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Interview with Lois Maxwell

It will happen like this. A nurse will lead M clown an antiseptic corridor to a door without a number. She will open the door and step back to reveal a darkened room. M, peering into the gloom, will discover a figure swathed in bandages and sitting in a wheelchair.

A surgeon will appear and gingerly remove the wraps as M says, "Well, 007, you really blew your cover in Japan. If your new face isn't good enough . . ."

Then M will stop, because the man looking up at him will have a totally new face, nothing at all like the familiar face of James Bond.

"Good Lord, 007," M will say. "Can that be you?"

Bond will nod silently. M will go to the door and say "Miss Moneypenny, would you step in here for a moment?"

Miss Moneypenny will enter the room and halt suddenly. "James?" she will say. "Is that you, James?"

"Yes, Moneypenny, that's James right enough," M will say. "Rather a decent job of plastic surgery, don't you think?"

"Say something to me, James," Miss Moneypenny will say.

"Hello there, Moneypenny," Bond will say. "Heavens, James, even your voice is different! What have they done to you?"

"Shortened my vocal cords a bit," Bond will reply, with just a flicker of the familiar old smile.

And that is more or less how the neatest spy trick of the year will be pulled off: selling the public on the new James Bond now that Sean Connery says he's had it. Connery's new Bond film, "You Only Live Twice," is his fifth and last. He's fed up to his quizzical eyebrows with being mobbed everywhere he goes. He wants to do some serious acting, and get into production. So a new Bond will have to be found.

And who would know more about that than Miss Moneypenny, who, as we've suspected all along, is the brains behind the British Secret Service. Lois Maxwell, the Canadian-born actress who has played the faithful Moneypenny in all five Bond epics, was in Chicago this week to talk about the latest (which, she hinted in response to energetic questioning, opened Friday at the Chicago Theater).

"The James Bond role has become a Frankenstein's monster for poor Sean," she said. "When he was on location in Japan, he was simply manhandled by the crowds. People were trying to touch him, and women were making the most remarkable advances, in Bangkok, even. And when he landed in Tokyo there were more than 400 photographers waiting at the airport. You can't imagine. They had cameras strapped all over themselves, with these enormous lenses. They looked like a firing squad. And they chased him down alleys and into men's rooms - never a moment's rest for poor Sean."

Miss Maxwell said Connery resents the typecasting which assumes he must be the same in real life as he is on the screen.

"He's become a compulsive eater," she said. "I think he's trying to eat himself out of the role. And he's grown a Fu Manchu mustache and muttonchop sideburns. He's a Scotsman, you know. Very shy. A tremendous sense of personal privacy."

So now the makers of the Bond boom will have to set about finding a new 007, one to appear in the next Bond film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

"I don't suppose they'll look for anyone who resembles Connery in facial characteristics," Miss Maxwell said. "That would be cheating. But I think they'll look for someone with the same sort of physical build, and then pretend in the movie that James Bond had to have plastic surgery. I think the scene will be pretty much as I described it, with the hospital room and all. And of course, M and Miss Moneypenny will be in right at the beginning, to establish continuity."

Miss Maxwell paused for a moment, as if she were reviewing in her mind's eye the qualifications for a James Bond.

"The new actor will have to have Connery's strange feline grace," she purred, "and his virility. And he will have to have that grin, that whole attitude toward life. You know what occurred to me? Why not let Connery himself direct the next Bond film? Who would know better how Bond should behave?"

But no matter who the next Bond is, and no matter how the film is written or directed, there's one thing pretty much for certain. Poor Moneypenny still won't get her man.

"I suppose that's Moneypenny's fate in life," Miss Maxwell sighed. "Of course she's in love with Bond, but she's too much a lady to go chasing after him. So she smiles and bides her time. In a way, you can't blame her. Every woman would like to live dangerously with James Bond, if only for 20 minutes, or half a night . . ."

Miss Maxwell smiled. "There I go again," she said. "Now I'm talking like that too."

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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