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How Austin Powers Made James Bond Take Itself Seriously Again

25 years ago, the International Man of Mystery showcased why James Bond’s campiness was no longer in style

Austin Powers Fixed James Bond
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (New Line); Casino Royale (Sony/MGM)
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    Upon its release in early May 1997, Mike Myers and Jay Roach’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery became a pop culture phenomenon.

    Born from Myers’ faux rock band, Ming Tea, it saw the Wayne’s World star employing his typical knack for quirky personas and clever parody to poke fun at 1960s British psychedelia and campy spy cinema. Consequently (and ironically), its irresistibly fun quips, characters, and look became a defining part of the late 1990s zeitgeist in America, England, and elsewhere.

    Primarily, International Man of Mystery — as well as its more successful, elaborate, and ridiculous sequels: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) and Goldmember (2002) — was an affectionately astute and meticulously constructed send-up of the James Bond movies. In fact, Myers and company did such a good job taunting Ian Fleming’s franchise that they permanently pushed the series (and the genre) into a more realistic and mature direction.

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    As Daniel Craig famously confessed to fan site MI6 Confidential in 2014, his grittier reboot saga — which began with 2006’s Casino Royale — “had to happen the way it did.” He continued: “I can’t see it happening any other way. We had to destroy the myth because Mike Myers fucked us — I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong — but he kind of fucked us; made it impossible to do the gags.”

    Granted, he’s speaking about the cumulative impact of the Austin Powers trilogy, but International Man of Mystery itself certainly did enough to demonstrate why James Bond (and espionage films in general) needed a reinvention.

    Obviously, that outcome wasn’t the creators’ main intention. Rather, as Myers told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, he derived the character and movie as a “tribute” to his late father, who “influence[d]” his comedic tastes by introducing him to “James Bond, Peter Sellers, The Beatles, The Goodies, Peter Cook, and Dudley Moore.”

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    Naturally, Powers’ appearance and way of speaking were also inspired by Radio Caroline DJ Simon Dee, fictional detective Jason King, and the BBC series Adam Adamant Lives!. Even so, and as Myers clarified in the Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 documentary, “Austin Powers [was made] out of pure love for James Bond” above all else.

    Like its two successors, International Man of Mystery is packed with so many overt and subtle allusions to the James Bond movies that it would take an entire essay to explore them all. (As such, we suggest you check out the thorough breakdowns provided by Film School Rejects and Universal Exports).

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