The women of James Bond films have made great strides since a bikini-clad Ursula Andress first wandered out of the sea in 1962’s Dr No. In recent years, 007’s female associates have included Olga Kurylenko as a vengeance-fuelled Bolivian spy and Naomie Harris and Gemma Arterton as hard-as-nails M16 field agents.
But these characters, while more inspiring than the swooning sex kittens and evil femme fatales of old-school Bond, are still very much supporting roles. Like your most promiscuous guy mate, we know there’s no point getting attached to the women Bond meets. If they’re lucky enough to survive the film, they’re still usually replaced every time a new instalment rolls around.
So three cheers, then, for the news that the producers of James Bond are working on a new female-led espionage saga – with a rather unexpected lead.
Blake Lively is set to star in a “female-driven” thriller created by James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson.
The Rhythm Section will see Lively as a woman who becomes an assassin to avenge the deaths of her family, based on the 2011 novel by British author Mark Burnell.
The film will tell the story of Stephanie Patrick, a troubled young woman “on the path to self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash – a flight that she was meant to be on,” according to Variety.
Recruited by the intelligence services, Patrick sets out to track down those responsible for the crash.
Production will begin on the film later this year. Reed Morano, who directed the first three episodes of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, will direct.
Broccoli and Wilson, who have co-produced the last eight Bond films, said that it was “exciting” to be working with Morano and Lively, “who have a strong vision for this very compelling story driven by a female protagonist”.
The film is being financed by IM Global, the co-founder of which, Stuart Ford, is also acting as executive producer. He described his vision for The Rhythm Section as “a fresh, realistic and bold international thriller”.
“In Stephanie Patrick, Mark has created a unique female heroine who turns so many of the current cinematic clichés surrounding so-called ‘kick-ass’ female leads on their head,” Ford said.
The Rhythm Section was the first of four Stephanie Patrick books written by Burnell, suggesting that this could be the start of a new action franchise.
Lively may seem like an unusual choice to helm an action film, given that she is still best known for appearing as Serena van der Woodsen in teen TV show Gossip Girl.
She has also starred in teen comedies and romantic dramas, such as The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and The Age of Adaline, and carefully crafted an image as a ‘celebrity homemaker’ with the launch of a food and interiors website (the short-lived preserve.us).
However, The Rhythm Section won’t be the first time that the actress has tried her hand at an action role.
She appeared opposite future husband Ryan Reynolds in superhero movie Green Lantern, and also featured in crime thriller Savages.
Last year, Lively starred in The Shallows, a surf survival thriller that saw her do battle with a murderous great white shark. That film’s commercial success and positive critical reception appear to have solidified her status as a bankable action heroine.
Whether The Rhythm Section will be any good remains to be seen – but with this team behind it, we’ve got high hopes.
Images: Rex Features