Ralph Fiennes revealed during a recent interview that he had to personally argue with James Bond franchise director Sam Mendes in order to ensure that his version of M didn’t become the first in the franchise to be an outright villain to James Bond. Sure, the characters have had their differences in the past. However, speaking with Josh Horowitz on his Happy Sad Confused podcast, Ralph Fiennes revealed that there was a plan for the movie Spectre that would have seen his version of M either be working with Ernst Stavro Blofeld or becoming the character himself. Fortunately, it ultimately went to Christoph Waltz and M was allowed to remain the hero that fans of the books and movies know him to be.
Ralph Fiennes explained that, after coming in to be the new M following the loss of Judi Dench as the character under both Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan, there was some narrative leeway for the character’s motivations to be played with that director Sam Mendes wanted to take advantage of. However, according to Collider, Ralph Fiennes, being a fan of the franchise, said he had to have “intense discussions” with the director in order to preserve his legacy in the franchise and not become the first M that audiences outright hated as an antagonist to James Bond.
As TheWrap notes, the infamous Sony email leak revealed that there were many versions of the Spectre script floating around with many different writers attached. So, it’s unclear exactly how close this version with Ralph Fiennes’ M being the villain of the story came to be on-screen. However, it’s clear that the actor did everything in his power to make sure it never saw the light of day.
In an excerpt from the interview, Ralph Fiennes notes that his decision to fight tooth and nail to ensure that the legacy of M didn’t get tarnished by the director’s desire to simply be provocative as the franchise wears on was born out of a deep fandom for the James Bond books. Many may be unaware that the franchise is based on a series of novels and short stories by author Ian Fleming. In fact, Ralph Fiennes noted in the interview that he was actually very excited to be a part of Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond since he felt that they were the first to bring the character back to his roots in the gritty and dark criminal underbelly that the books took place in.
Ralph Fiennes told Horowitz (via TheWrap), that he felt the Roger Moore era was where the franchise lost its way, getting downright bizarre by the time Pierce Brosnan was fighting bad guys in an ice hotel in Die Another Day. By the time Casino Royale hit the big screen, both Ralph Fiennes and other Bond purists were excited to see stories that were more grounded in the world of reality and espionage.
So, with all of that wind at the franchise’s back, it’s understandable that Ralph Fiennes wanted to make sure that his version of M was actually M rather than a one-off villain designed as a plot twist. In fighting for the character, he ensured that he remained with the franchise all the way through Daniel Craig’s final outing as the character in No Time To Die, which was released earlier this year after being one of the many movies delayed so thoroughly by the COVID-19 pandemic.