Gustav Graves: Unmasking the Youngest and Most Complex Bond Villain
Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, who later undergoes gene transforming therapy and takes on the persona Sir Gustav Graves. He’s initially a North Korean military figure striving to unify the Korean peninsula under his nation’s emblem. Once he transforms his appearance he takes on the persona of a diamond tycoon to try and fulfil his plan.
Gustav Graves is the main Bond villain in the 2002 film, Die Another Day, and is played by Korean-American actor, Will Yun Lee, in the role of Colonel Moon, and British actor, Toby Stephens, after becoming Graves.
The character finds his place in Raymond Benson’s corresponding novel adaptation and is revamped for Activision’s 2012 James Bond video game, 007 Legends.
Colonel Tan-Sun Moon
The son of General Moon, Tan-Sun Moon holds the rank of Colonel in the North Korean People’s Army. Guided by the aspiration that Western education could mend the divide between the East and West, General Moon sent his son to study at esteemed institutions like Oxford and Harvard.
These academic experiences shaped a young Moon significantly, supplying him with connections he eventually exploited, including Miranda Frost, a fellow member of the Harvard fencing team. He later recruits Frost to his cause by manipulating her victory in the Olympic Gold Medal for fencing, implicating her rival as a steroid user.
Colonel Moon, a revolutionary with an affinity for advanced weaponry, orchestrates various unlawful operations in diamond smuggling to finance his private militia and dreams of forcibly amalgamating the two Koreas.
His headquarters is nestled amidst the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. He receives help from a comrade, Korean officer Tang Lin Zao. His activities eventually catch the attention of MI6, who assigns three operatives, including James Bond, to kill Moon by impersonating and taking the place of a diamond smuggler, Van Bierk.
When Zao discovers Bond’s true identity whose mission is to assassinate him, Moon reacts by destroying the helicopter that brought Bond with his high-tech weapon, the Tankbuster, and killing the other two agents.
Before he can take down Bond, however, news of General Moon’s impending arrival at the base forces Colonel Moon and his men to hastily leave, leaving Bond to be killed by his soldiers.
Bond makes a daring escape, however, detonating a bomb previously placed in a diamond suitcase and taking off with the last available hovercraft. A chase ensues with Bond having to fend off Korean soldiers while dodging Moon’s attacks with the Tankbuster and a flamethrower.
Ultimately, Bond leaps onto Colonel Moon’s hovercraft, igniting a fierce duel that extends until the hovercraft reaches a cliff edge. With no one at the helm, the hovercraft plummets down the cliff into the river far below.
Bond manages to bail out just in time, while Moon is swept off the cliff, assumed to be dead. Immediately after, Bond is arrested by General Moon and his troops, leading to a brutal 14-month interrogation in a North Korean torture camp before being swapped in a prisoner exchange for Zao, who has been captured by the British.
Becoming Gustav Graves
Unbeknownst to most, including his father, Colonel Moon survives the fall and escapes to Cuba. Here, he opts for DNA replacement therapy, administered by Dr. Alvarez, that alters his appearance, presenting him with European ancestry.
After the successful completion of the treatment, Moon completes his transformation and adopts the pseudonym Gustav Graves.
Gustav Graves is perceived as a refined yet arrogant businessman with a sarcastic flair – an exaggerated mirror to how Bond often appears to his adversaries. In fact, when Bond later confronts him, Moon confesses that Bond served as the muse for his Graves persona.
To the public eye, Gustav Graves is an environmentalist, a fencing enthusiast, and an adrenaline devotee with a particular penchant for fast cars. Given his inability to sleep following Dr. Alvarez’s surgery, Graves devotes ample time to hone these skills.
Officially, Graves is an orphan who labored in Argentinean diamond mines, learned engineering, and founded the Graves Corporation. He reportedly stumbled upon a massive diamond deposit in Iceland, earning him a substantial fortune.
With these resources, he creates Icarus – a satellite designed to harness solar energy and concentrate it gently upon Earth. This, theoretically, could eradicate famine and poverty by boosting agriculture in underdeveloped nations.
In reality, Gustav Graves amassed his wealth through a sham diamond mine that launders African conflict diamonds, and his Icarus satellite doubles as a superweapon. Primarily intended to pave a path through the heavily defended Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for an impending North Korean invasion, aimed at achieving Korean unification.
Tracing Graves through blood diamonds found with Zao, Bond – oblivious to Graves’ true identity – travels to London. Here, he witnesses Graves parachuting into Buckingham Palace for his knighthood ceremony.
Later that day, Bond visits the fencing academy where Graves is practicing and persuades Verity, the fight trainer, to arrange a match with Graves. Egged on by their arrogance, they plunge into a fencing match, wagering money on the result. As the match intensifies, Bond proposes escalating the bet, revealing one of Zao’s blood diamonds.
Their fight resumes, and Bond wounds Graves on the hand. Despite the pause in their combat, when Bond jestingly inquires if Graves wishes to proceed, Graves affirms vehemently, suggesting they switch to real swords and fight until the first torso wound.
Their duel escalates in fury, leading them throughout the club, each sustaining multiple injuries and changing weapons repeatedly. The final round finds them clashing with medieval claymores in the club’s exterior, ending with Bond delivering a stomach cut to Graves, hurling him into a fountain.
Although Graves emerges seething with rage, the fight is halted by Miranda Frost. Graves concedes defeat with a laugh, extends a handshake to Bond, and, displaying good sportsmanship, invites him to the Icarus demonstration in Iceland the following weekend.
Bond heads to the Icarus demonstration at Gustav Graves’ Icelandic Ice Palace, crafted entirely from ice. As the guests enjoy themselves indoors, Graves indulges in his Dream Machine, but his session is interrupted by a man who turns out to be Zao.
After seeing Zao’s altered appearance for the first time since his departure from North Korea, Graves asks who’s responsible, to which Zao credits Bond. Graves gleefully shares his recent encounter with Bond, who failed to recognize him. Graves then inquires about his father, learning from Zao that General Moon continues to grieve his loss.
As the presentation commences, Graves introduces Icarus, claiming its function as a source of light for the world’s darkest corners and a means to heat the coldest regions for crop cultivation, and with it combatting global hunger. Demonstrating its capability, he illuminates the entire palace with Icarus, earning resounding applause from the attendees.
When NSA agent Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson infiltrates the complex housing Graves’ chambers with an intent to assassinate him, she anticipates finding him under the Dream Machine mask. To her surprise, it’s Zao under the mask, and Graves, donned in his Icarus prototype suit, attacks her from behind.
After rescuing Jinx from Zao, Bond proceeds to Graves’ office to confront him. Bond tells discloses Graves he knows his true identity, which he deduced from Zao’s presence and the unexplained existence of the Dream Machine.
Unfazed, Graves taunts Bond and reveals how their brief encounter left a lasting impression, inspiring his new Gustav Graves persona. Miranda Frost then enters with her weapon trained on Graves, it seems like a swift victory for Bond, but when Graves hints at a potential betrayal within MI6, Miranda redirects her gun towards Bond, exposing herself as the MI6 traitor.
With Bond on the verge of execution, he manipulates Zao into striking him in the stomach, allowing him to drop to the floor. Using a special ring received from Q, he shatters the glass floor panel and escapes to the lower level.
As Bond flees, Graves orders Zao to chase and kill him. Bond evades capture by commandeering Graves’ speeder and zooming onto the icy plains at breakneck speeds. When Zao reports Bond’s escape, Graves decides he has no time to lose so decides to deploy Icarus.
He instructs Zao to gather the North Korean Generals Dong, Li, and Han present among the guests and promises a demonstration of Icarus’s full capacity.
Employing the Icarus Controller, Graves projects a massive heat beam, which Bond narrowly evades due to his vehicle’s extraordinary speed. When Bond’s vehicle teeters on a cliff edge, hanging by a breaking hook, Graves instructs Icarus to sever the cliff, which leads Graves to believe Bond had died.
Gearing up for a return to North Korea, Graves entrusts Zao with final preparations at the palace and leaves with Miranda and his men. Bond returns to the palace to free Jinx and notices their getaway plane.
Aboard the plane, Graves uses Icarus to obliterate his ice palace, erasing all traces of evidence. Following this, he orders his engineer Vlad to finalize the Icarus ExoSkeleton.
A Final Showdown in North Korea
Retreating to a North Korean airbase, Gustav Graves hatches a plan to deploy Icarus to annihilate the minefield in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), thereby opening a pathway for North Korean troops to invade the South.
General Moon’s opposition to this war leads to a coup staged by hardliners, resulting in his capture. NSA Chief Damian Falco assign Bond and Jinx the mission to thwart Graves with the help of the US Airforce. However, when the United States launches a missile aimed at Icarus, Graves utilizes the satellite’s might to vaporize it in mid-flight.
Failing to kill Gustav Graves at the airbase, Jinx and Bond find themselves boarding his aircraft. Inside the plane, Graves and the generals gather in a strategy room, with Graves proudly inspecting the completed ExoSkeleton.
He orders his men to bring in his father. Graves addresses him, but unaware of his son’s altered appearance, Moon doesn’t recognize him. When General Moon professes ignorance, Graves remarks about the difficulty Moon always had accepting him, which made his banishment more bearable.
He then echoes a phrase of his father’s, leading Moon to the horrifying realization of his son’s identity. Aghast at what his son has become, Graves urges his father to witness the ascension of his “son,” activating Icarus with the Controller to demolish the minefield. Moon is repulsed by the heat beam, anticipating a full-blown war with potential nuclear retaliation from the Americans.
Coming to terms with his son’s transformation, General Moon snatches a gun from General Han and holds it to Graves’ head. Graves challenges his father if he’s prepared to murder his own son. Moon retorts, saying his son died long ago, but Graves disarms him using his ExoSkeleton’s electric glove and shoots him.
Spying Bond advancing towards him with lethal intent, Gustav Graves is saved when one of his men intercepts the shot. The bullet inadvertently hits the plane’s window, shattering it and leading to everyone except Bond and Graves being vacuumed out.
The fight between Gustavo Graves and James Bond continues in the wreckage of the room, with Graves eventually gaining the upper hand thanks to his ExoSkeleton. Graves then seizes the plane’s two parachutes, discarding one out the window. Set on leaving Bond to his fate in the impending plane crash, Graves takes a moment to gloat over the fallen spy.
In his moment of arrogance, as he leans over Bond, 007 deftly pulls the parachute’s release cord. This action yanks Graves towards an opening in the fuselage. Clinging desperately to the aircraft’s edge, Bond triggers the ExoSkeleton’s electric defenses, causing Graves to shock himself. He then loses his grip and, along with the Icarus Controller, is sucked into the plane’s jet engine.
And with Gustav groves now dead, the destruction of his ExoSkeleton nullifies the threat posed by Icarus.
Actors who Played Gustav Graves / Colonel Moon
Will Yun Lee
Will Yun Lee, born March 22, 1971, is a Korean/American actor and martial artist. Trained in Taekwondo from the age of three, Lee spent much of his youth teaching at his family’s training facility in California.
After high school, he attended UC Berkeley on an athletic scholarship, studying political science and ethnic studies. He turned to acting and quickly gained significant roles in films like Die Another Day, The Wolverine, and Elektra, and featured in TV series like Thief, Fallen, and Hawaii Five-0.
Lee has even appeared in music videos for Mariah Carey and Ice Cube. In 2002, he was named as one of the ’50 Most Beautiful People’ by People magazine, and ’15 Sexiest Men Alive’ in 2007.
Toby Stephens, born April 21, 1969, is an English actor renowned for his contributions to film, television, and stage. Born to actors Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Robert Stephens, Stephens attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) for formal acting training.
Stephens’ acting career began with the 1992 film Orlando, followed by numerous TV appearances including The Camomile Lawn, Robin Hood, and Lost in Space.
Notable film roles include Gustav Graves in Die Another Day, making him the youngest actor to play a Bond villain, and Edward Rochester in the BBC’s adaptation of Jane Eyre. His role in The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey saw him playing a British Army captain during the Indian rebellion of 1857.
In addition to on-screen and stage roles, Stephens has appeared on stage productions at RSC, West End and Broadway, and he’s also voiced various audiobooks and radio dramas.