Ever dreamt of becoming a hench(wo)man and facing the super-spy of all super-spies? Fancy working in a giant lair full of alligators, piranhas or flickering screens? Always wanted to take orders from a boss who strokes a white Persian cat and will send you to a certain death if your monthly objectives aren’t met? Many, many men and women throughout the Bond saga have answered yes to all of the above. Thanks to them, the 25 films of the franchise have given us an ungodly amount of baddies, some of whom are absolutely memorable.
But what exactly makes a good henchman? At the end of the day, this is about making an impression in just a few scenes, without overshadowing the main villain – your boss wouldn’t appreciate feeling threatened! I imagine that with the current unemployment crisis, many young people will be looking to make it as 007 henchmen, and this little guide is dedicated to them. How to become a good Bond baddie? Just follow the instructions below, and learn from the best.
1) Make a grand entrance
Let’s start with the basics: to be a successful nutcase, you need a unique entrance, one that will set you up as a force to be reckoned with. Whether coming off as hammy, scary, or a mixture of the two, you will need to make an impression in your very first scene – I mean, who knows how soon you will be dispatched by 007 and his allies? Better make the most of any time you have left! Take advice from iconic henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel, towering at an impressive 7 ft 2) who made history thanks to his killer metal teeth. Jaws is first seen gnawing through metal chains and a neck near Egyptian pyramids. His introduction is pretty much perfect: it shows us not only what he has – metal teeth too cool to be true – but also who he is – a powerful assassin.
Getting your teeth into the role straight away is thus important, but you can also decide to play it cool. People don’t need to see immediately that you are a bloodthirsty psychopath – we all have our little secrets! In GoldenEye (1995), fighter-pilot-turned-assassin Xenia Onatopp (the iconic Famke Janssen) first seems like an affable thrill-seeker racing against Bond in a flashy red Ferrari car. This is before she is revealed as a sexual sadist and unhinged femme fatale: introducing yourself through your hobbies is a winning strategy and will help you to keep viewers on their toes!
2) Develop your trademark style
Of course, this one of the job sectors where physical features can boost your employability: if you have an unusual scar, a killer bowler hat or a bionic eye, you might find it easier to land yourself a job interview with a SPECTRE executive or a maniacal businessman. Yet looks are not everything, and you can also be recruited for your exceptional personality and experiences. In this case, you will walk in the footsteps of Dario (a fantastic Benicio del Toro, just 21 at the time) who got kicked out of the Nicaraguan Contras for being too violent, but found his true calling assisting drug dealing lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) in Licence to Kill (1989).
When Dario is not flicking an amazing switchblade knife, he is staring ominously at whoever is facing him – in or outside the screen. Another example to follow is May Day (Grace Jones), who seconds demented businessman Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) and can outmatch pretty much any combatant – if her iconic outfits don’t finish you off beforehand. If you feel more at ease in front of a keyboard and have a questionable fashion sense, you can look up to nerdy, Hawaiian-shirt wearing hacker Boris Grishenko (a young Alan Cumming having the time to his life). The comic relief in a world full of serious psychopaths, you will be just as bad as everyone else, but with a much greater meme potential.
In fact, it doesn’t really matter all that much what you get up to… but by god please do something to stand out! There is nothing worse than a forgettable henchman, the type that fades into the background so much that they basically become a lethal wallpaper. The most (in)famous example is probably poor Elvis (Anatole Taubman) in Quantum of Solace (2008). Don’t be like Elvis! The right hand of baddie Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) never gets much to do apart from looking unhinged, and his “unique” hairstyle prevents him from ever feeling threatening. From this character, we can learn two things: first, toupees are never a good idea, no matter the circumstances, and second, a henchman should have an aura – you don’t need many lines of dialogue to make an impression, you just need character (in every sense of the word).
3) Don’t mess up your death
Now, now, we all know where this is going: this is a Bond film and you are a villain, so you might be better off cancelling your pension plan, because chances are high that you won’t make it out of the movie alive. So, you know, it might be worth considering going out with a bang (or a good squeeze, in Xenia Onatopp’s case) – after all, you want to leave a positive last impression! In that case, you shouldn’t follow Jaws’ example: by the time Moonraker (1979) ends, Richard Kiel’s returning villain has become a self-parody, and finds love in the arms of the strange Dolly (Blanche Ravalec). Don’t break character: a henchman’s contract should only expire when Bond puts an end to it!
Instead of becoming a spoof villain, you could opt for a graceful exit, like Thunderball (1965) baddie Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), who paved the way for future femmes fatales. This SPECTRE agent always refused to be seduced by 007 and displayed some top-notch motorcycling skills. Her last dance involves – quite literally – being shot while waltzing in Bond’s arms. Sure, becoming a human shield for the hero is not everyone’s calling, but don’t worry, you can choose from many other possible ends. A classic pick is to go out after a good brawl, the kind that will get you in a YouTuber’s “Top ten fight scenes of the 007 franchise” list.
Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) is a classic example, as he fights off and nearly defeats James Bond in a narrow train carriage. Their confrontation is as tense and classy as one-on-ones get, so take notes and watch out for rigged attaché cases! Of course, if fighting is not your thing, you can always choose the campy way out and chill out like Boris, who ends up frozen in liquid nitrogen – but dies happy. Henchmen are scarcely invincible, but a good performance will guarantee you eternal love from the fans – what a way to go!