Spectre Was Going To Make M A Villain, But Ralph Fiennes Refused

How many Blofelds does it take to change a lightbulb? What if that lightbulb were one that had gone off over the head of director Sam Mendes, telling him that James Bond's new boss, M, played by Ralph Fiennes, should turn out to be his greatest nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in disguise?

That's the thought process that was going on behind the scenes in "Spectre," the 24th Eon production and second-to-last Bond movie before this year's "No Time to Die." Fiennes had only just made his debut in "Skyfall," the 23rd Eon production, which Mendes also helmed, but the director was jonesing to see the actor play a villain again, as he has in such films as "Schindler's List," "Red Dragon," and of course, the "Harry Potter" series.

Fiennes is out now promoting his new film, "The King's Man," and on a recent episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, he told host Josh Horowitz:

"I think I can say now that I had to fight off an attempt by Sam in 'Spectre' to make M — I said 'I don't want to play M and then you turn around and make him the bad guy. M is never the bad guy.' So I had to have some pretty intense discussions with Sam saying, 'This is not flying with me...' "

To Be or Not to Be Blofeld

Was the idea to have Fiennes' M be Blofeld just a bit of Hollywood typecasting? A few years back, I sat in on a press conference with Fiennes at the Tokyo International Film Festival and was there for the Q&A and screening of his third directorial effort, "The White Crow," which won the Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution. When I later mentioned seeing him to a fellow movie-lover, their first comment was, "He's always evil."

Obviously, they meant that he plays evil characters, not that Fiennes himself is evil. Still, it took me aback, because Fiennes is an actor who comes from a Shakespearean background. He won a Tony Award for playing Hamlet on Broadway and has had plenty of non-villainous movie roles — two examples being "Strange Days" and "The English Patient." I can't really say my first thought bends toward Fiennes evil when I think of him.

If you recall, "Spectre" pulled a "Star Trek Into Darkness" and tried to convince us beforehand with its marketing that Christoph Waltz's Franz Oberhauser was not, in fact, Blofeld. Hearing that M was in the running to be Blofeld makes it seem like they weren't completely lying, or at the very least, that they had more than one Blofeld candidate they were bandying about.

Alas, the Blofeld that we ultimately got was maybe not the one everyone was hoping for, as "Spectre" attempted to retcon him as Bond's long-lost foster brother and the secret mastermind behind all of his troubles. Small wonder, then, that Waltz's Blofeld made such a quick cameo and exit in "No Time to Die," as Daniel Craig's final Bond film sought to shake off the unsuccessful elements of "Spectre."

"No Time to Die" is available now on home media.