Bond villains have always flirted with homoeroticism. You could say it’s as much a part of of the franchise’s 50-year-old formula as all of the girls, gadgets, and glamor. Whether it’s Goldfinger aiming his laser at 007’s royal jewels, the coy cat-in-his-lap quips of Blofeld, or even Lotte Lenya’s butch villainess Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, the Bond films have subtly toyed with a sexual subtext. But in the latest Bond installment, Skyfall, Javier Bardem pushes the gay envelope farther than it’s ever been pushed before.
The Spanish actor dons a blonde wig as the latest 007 nemesis, Silva – a cyberterrorist who has a complicated history with Bond’s boss at MI6, M (Judi Dench). And his first encounter with Daniel Craig’s license-to-kill agent is sure to get fans squirming in their seats. Which, according to Bardem, was exactly the point.
Asked if his character has an interest in Bond beyond just world domination, Bardem admits, “You could read it that way. That option was there in the script. The word that [director Sam Mendes] kept using was ‘uncomfortableness’. Beyond the sexuality, he wanted it to feel like you don’t know if Silva’s joking or not.”
Naturally, we don’t want to reveal any spoilers here. But when the two characters first meet at Silva’s island lair, and Bond is being held prisoner and tied to a chair, there definitely seems to be more on the villain’s mind that just old-school evil.
“I think there’s a huge homoerotic undertow in a lot of Bond movies,” says Mendes. “And there’s a lot of camp, too. And I wanted to embrace that. Then Javier took it on and shifted it to another level on the day we shot it. The way he undoes the buttons of Bond’s shirt, I was very particular about pushing the discomfort. I said to Javier, ‘You’re f—ing with him’. Is he into Bond or does he just want to freak him out?”
To hear what Daniel Craig had to say about Bond’s charged confrontation with Bardem’s 00-baddie Silva (and more on the making of Skyfall), check out our upcoming Entertainment Weekly cover story, on newsstands Oct. 26.