The two Judi Dench Ms

I’m surprised I’ve never seen this talked about before, but there seems (at least to me) to be a very clear delineation in character/personality between the M of the Brosnan films and the M of the Craig films, despite both of course being played by the same person. They come off very successfully as two distinct characters.

Brosnan’s M is always very cool and collected; generally unflappable. I can’t recall off the top of my head any scenes where she, for instance, raises her voice. What does come to mind are things like the “misogynist dinosaur” speech in GoldenEye or the hospital room scene in Die Another Day. Stern and authoritative, certainly, but with a sort of self-assured calmness as well.

On the other hand, the M that Craig’s Bond knows is much more brash. She’s got a mouth like a sailor (within the bounds of family-friendly entertainment of course… but she does drop the franchise’s first f-bomb!), she’s sarcastic and sassy and says things like “Go on, eject me. See if I care”, which I could never imagine the M of the Brosnan films saying. Her introduction in Casino Royale sets her up perfectly with that extended rant at Villiers. The poor guy has no chance to get a single word in.

Just wanted to call attention to this, as I’ve never seen it discussed by fans. Or the filmmakers. Or Dench herself! I know she isn’t exactly lacking for acting accolades, but I for one am impressed. As the lone holdover for the reboot, she still managed to “reboot”… herself? And I think that’s very cool.

Barbara Mawdsley and Olivia Mansfield would agree that Judi Dench played two different characters.


There have been many discussions about this (mostly in the old forums). Though, unless I’m mistaken, the name Barbara Mawdsley is only canon to the Benson novels. I’ve always held the belief that the Benson novels fit in better with the Brosnan films than with any novel continuity, but I don’t think the name Barbara Mawdsley is ever mentioned in the films.

Ah. :flushed:

Well, in a desperate attempt to save face, I did a quick (overdue) Google search, and I do indeed see a lot of discussions on the name(s)- including someone on a blog stating that the Barbara Mawdsley name was in the GoldenEye script; I wonder if that’s true.

I did also find a thread on this in the old forums (thank you theSpectre) and while it mostly turned into a lot of arguing about reboots and continuities and stuff, the few comments I saw regarding differences in Dench’s performances seemed to lean closer to… “there aren’t any”. I find this strange! I thought the difference was pretty obvious.

Usually stuff that was in the script (and even filmed), that then is cut from the final product is considered to be non-canon. So it’s entirely possible that the Brosnan M would have had a different name.

On top of that, we’ve seen bizarreness with M previously. To this day, there is no consensus (and no official word from EON) on whether Robert Brown’s M is the same character, Admiral Hargreaves, that he played in TSWLM, the same M as Bernard Lee, or an entirely new character. He is certainly gruffer than Bernard Lee, but every Bond has a somewhat different personality. If he is Hargreaves, then he received a demotion sometime between TSWLM and TLD. He could also be a completely different character, which is, in my opinion, the most likely answer.

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I think the perceived change in personality is largely a case of the growing importance Dench’s role achieved over the years. In Gardner’s film tie-in to GOLDENEYE he mentioned the nickname ‘witch of numbers’ (or something to the effect, I cannot at the moment get to my copy), implying in her backstory that she’s from ‘outside’. In other words, a political appointment rather than somebody coming from the Service, much like in real life.

At least since SKYFALL we know this M is a Service creature, having been in charge of various departments and desks already before rising to the top floor. A seasoned spook herself who already ran agents when Bond was still wet behind the ears. She may even have been instrumental in drawing him into the folds and layers of the intelligence world.

That said, I don’t think that the characters are really so far apart. They are meant to be two separate persons but will similar character traits. They use Bond as a tool and don’t have qualms about it. Nor do they ever really not trust Bond, never mind the balderdash in the dialogue. It’s always Bond they put their money on.

Sir Miles had a higher rank than Heargreaves. Messervy was Vice-Admiral, Hargreaves was Rear-Admiral.

I thought Hargreaves was a vice admiral, but when M wears his uniform in TLD, he has the insignia of a Rear Admiral (I could be mistaken, I’m not as familiar with Royal Navy insignia).

We have discussed this before, but must have been 4 years ago.

Dench said in interviews that she was playing the same character. It’s the timeline that doesn’t make sense, and some of the lines.

But Dench herself said a number of times that it was all the same person. In fact Martin Campbell had her in Casino Royale because he wanted it to be the same person. He said you can’t do Bond without Judi Dench now. And she was instructed to play it exactly the same.

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You can mark them as different people, but in actuality, if one exists the other doesn’t. This change in circumstance - Mawdsley taking the job in the mid-90’s vs Mansfield who is able to reminisce about how the job was during the Cold War, and Bond’s placing in regard to that, will make it a different performance regardless of having the same starting point.

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I interpreted that line slightly differently. I doubt M would have held that position twenty five years prior to Skyfall. Most likely, she was somewhere else on the ladder.

As for the Bernard Lee/Robert Brown debate, The World Is Not Enough shows a portrait of Lee’s M. That suggests the two male Ms were different people, otherwise M would have been Lee, then Brown, and then Lee again (as rendered in oil).

Bernard Lee and Robert Brown BOTH played Miles Messervy. Just like Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig are ALL James Bond and likewise Lois Maxwell, Caroline Bliss, Samantha Bond, and Naomie Harris are ALL Moneypenny.

Conversely, Brown played two different characters in Adm. Hargreaves and “M”. Just like Charles Gray played two different characters in Dikko Henderson and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Joe Don Baker played two different characters in Brad Whitaker and Jack Wade, and Martine Beswick played two different characters in Zora and Paula Caplan. All are same actors with different roles.

As for Judi Dench, I’ve looked at her “M” as two different characters. Barbara Mawdsley with Brosnan’s tenure occurring later on in Bond’s career and Olivia Mansfield with Craig’s tenure occurring earlier on in Bond’s career.

I’m not disagreeing, or agreeing, but is there any subtle indication onscreen that Brown’s M is a different character?

I know James Villiers wanted the role after FYEO, and Geoffrey Keen was, well, keen for it too.

I find Brown quite bland, myself, and thought it egregiously classist when Eon said they wanted to find someone, in their words, “with the same background as Bernard Lee”.

The other way to interpret Judi Dench’s two Ms is that Mansfield is the real M who gives Craig Bond his first two missions, and Mawdsley is the M Craig fever dreams during his “deaths” in Skyfall/SPECTRE, etc. if you go with the theory that all the Brosnan Bonds are missions in Craig Bond’s head. You can extend this to Lee/Brown as extensions of Mallory.

At the end of the day, we’re trying to piece together a consistent timeline out of inside jokes and tributes to actors (ala the painting of M on the wall.)

End of the day: CraigBond is a different timeline. Ergo, Dench is playing 2 different characters.


Regarding the F-bomb, it is the most subtle use of bad language I’ve ever witnessed in film and although, in context is perfectly acceptable to pass in a 12A film rating, it is almost inaudible considering the loudness of other parts of the scene. I know, to be fair, M has sustained an injury by this point (no spoilers lol), but I confess I rewound two or three times to see if I should be outraged and write a strongly worded letter to my MP, the BBC, and the British Board for Film Classification. /s

Even if she was meant to be playing the same character on a superficial level (and I really have a hard time believing Martin Campbell told her to explicitly play a ‘different’ character), there are subtle (and some not-so-subtle) differences between the two M’s.

The Brosnan era M seems to be more of a bureaucrat, a ‘bean-counter’ who trusts her numbers more than Bond’s instincts. It’s never explicitly stated whether she was an MI6 official who was promoted or someone from outside, but you could easily imagine it being the latter.

Whereas the Craig era M is clearly a veteran of MI6, and someone who’s had a lot of experience running agents and dealing with men like Bond (as can be seen with her history with Silva). She’s a hardened spymaster long before the days of Bond. I may be wrong, but I vaguely remember a scene in Skyfall where she’s holding a gun and talks about how it’s been a long time…implying she was no stranger to the field in her younger days.

And of course, a key difference is her relationship with Bond. Brosnan era M takes over later in Bond’s career and is the ‘new boss’ who’s trust he gradually gains. But she doesn’t quiet have the same long-standing personal and professional relationship with him that her predecessor did.

While in the Craig era, M is virtually a mother-figure to Bond and a key influence on his life. She’s the one who gave him his 00 status, and under who’s wing he flourished and became the legendary 007. Whereas Bond’s relationship with Mallory is the one that’s more professional, and comparable with the dynamic during the Brosnan era between Brosnan-Bond and Dench-M.


At least the Edward foxx M stated he was a new M

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