1. U is for Umbrella

    By Luke Freeman on 2003-01-17

    “U is for Umbrella, we use it in the rain, we hope that we shan’t want one, till we’re home again”. Remember that classic line from Diamonds Are Forever? It was nice old Mrs Whistler, reading an alphabet book to her young pupils. Unfortunately, before we could hear the rest of the story, she was called away to see Mr Wint and Mr Kidd about getting some pictures of the canals for the children. Now the other day I opened my mailbox to discover that I’d received two letters. Bring my total for the year to two. The first letter I got was from a man named Roger Less, who had spent many frustrating years searching the world for that book without any luck. At first I assumed that he was a collector after the book as a film prop, a prized possession, up there with Sean Connery’s Hairpiece I’d imagine. But as I read on it because clear that Mr. Less wasn’t a collector at all, he just wanted the book so that he could read the rest of the story. And rightly so I think. There is nothing more annoying than seeing part of a film or reading part of a book and then being denied the rest of it, being left wondering what happened next.

    There is no doubt in my mind that there a thousands, no, make that millions, of film watchers around the world who hurl the remote control at the TV set in rage and shout profanity towards anyone within earshot when Johnny interrupts Mrs Whistler’s reading of the book. The children in the film aren’t happy, and we the audience aren’t happy either, sorry, but it simply isn’t good enough. They get us hooked on the story, with an exceptional storyteller in Mrs Whistler and a not half bad umbrella related tale, and then they cut us off, robbing us of the dramatic climax. After the films release there was a rumour that rest of the story would be told in the next James Bond film, Live and Let Die, but sadly those scenes where never films. Although we knew the story would never be finished, many hoped that among the various homages sprinkled into the 20th Bond film Die Another Day would be a little tribute to Mrs Whistler and here story telling capabilities.

    Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Die Another Day gave “Wink and nods” to many of the other famous Bond moments. Halle Berry walked out of the water in a bikini as a look back to Ursula Andress in Doctor No, Gustav Graves dropped in to meet the press thanks to a parachute bearing the Union Jack just like Bonds spectacular ski jump in The Spy Who Loved Me and the jetpack from Thunderball and other “old relics” appeared in Q workshop. You’d be forgiven for thinking that if they saw fit to provide references to those, they would also give a wink and nod to Mrs Whistler or her story, but no.

    This brings me to my second letter, which wasn’t so much a letter as it was a restraining order, a restraining order preventing me from coming with 50 miles of Pinewood Studios. You see, back in the early months of 2002, when word first got out that Die Another Day would contain little homages to previous Bond films, I was intrigued. After hearing about the “Birds of the West Indies” homage, and the gadgets in Q’s workshop, I came up with a terrific I idea of my own for a homage.

    I was thinking, that in a film full of homages, that we should pay homage to a previous homage. Remember the janitor in On Her Majestys Secret Service whistling the tune to ‘Goldfinger’? Of course you do, who could forget? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to pay tribute to this, the original Bond homage? I’m not sure exactly where the janitor could be placed in the film, but it would have been worth writing an extra scene in the film just to fit him in I’m sure. I submitted my idea to the folks at EON Productions, suggesting that this time around the janitor could whistle the tune to the Die Another Day song, not realising at the time how difficult a task whistling, or even humming to Madonnas theme would be.

    I sent my idea in writing to EON Productions but heard no reply. I then telephoned them, but was brushed off and hung on each of the 47 times I called. Concerned that perhaps they were using my idea without giving me credit, I caught the next plane for England. The next day, jet lagged and hung over, I rented a car a drove to Pinewood Studios. Driving in England is a little different than in Australia, because down under you drive on the left side of the road, and in England you drive on the right. Not that many of the British seem to realise that, the roads were full of idiots driving on the wrong side, almost running head on into me.

    After following poor directions that had me running back and forth like a two timer on St. Valentines Day, I finally got to the front gates at Pinewood. There I was “greeted” by two burly Commando guards, each armed to the teeth with grenades and rocket launchers. They informed me that filming for Die Another Day was taking place and that there was to be no visitors. I explained that I had to see producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli urgently about about adding my homage to the script, and the possibility of a cameo by yours truly in the film. One of the guards pulled out a clip board containing a guest list.
    “Your name?” he grunted, no ‘please’, how rude.
    “Freemo” I replied smiling. Surely I’d be on the list, being a famous and well respected Bond journalist and all.
    He quickly eyed his way though the guest list.
    “Sorry, not on the list, step away from the gate please” he ordered, getting ready to arm his rocket launcher.
    Time for a little Roger Moore style charisma I though. “I think your mistaken, why don’t you check again?” I asked.
    The guard had no intention of checking again. Just when I thought that all was lost, I looked though the gate and could see Pierce Brosnan talking with Michael G. Wilson and Lee Tamahori.
    “Pierce, Mickey” I cried waving my arms in the air “Fellas, it’s me, its Freemo, I must have accidentally been left off the guest list”.

    They mustn’t have heard me, because they gave brief disgusted looks and walked away in the opposite direction. What happened next is too horrific for print, let’s just say that it involved a fork lift, some water balloons, a goat, and wild, incoherent chanting. In hindsight, the restraining order was probably warranted. But I’m sure it’s just temporary, I’ll get on the inside one of these days.

    Until next time,