Two men, two bodies to guard, but only one of them can win. Will it be Richard Madden’s David Budd or Kevin Costner’s Frank Farmer?
Two men, two bodies to guard, but only one of them can win. Will it be Richard Madden’s David Budd or Kevin Costner’s Frank Farmer?

Pop CultureJune 8, 2020

Bodyguard vs The Bodyguard: Who guarded the body best?

Two men, two bodies to guard, but only one of them can win. Will it be Richard Madden’s David Budd or Kevin Costner’s Frank Farmer?
Two men, two bodies to guard, but only one of them can win. Will it be Richard Madden’s David Budd or Kevin Costner’s Frank Farmer?

Sam Brooks compares two of the most prominent on-screen bodyguards to see how they stack up in the all-important realm of guarding bodies.

One man has to guard the home secretary against potential terrorist attacks. One man has to guard an actress-turned-singer against stalkers and fans. Two bodyguards in two very different products.

Let’s zoom out: The Bodyguard needs pretty much no introduction. It stars Kevin Costner as the titular bodyguard, Frank, a former Secret Service man who’s assigned to Whitney Houston’s Rachel, a star actress-turned-singer. Unprofessional shacking up definitely occurs. It was the second highest grossing film of 1992 and spawned the biggest selling soundtrack of all time, thanks to a few hit Whitney Houston songs.

Bodyguard needs a bit more of an introduction. It was the BBC’s most watched drama in ten years when it came out at the end of 2018, and went on to be nominated for multiple BAFTAs. It stars Richard Madden (RIP Robb Stark) as David Budd, a soldier-turned-bodyguard – nobody ever goes into this job by choice, huh? – and Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty) as the morally/politically dubious home secretary who he is assigned to guard.

It’s pretty much the opposite of The Bodyguard. Whereas that film is a campy, soapy romance that is pretending to be a taut thriller, Bodyguard is a glorious, unabashed political thriller. It’s smart, it’s action-packed, and it’s full of actors chewing on meaty, medium-rare dialogue.

And yet! I’m going to compare the two using the only thing they have in common: The bodyguards. Using an entirely arbitrary set of guidelines, I’m here to determine who is the better bodyguard. Is it Richard Madden’s chiselled, troubled David Budd or is it Kevin Costner’s… chiselled, troubled Frank Farmer? Let’s break it down!

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes in Netflix’s Bodyguard. (Photo: Netflix)

Hurts people who try to hurt their person

Bodyguard: Yup! There’s a lot of this. Whether it’s shoving away disgruntled former assistants or shooting down actual attempted assassins, David Budd has the “knocking people over” bit down.

The Bodyguard: 100%. You might even say he excessively engages in this.

Winner: It’s a tie.

Score: 1-1


Bodyguard: Richard Madden brings a brogue that’s so Scottish you could drink whisky out of it and then go marching through the highlands.

The Bodyguard: Kevin Costner talks in his usual standard American accent.

Winner: I’m a sucker for a brogue, sorry. Great shoe, better accent.

Score: 2-1

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard (1992).

Unwillingness to take on ‘the job’ initially

Bodyguard: David Budd is unwilling to be assigned to the home secretary given her lack of apology over the whole Iraq war thing, especially because he was a soldier there. Seems fair.

The Bodyguard: Frank Farmer doesn’t want to guard Rachel Morran (somehow the name of Whitney Houston’s character) because he “doesn’t do celebs”. See below re: sleeps with charge.

Winner: Nobody! Like many a media columnist in 2020, you’re not paid for your opinion.

Score: 2-1


Bodyguard: Hides valuable secrets from his charge, is maybe entirely broken and unfit to serve due to his PTSD, definitely susceptible to bartering.

The Bodyguard: The most famous song from the movie is about how his charge will always love him, so… not very!

Winner: Nobody! Report to HR, and don’t try to sleep with them, please.

Score: 2-1

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes in Netflix’s Bodyguard. (Photo: Netflix)


Bodyguard: Good at shooting!

The Bodyguard: Very good at shooting.

Winner: The Bodyguard.

Score: 2-2.

Choking at a very important moment

Bodyguard: Technically yes. You’ll get what I mean when you watch it.

The Bodyguard: Nope! Frank Farmer has guarded two presidents. Nobody’s getting by this guy (unless he’s not on the clock, see below).

Winner: The Bodyguard, on a technicality.

Score: 2-3

Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard (1992).

Tortured past

Bodyguard: Saw a lot of people die in the Iraq War.

The Bodyguard: Reagan got shot but “not on his shift”. This guy is still a big huge baby about it. Probably blames Jodie Foster for it too.

Winner: Bodyguard.

Score: 3-3


Bodyguard: Unfortunately, the home secretary doesn’t burst into a rendition of ‘Wuthering Heights’ during the run of this series so this might be an unfair comparison to make.

The Bodyguard: It has six Whitney Houston songs.

Winner: The Bodyguard. Try getting your Kate Bush on next time, home secretary!

Score: 3-4

Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden in Netflix’s Bodyguard. (Photo: Netflix)

Eyerolling at their charge’s refusal to let them do their job

Bodyguard: Despite his puppylike face, Richard Madden does stone cold defiance better than anybody, and manages to do so without coming off like a twat.

The Bodyguard: Frank Farmer’s a dick about pretty much everything from the start of the movie through to the end of it. 

Winner: Bodyguard. Nobody cares if you’re a dick if you don’t come off like a dick.

Score: 4-4

Obsession with the person they’re guarding

Bodyguard: In the first episode, David Budd replays a news clip of the home secretary refusing to apologise for the past. It’s unclear whether it’s in his mind or for real, but it doesn’t really matter. Call Beyonce in 2009, because this guy is Obsessed (2009).

The Bodyguard: There’s a very strange scene about halfway through where Frank Farmer watches the music video to Whitney/Rachel’s hit ballad ‘Run to You’ so loudly that she can hear him from the opposite side of the property. Call Mariah Carey in 2008, because this guy has a song and it’s called ‘Obsessed’.

Winner: Both! But also nobody, because neither of these things seem like healthy behaviour for a bodyguard.

Score: 5-5

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard (1992).

Actually succeeds at guarding the person they’re guarding

Hey, you’ll have to watch both of them and find out!

The winner is…

Both of them! Good on you bodyguards. May you live to guard another day.

You can watch Bodyguard starting tonight on TVNZ 1 at 8:30pm. 

(You can rent The Bodyguard on YouTube for about $4.99, but I really recommend you don’t. It’s not very good.)

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