An interview by Michael F. Bishop
It is altogether fitting that a new and brilliant Bond film should herald the publication of new books about Her Majesty’s most famous secret agent. The past few months have seen a remarkable number of new works devoted to various aspects of the Bond legacy. But the best and most enjoyable is The Art of Bond, by Laurent Bouzereau, a sumptuous pictorial study of all that makes Bond films such a pleasure to watch.
A great sense of style has always been central to the world of James Bond. His creator, Ian Fleming, had a taste for the finer things, and shared this with his hero. Fleming was also deeply involved in what his books actually looked like, and worked closely with the artist Richard Chopping on the design of the book jackets. To collectors of Fleming, these jackets are more valuable than the books themselves, and give the reader a powerful sense of the danger, excitement, and seduction to be found within.
The Broccoli family, and the brilliant team of filmmakers, designers, and artists they assembled to bring Bond to the screen, seemed instinctively to understand the aesthetic qualities of their subject matter, and for the last four decades have left filmgoers with indelible images printed on their collective psyche. From Ursula Andress emerging from the blue Jamaican sea, to the breathtaking sets of Ken Adams, to the exquisite lines of the new Aston Martin DBS, the Bond films have contained an extraordinary array of sensual imagery.
Author Laurent Bouzereau has worked with the Bond producers to create a memorable record of these and many other images. Longtime fans will appreciate the generous attention paid to films throughout the series; newcomers to the Bond universe will appreciate the extensive coverage of Casino Royale. Only the films of Timothy Dalton receive short shrift; that most underrated of Bond actors is mostly ignored in this otherwise expansive work.
The lavish photography is accompanied by the observations of the Bond filmmakers and other prominent artists, including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and Ridley Scott. Spielberg, who once approached Cubby Broccoli about directing a Bond film and was dismissed for being too inexperienced, is pictured leaning against his Aston Martin DB9, in a pose reminiscent of Sean Connery’s with the DB5.
Devotees of various aspects of the Bond universe will find their own interests amply represented; the books, the sets, the cars, the women, the music, and the locations are all featured. The book concludes with a fascinating but all-too-brief examination of the marketing of the Bond phenomenon.
The Art of Bond is an important and enjoyable book that belongs in the collection of every Bond fan.
The author’s enthusiasm for his subject is evident in the following interview:
The Bond books and movies developed in such different directions, and yet they are connected by an artistic sense, with all the many visual aspects of the films and the famous Richard Chopping covers of the books. Why is Bond an artistic phenomenon?
Because I think that with the first movie, there was extreme attention to detail, including the sets, even though they were destroyed! This was unusual for action movies. The costumes, the look of Bond himself, all of that is detail never seen in that genre before. With the passage of time and success of the franchise, you then had lavish opening credits, with songs, long before music videos. All of that just did not exist before. The artistic values are beyond just the fact that they are very well acted and directed, but you have many artists behind the scenes, especially the visionary Ken Adam.
The book includes an extraordinary number and variety of images, but choices obviously still had to be made. How did you make them?
My involvement was limited to the text itself. EON selected the images. They approached me with the idea and asked how to go about it, but I told them that people would be more interested in their perspectives than in mine. I was doing the interviews at the same time as EON was doing the text. Then I had to organize them in some sort of a narrative, hopefully giving the reader some idea of what it takes to make a movie, using all the Bond films as examples.
You have been involved in the film world for a long time, and have developed expertise in the subject. Is it difficult to step back and allow others to do the talking, as they do in this book?
No, I very rarely have a voiceover narration in my film documentaries, and I love to let whoever was directly involved tell the story. I think I get great answers because I engage people in a discussion, rather than an interview. When you speak to someone for hours and hours about the same subject, it better be a discussion! The comments I got from people were really engaging. There was a specific book that inspired me, the interview book with Truffaut and Hitchcock.
Women, cars, clothes, exotic locations: which is most central to the Bond mystique?
It’s an interesting question, but I think it’s the combination of all of those that makes it Bond. It wouldn’t be complete without all of them. You expect all of those elements in every single film, or else you’re just not in the Bond world. The challenge for the filmmakers is to do all those things over and over again in new ways!
Do you have a favorite Bond film?
Most of my subjects said that their favorite Bond was the first one they saw. So for me, whose first film was Live and Let Die, Roger Moore was my favorite. But I think my favorite film is The Spy Who Loved Me.
Which films or eras seem dated to you, and which seem timeless?
I think the ones from the 80s, Moore’s latest and Dalton’s, are the most dated. You start seeing a whole new trend of action heroes, like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and so Bond films had to struggle to distinguish themselves. They were inspiring other films but had to work hard to keep up. But I think that with Pierce Brosnan’s arrival the timeless feel returned to the series.
Steven Spielberg wanted to direct a Bond film. What would he bring to the endeavor?
I think he’s already done it, in a way, with the Raiders of the Lost Ark films, giving the characters a real sense of being, so that you want to embrace them. Even when the characters are completely made up, you believe that they are real.
What do you think of the new James Bond, Daniel Craig?
I think he is an amazing choice. On my first day on the set for Munich, he was holding a gun with a silencer, and I thought, “he could be James Bond!” I got to know him, and though we didn’t speak about Bond, I thought he would be a great choice. He is a great actor and is rooting Bond in reality for a new century. He continues what Pierce started, the expansion of the Bond audience to include women and younger people. The producers are real geniuses, who are unafraid to take chances, and who knew that they had made the right choice even in the face of criticism.