The Graham Rye CBn Interview (Part I)
Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan… Graham Rye? James Bond actors may come and go, but for almost as long as there have been James Bond movies, Graham Rye, editor and publisher of OO7 Magazine, 007 archivist and preservationist, and past president of the James Bond International Fan Club, has been a consistently familiar face in front of every film; reporting news and sharing his insights for an international audience of devoted James Bond fans. Along with a stable of talented contributors, Graham turned what started out as a one-page photocopied fan club mailer into a highly professional 48-page full color magazine devoted to all things Bond. Twenty-six years and 46 issues later, OO7 Magazine is still going strong, even in an era when James Bond websites provide Bond fans with an endless supply of news and rumor daily.
Graham is also the author of The James Bond Girls, a definitive look at the lovely ladies who have shared screen time with 007, many of whom Graham counts as personal friends. As a 007 archivist and preservationist Graham and the JBIFC have rescued many famous Bond props from extinction, including a decaying Diamonds Are Forever Moon Buggy. He even owned Oddjob’s hat!
Now, for the first time, the man who published interviews with such Bond luminaries as Peter Hunt, Desmond Llewelyn, and Timothy Dalton, gets the spotlight turned on him, and shares with CBn the highs and lows of a lifetime in Bondage.
To start, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up, and what’s your life like outside of James Bond?
I was born September 13th 1951 in Southall, West London where I lived until my first marriage in 1972 when I moved to Finchley, North London, until the marriage broke up in 1976. When I’m not occupied producing editions of OO7 Magazine, which mostly fills my calendar for the year and has generally taken over my life since 1983 (each issue can take anything from 12 to 14 weeks to produce from scratch), I like reading, cinema, theatre, music, dance, dining out, and shooting and riding when I get the opportunity. I used to take photographs for pleasure and draw and paint a bit, but unfortunately have long since seen the time for such esoteric pleasures dwindle to no time at all. While working in London in the late Sixties I would often spend my lunch hours in the National Gallery, the British Museum or other art galleries scattered around town. I very much miss these times.
I left school in 1968, and a week later got myself a job as a messenger boy at an advertising art studio in the West End of London, which gave me an invaluable knowledge and love of the city, and for which I was paid the princely sum of £6 per week. When I remember I would purchase my London Underground season ticket, give my Mum money for housekeeping, buy this and that—and still have enough money left over for a boozy Friday night with my old school chum and Bond fan Fred Bryant, the mind boggles. I still don’t believe the rate of inflation over the last 30 years in the UK would ever have been accepted as even-tempered as it has been by the people of this country if our currency hadn’t been decimalised. The greatest con-trick ever perpetrated on the British public by Her Majesty’s government! Now they’re trying to pull the same trick with the Euro.
There’s a photograph of you as a young boy meeting Molly Peters at a Thunderball screening in 1965. Was Thunderball the movie that first ignited your Bond interest?
No not really. I was completely excited by Dr. No, there really hadn’t been anything like it before in cinema; then mesmerized by From Russia With Love (that pre-credit opening sequence was the cleverest thing I’d seen in the movies or TV at that time), and totally blown away by Goldfinger. Thunderball kind of underlined the whole Bond mystique for me; an expensive lifestyle in exotic locations surrounded by fabulous looking women, with the occasional villain having to be bumped off before everything settles down again in paradise. Although Thunderball is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan of the Bond films (and the most successful, regardless of whatever the official story relates!), even then I wondered where it could go from there, and probably thought—and hoped—that Sean Connery would go on forever in the 007 role. For me, You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are the last two films in the series that are a cohesive whole, rather than a mish-mash of hit and miss ideas strung together masquerading as a Bond movie.
How did you become involved with The JBIFC? Were you a part of it from the very start?
No, I didn’t get involved in The James Bond British Fan Club (as it was then named) until 1980. A likeable and enthusiastic teenager by the name of Ross Hendry started The JBBFC in 1979. With my experience in graphic design, I came on board to add some flair to the visual look of OO7, the Club’s publication, such as it was in those early days.
Did you ever imagine it would last 25 years?
I don’t think I’ve ever really had time to think about much else other than producing the next issue of OO7 Magazine or the next JBIFC event or whatever. They’re things I’ve always been totally committed to and involved in. When you’re simultaneously chasing a dream and running to keep up with the bills you can’t afford the luxury of contemplation. Mostly its been trying to survive, literally to put food on the table. When I look back now it really has been a fantastic journey, and I believe, in its way, a pretty incredible achievement. A lot of laughter and tears along the way, but I wouldn’t change a day of it.
Being in your position you’ve met many Bond celebrities. Can you talk a bit about the people you’ve met and some of the friends (or enemies) you’ve made along the way?
Enemies? To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: “Graham Rye is an excellent man; he has not an enemy in the world, and none of his friends like him.” Well I suppose they know who they are, but personally, I’ve never had time to waste on negativity or small and petty minded people, who mainly have their own axes to grind and agendas to amplify. Life’s too short and so are they (mostly).
Desmond Llewelyn and Maurice Binder are really the main two Bond celebrities who became real friends. They were both truly wonderful men, each of whom supported wholeheartedly what I was trying to achieve with The JBIFC and OO7 Magazine. Desmond supported our events from day one and was always there to help when he could. Maurice was very much a mentor. We had some wonderful conversations together. I still miss them both terribly.
It’s part of fan lore that The JBIFC ran afoul of Eon when OO7 published the first ever ‘tell all’ interview with George Lazenby. Is this true?
No, not really. I think the die was cast well before then. It was, and remains, a case of different agendas. From day one Eon have never believed that any James Bond fan club would necessarily be acting in their best interest, and they’re probably correct, especially if the organization is going to be independent and unaffiliated—and unlicensed. To them, control is everything, an idea that isn’t foreign to me. I certainly wouldn’t want to see a OO7 Magazine that had to seek approval from anyone, forgiveness on occasions possibly, but approval—never!
How are relations with Eon now?
With whom? What can I say? To be completely honest and very frank, if it were a divorce we’d both probably cite irreconcilable differences for the breakdown of the ‘marriage’, though we were never ‘married’ in the first place, however we have ‘dated’ on several occasions when it was convenient to do so. And too much damage has been done during the relationship for any thought or need of reconciliation. It’s always been a case of entirely separate agendas and I believe it will always remain so. I’m a loose cannon and can’t be controlled, which is probably where the problem begins and ends. I can’t work within the tight parameters of a licensed entity where every last full stop, comma and photograph has to be approved for an ‘official’ version—I leave that to others. Simple as that! What Eon’s opinion of me is, or their ‘official’ policy or stance toward OO7 Magazine and me is, I have no idea. But in recent years I have come up against deliberate blocking of me appearing on various TV programs, and I no longer receive any invitations to official events or invitations to visit the set of the latest film. So that kind of behavior tells me all I need to know, although I have no written statement of any kind from Eon Productions laying out exactly what their objections are. They’re in the business of making James Bond movies, I’m in the business of publishing an unlicensed magazine about James Bond, and never the twain shall meet it would seem. End of story.
Tell me about the step-by-step process of putting together an issue of OO7 Magazine?
The strength of OO7 Magazine has always been its balance between great photographs and strong text. As a photographer I’ve always been in love with the image, so that’s one of the main reasons why I like to use so many great shots in one issue. I have so many stills in my archive it would be a real shame not to let readers see them whenever it’s possible. Anyone regularly subscribing to OO7 Magazine over the years know they are going to see and read material in every issue they can’t access anywhere else.
It’s always frustrating to me that the still photographers on the early Bonds are mostly unidentifiable from the photographs—as I know personally how annoying it can be to see one’s work reproduced without any credit—but whenever possible the photograph is credited. I’d love to hear from some of these early Bond photographers like Loomis Dean, Arthur Evans, James and Linda Swarbrick, Bert Cann, Frank Connor, David Hurn, and George Whitear.
My ideas for OO7 Magazine always seem to come out of thin air; usually either late at night or in the wee small hours when I’m relaxing with two fingers of Highland Park malt whisky. Sometimes these ideas snowball and develop with a life of their own during the production layout of the publication—one thing leads to another and so on and so onä I started off making James Bond picture story scrapbooks as a kid, so I suppose OO7 Magazine has become the logical extension of that schoolboy hobby.
The graphic design of OO7 Magazine really sets it apart from other fanzines—in fact, I’m not even sure I should call OO7 Magazine a ‘fanzine’ but rather ‘a magazine devoted to James Bond.’ Can you tell us a bit about how the look of the mag has evolved over the years and your role in its changing design?
‘Fanzine?’ Shame on you! Well I deliberately changed the title of the publication to OO7 Magazine because I wanted to distance it from being seen as ‘just’ a ‘fanzine’, a fan-based publication, which I don’t think it has been for many years, and certainly isn’t now. It really is a magazine devoted to James Bond. If people like it then they’ll buy it, if they don’t they won’t. I’ve always believed that if you work in any creative medium the only arbiters you can use is your own taste and standards. You assemble a publication that pleases you and hope mostly everyone else enjoys it. Obviously you can’t please all the people all the time, and you’re always going to have a percentage that you can’t please any of the time (but they probably don’t buy the publication anyway!). Though over the last quarter century I’m pleased, and proud, to relate that I’ve had much more positive than negative feedback from readers. There has been some criticism regarding the retail cost of OO7 Magazine, but unfortunately this is unavoidable when producing anything in such limited quantities, your unit cost will always mean your end product will be expensive, but that said, I still believe the publication is excellent value for money for the discerning James Bond enthusiast.
With the new-look editions of OO7 Magazine starting from issue number #41 onwards, I’ve wanted to open out the editorial content of the publication so it has a broader appeal. I don’t see why a James Bond magazine needs to be dull, stuffy or anally retentive. I leave that to others. I want OO7 Magazine to be an artistically bright-looking publication with features that will be interesting, informative and entertaining to read and to look at, and if it can educate a little along the way that’s an added bonus. I also hope the publication will now appeal to less hardcore Bond fans. Basically, I have a unique knowledge of the subject and want to share it with my readers, who I hope enjoy the end product. OO7 Magazine has always set the standard, and will continue this trend as long as I’m able to maintain my current level of commitment to the publication. An infinite part-work?
The editions of OO7 Magazine from issue #41 onwards are also more considered. Because I no longer have the myriad distractions of the day-to-day running of The JBIFC, its on-line store, and the many other offshoots I was pestered with every hour of the day every day of the week, I can plan the structure of a number of issues in advance. It’s a luxury I’ve never had before and it’s much my preferred way of working.
Being a child of the Roger Moore era, I’ve noticed that OO7 Magazine seems to have a bit of a Connery bias—number of Connery covers vs. Moore covers, etc. What do you say to cranky Moore fans like myself who complain about this?
I’d say it was a very fair criticism and not at all cranky—and one I’m currently addressing [Ed NOTE: see ‘OO7’ Magazine #46 – Roger Moore Special]. Unfortunately, most of our contributors, including the current writers for OO7 Magazine, aren’t huge Roger Moore Bond fans, so it’s been difficult for a long while to feature his films with the coverage they most certainly deserve. His casting in the role undoubtedly enabled the Bond series to survive two decades. If Sean Connery hadn’t been cast in the role originally I don’t think anyone would currently be talking about BOND 21: Casino Royale. But by the same token, if Roger hadn’t been cast in 1973 I don’t think we’d have seen Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan follow on to portray James Bond.
If there’s anyone out there who feels they can write and would like to showcase a Roger Moore 007 film in a positive fashion—please write to me at [email protected] (enthusiasm and a sound accurate knowledge of the subject are the key factors in writing for OO7 Magazine—don’t worry about your English grammar—that’s my job as editor to knock it into shape!)
In the beginning the club reported a great deal on the progress of McClory’s Thunderball remake, and when Never Say Never Again finally came out OO7 featured more coverage of this film than Octopussy. Was this because of the excitement over Connery’s return, or did McClory offer the club the co-operation Eon wouldn’t?
Obviously everyone was excited by Sean’s return (however short-lived both the excitement and the return was), but no, we were never afforded any special treatment by Kevin McClory, and we were unable to obtain any stills through ‘official’ channels from either Octopussy, or even two years later for A View To A Kill. However, Warner Brothers, who originally released Never Say Never Again, were incredibly helpful. I suppose it was because they felt they needed all the help they could get in opposition (which is how they felt about the situation) to Octopussy. Warner gave me total access to an unlimited number of stills and transparencies and eventually even gave me the prop nuclear warhead used in the film. They’d had it on display in the West End cinema showing the film in London’s Haymarket, and I don’t think they knew what to do with it after the film’s run. I remember it only just fit nose to tail in the company estate car I had at the time. After humping the damn thing around all over the place in various ‘moves’ over the years the prop warhead was eventually purchased by Planet Hollywood, and as far as I know is still on display in one of their restaurants.
OO7 seemed to heartily endorse Timothy Dalton’s Bond with many excellent issues and covers. Looking back, what do you think of the Dalton era now?
I think it was a valiant attempt by Timothy Dalton and the filmmakers to bring Bond back down to basics, nearer to the first two films in the series. At the time I think it was certainly the best Bond film since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, although not really in quite the same class as George Lazenby’s one shot appearance as 007. Unfortunately with Licence To Kill I think Dalton’s influence for a darker more somber Bond backfired, and led the filmmakers up the wrong path. The film also wasn’t helped by a monumentally inadequate promotional campaign that just more or less said to the public, ‘ho hum here’s another James Bond movie.’ The James Bond of Licence To Kill, for me, is neither the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels or the accepted movie version, the latter probably being nearer the reason for the film’s cool reception. Its international distributors UIP publicized that the film had grossed over $42,553,744 in the international market place, putting it substantially ahead of all other Bond films in the series at that time in its release. But this did little to dispel the feeling that the general public at large just weren’t on the same wavelength as Timothy Dalton’s interpretation of James Bond. Regardless of what the band of faithful believe, Timothy Dalton just wasn’t popular with the everyday cinema-going public. Regularly meeting people from all walks of life, if they discover my profession the conversation usually turns to a brief summary of who they think the best James Bond actor was, almost universally, especially from men, panning Timothy Dalton in the role, with George Lazenby running a close second. However, I still believe that The Living Daylights, Dalton’s Bond debut film, is vastly superior to GoldenEye as a first outing for a new Bond actor.
OO7 has always been a good source for news and reviews on the continuation novels. Can you tell us a little about your relationship with authors John Gardner and Raymond Benson?
Well I’ve known Raymond on and off for many years now, and even designed and photographed the cover for the UK paperback edition of his excellent ‘James Bond Bedside Companion’ in 1988. He’s also been kind enough to contribute articles to OO7 Magazine in the past, his interviews with Timothy Dalton and John Gardner both being particularly memorable. I’ve met John Gardner on a couple of brief occasions. Both authors are very nice people.
I’ve probably upset a few people in the past with various comments that have found their way into the press regarding the continuation Bond novels—but hey—if you don’t want to get burned, don’t jump into the fire! I think trying to take over Ian Fleming’s James Bond, while being an extraordinary challenge, is very much a ‘poison chalice’. It doesn’t matter what you do you’re never really going to win. The novelty of the new literary James Bond wore off on me after For Special Services, and I’m afraid nothing I’ve read since has changed my mind. The intrinsic problem of updating Fleming’s literary character is that in updating him you lose the sense that you are reading about the same man Fleming was writing about, which to me seems a pointless—and thankless—exercise. However, I understand that both John and Raymond have their own fan following, and good luck to them. I’d certainly have preferred to see Raymond continue as the Bond author than Glidrose perpetrate a series of young James Bond adventures on the world. But I suppose it comes down to basics—‘How can we make more money out of this ailing literary franchise?’ ‘Ah yes! We’ll go the Harry Potter route.’ Please God they never make any films from these books in my lifetime.
You’ve done terrific special issues on OHMSS, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice (in two parts). Can you tell us a what inspired these issues, and have you ever considered doing a ‘special’ on one of the more recent films, say For Your Eyes Only or Licence To Kill?
Thank you. The reason for the specials produced to date was that all these films hold a certain fascination for me, as I’m sure they do for many of our readers. I’d like to do more specials, and certainly have no problem in principal with the idea of covering a Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton James Bond movie in this way—unfortunately, in practical terms these issues take around two to three times longer to produce than a standard issue of OO7 Magazine. Then there’s always the problem of finding writers of quality who can cover the various aspects of the film that you need to discuss. So, because of the problem with production time on specials, it may be a better idea in the future to integrate these kinds of specialist articles into the body of a usual edition of the magazine like I have done in recent issues. Who knows? We’ll have to see.
Was there ever anything you ran in OO7 Magazine that in hindsight you wished you hadn’t?
Probably the reverse. Sometimes I think the publication should have been more candid and aggressive with its opinions, which it is now and will continue to be in the future.
How do you respond to criticisms that the production of OO7 Magazine is uneven, with long periods between some issues?
When you’re a one-man band and you have to work within an extremely limited budget, sometimes other things take president. Simple as that. Only a major influx of a substantial amount of cash will ever remove that particular problem. However, during 2004 the publication of OO7 Magazine became far more regular than at anytime in the past. But to quote Mae West, “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”
Do you have a favourite issue of OO7 Magazine?
I was very pleased with the special issue that covered Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again. I think Matthew Field did an excellent job and produced the definitive work on Never Say Never Again. And his exclusive interview with the movie’s director Irvin Kershner was the icing on the cake. I feel that issue set the record straight on the two ‘infamous’ rogue Bond movies and remains the definitive work.
I’m very proud of the double issue that covered You Only Live Twice. It was ‘a real labour of love as we say’—more like a book in the quantity of production requirements. I believe it’s the definitive work on that wonderful film. Having recently unearthed some fabulous photographs of Connery’s time in Japan on location during the shooting of You Only Live Twice, I’m itching to put out another special—perhaps for the film’s 40th anniversary in 2007? But generally my favourite issue is the last one to roll off the printing press. I’ve lived and breathed with it morning noon and night for around three months, so believe me, I’m more than a bit happy to get OO7 Magazine off my hands and out to my subscribers. By that time I have the next issue blocked out in my head and am desperate to get it down on paper. And so it goes on…
Part Two of this interview with Graham Rye will appear in one week including questions on Graham’s book, The James Bond Girls.