Vesper Lynd’s fate changed between the novel and movie version of Casino Royale, and the difference is one that went on to shape Daniel Craig’s 007.
Iconic spy James Bond’s formative love interest Vesper Lynd dies by suicide in the source novel Casino Royale, and Daniel Craig’s first movie in the role was right to alter the circumstances of her demise for the film adaptation. Over his twenty-five cinematic outings, suave super-spy James Bond has been almost as famous for his countless love interests as he has been for his many espionage missions. The term “Bond girl” has been in use for decades to describe the often thinly-written, scarcely-established interchangeable romantic partners who the spy beds and forgets throughout his many movies.
However, one love interest of Bond’s was so formative that she even gave rise to his famous drink order. Vesper Lynd, whose moniker provided the name for Bond’s signature Vesper Martini, was played by Eva Green in 2006’s Casino Royale. She is portrayed as Bond’s first love and the tragic figure who plays a pivotal role in his origin story. The Daniel Craig era ambitiously endeavored to give Bond a definitive backstory for the first time, and to this end, the actor’s first film in the part saw him take on the story of 007’s first missions as an MI6 agent.
During Casino Royale’s action, Craig’s untested rookie agent meets and falls for Vesper Lynd when she is assigned to ensure he keeps an eye on the villainous Le Chiffre at a high-stakes poker tournament. Bond ends up madly in love with Vesper, and his discovery that she is a double agent is a genuine shock to the character. It is strange to see 007 so forlorn about a romantic betrayal when campier earlier takes on the character expected treachery from their paramours as an inevitability, but fortunately, Casino Royale stopped short of keeping the source novel’s devastating death for Vesper. The darker, Bourne-influenced Craig-era Bond movie did kill off Vesper Lynd in its closing scenes, but the scene occurs via a drowning that 007 can’t save the character from. In the original novel Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd commits suicide via overdose without saving Bond’s life, a far darker ending that the movie was right to cut out.
Casino Royale Already Upped Bond’s Brutality
Between Le Chiffre’s sudden, brutal death and Vesper’s eventual, more tragic death, Casino Royale’s Bourne-style brutality was already upping the ante of the franchise considerably from the campy theatrics of the Pierce Brosnan era. The Bond of the ‘90s embraced his inherent absurdity and, by the time the invisible car of Die Another Day rolled around, was scarcely less ludicrous than his cinematic contemporary Austin Powers. In its most brutal moment, Casino Royale violently upended this trend by establishing that Bond was mortal and even his most powerful enemies like Le Chiffre could be swiftly felled with a bullet to the head, a shocking twist that changed the tone of the series for the remainder of Craig’s time playing the character.
Adding in Vesper’s novel suicide by overdose would have been too much darkness too fast for the James Bond franchise, and would have made Casino Royale an unbearably bleak viewing experience for fans expecting an escapist 007 adventure. As it was, Martin Campbell’s 2006 movie was already a tonal 180 from his earlier work on Goldeneye, and making the movie even darker would have left fans disinterested in a Bond who didn’t even resemble his earlier incarnations. Spectre’s goofy Blofeld twist proved that later Craig movies could reintroduce some of Bond’s sillier elements, a tonal backtrack that would not have been possible had the series depicted a realistic, depressing death by suicide.
Bond Could Have Saved Vesper (In The Movie)
In the movie’s version of events, Bond could have saved Vesper Lynd’s life if he was a better agent – or at least, so he thinks. Realistically, there is no way the character could have both saved Vesper from a flooded building while also saving himself and killing Quantum’s henchmen, but it is believable that a highly-trained perfectionist would blame himself for her demise and spend the rest of his career trying to undo his greatest failure. Throughout the rest of Craig’s time as 007, which saw James Bond become less fun and more tortured, his inability to save Vesper has haunted the character. This guilt that defines the darker iteration of 007 is something he would be less likely to feel (and that therefore something that wouldn’t inform his multi-movie character arc) if she opted to commit suicide instead of dying while saving his life.
Bond may still have felt that he could have helped Vesper if she had taken her own life, but in the movie version of Casino Royale, it is unambiguous that Vesper locks herself in the elevator because she believes it is impossible for both her and Bond to escape at the same time. As a hyper-competent heroic character, it makes sense for MI6’s most famous recruit to want to prove her wrong as Craig’s unproven, naive James Bond believes he is unstoppable. His relationship with Madeleine Swann in later Craig Bond movies has proven that Vesper’s death casts a long shadow over his personal life and career, and feeling that he failed in his duty is something the character would be less likely to experience if her death took place in less dramatic, time-pressured circumstances.
Vesper’s Death Defined Craig’s Bond
For the rest of his movie appearances through the franchise, the increasingly over-the-top nature of Craig’s Bond has always been tempered by the circumstances of Vesper’s death. By Spectre, he became a typically goofy, watch-bomb deploying 007, but this incarnation of the character kept a dark edge because, as silly as he eventually became, he was still the Bond who tried and couldn’t save his lost love. No Time To Die director Cary Fukunaga originally even wanted to undo the ending of Spectre in a twist that would have revealed Bond never escaped Blofeld’s lair, an approach that would have been unthinkable for earlier, uber-slick iterations of the character. However, this twist would have been entirely believable in the context of Craig’s human, flawed James Bond, which would have been lost if his Casino Royale love interest Vesper Lynd had died by suicide and thus removed the character’s anguish over accidentally contributing to her fate.
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