matched against Daniel Craig when he was seen on the beach of St Tropez in 2007. The Daily Mail's headline read, “Rod looks less 007 and more double oh no in his alarmingly tight trunks.” And in January that year, TV and radio presenter Jonathan Ross caught the eye of the Daily Mail when he was photographed on a Florida beach. Admittedly, his trunks were similar to those worn by Daniel Craig, though for the Mail the comparison was again not in his favour. “He cut a slightly less dashing figure than the muscular Craig as he played Frisbee at the water's edge”, opined journalist Kristina Pedesen.

Female celebrities enjoying a swim in the sea have not escaped the tabloid gaze either, and inevitably the media turn to another classic image from the Bond films for their principal reference point: that of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder emerging from the sea onto the beach of Crab Key in Dr No (1962).

In March 2012, lawyer Nancy Dell'Olio was compared to Ursula Andress as she posed on a Jamaican beach for a Hello! magazine shoot. Despite the fact that Dell'Olio's bikini was frilly and purple, while that of Ursula Andress was white with belt and knife accessories, the Mail ran the headline, “Making waves: Nancy Dell’Olio, 50, strips down to a bikini to re-create THAT Dr No beach scene.” Later, in June 2012, Sally Bercow, the wife of House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, was snapped returning to the beach after a swim in Barbados. The Daily Mail reported that she “appeared to be doing her best to impersonate Bond girl Ursula Andress.”

The use of the comparison isn't confined to the Daily Mail. A September 2010 edition of the Daily Express reported on a fashion shoot on a Florida beach at which former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, modelled a white bikini. “Geri spices up the beach in a Bond girl bikini”, ran the headline. An earlier edition, published in April 2006, reported that Scarlet Johansson was holidaying at the Goldeneye resort. Prompted in part by the significance of the location, as well as the fact that Scarlet Johansson was photographed wearing a bikini, the Express commented that “she is more than a match for the legendary Ursula Andress.” A rather weaker link to the beach scene in Dr No was made in the Express in January 2002. Tennis star Anna Kournikova, playing in a tournament in Auckland, happened to be wearing belted shorts, but that was enough to prompt a comparison with Ursula Andress' iconic scene. The shorts were “designed in a style similar to Bond girl Ursula Andress’s famous bikini in the 1962 film, Dr No”, the paper reported.

In fact, it is not difficult to find celebrities being compared to Daniel Craig or Ursula Andress when trawling through any UK tabloid newspaper. For example, a quick search of The Sun website brought up articles in which comedian Jimmy Carr and actor Adam Sandler had been photographed on the beach and compared to Daniel Craig, and singers Sarah Harding and Ashlee Simpson had been compared to Ursula Andress.

Yes, it's lazy journalism (and it's debatable whether any of these features actually merit publication), but it nevertheless provides evidence that two iconic scenes in the Bond series have a life beyond the films and the context of James Bond and function successfully as memes in their own right. The scenes are memorable, they are frequently recalled and are persistent.

That said, it is notable that none of the newspaper stories pre-dates 2002. Obviously no one could be compared with Daniel Craig before 2006, but it seems that routine comparisons with Ursula Andress weren't made until after well after 2000. It is possible that a rise in such comparisons in the media reflects a change in the style of journalism over the years, but a resurgence in the popularity of the Bond series evident since Pierce Brosnan's tenure as Bond and during three significant anniversaries over the past 10 years (40 years of the Bond films, Ian Fleming's centenary, and 50 years of the Bond films) is likely to have been an important factor. Such renewed interest has led, for example, to endless polls of favourite Bond scenes or celebrity recreations of iconic scenes. The Bond films themselves have brought fresh attention to Ursula Andress' beach scene, specifically Halle Berry's nod to the scene in Die Another Day, and  Daniel Craig's own beach scene, which, while not necessarily written as a homage to Ursula Andress, naturally invited comparisons in the media. And any interest that Ursula Andress' scene gains reflects back on Daniel Craig's scene, which then attracts more attention, setting up something of a feedback mechanism.

With the beach scenes of Daniel Craig and Ursula Andress equally well established in cultural space, comparisons are irresistible to newspaper editors, who now have instant reference points every time a female or male celebrity is photographed staggering out of the sea after a swim.

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