We may have known about Charlize Theron’s connection to the James Bond franchise before her role in Atomic Blonde, but the actress really made her mark in the high-octane world of 007. In addition to her iconic turn as Tiffany Case in the Tomorrow Never Dies movie, Theron’s career took her in a different direction, with her roles spanning both large and small screens: she starred in the comedy-drama House of Gucci and was memorable in her supporting role as Shoshana in the Academy Award-winning movie The Lion King.

Bond franchise newcomers have taken the stage since the actor’s recent retirement, with Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 leading to a slate of exciting and gritty films. The latest installment, Atomic Blonde, sees Charlize Theron reprise her role as an icy assassin who teams up with a James Bond-like character (Matthias Schoenfeld) to take out a group of Soviet agents. It’s a fitting end to a chapter of the 007 saga, as Bond’s retirement and the rise of a new generation of spies mirrors real life and the political climate of the 1980s.

Theron’s Influence

Even if you’ve never heard of Charlize Theron, you’ve almost certainly seen her work: the actress appeared in over 100 films and won an Academy Award for her role in the 2015 drama, Mad Max: Fury Road. With over 160 million Twitter followers, Theron is one of the most popular celebrities, if not the most popular, on the platform. In addition to her film work, Theron has been busy exploring the literary world, with her debut novel, My Grandfather’s Photos, released in 2017.

The actress’ impact on popular culture is undeniable, and her influence extends to other corners of the entertainment world as well: she’s one of the most popular names on Instagram, where she usually posts images of herself with high profile celebrities or with the casts of various films and shows. In addition to posting on social media, Theron uses her website, charlietheron.com, to interact with her fans and post behind-the-scenes photos from the set of her latest film, Atomic Blonde. The site also features exclusive content from the actress, including a life in pictures.

Atomic Blonde’s Finishing Shots

The cast and crew of Atomic Blonde celebrated the movie’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, but the film’s status as a modern-day classic was already established long before the cameras rolled: the gritty action-adventure film was well-received by critics and audiences alike and has since become one of the titles most frequently replicated on social media. The film’s impressive box-office performance made it a bankable project for studios with the marketing muscle to support a summer blockbuster: it was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year and is one of the most popular movies on social media, with over 30 million likes on Facebook and over 20 million views on Twitter. The film’s success is a testament to the intelligence of its script, the charisma of its stars, and the polish of its production values: the movie’s visual style, with its neon-soaked nights, punk rock aesthetics, and elaborate fight scenes, was a bold break from the realistic, character-driven drama that had previously defined the franchise. The film’s influence can be seen in the work of director Tim Burton, whose upcoming film, Dumbo, also sees an array of colorful characters band together for the greater good.

Newcomers To The 007 Stage

It’s fair to say that Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 didn’t go as expected: he initially held the top spot for only two films, 2007’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Munich, before he was forced to retire due to his health. But with Craig’s health issues and the series’ recent financial troubles, there was a void to be filled: producers scrambled to find a suitable heir and Matthias Schoenfeld, a.k.a. 007’s Grandfather, made a compelling case for his family’s involvement in the franchise. Director John Wick’s service in the British Military and his subsequent role as a bodyguard for a crime family in New York City provided the gritty, no-nonsense credentials that producers and audiences had been longing for: Wick’s intense action-adventure films were a natural fit for theatrical release and filled the gap left by Craig’s retirement. With additional screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Michael Mann and a new generation of directors, it seems that the 007 series may have found a new direction.

A New Era For The Franchise

Atomic Blonde isn’t the first time that the Bond franchise has returned to its gung-ho roots: in the past, the series has largely focused on the adventures of James Bond himself, with filmmakers frequently veering off the typical formula to explore darker or more adult-oriented themes. But with director Tim Burton at the helm, the franchise seemingly shook off its bluescreen boredom and embraced a more colorful and visually-stunning approach to the formula. In addition to featuring some of the most beautiful women and elaborate sets since the original 1962 film, the new wave of Bond films featured a more youthful, vibrant cast, with a number of the films being helmed by first-time directors. One of the more interesting aspects of this new direction was the choice of female co-stars: it wasn’t just about pretty faces as Daniel Craig’s more traditional successor, Rachel Younce, spent the majority of her screen time isolated from other characters, while the films’ gorgeous leading ladies, like Téa Martinez and Elodie Yung, were given the spotlight.

But it was also the smaller, character-driven ensemble films, featuring incredible performances from established and emerging actors alike, that showcased the diversity of the new generation of Bond stars. One of the more interesting examples of this trend is Joe Carnahan’s critically-acclaimed The Dark Knight Rises, a retelling of the classic Batman story that sees the Dark Knight teaming up with an odd assortment of allies, including a human-animal hybrid, in order to combat crime in Gotham City. Even though Carnahan’s script for The Dark Knight Rises was initially rejected by Warner Bros. as being too dark and edgy for a comic book movie, the film went on to become one of the most successful of all time, earning over 300 million dollars at the box office. It’s not often that a comic book adaptation turns out to be such a major success, but for those who’ve read the original source material, The Dark Knight Rises is essentially an extension of the Batman mythology, complete with cameos from DC Comics characters. The Dark Knight Rises also represented a significant departure from the series’ previous films, which were largely set in the present day and featured little to no action: fans were clamoring for a more mature and action-packed outing and were willing to embrace the franchise’s more adult-oriented sensibilities.

The Impact Of ’80s Fashion

A defining characteristic of the new wave of Bond films is the heavy influence of the ’80s: not only was it an incredible ten-year stretch for the franchise, but a lot of the films were set in the late ’80s, giving the entire look and feel of the films a fresh feel, similar to that of a contemporary film adaptation of a vintage piece of fiction. The films’ wardrobes are a testament to this: while Daniel Craig’s three solo outings as Bond feature a lot of his own, unique designs from his own personal collection, the costumes for this new wave of films were almost always high-end designer duds, providing a striking contrast to the typically gritty, urban environments that the films’ often pitted the secret agent against. One of the more interesting facets of this design trend is that many of the stars of this new generation of films are also fans of the fashion world: both Joe and Dominic Carnahan, writers of The Dark Knight Rises, are fashion designers, while Tom Hardy, who plays the titular character in the film, is also a noted photographer.

The Rise Of Social Media

The influence of the ‘80s is apparent in other aspects of the franchise as well, including the rise of social media and celebrity influencers, whose growing presence can be seen in the work of photographers like Hardy and David LaChapelle, whose intricate portraits of celebrities have been frequently compared to those of Andy Warhol.

This generation of celebrities rose to fame on social media, with many seeing their breakout performances as characters in online videos or as patrons of various social platforms, like TikTok, where they often appear as animated characters, showing off their fashion choices and engaging with their audiences. But it’s not only the stars who’ve risen to prominence on social media; the platform has also helped to shape the political and social debates that the films’ often-controversial stories have inspired, as audiences became more enmeshed in the narratives via platforms like Twitter.