With the release of each new James Bond film comes several key questions: who is the new Bond girl, what are the villains like, who is performing the title song, and so on. ‘Has the teaser poster been revealed yet?’ is often one of those questions. The poster artwork and advertising campaigns of this film series are subjected to constant scrutiny by the fans and therefore the expectations are always high.
CBn recently had the opportunity to interview Thomas Nixdorf, who is the author of Licence To Thrill: James Bond Posters, which was published in Germany in 1997. An avid collector and an incredibly knowledgeable person in the world of Bond posters, he discussed the process of working on the book, his association with Robert McGinnis (further information on the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition here), details on collecting posters from all over the world, and much more. Enjoy.
Thank you for agreeing to the interview. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 41 years old and live in Hannover, Germany. As General Manager I run a First Class Business & Conference Hotel with 140 rooms. Hannover is known as city of the world’s largest computer trade fair called ‘CeBIT’. In 2000 we had the world exposition EXPO. Before I went into the hotel trade I worked as a freelance journalist writing movie reviews. I have a general interest in classic movies and movie poster art. Besides James Bond I’ve been collecting german Marlene Dietrich posters and lobby cards for years.
When did you start becoming interested in the James Bond posters and designs?
When I was 14 years old I saw the Moonraker Advance poster where 007 is blasting off into space in a local cinema. I was so fascinated by the artwork and (at that time…) also by the movie that I started collecting anything on James Bond. In later years I focused on posters and 007 art. I’m collecting James Bond posters from all over the world. The most unusual posters come from exotic countries such as Hungary, Egypt or Japan. There is a brazilian Moonraker poster which is so ugly that it is beautiful already. I got this from a brazilian couple in the early 1980s when they lived in an apartment of my parent’s house. Even in times of eBay I have not seen this poster again.
We all have noticed that the value of Bond posters, especially of the early country of origin posters, has increased dramatically in recent years. In the early ’80s one was able to get a Dr. No Quad for $15. Now you have to invest at least $5,000 when you have the chance to get one offered…
As my archive is not stored in my hometown I have to take a drive to have an appointment with Mr. Bond, but even after almost 30 years of collecting it is still much fun to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon with my posters.
You’re the author of the book Licence To Thrill: James Bond Posters, which was published in Germany in the late 90s and examined the posters of the Bond series. Can you tell us a little about how that project came about and what it was like working on it.
In early 1997 I had assembled quite a poster collection and noticed that there was no real 007 poster book available. Due to the sucess of GoldenEye and a new interest in Bond, a friend of mine who runs a poster auction house and myself decided to apply for a license from EON Productions to publish our own book. It was a very interesting experience to do a book only about Bond posters and sometimes we thought that it might be boring for readers to see a man in tuxedo holding a gun on 200 pages. But we proved wrong and as being the first real Bond poster book ever Licence To Thrill was an immediate success and sold out very quickly.
To illustrate the book we used posters and original art out of my own archive but also 007 collectors from around the world sent me photographs of rare and unusual stuff. In the book there are images that were never seen before. As it was an official book licensed by EON I was not able to include Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again at that time. It is a pity due to the fact that especially Never Say Never Again has a variety of great posters.
It was a pleasure to get inside information from the late United Artists Advertising & Marketing Director Don Smolen (who wrote the foreword) and illustrator legend Bob McGinnis. However there are some inaccuracies in the book as far as artists who painted a particular poster are concerned. In the meantime I got all the correct information and have assembled so much new and exciting material that I would love to publish a revised english version of the book. So if there is a publisher out there…
How did you come to be involved with Robert McGinnis?
I interviewed Bob McGinnis via telephone for my book and immediately noticed what a kind person he is. A true gentleman who graciously supported my several Bond projects over the years. We became friends and I visited him in New York three years ago. We had lunch at the famous Society of Illustrators and chatted for hours on illustration and movie poster art. He introduced me to some very interesting people including one veteran illustrator who worked on Disney’s Pinocchio in 1940! When we left the Society of Illustrators we walked along Central Park towards the Plaza Hotel to have a drink in the famed ‘Oak Room Bar’. On our way we passed seveal booths of dealers who offered books and postcards. We stopped at one as Bob noticed that on almost every little shop postcards of his famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s painting were sold. He grabbed one and said to the seller: ‘I painted this poster a long time ago,’ The dealer looked quite puzzled. We laughed and continued our way to the Plaza Hotel.
Tell us about the Robert McGinnis art print series.
With a growing interest in pop art and movie poster art of the 1960s and 1970s I thought it was time to honor one of greatest illustrators of all time—Bob McGinnis. My aim was not to offer simple reproductions of his world famous movie posters, but exciting new interpretations of various movie subjects. Be assured that some interesting artworks will follow in the next months!
We printed The Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition on high quality museum paper. A special technique to highlight the title of the edition was used and all art prints are handsigned and numbered by Robert McGinnis. With a worldwide circulation of only 500 copies each style they are a real investment for the advanced collecor and will certainly grow in value over the years. Check out RMG-Artwork.com for further information!
You mention that some of the most unusual Bond posters come from several different countries around the world, such as Egypt and Japan. Are there any other details you can reveal regarding some of the posters 007 fans may not be aware of?
Japanese posters are most times busy photo montages where many little details can be discovered. There are theories why on the japanese posters Bond always carries a gun with large silencer which I cannot confirm or analyze.
Especially on the early 60s posters in some countries the bikini clad girls were overpainted to hide ‘nudity’. What now looks innocent was sometimes a provocation when a McGinnis girl showed a little too much for the point of view of the censor.
There were poster campaigns in the past where one can see that it was difficult for the advertising department to come to a result. Especially the campaign for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a difficult task as it had to introduce a new unknown actor as James Bond. This is why there were so many rejected artworks and concepts. The Frank McCarthy art with a barechested 007 holding Tracy was certainly a little exaggerated, but cool. For the final poster artwork they used the dynamic explosive background of McCarthy and added figures of Lazenby & Rigg painted by Bob McGinnis. The campaign for Diamonds Are Forever was also not so easy. After Lazenby’s departure and changing times by the end of the 1960s (student riots, Woodstock and the Hippie movement) it was a challenge for the marketing gurus to present a modern version of Bond. Many concepts (among them some quite interesting ones) were rejected to present a more tradititional poster painted by McGinnis which showed 007 in tuxedo on an oil rig surrounded by girls. It is classic Bond—even in times of ‘flower power’. The last Timothy Dalton outing, Licence To Kill, also had many, many different concepts (almost 20 painted by Bob Peak or photo montages)—all rejected in favour of a dull photo montage 1-Sheet which was done by Tony Seiniger Advertising in LA.
To sum it up one can say that the U.S. and UK poster campaigns always set the tone for international poster designs. Some countries, especially in the early days produced their own artworks others copied or made variations on the standard 1-Sheet or Quad posters—sometimes with amazing results—the rarely seen Thai 1-Sheet for The Spy Who Loved Me is even superior to the US 1-Sheet/British Quad which was illustrated by movie poster legend Bob Peak (Star Trek, My Fair Lady). It is a variation of the Peak painting but the thai artist added some exciting scenes and Roger Moore & Barbara Bach never looked better…
What comparisons would you make between the Bond posters of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s to the more current ones in the series?
The ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s were the golden times of the painted/illustrated poster. There are ‘poster gems’ in all decades and for different actors who have portrayed Bond. Every period reflects a certain fashion, political movement or society trend. Remember the ’70s fashion with wide tuxedo trousers & colourful bikinis on the villains Advance poster for The Man With The Golden Gun, the black girl on the Live And Let Die artworks in 1973 (with the exception of Italy where the coloured girl was replaced by a white lady) or the late results of woman’s lib where a self-confident Grace Jones back to back with 007 looks even more masculine than her Majesty’s secret agent…
Even in changing times almost all posters have in common that there is a hero preferebly in tuxedo and holding a gun in the center of action or surrounded by beautiful girls. This is what James Bond is all about and is certainly part of the formula which works for over 45 years now. The poster campaign for Casino Royale is no different even though the movie in many sequences is…
What did you think about the poster designs for the newest James Bond film, Casino Royale?
Well, as the times of the illustrated poster are over one has to accept what is produced now—which is ‘desktop illustration’ I would say. The advance poster for Casino Royale where 007 is sitting at the casino table is simple, cool and effective. The final 1-Sheet is dull. As it is with other movies as well, bold Bond advance posters are much more interesting than the main campaigns, which usually are uninspiring photo montages of action and girls. The advance posters for some Brosnan 007 movies are quite good such as GoldenEye with a simple portrait but an unbeatable tag line (‘You know the name…’), the Teaser for Die Another Day with the gun on ice or the flame girl from The World Is Not Enough.
Do you have any collecting tips for fans/admirers of the Bond posters?
Here’s my advice: collect what you like! Certainly it is very difficult to obtain early country of origin Connery posters for reasonable prices, but if you are willing to buy a Dr. No Quad for thousands of dollars it still is a good investment as the first four 007 movies will remain film history. Some people collect all posters from a certain country in all sizes which in my personal view is sometimes a little boring. I focus on different artworks so if I have two or three US posters from Thunderball featuring McGinnis and McCarthy art I’m more excited to add an exotic poster to my archive such as the beautiful Thai 1-Sheet from Thunderball which has unique artwork. Also I love tie-in/cross promotion posters for all the brands that advertised in conjunction with 007. An “Evinrude motors” poster from Thunderball is as thrilling as a “Michelin” tire 1-Sheet from A View To A Kill or a rare “Bollinger” champagne poster from Licence To Kill. The variety of different artworks and designs is what I focus on but everyone has their own taste, I guess.
As you are obviously quite knowledgeable with the world of Bond posters and designs, do you have any specific favourites?
All the Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy Bond posters are masterpieces of classic movie poster illustration. I love the McGinnis bath tub art from You Only Live Twice and the McCarthy jet pack and underwater artworks from Thunderball. McCarthy was in fact the man for action. His paintings are very dynamic. Believe it or not—I especially like his explosions. Just look at the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster where Piz Gloria is destroyed. Fantastic!
Bob McGinnis’ paintings oozes sexuality and glamour. The Thunderball art where 007 is kneeling in scuba gear and is surrounded by beautiful women in bikinis is a very good example.
I also like the marvellous Renato Fratini/Eric Pulford From Russia With Love poster and from the Roger Moore years the Dan Goozeé artworks he created for Moonraker, Octopussy and A View To A Kill. In my view, Roger Moore and Grace Jones back to back is one of the most striking images of the entire series. Elegant, sexy, simple and effective! Brian Bysouth’s British Quad design for The Living Daylights is the swan song of the painted Bond poster. Times have changed and posters are created on the computer by Photoshop wizards nowadays but there are still some exceptions… Illustrator Drew Struzan who created some of the classic Star Wars and Indiana Jones posters painted artworks for the new Star Wars episodes and proved that a movie can be successful even with this ‘old fashioned’ way of advertising. When I talked to Drew recently he stated that he is hoping to do the poster for Indiana Jones IV. Let’s keep the fingers crossed and maybe in the near future also agent 007 might be seen on a painted poster again…