Draper, Don Draper... The line has a familiar ring to it, and Matthew Weiner's Mad Men made more than a few references last season to Ian Fleming's super spy, who exploded as a cultural icon in the same '60s era that the AMC phenomenon takes place. So, is Don Draper Weiner's James Bond? I asked both the creator of the show and the man who plays Draper himself. Their reactions may surprise you...
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"There's always a distinguishing point for me when I look at Don Draper and I imagine the people in his world are thinking of James Bond sometimes when they meet him," Weiner tells me. "What I like about it is you get this great juxtaposition between the outside of a person and the inside of a person, so I'll take that as a huge compliment, because James Bond is … a very, very rudimentary, culturally significant character."
Weiner mined that cultural connection twice in the season five finale, The Phantom: First, when Don and Peggy (played by Elisabeth Moss) run into each other at a movie theater and we hear the flicker of the projector bringing up the brassy, upbeat theme to Casino Royale (the 1967 spoof starring Peter Sellers, David Niven and Woody Allen) by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass; and second, in the episode-capping montage that begins with Megan Draper (played by Jessica Pare) stepping into the spotlight for her first big commercial, leaving Don in the shadows to seek refuge at a smoky bar to the lush tune of You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra.
"I think James Bond is an action hero and I think Don is, if anything, an inaction hero, or anti-hero," says Hamm. "They have similar hairstyles and similar clothing, but that's about the end of it. As far as I know, Don isn't armed either, or dangerous." Thinking for another second, he reconsiders, "Oh, he may be dangerous."
Earlier in season five, in the episode titled At the Codfish Ball, Don is reading Bernard Malamud's The Fixer in bed, but Megan mistakes it for a 007 novel, saying, "My father won't care if he finds out you read James Bond."
"The great thing about James Bond is he hit right at that moment, and there is a big difference between the literary James Bond and the film James Bond," says Weiner. "He's a very virtuous guy who has a very un-virtuous job, and there's a glamor to him."
Hamm concurs, "James Bond was a thing -- that was a big thing, and had just started at the time -- it dovetails very nicely with our era [of the '60s]."
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But does he really think there's a true connection between Bond and Draper?
"There is that fantasy, secret-agent spy thing that's very sexy and very alluring to the movie-going public," says Hamm. "But Don Draper is not James Bond, no."
Season six of Mad Men premieres April 7 with a two-hour episode on AMC.