James Bond Skyfalling For Heineken

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Okay, we’ve been inundated with ads lately, so you probably know that the new James Bond film Skyfall opens today, at least in the U.S. I’ve been a huge James Bond fan since I saw my first one in the theater, which was Thunderball, when I was six. I read all the books, and needless to say, saw every film multiple times. I’ve really been enjoying the reboot with Daniel Craig and will be taking my son Porter to see Skyfall this afternoon. This will be his first Bond film in the theater, though he’s seen a couple of them on DVD. I’m looking forward not just to seeing the movie, but in some ways I’m even more excited that he’s really jazzed to see it and has been talking of little else for the last week. There’s just one tiny problem.

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Heineken has been associated with the Bond franchise for some time now, but the $45 million deal for Skyfall also requires Bond to actually drink some. Now drinking beer is fine, even for Bond, of course. He styles himself as a hedonist, a man who enjoys the finest pleasures across the board. He soliloquizes on that very subject in the pages of the novel Casino Royale. Especially re-set or rebooted here in the present, where beer is every bit the equal of wine and spirits, you’d not only be unsurprised that Bond drinks beer, you’d be downright shocked if he didn’t. If you read the books, you’d know he’s never restricted himself to martinis but usually drinks the preferred alcohol wherever he happens to be, and has enjoyed beer in several of the novels.

I took a detailed look at this six years ago, when it was rumored that Bond would drink Heineken in Casino Royale — which turned out not to be the case — but which caused all manner of odd denunciations that the character would never stoop so low as to drink that swill reserved for the Hoi polloi. I don’t mean Heineken, I mean beer in general. Journalists, who could have done a little research, just went apeshit. Check out James Bond’s Beer. I’ll wait here.

So as you can see, beer and Bond have been together for quite some time now, just not in the way the media has portrayed it, as usual taking the propaganda and marketing given them at face value and regurgitating it without doing any fact-checking or wondering at how convenient it all seemed. Watching the first Bond film, Dr. No, with my son last weekend, I again noted that in Jamaica he’s talking with Quarrel at a bar and Red Stripe can be seen behind the bar. A few minutes later, fighting in the back room of the bar, Bond is pushed over onto a pile of empty Red Stripe cartons that go flying everywhere. Why they’re empty is a bit of a mystery, but the fact is although he never drinks any, there’s been beer front and center since the very first official film. In the novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, he finally manages to drink some Red Stripe. In fact, he drinks three of them waiting for someone in a cafe.

But in Skyfall apparently he’s seen drinking a Heineken from the bottle, while in bed with co-star Tonia Sotiropoulou. MGM has circulated the still below showing just that.

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Here was a portion of my take on Heineken and James Bond from six years ago:

Propaganda aside, I’m certainly in favor of James Bond drinking beer. If they’re trying to re-invent (or reboot) James Bond — which is my understanding of what the new film represents — it makes sense that a modern Bond would have embraced good beer along with the other pleasures of life today. That would be in keeping with the character’s philosophy. Undoubtedly one of the reasons that Bond was not a beer drinker in 1953 and beyond, when Fleming began writing the Bond novels, was that there were not many good beers widely available worldwide and what was available was not often written about. Remember Michael Jackson’s first beer book wasn’t published until 1977. And American wines were held in no better regard during that time period, either. So keeping Bond’s tastes and preferences rooted in a time fifty years ago, when the diversity and quality of alcohol beverages was vastly different than it is today, doesn’t make sense anymore, if indeed it ever did.

But Heineken? Not Heineken. Bond’s character would never drink such swill. He wouldn’t be a snob about wine, food, clothes, cars and practically everything else and then drink such a pedestrian beer. In fact, in the novel Casino Royale, in Chapter 8, just after ordering champagne, Bond makes the following pronouncement:

“You must forgive me,” he said. “I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It’s very pernickety and old-maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble.”

So there is absolutely no way someone who would say that would turn around and order a skunked green-bottle of Heineken. Maybe a Thomas Hardy 1968, a Samuel Adams Utopias, a Deus, or a Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus. He’d more likely order something showy, expensive and impressive; something that showed he had good taste. And that would never be a Heineken. Often Bond orders local specialties in the novels and films, and Casino Royale takes place in northern France. The fictional resort town where most of the novel takes place is supposedly near the mouth of the Somme River in the Picardie region, which is only about two hours from Belgium. So while France is not known for its beers, a good selection of Belgian beers would likely be available at the casino and area restaurants. That’s what a beer savvy Bond would order.

To which today I would only add that he’d never, ever drink it out of the bottle! Well, maybe not never, but if he had the choice, he’d do it the proper way, out of a glass because his character is all about knowing what’s the right way to do things and then taking a particular pleasure in doing them correctly. And what self-respecting English gentleman — or for that matter any Brit — would drink Dutch lager over his native ale, especially when his job was protecting the British way of life? It’s unseemly.

To take unseemly a few notches further, Refined Guy reported that Heineken USA will release two special metal bottles of Heineken using James Bond imagery. Known as “Star Bottles, on the plus side, at least the beer won’t get skunked as easily as in the green glass bottles.

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According to the website Bond Lifestyle, Heineken pulled out all the stops for the Amsterdam premiere of the film, with an obscene amount of product placement for the event. And I’m not alone in believing this tie-in is not the best idea, at least the way it’s being done, with many, many pundits weighing in across the globe. But I think an Australian commentator, Lucy Clark, summed it up best in B&T, when she said. “In the golden era, products were chosen because they fitted with the character. The sad thing is that, in the modern era, the character and plot is decided by sponsors.”

So while I’m really looking forward to seeing the film today — and hoping this will be one of those father/son moments that Porter remembers long after I’m gone (as it is for me) — what I hope above all else is that seeing that out-of-character Heineken won’t break the fourth wall for me and make it harder to immerse myself in the experience and just enjoy it. Fingers crossed.

Comments

  1. says

    Great post, you’re definitely correct in Bond’s beer of not choice!
    As far as the empty Red Stripe boxes…? Well, back in the day bottles were returned to the brewery (or beverage bottler) to be washed, hopefully sterilized & refilled. I remember touring a Coca-Cola plant in Virginia in 1965 and watching the bottle cleaning line. And when my wife & I cruise to Belize, the bars always save the Belikan Beer bottles to return to the brewery (who, oddly enough is the licensed Coca-Cola bottler for that area). So of course you save the empty cases to return the empties.

  2. Mark Bilbrough says

    Hi Jay,

    Great post. I hope you just end up Having a brief cringe with the product placement, and the movie lets you can go back to enjoying it.

    Cheers,
    Billy

    • says

      I’m happy to say it was in the beginning, very brief and fairly innocuous. There was one other scene that showed an entire small cooler with a glass door, behind which it was filled with all Heineken bottles. But I doubt few people other than myself probably saw it.

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