In the first part of this interview, former racing and stunt driver Erich Glavitza from Austria gave a detailed account about how he got “a call from James Bond” which resulted in him getting hired for the 6th James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. In this second part, you’ll read about the rehearsals with the film crew and the drivers, teaching Diana Rigg how to drive on ice and the experience of working with her and George Lazenby.
Erich, in the first part, we heard about how you got the job and how you got the cars and the necessary equipment. But the racing scenes wasn’t everything they wanted you to do…
There also was the car chase before the race. I was to be the stunt driver for Tracy’s dark red Ford Mercury Cougar XR-7. It was a real beast of a car, with a 7-litre V8 engine and around 400 horsepower. It definitely needed more and better spikes than the other cars. Also, our chief mechanic Willy Neuner had to modify the suspension and the shock absorbers to improve the handling. The power steering wasn’t optimal, and the brakes… oh well, we didn’t need to brake that much, anyway. The car was great fun, so I didn’t care that much. Of course, all the action had to be well-planned. There were lots of meetings and discussions on how to mount the cameras on and inside the cars, how to shoot the street chase and all those things.
A few years ago, Bond expert Charles Helfenstein asked me to be his translator on a trip to Switzerland where he wanted to research for his forthcoming book “The Making of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’”. One day we were standing on a meadow outside Lauterbrunnen, trying to find the exact location where the ice racing scenes were shot. He told me that he had interviewed so many people who had worked on the film, but that he was unable to find any of the drivers who were involved in the shooting of that ice race. And it still was that way when the book was finally published (and much lauded) in 2009.
Fast forward to 2019. The German fan club James Bond Club Deutschland (of which I’m a board member) has a special guest on it’s annual meeting. One Dr Erich Glavitza, author of a recently published book “Vollgas oder Nix! – Meine wilden 60er mit Rindt, James Bond und McQueen” (Full Speed or Nothing! – My Wild Sixties with [German-Austrian F1 driver Jochen] Rindt, James Bond and McQueen). Back in 1969, he was the head of a group of young Austrian racing drivers who drove in those ice racing scenes. He told many stories from the shooting of OHMSS, answered questions and signed books and autographs. He later joined us for dinner were I was lucky to be seated close to him. He recounted many more anecdotes, not only from OHMSS but also Steve McQueen’s “Le Mans” movie for which he was a stunt driver and even played a small role. As he’d been well connected in the international racing scene since the early sixties, there were a lot of Formula One stories, too. His book is (currently) only available in German, so I asked him for an interview for an English Bond fan site (this one) to make his account accessible for the international Bond fan community. He agreed, also to my idea that in order to save time and effort I’d make rough (and abridged) translations of his book and the stories he told on that day to create sort of an interview. Of course I also asked some additional question which he was happy to answer. This one’s for you, Charles.
A hundred years after United Artists was formed as a film studio, the release venture run jointly by MGM-Annapurna announced that their operation shall henceforth adopt the monicker United Artists Releasing.
United Artists was the studio that originally trusted producers Broccoli and Saltzman to start their James Bond film series. In over 60 years of operating independently the studio produced, co-produced and distributed countless diverse classics of cinema history like Chaplin’s Modern Times and The Great Dictator, Hitchcock’s Rebecca, the James Bond and Pink Panther films, Midnight Cowboy, the Rocky films, Raging Bull and Apocalypse Now.
The box office failure and negative publicity of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate led to the end of United Artists’ film production and its merger with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer to MGM/UA. Subsequently, United Artists existed as a monicker attached to various MGM productions.
BOND 25 is going to be a major tentpole production for the United Artists Releasing operation, which will distribute the film on the US market.
I was going for a lazy stroll in the snowy Alps, as you do, and I was just passing this cave near St. Moritz, when a deep bearish voice called out:
‘Hey you – aren’t you one of the guys from CommanderBond.net? Gimme the low down, what’s the news about BOND 25, any juicy details from shooting yet?’
By the entrance to the cave a tall bear was putting on a battered black and white dog tooth suit over a dark blue shirt and a black knitted silk tie, apparently the morning toilet after a long winter hibernation. When I saw him putting black John Lobb shoes on his huge paws I knew I was talking to a hardcore Bond fan. They are everywhere. And they tend to be fussy about their appearance.
‘Sir, indeed I happen to be working for CBn. You, Sir, on the other hand are a bear. And judging from appearances I should have thought you have more pressing matters to attend to than a Bond film,’ I said.
‘What do you think I’m leaving my cave for this early, Mission Impossible?’ my new acquaintance said while he fiddled with a metal expanding bracelet to fit an expensive looking watch around his left forepaw. The hairs of his pelt stuck through the links of the bracelet, but otherwise he was looking every inch the worldly bear.
That’s what makes all the difference, Bond fans can climb right out of a cave and blend in nearly everywhere without effort.
‘Well then, what’s the last thing you remember? Before taking your nap in there?’ I asked him.
The bear’s face turned thoughtful. ’Lemme see…last thing I heard was BOND 25 would be in theatres November 2019. And that Craig will return!’ So this furry Bond fan was still thinking BOND 25 would be right in the middle of shooting now…
‘That was in summer of 2017 – you’ve missed lots of stuff!’
‘Did I? What in particular?’
‘You asked for it…
‘At first, there wasn’t any news about BOND 25 beyond Craig returning. And that Purvis & Wade would do the script, but that hardly counts as news. What there was was a distinct absence of information: no distributor, no director. Plenty of speculation, largely the typical nonsense stuff the media rehashes when they need a spin on a story, who’s doing the title song, who’s returning – or not – and so on. A lot of it focussed on who was possibly directing, so the media speculation mirrored that of the fans, Mendes returning…’
‘Ugh, no!’ my new friend the bear muttered.
‘…then not returning, Villeneuve maybe doing it…’
‘Denis Villeneuve, wow!’
‘…Nolan maybe doing it…’
‘…and finally all hell broke loose when it was announced that Danny Boyle had made a pitch for BOND 25.’
‘Danny Boyle, that’s awesome! Can’t wait to see it!’
‘You won’t have to.’
‘Didn’t they like his pitch?’
‘To the contrary, they were so taken by it that from March to August 2018 Boyle was officially directing BOND 25, shooting a script he developed on the go with John Hodge – while the Purvis and Wade effort supposedly was scrapped. The production, according to people in the know, was going full speed ahead when they suddenly hit “creative differences” and everything came to a standstill.’
‘Oh my,’ the bear was making a sad bear-face. ‘A Danny Boyle Bond film would have been so awesome…’ He was sniffling a little. It’s a disturbing sight, a huge bear sniffling.
‘Some people thought so, yes. But then, whenever a door closes, it does so for a reason – or however that Zen quote about doors goes…’
‘What did they mean with “creative differences” – ain’t that p.r. talk for excrement hitting the airscrew?’ the bear asked.
‘Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest. Talk in the media suggests it was something to do with rewriting the script, a task Purvis and Wade were possibly hired for again. Tabloids speculated wildly about who was to blame for what kind of blasphemy that finally broke the camel’s back. Bond actually dying was mentioned, but how much of that is true – if anything at all – nobody can say for sure.’
My friend the bear looked paler by the minute. It seemed catching up with his favourite franchise didn’t exactly agree with his digestion. While filling him in on events I spared him not a lot, not Gary Barber’s catapult exit from MGM, not Annapurna’s financial woes, which was supposed to team up with MGM for distribution.
‘God, that’s awful…does it get any worse?’
He didn’t yet know about BOND 25’s delay. He’s a bear after all, you never know with bears. Better slip him that detail together with something more uplifting.
‘Depends how you look at it. Distribution of BOND 25, as of yet, will be split between MGM-Annapurna for the US and Universal for the rest of the world. Might be that hints to MGM’s future – or not, take your pick. And Barber hasn’t been replaced as of yet, nor is MGM’s fate decided ’
Now he looked close to tears. ‘What a mess! Will there even be something to distribute when they lost their director and their script too?’
‘Well, it’s not clear how much of a loss that script was. Some claim Hodge may have worked from Purvis and Wade’s first effort all along; nobody outside can say for sure. Whatever Hodge cooked up also could still feature in BOND 25, depending on how a new director and Eon tackle it. And here comes the good news: after weeks of searching they found their replacement for Boyle – Cary J. Fukunaga. And it’s said he will also touch up the script.’
His face lit up. ’The one who directed True Detective? Hey, that’s pretty cool!’
‘Of course, all that kerfuffle comes at a price. You will not like hearing BOND 25 got pushed back a bit, from November 2019 to February 2020 – Valentine’s Day.’
‘That’s still over a year!’ He looked seriously miffed now.
‘Yes, but you picked just the right time to wake up: shooting is set to begin in March, with location work in Italy set for April.’
‘Italy again, I like that! It’s warm in Italy!’
‘Further locations may include Norway and possibly Canada too…’
‘I like Norway and Canada. Plenty bears there!’
The bear was fiddling now for some time with a smart phone; difficult to handle with his paws.
‘And why is none of this stuff up on CommanderBond.net? Damn, fans like me depend on you guys. Do your bloody duty!’ he growled at me.
‘In truth, I was just going to write it when you called me over…’
You might have come across the notion that 23. April is World Book Day. In fact, unless you happen to live beyond a stone, in a desert in some far-away country of which we know nothing about, you will probably have been reminded of this half a dozen times already today. And no doubt there will also have been numerous suggestions to add to your reading list. What better occasion to ask yourself: What would James Bond read? After all, you won’t want to occupy your precious grey cells with just any old trash; you want to read what real men would read. Thankfully, CommanderBond.net can help you out there:
Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler
Why that? Because it’s a nifty little pre-war thriller with mediterranean flair, uncommon characters in a whodunit setting and a sympathetic hero forced under severe duress to expose a spy. Just the stuff James Bond likes to read to relax from his job of exposing spies while under severe duress. And Bond likes Eric Ambler. At least since The Mask of Dimitrios stopped a bullet aimed at his heart. Admittedly, we never learn if Bond finished that one…
Playback by Raymond Chandler
Why that? Because James Bond buys it at Idlewild Airport (several years before it grew into the John F. Kennedy International Airport) to read on the flight back to London. Admittedly, he then didn’t have much use for reading stuff. And it is somewhat unlikely that he left that particular plane with his book. But it’s safe to assume the book ended up on Bond’s note of expenses and was replaced by the Service. After all, it’s a valuable lesson in operational procedure should the need arise to send Bond spotting a kangaroo in a dinner jacket.
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
Why that? Because it was one of Ian Fleming’s favourite books. Its protagonist, orphaned at the age of seven and brought up by relatives, spends seven years of his life in a sanatorium high up in the Swiss Alps, learning about life and death, lust and love, virtue, hedonism and duty. A bizarre carnival is celebrated on the magic mountain, evocation of a sea change about to happen with the Big War. There is a lady whose name alludes to a hot cat with claws, and while the hero at the end heads for the slaughterhouse of WW I, he may have checked out of the sanatorium but never leaves the Berghof. Just the stuff James Bond likes to relax with while sipping on his double bourbon and pondering his own role in the greater scheme of things.
Casino Royale first edition cover by Jonathan Cape; image courtesy wikipedia
‘The bitch is dead now.’
Actually, that depends very much, Mr Bond. With Vesper Lynd you might be excused to think she has just left the building for good, in so doing putting an end to a rather testing affair, even by the standards of the Secret Service. If you mean, however, your own illustrious career in said service, which could have taken a turn for the finish line with these memorable words … well, that career is still very much alive.
On 13th April 2018 it’s exactly 65 years since readers could pick up the Jonathan Cape first edition of Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’. Between the pages they met: a gruff figure of authority, reassuringly in charge of the British Secret Service; a physically revolting villain with a benzedrine inhaler, three razor blades and expensive false teeth, but minus a proper name; a beautiful lady who gets parcelled up in her own skirt; a cheerful Frenchman always happy to help out with a radio set and convenient kitchen sink psychology when needed; a cheerful Texan delighted to help out with 32 million francs and keeping the lady absolutely safe while the hero is playing games with the villain.
The hero. Of course the hero. Meet James Bond, no middle name that we’re aware of. No relationship to any other firm. Solely, exclusively there for our entertainment. A secret agent decidedly from the deadly branch of intelligence; if it wasn’t called 00-section it would be the Saint-George-Society, in the business of slaying dragons. Travels with no less than three guns to a mission that should only call for his dinner-jacket and counting to nine – but, in line with his flimsy cover as rich businessman, doesn’t fire a single shot. Avoids lifts as danger signals and prefers to open his hotel room with his gun drawn, like the professional he is. Plays cards as if it was for money, thankfully not his own. Take a closer look at him here.
That fateful April of 1953 readers discovered a rich and extravagant life at the side of this man Bond; drinking, smoking, dining with him; racing after cruel and despicable gunmen; winning, losing and then again winning fortunes; almost blown to pieces; almost beaten to pulp; almost caught in the talons of marriage. Escaping time and again the facts of death by his own resilience and the ingenuity of his creator. Fleming’s readers wanted more, much more. Thankfully, Fleming indulged them as long as he could.
There is today a vast assortment of anecdotes – or legends, depending how you look at it – floating around regarding Ian Fleming. One of them goes like this: one day in July 1944 Fleming and a colleague were eating Spam rations, sitting in their jeep in northern France, pondering plans for after the war. When the other had finished telling about his, Fleming simply said ‘I’m going to write the spy story to end all spy stories.’ Well, that didn’t go quite as planned.
While it cannot be said that Casino Royale invented the spy story, it’s certainly true that the book invented its own species of spy, the armchair consumer’s agent, puffing and boozing away on the pages, we with him, while on the next page there could be anything, anything at all: a love affair; an enemy agent; a dive to a treasure island; a bullet through the chest – or through an Ambler novel. Or death.
The recipe was so intoxicating it kept Bond busy way beyond even the wildest expectations of his creator. If Fleming today looked down on the success of his invention he’d likely have trouble believing it: films, books, games, numerous after shaves and soaps, music, toys, a film studio that consists now largely of Bond, countless websites, clubs and fora.
No, Casino Royale definitely didn’t end all spy stories…
According to news reported by From Sweden With Love, Anders Frejdh’s Swedish Bond fan page, Lewis Gilbert, director of Bond classics You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has passed away.
Gilbert started out early as a child actor during the 1920s and 1930s, later switching to other production-related jobs. After assisting at Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, Gilbert began his direction career with documentaries during the Second World War. After the war, he branched out into scriptwriting and producing films and directed a number of productions based on true events from the war, 1960’s Sink the Bismarck just one of them.
In 1966 he adapted Bill Naughton’s play Alfie with Michael Caine more or less on a shoestring budget. The film won the Jury Special Prize at Cannes and got an Oscar nomination in the best picture category, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Gilbert.
In 1967 he directed You Only Live Twice, the Bond film that started a trend to largely ignore Ian Fleming’s source material in favour of escapist spectacle, huge set pieces and extensive stunt work. While overshadowed by Sean Connery’s obvious reluctance to further suffer as the focus of a global super-spy craze (and cameraman John Jordan’s severe accident during shooting) the film was only slightly less successful at the box office than its predecessor Thunderball.
So solid was Gilbert’s work on 007 that Eon asked him back to direct not once but twice – and both times to shoot remakes of his original, this time with Roger Moore as Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977 and 1979’s Moonraker today have a somewhat mixed reputation with the fanbase; yet they are regarded as classics in their own right with wider interested film aficionados and critics. And of course they grossed spectacularly in the year of their original release.
Gilbert’s post-Bond career included a number of smaller productions, Shirley Valentine perhaps the most notable amongst these. In 1997 he was awarded the CBE and in 2001 he was made Fellow of the British Film Institute.
An earlier version of this article did not name the source. CBn thanks Anders Frejdh for breaking the news on this.