“Not a weapon that I’d recognise”: Glenda Jackson plays M

Glenda Jackson recently revealed that she was offered the part of M in the Bond series. Speaking to an intimate audience at Deptford Cinema following a screening of her 1971 classic Sunday Bloody Sunday, Jackson recounted how she was approached to take the role before Judi Dench. It was the pre-Brosnan era and the double Oscar winner had recently traded acting for politics.

Knowing that the franchise producers were thinking of Jackson one can’t help but trace Dench’s regal stature to Jackson’s Elizabeth Rex. The denial of sexual favour that in turn generates its own intimidating sexuality is as fundamental to M as it is to the Virgin Queen. Dench was of course brilliant as the franchise’s first female spymaster. Previous Ms were background furniture but this physically slight actress always seemed to tower over Messrs Brosnan and Craig.

Jackson would have been her own M. Her experience pummeling the likes of IDS would make her a fearsome opponent to any sinister bald goon with a plot to unleash misery on helpless populations. She would have been our right honourable M…

Bond: I’m back from the dead. Reporting for duty.

M: You call this duty? Duty is protecting the country, day in day out, from the spectre of Thatcherism. Duty is tackling the causes of disaffection and alienation — it’s not just taking out a few hoodlums. You think you can just rock up whenever you like, all sun-kissed and smooth, after a few days of death-defying bravura.

Bond: I get the job done.

M: You do the killing part well- but there are plenty more jobs you are woefully ill-equipped for. You rely on the barrel of a gun but that’s no weapon that I recognise. For those of us who grew up in post-war-penury but still managed to build the great institutions of the NHS and the welfare state our weapons were spirit and solidarity.

Bond: Right, next time I have my Martini poisoned by a financier of international terrorism and I go into cardiac arrest I’ll be sure to find the nearest A&E.

M: I didn’t say that. You’re like all those men who will only respond to what hasn’t been said. You’re constantly rewriting the past. Even after I’m dead you’ll try to bring me back in the form of a video file conveniently discovered to move the plot forwards and provide the illusion of continuity.

Bond: Am I going on a mission or what?

M: Bloody hell, if you want a mission go join the priesthood. Leave the serious work of rebuilding society to those willing to get their hands dirty.

Bond: I do love it when a woman knows what do with her… [M flicks switch, Bond ejected through car roof]