John Cork is a James Bond super fan who is living the dream. As an author and historian, he co-wrote two official Bond books, James Bond: The Legacy and Bond Girls Are Forever. As a producer, he was given unique access to the Eon archives to create documentaries for all the James Bond DVDs. As a professional screenwriter, he was given a shot at developing a James Bond film. John even published a popular Bond fanzine (Goldeneye) for the Ian Fleming Foundation. And when the makers of the Scene It? DVD trivia games wanted to do a 007 edition, John Cork was the man they turned to to provide the questions.
Now John has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for CBn.
First off, what do you think about the announcement of Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale?
I’m thrilled with the casting, not only because I think he is the best choice, but because it means this movie is getting made. Craig is an experienced and very talented actor. He brings an edge to the role that will be very interesting to watch. Most exciting is that the filmmakers are not simply resting on the monumental success of the last four Bond films. They are pushing the series forward, taking risks and trying new things. In so many ways, this is like Dr. No all over again. We have a clean slate, no baggage. We have an original Fleming novel that has never been filmed by Eon productions. We have a commitment to the core of what Fleming wrote. Casino Royale is a great novel, one of the most influential spy novels ever written. It contains the essence of what makes Bond the Bond we know. If they get it right—and I think they will—the movie will be spectacular. Casting Daniel Craig, I feel, was both necessary and brilliant, because it strips away the past. He isn’t so young as to make Bond seem naïve or innocent. But he isn’t too old. The honing of the character that is an essential part of the story can still be believable. The past—as great as it was—is dead. Craig is Bond. Long live 007.
Okay, let’s get the “controversy” out of the way. Not long ago you were quoted in the Houston Chronicle as calling some Bond fans “pathetic, pasty-skinned, wifeless guys who sit in their apartments in London with nothing better to do than make up crap.” Care to elaborate?
I said nothing of the sort! I said that those who have nothing better than to make up rumors and post them on the internet were of this ilk. Not that there is anything wrong with being pasty or wifeless. I could probably use some sun myself. I think the key word might have been pathetic. True Bond fans don’t need to make up rumors. They are better than that.
In the early ’90s Variety reported that you had made a deal with Eon to develop ideas for what was then “Bond 17.” How did this deal come about?
I was working as a screenwriter. I had met Timothy Dalton and Barbara Broccoli at a screening of a film I wrote and told them that the reason I became interested in filmmaking was because of my love of the Bond films. We had a nice conversation. Quite some time later—a year and a half, I think—I called my agent to ask her what was happening with the new Bond film since legal entanglements had been cleared up between MGM and Danjaq/Eon. She called me back and said, “They are interviewing writers. You have a meeting with them.” I was thrilled. I went in and had a meeting and, as a result, was one of three writers hired. Michael France was always the writer working on GoldenEye. The other writer and I were working separately on treatments for future films. I never worked out a story, but I felt like I got along very well with Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson. It was a wonderful experience. I have tremendous admiration for the writers who hammer out a great, filmable Bond story. I was cut out for different things.
Can you share with us any details at all about what your Bond treatment was about? I heard it was called, Shaken Not Stirred. True?
No. Never had a title. We never even agreed on a storyline! I wouldn’t even say I ever had any good or memorable ideas.
Tell us about how you came to be so involved in the productions of the Bond DVDs?
I received a call from someone at MGM saying my name had been suggested by Danjaq, and asking if I would be interested in working with them on the DVDs? This was in 1999. I had previously been involved with the LaserDiscs of Goldfinger, Thunderball and GoldenEye, and that had grown out of my work with the IFF and my time working with Michael Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Cubby Broccoli on treatment ideas that never got fleshed out.
Was Eon reluctant to let you feature cuts scenes on the DVD documentaries.
Eon has been incredibly supportive of everything we have done on the DVDs. In many ways they have gone to the mat, dug deeper and helped far, far beyond the call of duty. Of course they approve the final materials, so they can say no. They very rarely have said no on the DVDs.
Was there anything you wanted to include in the DVDs that you either didn’t have the time to prepare or were not allowed to use?
Let’s put it this way: There is always more you can add. I can assure you, items were not excluded for lack of support from MGM and/or Eon.
Are there any plans of doing a “proper” DVD presentation of 1967’s Casino Royale and/or Never Say Never Again?
I have no idea. I was slightly involved in the Casino Royale release by MGM (I conducted the interview with Val Guest and helped arrange the CBS version appearing on the DVD). I’d love to do a documentary on the madness of the ’67 Casino Royale.
Will you be involved in any future DVD reissues? When do you think we might see new 007 DVDs?
I will likely be involved. Can’t comment further…
How did you come to write James Bond: The Legacy?
I got a call from someone at Eon one day asking me if I wanted to write a book on the Bond films. I said yes, and asked if I could bring in Bruce Scivally as my co-author. It is all in the introduction to the book. We had to meet with the head of Boxtree and submit a writing sample, but that was it.
How about Bond Girls Are Forever? How did the collaboration work between you and Maryam d’Abo?
Similar situation. I got an email from Boxtree asking me if I would be involved. I was touring to promote Legacy. Maryam was a dream to work with. She had already made a great documentary on being a “Bond Girl” and her interviews set the tone for the book. I can’t say enough about her.
What exactly did you do for the new Scene it? 007 Edition trivia game?
Bruce Scivally and I wrote some draft questions. In short, we didn’t do much. The creators of the game have such a good product that all we did was give them some trivia. It was interesting because the game needed to be able to be played by both Bond fans and your average movie fan. I hope it did well for the company. It looks great and I think it is a lot of fun.
What do think of some of the more experimental things going on in the non-cinematic Bond world at the moment. I’m thinking in particular about the Young Bond books series and the remaking of From Russia With Love as a video game?
I think SilverFin is great. But, I hasten to add, I loved Raymond’s books, too. I think it is interesting that at this point in the world of Bond, there is a great interest in the origins of 007. I have little knowledge of the From Russia With Love video game except that a friend called me from the big video game convention a while back and was screaming into his mobile phone that it looked great. He is only a very casual Bond fan. That’s probably a very good sign.
Speaking of Raymond Benson, he used your name as 007’s alias in Doubleshot? What did you think about this? Was it a surprise? Or did Raymond “clear” this with you first?
First, I was thrilled beyond belief that Raymond used my name in Doubleshot! I couldn’t have been happier. Second, Raymond did not clear this with me first. He didn’t need to. He knew it would be something that would bring a big smile to my face.
What happened to Goldeneye magazine?
Well, it is a sad story. I was trying to get it out and not doing very well between work and other obligations. The last issue came out when The World Is Not Enough opened. Shortly after, Ian Fleming Publications became interested in sort of taking over the magazine. I had most of an issue put together and someone over there said, “no, I’m 80% sure we’ll get this together in the next six weeks.” So I stopped working on the next issue. Well, the 20% chance won out, they got out of the magazine business, and their (the IFP’s) priorities changed. All of this happened with the best of intent, but as the months went by, the magazine somewhat died for me. I was starting Cloverland (my company) and I didn’t have time to pursue the magazine. I looked for others to edit the magazine, and finally found someone who was willing and I thought able. This was after the release of Die Another Day. I sent an email to Eon to see if they had any objection. They said they would rather the IFF not publish a magazine anymore. I totally respected their reasons (which I think had to do with being able to license official publications). We always said we could only publish if Eon supported that. Once they felt they couldn’t support the idea, it was totally over for me.
Is the Ian Fleming Foundations still active?
The IFF is still active, although all the heavy lifting is done by Doug Redenius, who has been managing our vehicle collection and putting together the fabulous events which have raised money for some very wonderful charities.
What would you say is your fondest Bond-related memory or event?
My fondest memory would be my honeymoon at Goldeneye in Jamaica. Nothing beats the reality of true love.
Oh wow, honeymoon at Goldeneye! Can you tell us more?
What is there to tell? It was a dream. We awoke in the morning and put on Noel Coward music and slow danced in Fleming’s living room. We ate lunch in the sunken garden. I wrote postcards at Fleming’s desk… the same desk where Sting wrote many of the songs for ‘Synchronicity’. Chris Blackwell gave me the greatest honeymoon anyone could have—Bond fan or not.
How has getting married and raising a son changed your feelings towards James Bond, the ultimate bachelor.
Bond has always been a fantasy. I’ve never owned a gun. I’ve never been much of a drinker. I don’t drive a sportscar, and I was never one who tried to have a girlfriend in every port. But I do love the window into the elegant, exotic, dark and dangerous world that Bond provides. I love the way my passion for Bond leads me into other worlds—the plays of Noel Coward, the art of Lucian Freud, the books of Peter Fleming and Patrick Leigh Fermor… Bond has taken me places and provided me adventures that are wonderful. Through Bond, I have learned to explore the world and embrace life and adventure. Bond was a role model of self-confidence when I was an adolescent. I remember once at summer camp when a group of kids were having some fun at my expense. Their bunks overlooked the bathroom cubical in our cabin, and they were blocking the door and then spitting on the unlucky cabin-mates who had to use the facilities. This day, it was my turn to be spat upon. I remember being there, feeling totally powerless, and then asking myself, what would James Bond do? While there were no great heroics, I figured out a way to climb up the wall and turn the tables. No kid ever got spat on in the bathroom cubical again. As far as Bond’s sexual prowess goes, everyone wants to be desirable. Every male wants to have the confidence to approach a woman he finds attractive. Being married and raising a son only means I found that woman to approach. Nicole is my Bond girl for life. Having a son only means I hope to instill confidence and a spirit of adventure into him. Fatherhood is the greatest adventure. I want him to grow up feeling the world is his oyster, that he can do anything he sets his mind to. Those are qualities that lie under the surface of Bond, the qualities I think are important in his lasting appeal.
The world of online fandom can be pretty opinionated and sometimes downright hostile towards Bond screenwriters, authors, etc. What do you say to those opinionated fans who might be reading this interview now?
People have opinions. Fans have invested a lot of passion. I respect that. I don’t go onto the message boards (I can only think of two exceptions where someone alerted me to something I went and checked out), so I don’t see what people post, and I never post. But I would say this: It is easy to be a lot nastier in a posting than someone would be face to face. It is easy to make assumptions that can be wrong and easier to criticize than it is to create. But it is also important for anyone to understand that the passion (or hostility) comes out of a love of Bond. Fleming’s fictional world tapped into something for those fans, and I hope that whatever pleasure they have from 007 is still there, regardless of whatever debates they get into with other fans.
If Eon wanted to understand the fans—their wants, needs, expectations, etc—I expect they would turn to you as someone with a foot in both worlds. Can we turn that around and ask you to help us fans understand Eon a little better?
Eon doesn’t need to turn to me! I don’t claim to understand “the fans”! Who are “the fans”? They are oodles of individuals who have opinions that are vastly different from each other. The ones I’ve met are great. But there are no insights I have. As far as understanding Eon—why is there a need to understand them? Is it so one can figure out who might be cast or what direction the next film might take? Watch the movies. Play the games. Enjoy Bond. The future will be here all too soon. Enjoy today. To paraphrase (with apologies to Ian Fleming and Jack London) I will not spend my days trying to predict the future, I will enjoy my time.
Finally, are you still a Bond fan?
What an odd question! Of course. I was flying from Ecuador to Lima, Peru today and my wife showed me an article in (of all things) Vogue (I think it was the July issue) about a house in the Bahamas. She thought the pictures reminded her of Firefly (Noel Coward’s house in Jamaica) in a way. I started reading the text and the husband was remembering falling in love with his wife on a diving trip. He compared her to Honey Ryder. Later, I was flipping through the in-flight magazine (LAN Airlines), and there was a very short article on Bond’s martini. I loved it. Before I came on this trip, I read some books, but none with more interest than Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Three Letters from the Andes. Why? Because Fermor was a great friend of Fleming’s (and a great adventurer and writer). I was in south Florida before that, and I had to go by a used bookstore and get copies of Live And Let Die and Goldfinger—just to re-read the Florida sections. And, of course, while in Miami, I stayed at the Fontainebleau. Bond flows in my blood.
John Cork Related Items (from Amazon.com)…
- Bond Girls Are Forever
- James Bond: The Legacy
- The Long Walk Home (screenwriter)
- Scene it? 007 Edition