February 21st, 2013
12:54 PM ET

Spy museum features villains. Bond villains.

From Barbara Starr

Debonair and dashing, super-spy James Bond has battled evil for half a century on the silver screen.

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, audiences have cheered on the six actors who've played Bond in the world's longest running multi-million dollar movie franchise, and this Sunday's Oscar ceremony will pay tribute to fifty years of Bond.

But it's the Bond villains who are taking center stage at Washington D.C.'s International Spy Museum, in an homage to Bond author Ian Fleming's bad guys.

In the "Exquisitely Evil" exhibit, visitors can see an assortment of memorabilia, including the rope used to beat James Bond in "Casino Royale," the tarantula that crawls up Bond's arm in "Dr. No" and the steel teeth used to attack the spy in "Moonraker."

But it's not just about movie props - it's a reflection of 50 years of the changing world of espionage, and the threats the U.S. and British intelligence services often dealt with in the real world.

"We didn't want to just put interesting props from the films on shelves and say, 'Come look at this.' We wanted to derive some meaning from what the Bond films have been about. Part of it was of course through the eyes of the villains, they reflected the anxieties and concerns of the times," said Peter Earnest, the museum director and a former CIA operative.

In the early years of the 1960s and '70s, the films' plots often reflected the Cold War clash of the superpowers. Villains like Ernst Stavro Blofeld sought to spark global confrontation. In later films, the plots evolved. "When Fleming wrote the books and when Eon Productions produced the films, they attempted to pick up on the things that were producing anxieties in society like genocide or nuclear proliferation or terrorism or drugs," Earnest said.

In the latest blockbuster hit "Skyfall," villain Raoul Silva's weapon is information; his method: cyber warfare.

"He has all the names of all the MI6 agents around the world and the pseudonyms they're using and the people they are employing," Earnest said reminds us.

But over the years, the villains have maintained certain trends - secret lairs, wacky aides and plots for world mayhem.

Aside from the tuxedos, the fast cars, the cool spy tools and the Bond girls, the films have been a kind of window into a secret world.

"For many people, this is the only impression they have. They may not be reading books or other information about real espionage or real intelligence, and therefore this fills in the blanks," Earnest explained.

"When Fleming started writing the stories and when the early films came there wasn't a lot of information out" about the world of secret agents, he added.

"Bond became people's impression of real intelligence and real espionage."

soundoff (7 Responses)
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  4. Clint Barness

    Craig achieved international fame when chosen as the seventh actor to play the role of James Bond, replacing Pierce Brosnan. Though he was initially greeted with scepticism, his debut in Casino Royale was highly acclaimed and earned him a BAFTA award nomination, with the film becoming the highest-grossing in the series at the time. Quantum of Solace followed two years later. His third Bond film, Skyfall, premiered in 2012 and is now the highest-grossing film in the series.'..

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    May 3, 2013 at 6:56 am | Reply
  5. ben L

    I second that

    February 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  6. James

    I want to see the Bond movies get an Oscar–Hope Hollywood wises up someday–Not holding my breath though–

    February 23, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Reply

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