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  1. An Interview with Richard Sammel

    Interview by Oliver Bayan

    Translation by Heiko Baumann / Photos by Sascha Braun

    One of the last cast members of Casino Royale that became known was Richard Sammel, IMAGE: D-007 Coverwho played the part of Gettler, the one-eyed henchman in service of the mysterious organisation. Oliver Bayan of the German James Bond fan club Bondklub Deutschland (BKD) had the opportunity for an interview with the actor about his experiences on the set of Casino Royale. It first appeared in the December 2007 issue of D-007, the BKD magazine. The translated version is published here with kind permission. To learn more about the BKD and read the original Interview in German, visit their newly designed website at bkd-online.de.

    An Interview with Richard Sammel

    BKD:How did you get the part of Gettler?

    RS:It was a normal casting which took place in France. I’m hardly known in Germany, as I’ve worked in foreign countries for most of my career and made myself a bit of a name in France. Debbie McWilliams, who has been casting Bond movies for 20 years, tested me and I was chosen from some 150 actors.

    BKD:

    There are pictures of scenes in which you appear that did not make it into the final movie. How much of your scenes ended on the cutting room floor? Do you remember any particular scenes that you would have liked to see in the movie?

    RS:Gettler is in Venice as a watchmaker, as there’s a watchmakers’ congress taking place in the hotel—a perfect cover. He should have shown up in the elevator and also near the bank where Bond is looking for Vesper. Those scenes weren’t shot due to lack of time. A scene in which Bond and Gettler get to meet in the lobby was cut, which is a pity as the name Gettler is mentioned here.

    BKD:

    Your movie death is rather violent. How was that shot?

    RS:Well, that was kind of a shortcut as well. I did two weeks of underwater training as it was planned that Bond and I drop into the water and he kills me there. That couldn’t be done because there was not enough time. One mustn’t forget: I’m being introduced as the last bad guy, two hours into the movie. So it’s understandable that the director wanted to keep it brief for reasons of timing and tension. The next idea was that I get thrown into the water by Bond but land on one of those big balloons which would burst and throw me against the wall where I get pierced by a pole. In the end, we were just looking for a good movie death and ended up with the nail gun.

    BKD:IMAGE: Richard SammelIMAGE: Richard SammelIn the Venice scenes, the briefcase that we saw drop into the water minutes ago, reappears in Mr. White’s hands all of a sudden. Do you know if there were any scenes shot in which White actually picks it up?

    RS:The briefcase was a little problem. We were so busy with the fighting scenes that we somehow forgot about it. But Martin Campbell already had that scene in mind where I let it slip into the water. But as far as I know, a scene in which White picks it up was never shot.

    Movie

    BKD:Your scenes were shot in Venice and in Pinewood, perfectly edited. Where did you shoot the most? Were there any other problems that could be solved?

    RS:I shot in Prague, in Venice and in Pinewood. In Prague, it was just the hotel scenes that were cut in the end. By the way, a part of this was actually used: you can see me in the background when Bond and Vesper exit the elevator. That was the beginning of the cut scene with Gettler. The bigger troubles were in Pinewood. We worked in that famous Broccoli hangar. There was the paddock tank—14 metres deep—in which a huge flight simulator was placed with the sinking house built upon. We worked in this giant cage, everything was slippery and one would sweat about 5 litres a day. Because the director shot every action scene from numerous angles, some of them had to be done up to 40 times. There was a scene in which I get a chair over my head. We did that one about 15 times, and we only stopped because there weren’t any more chairs.

    BKD:In what way did you benefit from Casino Royale’s success?

    RS:The benefit from the movie’s success is that having done a Bond movie looks always good on your CV—but that doesn’t necessarily result in getting into more and better movies. But I do have to answer more fan mail than before. Playing in a Bond movie for an actor is like being in the Olympic Games for athletes: taking part is everything.

    BKD:What are you shooting currently?

    RS:I’m doing two movies in Italy: a 1930s detective/politics movie in which I play one of the main bad guys, the evil chief of police Enrico Silvestri, and one about modern arts business. We’re shooting that one in Rome, Torino and Berlin. I play a successful and highly acclaimed artist who is rarely seen but is much talked about.

    BKD:Did you dub yourself in the German version of Casino Royale?

    RS:I certainly did.

    BKD:How did you like the final movie and the Bond series in general, and how did you like working with Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Martin Campbell?

    RS:IMAGE: Richard Sammel with BKD President Wolfgang ThuraufIMAGE: Richard Sammel with BKD President Wolfgang ThuraufCasino Royale is the best Bond that I’ve ever seen. I found the choice of Daniel Craig to be risky but interesting, and I’m very happy about the movie’s success. Working with Eva, Daniel and Martin was relaxed but still intensive, professional, and exciting. One can only wish for every actor to have such an experience.

    Guest writer @ 2008-02-06
  2. The Robert Sellers CBn Interview

    Thunderball. The one word title evokes images of Bond mania at its peak:

    Charles Helfenstein

    theatres playing the film 24 hours a day to capacity crowds, the iconic jet pack, sharks and scuba divers, Bond merchandise flooding stores, and Sean Connery at the middle of the storm, at the middle of his Bond career.

    Behind this extreme success lies a convoluted path to the screen that defies imagination. It begins with an Irishman blinded by his desire for fame, a financier in over his head, and a writer running out of steam. And although 2 films have been made from the ideas generated during the ill-fated collaboration, some rights issues tied up in the case are still in question 45 years later.

    Robert Sellers, in The Battle for Bond: The Genesis of Cinema’s Greatest Hero, navigates through the labyrinthine origins of Thunderball in a lively prose that quickly engages and informs. The highlights of the book revolve around the Thunderball court documents provided by Sylvan Whittingham Mason: correspondence, memos, storyboards, and pictures that have never previously been published.

    Commanderbond.net’s Charles Helfenstein recently spoke with Robert Sellers about his landmark book, his love for Thunderball, and his other works in progress.

    The Robert Sellers CBn Interview

    CH: Welcome to Commanderbond.net. Thank you so much for giving us exclusive access to some of those images and documents you uncovered. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became so obsessed with Thunderball?

    RS: I’ve been a Bond fan since I was a kid growing up in the ’70s, my first cinema experience was seeing a double bill of Dr. No and Goldfinger—I was hooked, who wouldn’t be.


    I’ve been writing movie books since the early ’90s, bios on Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Cruise, George Harrison’s HandMade Films and Lew Grade’s TV company ITC. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to write a book about 007, but it’s been a great experience working on something that I have a real passion for, and getting paid to do it. It’s been such fun I’ve got two more Bond books in the works.

    My obsession for Thunderball comes really from the fact that since I can remember it’s always been my favourite. I think it’s the perfect mix of old and new, retaining the toughness and edge of the first Bonds, with the epic scope and way out fantasy that later dominated the series. For the record my top 5 Bond films are:

    • Thunderball
    • You Only Live Twice
    • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
    • From Russia with Love
    • The Spy Who Loved Me

    The worst Bond film, there isn’t one.

    CH: The backbone of your book comes from Sylvan Whittingham Mason’s archive. What was it like going through this historic collection with her? What was your favorite find?

    RS: That was a special day and I did truly feel privileged going through that material, the first person to do so for 40 years. Most of it was packed in boxes bound by red ribbon and opening them one felt so much anticipation, even Sylvan didn’t know what was inside as Peter Carter Ruck, McClory’s lawyer in the case, had only recently passed them on to her just before his death. Being a Bond nut I immediately recognised the significance of many of the documents inside and realised pretty quickly that this was a major find.

    As for my favourite item, it has to be the seven pre-production drawings that McClory commissioned to help sell the proposed Bond movie at the 1959 Venice film festival, my bloody jaw dropped open when I saw those. I knew that no Bond fan in the world had seen them before, or even knew that they existed. All seven are re-produced in the book and look stunning.

    CH: Researching a film from the ’60s often needs to rely on second hand accounts and memories from participants trying to recall events that are 40 years old. With The Battle for Bond you weren’t able to talk to the major participants like Ian Fleming, Terrence Young, Jack Whittingham or Kevin McClory but you had unprecedented access to their correspondence and court documents that weren’t hindered by faulty memories. Would you have preferred interviews to documents or documents over interviews?

    RS: Documents and correspondences of the period can’t lie, or for that matter twist the truth to suit a personal point of view or agenda, so for that reason having all that material was much more valuable than depending on withering memories for one’s facts.

    Had any of the major players still been alive, however, it would have been fascinating talking to them, armed as I would have been with the truth. I could also have got their autographs—and put them straight on EBay.

    CH: Was the book always going to be about the attempted remakes and Never Say Never Again, or were you originally going to solely focus on Thunderball?

    RS: My original thought was to write a book solely on Thunderball, with a view to it coming out at the end of 2005, in time for its 40th anniversary. That all changed when Sylvan came on board and I got access to all that material, then I realised I had the opportunity to finally document the incredible story of Kevin McClory, a story that Bond fans have long been fascinated with but the facts have either been misleading or elusive. I had those facts now literally at my fingertips. It was a great feeling.

    It’s very interesting when books suddenly change course. When I was writing about HandMade Films, the company behind Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits, Mona Lisa and others, it was meant purely as a celebration of those great movies. I’d no idea what a mess the company had been in and the calamities behind the scenes, until my first interview with producer Stephen Woolley who ranted and raved for two hours about how he’d been screwed by them. I realised then that I’d opened Pandora’s Box and there was no turning back.

    It was the same with my ITC book, which started as simply a celebration of shows like “The Saint”, “The Prisoner”, “Thunderbirds” etc. A few interviewees, however, had various axes to grind and risqué stories to divulge. A lot of fans were upset that the book included these elements, but as a journalist you have to present the whole story, warts and all, and that’s what I’ve also done with The Battle for Bond.

    CH: From 1961 onward, “Thunderball” has been surrounded by lawsuits. Were you concerned that your efforts to uncover information long since buried might attract legal attention from Eon or other parties?

    RS: A lot of potential publishers backed out because of the fear of legal action, of Eon or the Fleming trustees coming down hard on the book, but I knew that every word in it could be backed up by official documentation.

    I’m still waiting to hear from Eon actually. I’m sure they know about the book, maybe they’ve even read it. I’d love to know what they really think. Most of it is probably news to them!

    CH: Your original manuscript was completed over 2 years ago—can you give us some background regarding the writing and production of the book and why it took so long to come to fruition?

    RS:




    I had the idea to write a book on Thunderball in 2004 and yes it took a good two years to produce. It took that long because I always write two books at a time. Not only does this stop me getting bored, as I can jump between projects as the mood takes me, but it also means that I arrive at each book refreshed and re-enthused.

    Finding a publisher was probably the most depressing part. Everyone and I mean everyone I approached turned me down. I think there’s a criminal lack of interest from major publishers (and even independent ones) in serious-minded film books. I’m beholden to Tomahawk Press for rescuing the project. Believe me; this book would never have seen daylight without them.

    CH: Ian Fleming’s choice of an actor to portray James Bond has often been cause for speculation and debate. Where you shocked to uncover that Fleming was willing to have Jimmy Stewart play Bond if Hitchcock was part of the package?

    RS: That was one of the book’s many revelations. I think Fleming at that time was dizzy over the prospect of Hitchcock coming aboard the Bond project and quite frankly if the director had wanted Grace Kelly to play Bond I think Fleming would have agreed.

    CH: Film is a visual medium—and your book delivers with 100 rare photographs. How did you decide which shots would make the cut and which wouldn’t?

    RS: Pretty much everything we had in connection with McClory, the abandoned Bond film, the court case, Warhead etc is in the book, along with publicity or behind the scenes stuff from Thunderball and Never Say Never Again. Much of it hasn’t been seen before, like the 3 shots we’ve got of Connery location scouting in New York for Warhead. My eyes were on storks when I came across those shots.

    CH: Kevin McClory is one of the most controversial figures in Bond history. Some see him as a victim of Fleming’s plagiarism; others see him as a villain, taking undeserved credit and miring Bond rights in perpetual litigation or threats thereof. What’s your take on McClory?

    RS: Before embarking upon this book I knew as much about McClory as any generally well-informed Bond fan. By the end I really felt I knew him after reading so many of his letters and private thoughts and speaking with people who knew him. Even those colleagues in whom McClory stirred bitterness, even hatred, found it difficult to truly despise the man, he was the epitome really of the charming rogue and I think my book paints a pretty three-dimensional portrait of this very intriguing individual.

    My own take on McClory is that he was extremely hard done by; he was really the first filmmaker to recognise the cinema potential of James Bond and to act upon it. His Bond film never materialised, leaving the way open for Broccoli and Saltzman, who McClory always believed stole his rightful place in history from under him. Although let’s face it, McClory was no saint and treated a lot of people shamefully, none more so than Jack Whittingham.

    I also uncovered a few very dark facts about McClory, one is only hinted at in the book, and the other I kept out, it added nothing to the story. Interestingly, just before the book came out a tabloid newspaper in England wanted me to spill the beans on McClory. I refused. Somehow I felt I owed the old bastard that much.

    CH: Getting Len Deighton’s input and endorsement of your book was quite a coup. How did you track down the reclusive author and did you by any chance ask about his rumored contributions to From Russia, With Love?

    RS: Strangely, I didn’t actually interview Len Deighton for this Bond book. Late last year I began researching a new book project and that’s when I first contacted Deighton. He was delighted to help and I met both he and his wife at a London hotel and spent a very charming two hours with them. They were both an absolute delight. It was only at the end of our time together that I asked Len briefly about his Warhead connection. When my book was about to go to the printers I contacted Len again and asked if those quotes could be used. Not only was he perfectly willing for that to happen, but he also asked if he could read the manuscript and then endorse it. I couldn’t believe it. Nor could I believe the very generous comments he made about the book. He’s a very nice chap.

    I also think he should have been given a shot at the new Bond novel. Who knows, maybe he was asked and turned it down.

    CH: Deighton cautions in his blurb that this story demonstrates what a treacherous business filmmaking can be. I came away from The Battle for Bond with an even greater appreciation for the fact that Bond landed in the capable hands of Broccoli and Saltzman, rather than amateurs like Bryce and McClory. Was that your intention?

    RS: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what readers should come away thinking. That was never my intention, by the way. I’m a journalist so I take no sides; I just report the facts and allowed them to speak for themselves. That’s why I think, if anything, this book is pro-Eon. We must congratulate McClory for being the first person to identify that James Bond was a viable cinematic character, but thank god the film itself never got made with him in charge. Just think about it, had McClory made that first Bond film it would have been without Ken Adam, John Barry, Richard Maibaum, Ted Moore, Peter Hunt and Bob Simmons, incredibly talented people that all played a highly significant part in the eventual success of the Bond series. It was Broccoli and Saltzman who hired that talent in 1962, Sean Connery as well, of course. Had McClory made Thunderball back in ’59 or ’60, I think it would have flopped.

    CH: Your early chapters detail the extreme naiveté of both Bryce and McClory for believing they could conquer the film business with scant experience, and of Fleming for plagiarizing the work of McClory and Whittingham. Were you surprised that these otherwise intelligent men could make such colossal mistakes?

    RS:


    In one letter Fleming revealingly describes himself and Bryce as ‘amateurs’ in the Bond film making business, which of course they were. We have those lovely pictures of Fleming appearing on the sets of Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, but as a guest only. Here he was one of the main people behind the film, deeply involved in the script, on hand to be an advisor, and financially implicated, too. I think the project got too big for Fleming and Bryce and they were desperate for an American studio to come in and help them out.

    As for Fleming plagiarising the work of McClory and Whittingham, I’m afraid that was plain arrogance. I don’t think he could be bothered to come up with another story for a Bond novel and so the easy option was to use the Thunderball script. He must have felt that being who he was, and with his background, this nobody called McClory from the bogs of Ireland would just shut up. Unfortunately for Fleming he’d chosen the last man on earth to lie down and just take it.

    CH: Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi, or Mollie Peters—which is your dream Thunderball girl?

    RS: Not only my dream Thunderball girl, but I believe the most stunning Bond girl of all—Claudine Auger.

    CH: Since you love Thunderball so much, how do you feel about Never Say Never Again?

    RS: What I feel about Never Say Never Again is what most people feel about that film. It’s like Christmas, you wait so long for it to arrive, and when it does all you get is a pair of socks. I thought Octopussy beat it hands down and I’m afraid to say this but I believe the reason is because it was made by Hollywood. Most of the time Never Say Never Again feels like an extended episode of “Hart to Hart”. Just remember what Hollywood did to those other great British institutions The Saint and The Avengers, turned them into god damn awful movies.

    CH:I understand you have written the authorized biography of Bond stuntman and 2nd unit director Vic Armstrong. Can you tell us a little bit about that and when it is due for publication?

    RS:









    It’s been my absolute honour recently to help Vic with his official book. What’s been a big plus is that besides being a very knowledgeable guy, Vic is also extremely funny and the book is packed with hilarious stories from his 40-year-plus filmmaking odyssey, from Indiana Jones to Superman, Rambo to The Terminator, by way of James Bond, of course.

    The book will feature many photographs from Vic’s personal collection and also includes exclusive contributions from those who have worked with Vic over the years including Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Christopher Lee, Martin Scorsese, Kenneth Branagh and Lord Attenborough.

    The book will be out sometime in 2008. I’ll keep you posted.

    CH:
     
    Thank you Robert for your answers, and we look forward to your forthcoming books.

    Charles Helfenstein @ 2007-09-11
  3. The Charlie Higson CBn Interview II

    CAUTION: While there are no major plot spoilers contained in this interview, Charlie does speak at length about character relationships and motivations in Hurricane Gold. For those of you wishing to remain 100% spoiler free… beware.

    In February 2005 CBn had the honour of being the first Bond website to interview author, comedian, and

    John Cox

    “The Fast Show” star Charlie Higson, who had just been announced as the new James Bond continuation author. At the time, Higson’s first Bond novel, SilverFin, had yet to be released, and a question hung in the air: Would fans embrace a series that featured a 13-year-old James Bond?

    Now, two years later, Higson’s “Young Bond” novels have been published in over 23 countries with sales of the first three books topping a half million in the UK alone. The Young Bond DossierThe books have been praised by critics and embraced by Bond fans young and old. This Thursday, 6 September, sees the fourth book in the series, Hurricane Gold, published as a hardcover by Puffin Books. It is expected to be another bestseller.

    Now John Cox of The Young Bond Dossier once again sits down with Charlie Higson for CBn to find out how his journey has been, and what’s in store for James in the final two installments of his Young Bond series.

    The Charlie Higson CBn Interview II

    JC: The last time we did a CBn interview was right before the release of SilverFin, and now here you are working on the final book. How has the journey been, and has the series turned out the way you envisioned?

    CH:

    Well, it seems to have gone by very quickly. But it must have been a few years ago that I started writing SilverFin. I had no idea where it was going to go. You know, they said they wanted five books but if the first one hadn’t done well, there wouldn’t have been any more, so…

    JC: Oh, really? There was a cut-off?

    CH: Well, I think they probably would have had it go to two or three, but nobody’s going to keep publishing books that aren’t successful. Luckily, everywhere except over your side of the pond they’ve done really well. That’s the only thing that we’ve yet to crack—The States. And we’ve had some comings and goings with publishers, but I think that’s been sorted out now. But over here it’s been absolutely amazing.

    QUOTE: Well, obviously I've got to come up with a torture which isn’t too horrible...

    The success has been quite phenomenal really. You know, I always thought “Yeah, the first one will sell a bit on the name of James Bond. After that, who knows?” But luckily the kids here seem to like that kind of old-fashioned action-adventure story.

    JC: Before we talk about the new book, I just wanted to play catch up a little bit. I know you’ve already done a lot of interviews about Blood Fever, but I don’t think anyone has asked how you came up with the mosquito torture—which I think is a new Bondian iconic torture.

    CH: Well, obviously I’ve got to come up with a torture which isn’t too horrible because then we wouldn’t be allowed to use it in the books if it’s too graphic. I can’t have him having his testicle crushed in a nutcracker and things like that. So the idea of doing it via third party, by a mosquito, works very well. But it’s mainly having spent many holidays as a kid in the Mediterranean. Certainly for an English person, where we don’t have mosquitoes, one of the vivid memories of going on holiday in the Mediterranean is being bitten to shreds by mosquitoes. So I thought that’s something that kids could relate too. Always in the books I’m trying to think of things where a kid could think, “Yeah, I can imagine that. I can picture being in that situation.” The thought of being tied down in the middle of a mosquito swamp is pretty unbearable, I thought. So it had some resonance.

    JC: Something else that I think has emerged as a Bondian classic is what I call the “breakaway henchman” of Double or Die. (Charlie laughs) The henchman who comes away from every encounter missing a body part. Was that planned, or did it evolve as you wrote? It felt like maybe it was something you discovered on the way.

    CH: It did start to evolve as I was writing it and I started to think, this is a good thing, this sort of steadily diminishing villain. Most of my stuff evolves as I write. I tend to write quite quickly. I have rough ideas for characters and situations and I’ll write a quick first draft and I’ll keep changing even as I go through the first draft and I’ll go back over it and over it. And, yeah, definitely I went back and added a few more. I added a couple of things I eventually took out because it was kind of getting a bit too much.

    Image: Charlie Higson

    It’s very nice when you’re writing and you suddenly get an idea like that. You know it’s the terrible question you always get asked is “where do you get your ideas from?”. And who knows really? But that one definitely came about through the processes of writing.

    JC: Actually, I think you just partially answered my next question, and that’s how much of the books you outline before you start, and do Ian Fleming Publications have any input on the story?

    CH: When I started I had initial discussions with IFP. We talked about where they’d like the fifth book to be set and where it all might end up and some of the themes, so I started thinking of a kind of story that would go through all five books. Then I immediately started thinking I need to do some skiing in one of them at the Alps, there needs to be some underwater thing… So I started thinking about all the Bond themes, and working them out roughly where they might lay in the books. I’ve changed that slightly as it’s gone on. So I plan things out to a certain extent. I like to know where each book’s going to end up. But getting there I don’t always know.



    I’d written most of Blood Fever—certainly the first or second draft—before SilverFin came out. So [Blood Fever] wasn’t influenced by the first book particularly. I just wanted to push it a bit more into the, kind of, “Bond world”. And then when I started getting reactions to SilverFin, that slightly started to influence how I was going about the third book. But then of course the second book came out and I started getting reactions to that, and I was thinking “Oh, dear. Have I gone down the wrong route with this third book?”

    But, in the end, you can’t be swayed by what people think. And particularly you have to be careful trawling the Internet and seeing people’s comments and kind of knee-jerk responses to things. You gotta in the end stick with what you want to do—what I like writing about and getting a reaction off my kids. But it is quite fun trying to switch the books around a bit and make them all a bit different and surprise people. Certainly with the new one, with Hurricane Gold, I’ve done a completely different kind of a structure for it. Because I thought it was starting to get a little bit obvious that you’d have the first third of the story in Eton, and then he’d go off, out for a big adventure. In Hurricane Gold there are no scenes at Eton at all.

    JC:No scenes at Eton? That’s a surprise.

    CH:Well, there are letters from his friends at Eton and from Mr. Fairburn, so you’ve got this kind of parallel story of what’s going on at Eton. And Bond is round the other side of the world cut off from all that and his kind of feelings about that.

    QUOTE: I had to go back and think, 'Well, why on earth is it called SilverFin?'

    But I thought, yeah, let’s switch it around a bit and just launch him straight in at the beginning fully into the adventure. Because I was feeling—I may have gone through this elsewhere, I don’t know—after Double or Die which was cold, grey England at Christmas, I really thought it was important to send him off somewhere hot and glamorous for the next one. And in fact, that was kind of the reaction Ian Fleming got after Moonraker. He got lots of letters from people saying “We don’t want to see Bond in Kent. We want to see him somewhere nice and sunny. We don’t want to think about England anymore in the winter.” So I’m sort of trying to vaguely, as you know, echo the way that Fleming’s five books went.

    JC:So that has been a conscious choice—to echo the Fleming books?

    CH:As I’ve gone on, it is kind of helpful to have something like that. And just think “Well, yeah, I mean, he tried…” Because Moonraker was very much like a sort of detective story—a procedural thriller. I have my suspicions actually that it was something he was probably working on even pre-Bond and he kind of thought “Yeah, I can use that for Bond.”

    JC:Really?

    CH: Yeah. Because it is very different from the other ones. And yet it is one of the more popular books. It does seem to come out quite high in polls quite a lot. But I’m not slavishly thinking “Right, I’ve got to this in the next one and this in the next one.” But it’s quite fun to go through that same process that he went through when he was reacting to readers’ comments and what people like or disliked in the books. So all the sort of wintry skiing stuff that was going to be in the fourth book I’ve just about managed to shift it into the fifth book, which will open in the Alps. And then he kind of drifts through summer after that. So it’s got a bit of everything in book five. But book four, by sending him off to Mexico, I could just about get him somewhere warm and exotic before he has to get back to Eton. But as usual, he’s living quite an action-packed life (laughs).

    JC: One last question about Double or Die. The postscript at the end when we meet the adult James Bond… That was unlike anything that’s yet been in a Young Bond novel and I was wondering where that idea came from and what you think about it?

    CH:

    Well, I have to tell you I’m of two minds as to whether or not it was a good idea. I think it was quite fun to do. Unfortunately, some of the kids reading it think “Oh, so he’s not going to be a kid anymore in the books. He’s grown up now is he?” But as soon as they see the next one they’ll know that’s not true. I kind of felt everybody knows that James Bond does grow up to be a spy. It’s not a great surprise. We know he’s going to live in each of the books and carry on and do things. And I wanted to talk a bit about the whole Alan Turing thing and ENIGMA and that kind of world. And I thought rather than just putting a sort of dull postscript about what went on, I thought, “Well, let’s try just to have a little glimpse of adult Bond.” It was quite fun writing, actually, because I could call him “Bond”, rather than “James”. I did at that point start thinking, you know, it might be fun to write an adult Bond novel after all.

    JC: Oh? Any chance you may write an adult Bond novel?

    CH: Well, when IFP first approached me they said “We are looking at writing some new James Bond books” and I thought Christ how would you do that? That’s going to be really difficult trying to do a new adult Bond and try and keep him James Bond. And what can you do that hasn’t been done before?

    QUOTE: It's my attempt at a fictional Caribbean island in the great Fleming tradition.

    And then they said, “But it’s for children and it’s about him as a kid” at which point I thought “Oh, right. Okay, now I get it. We might have some fun with that. I can twist it round and have some more input for myself.” So I easily got very excited about the project. And, obviously, over the years the question of adult Bond books has come up in discussions with Ian Fleming Publications. Just in conversation. And, you know, I thought, “Well, could I pull it off?”

    I mean, it’s been great fun writing the kids’ books and there’s a certain degree of freedom you get. You think, “This is a little bit implausible, isn’t it?” Well, it’s a kid’s book! (Laughs) I think actually that was some of the strength of Ian Fleming. As he said, he was really a kind of permanent adolescent. He wrote things that a lot of writers would have thought “Oh, no, that’s a bit implausible, that’s a bit far-fetched or whatever.” But [Fleming] thought, “No, let’s do it.” And so he was kind of freed of those restraints, and that’s what makes his books so much fun really. So I think maybe one day it might be nice to have a crack at the adult Bond. I mean—I’m really excited to see what Sebastian Faulks has done with it and what he’ll come up with. I think that’s going to be a really terrific book.

    JC: So you haven’t had a peek at the manuscript for Devil May Care?

    CH: No. No. God, you know how secretive IFP are. I did know the name before the announcement, but not long before. As you know, they play their cards very close to their chest. But I am hoping I will get a kind of proof copy.

    JC:Okay, let’s talk about Hurricane Gold. You already mentioned that you changed the location from the Alps to give Bond a little fun in the sun. Mexico is a great choice because Bond has actually never been to Mexico.

    CH:No, you know, Fleming was quite limited in his choice of locations. He just wrote about places that he’d been to. From Russia with Love he’d just gotten back from a trip to Istanbul and he was obviously excited by it. A lot of them are set in Jamaica obviously because he knew that really well. He loved the Alps.

    Image: Charlie Higson

    He’d spent a lot of time there as a kid. And the Japan [book] came about by a trip that he’d taken.

    I was actually torn between Mexico and North Africa as a location. But then I read somewhere that Fleming was never keen on North Africa and always dismissed it as a location for Bond. I don’t know what his objections were but he didn’t like the idea of North Africa. So I thought well, Mexico. And then I can start in Mexico and end up in the Caribbean. Geographically it makes sense. I thought I really had to have something in the books of the Caribbean because it was such a big deal for Fleming. And I’ve always loved Mexico and wanted to write something about Mexico. I love the food and the music and growing up on all those cheesy westerns and 1930s thrillers that are set there. So it was just quite fun for me.

    JC:It’s a great choice. I’m excited about it. The island, where the criminals are…

    CH: “Lagrimas Negras”.

    JC:Is that fictional or based on something real?

    CH: No. It’s totally fictional, yes. It’s my attempt at a fictional Caribbean island in the great Fleming tradition (laughs).

    JC:Unless it’s a surprise, can you tell us what the title Hurricane Gold refers to?

    CH:

    Well, as with all the other titles, it came very late in the day after many, many different titles. In fact, my working title for the book was “Lagrimas Negras”, which was very quickly rejected by the publishers as being incomprehensible to English readers. As I said, we went through lots of titles. There was originally in the book a big sequence that was set in a gold mine. But I changed that because I felt in Blood Fever we’d kind of done the silver mine thing. So in the end I changed it to an abandoned oil field, which there were a lot of in the 1930s in Mexico. There was a big oil boom there.

    But the publishers had got very excited about the idea of gold. And obviously there was a lot of stuff about the Mayans and Mayan gold in the book. And they said “we’d love to have gold in the title somewhere” because they were working on this concept of making a gold book. These days, you’ve got to think about marketing even as you’re writing the book. And there is a hurricane early on in the book. So those were the two themes. Then I was kind of knocking around and I thought “Hurricane Gold” actually sounds quite good. It’s quite a nice combination for a title. So I suggested that to them and they jumped at it, at which point, as with SilverFin, I had to go back and work it into the book a bit.

    But I did—I came up with an ancient Mayan saying, which I created, which is the concept of “hurricane gold”, which is a great treasure which if you hang on to it, it will destroy you and all your family and bring your house down about your head. And that’s kind of the theme of the book is this secret that everybody’s fighting to get hold of which is destroying anybody who does get hold of it.

    Image: Charlie Higson

    So if you read to the end of the book the title does makes sense. And I quite like when you do get a kind of theme or something you can think up, even after you’ve written maybe the first or second draft, and then you can go back and work it in. It gives an extra dimension to the book.

    And exactly the same thing happened with SilverFin because we eventually came up with this title of SilverFin, at which point I had to go back and think, “Well, why on earth is it called ‘SilverFin’?” So I made up the story of the Scottish legend of the big fish and I named the loch “Silverfin” and I named the serum “SilverFin” and it kind of all worked very nicely actually. I’m still slightly trying to work out why Double or Die is called Double or Die (laughs). But if you ask a load of kids to give a title to a book that they’ve never read, what do you expect?

    JC:Well, there is gambling in the book—

    CH:Yeah. I mean, I did try and work in a bit of that, the concept of—well, they “shoot the moon”—which is what the original title was—it’s similar to that. It’s kind of “all or nothing”.

    JC:I know you had a favorite of the three, but I don’t think you’ve ever said what that was?

    CH:Well, it’s a bit like asking a father which is their favourite child.

    JC:Oh, not the books. I’m talking about the titles. The three title choices.

    CH:Oh, the titles. Right. Well, I quite liked “The Deadlock Cipher”.

    JC: I suspected that was your title.

    CH:But it is a little bit… sort of Sherlock Holmesy. It’s quite a nice title. I don’t think actually, in the end, it really is much of a James Bond title. And I know that some of the kids, having read the book said “Oh, yeah, maybe it should’ve been called ‘The Deadlock Cipher’” But, you know, they didn’t know what it meant. And it was confusing for them. And also a lot of them thought it was “The Deadlock Kipper”. Do you have kippers in America?

    JC:Kippers? We don’t have kippers here. At least, if we have them, they’re not called kippers.

    CH: It’s smoked haddock. Smoked fish that a lot of people have for their breakfast. It’s called a kipper. Yeah, a lot of kids thought the title was “The Deadlock Kipper”, (laughs) which wasn’t right.

    QUOTE: I did at that point start thinking, you know, it might be fun to write an adult bond novel after all.

    No, I think it was a little bit too artsy-fartsy and erudite for a James Bond title. Anyway, I liked all three of them so I was happy with the choice in the end. It was pretty obvious that the kids were going to go for [Double or Die] because it sounded like a James Bond title.

    JC: It does. It looks good in print too. I know you test your books out on your boys as you write them. What’s their reaction to Hurricane Gold and do they have a favorite Young Bond novel? Or maybe a favorite gruesome death?

    CH:(Laughs) They like all the deaths. Yes. I mean, actually funny enough, the bit that still really sticks in their mind—certainly with the two youngest ones, because they were very young when they read it—is the opening sequence of SilverFin with the eels and the mutant man in the loch, which does seem to freak out quite a lot of kids, that chapter, which is kind of nice. No, they don’t have a favourite particularly. And yeah, luckily they did really like the new one. I made sure it’s fairly non-stop action from the beginning. It’s a kind of… not exactly a roller-coaster ride, but the central image—theme—of the book is this rat run, a homage, if you like, to Doctor No and his… I don’t know how he describes it, but his kind of “corridor of pain” that James Bond has to work his way through. The guy who runs this island has his own equivalent. It’s much bigger and more elaborate.

    JC:Is that the Avenue Of Death?

    CH:It’s the Avenue Of Death, yes, which is a series of passages with traps and dangers you have to work your way through. And so to a certain extent the whole book is structured like that when James starts off, and he’s got to work his way through these series of disasters and problems, and eventually he arrives at the island and then he has to do the whole thing again in miniature in the Avenue Of Death. So I did make sure that it was pretty rollicking action from the beginning so my kids don’t get bored. Because I remember when I was reading Blood Fever to them, we were about halfway through, and one of them said to me: “Dad, when’s the story going to start?” And I was thinking, “What are you talking about? We’re halfway through the book. It’s been nothing but plot.”

    Image: Charlie Higson

    But what they actually meant was, “When’s there going to be another fight?” As far as they’re concerned, that’s what story is. It’s a lot of fighting—loosely separated with a bit of talking and some scene-setting. So I kind of felt, Let’s start the story on page one in Hurricane Gold and then push it through. So it’s a good reaction. Jim, my twelve-year-old, said a really nice thing to me. When I finished it, he was silent for a moment, and then he said, “Oh, I wish I could have adventures like James Bond.” And that’s exactly the response I want to have from kids—just think “What a great adventure! Wouldn’t that be fun to do!” So luckily, yeah, they do still enjoy the books. I have made sure that there’re a lot of very grisly and gruesome deaths in the book that will stick in a child’s mind.

    JC: You mentioned “adventure novel”. I know you just did a program about the reemergence of the boy’s adventure novel. My sense from the plot description is that Hurricane Gold maybe leans more toward a classic boy’s adventure novel than a James Bond novel? Or am I wrong?

    CH: Well, the background to it is spies and stolen secrets. And I think certainly when he gets to the island at the end, it is very much a homage to Doctor No and any kind of those—the criminal base at the end. So I think there are a lot of Bond elements in it. There are these American gangsters, so there are echoes of Diamonds Are Forever which is—obviously—about gangsters, in that case, diamond smuggling. In this case, it’s gangsters involved in smuggling something else.

    It’s interesting, as the books go on, I’m less worried about pleasing the kind of James Bond purists. And, at the same time, there’s nothing in the books that will grate. It all fits in with Fleming’s scheme and his facts, and there’s the usual allusions to things in the adult books. But what’s interesting is over here in England, Young Bond is very much seen by the kids as character in his own right. They’re not constantly relating it back to James Bond and the adult Bond and all that. They enjoy the books for what they are, and the character in the books for who he is. And that sort of gives me a little bit more freedom. That being said, book number five probably will be the most similar in themes and plot elements to a Fleming book. And it certainly moves much more into the world of the Secret Service.

    JC:You anticipated my next question. So is book five going to be your From Russia With Love?

    CH:

    Well, yeah. I mean, it’s the one where it all gets quite serious and grown up. There’s a lot of stuff about Russian spies, German spies, stuff that was going on in the 1930s, the whole kind of drift toward the Second World War and all that. So it is very much saying, “This is where James Bond’s life is going to go.” But it will mean I’ve burnt quite a lot of bridges. I’ve said I’m not going to do any more Young Bond, and I can’t because I do eventually have to deal with Bond leaving Eton. He’s been there a lot longer than his allotted time, as you know. And so he very much needs the end of that period of his life in book five. But it may be that I can go on and do another stage in his life, or something different, but it would be very difficult to write any more Young Bond books after Book Five. It’s interesting, Fleming himself after the end of From Russia With Love left it in a position where maybe that was the last one. Maybe Bond was dead and he wasn’t going to do anymore. So there are all those kind of echoes of Fleming and what he was up to.

    I just hope that my book four, Hurricane Gold is better received than Diamonds Are Forever, which does tend to come out somewhere near the bottom of any list of Fleming books. It didn’t quite have what people wanted from a Bond book. But I am confident that I’ve got some great villains, some great characters and some great action sequences, and it’s probably more like Doctor No—which then again was a slightly different Bond book. It was going more into that almost sort of sci-fi area and more of a fantasy area. Although there’s no sci-fi or anything in this book, it does have a different feel from the other three. But I like that.

    JC:You mentioned the characters in Hurricane Gold… I’ve learned a little bit about the Bond girl, Precious Stone, which I think is a dynamite name, and I’m wondering how you come up with a Bond Girl name that’s outrageous but not Austin Powers parody?

    CH: It’s very tricky, and I’ve noticed on the websites it does kick up a storm of discussion about “Is this a crap name or not?” I don’t know. Any of the Fleming names you could have put them down on paper, if you’d never read the book and knew nothing about Bond, and said “This girl is called ‘that’”, you’d think “Well, I’m not sure about that as a name”. But once you read the book and you accept it and she becomes a character then you buy into it. I think if in the process of the book the character works and the girl becomes interesting, you can, if you want, call her anything you like. But, yeah, it’s hard to think of those names. Especially as I can’t do anything sexual—which Fleming was fond of—because of who I’m writing for.

    Actually in the first draft of the book she wasn’t called Precious, she was called Amaryllis Stone. I like the name Amaryllis and, obviously, there was a Fleming connection.

    QUOTE: So it is very much saying, 'This is where James Bond’s life is going to go.'

    A cousin, I think she was a cello player, who is alluded to in “From A View To A Kill” rather cheekily by Fleming. So yeah, there is a member of the Fleming family called Amaryllis and I just thought it was a great name to use. But the character in the book starts as a real bitch, a real nasty piece of work. Spoilt. But as she goes through these adventures with James—they’re kind of thrown together—she toughens up and you realize that underneath it all, she’s quite tough. By the end, the two of them are, taking on the world together.

    But IFP were a little worried. They thought, “Well, you know, she does start a slightly unpleasant character. Might it upset the family?” So, I wasn’t totally wedded to the name, so I thought, “Well, I’ll try and think of another name.” And she already had the surname of “Stone” so I thought “Well, actually, Precious Stone is quite a good name, and it’s quite good for the character, this kind of southern belle who lives with her father who absolutely dotes on, and so he’s called her “Precious” and she’s lived up to her name. I think it’s the kind of thing that by the end of the book hopefully you sort of forget what she’s called and just accept the character on the page. And actually, I’m not sure if in the book it’s ever spelled out as “Precious Stone”. She’s always called “Precious”. I think maybe it’s mentioned toward the end what her name is. But we know she’s called “Precious”, and her surname is “Stone”. But she’s always referred to as “Precious” rather than as “Precious Stone”.

    JC:I think it’s a great name, and “Precious” wasn’t an uncommon name in the ’30s…

    CH:No. Exactly.

    JC:The character of Jack Stone, the World War I ace? Is he based on anything in real life?

    CH: Nothing specific, no. In fact, when I started, he wasn’t a World War I flying ace, he was a kind of oil magnate. But in the writing of it, I wanted to slightly change where he was coming from. There’s quite a lot of themes in the book about what happens to heroes when they’re not needed anymore, and it became quite interesting in terms of the whole sort of myth of Bond—you know, how someone in wartime can be a great hero, doing great things, and then if you do those same things in peacetime… because in wartime to be a hero, you’ve got to kill a lot of people. So this is someone who was a big star, big hero, did all the kind of air shows after the war and all that sort of barn-storming stuff and then is quietly forgotten by the world and his money disappears. So he has to… well, you’re going to have to read to find out what happens to him.

    But there’s a lot of discussion about “What is a hero?” and what happens when a country doesn’t need its heroes any more and forgets about them. I read quite a lot about the air aces. Most of them were killed before they were about 20. They were about 18 or 19 year olds when they were air aces.

    QUOTE: It's interesting, as the books go on, I'm less worried about pleasing the kind of James Bond purists.

    JC: Interesting. A very interesting character for James Bond to encounter…

    CH: Yeah. He is—and as the book goes on one realizes that Jack Stone is not all that he seems. And there’s a lot of stuff about the relationship between Precious and her dad, and, of course, James Bond not having a father, he’s sort of jealous, I suppose, in a way, of her relationship with her father.

    JC: That just reminded me of something that maybe you can’t answer, but I’m wondering if at any point in the series—I guess it would have to be the next book—you’re going to deal with Bond’s parents’ deaths?

    CH: Well, I have thought that about that a lot. And Book Five is a lot about climbing in the Alps and obviously Bond’s parents died in a climbing accident in the Alps. But I kind of decided early on that it might be a bit pat, a bit obvious, if, you know, they were spies or they got caught up in some plot and were bumped off. I think that sort of thing has been done quite a lot in kids’ books of this nature. So I’ve resisted that. I haven’t fully decided, but I think I will resist that, because again, it might be something that you think he might have mentioned in his adult life. It may have had some resonance to him. Particularly if it was to do with a foreign power or something. So I think I will leave it just as an accident. There are some more revelations in Book Five about his family and spying and references back to Uncle Max, but I think I’ll leave that just as an accident and not go into the great mystery of Bond’s parents. It’s a bit Harry Potter. It’s a bit Alex Rider, the Anthony Horowitz books. I think I’ll just leave them quietly in their graves. (Laughs)

    JC:You’ve shared a lot about Book Five. Do you have a working title that you want to share with us now?

    CH:No. No. (Thinking) Something came to me the other day, but I forgot to write it down and it’s gone now. No. I don’t even have a working title for this one. It’s just Bond Number Five.

    JC:It must be close to finished. Or at least your first draft must be close to finished?

    CH:
    &nbsp





    I wish it was. I’m a bit behind. Actually, what happened was Book Four was not meant to be out till next year. Next January or February. And I had quite a busy year this year. I knew the first half of the year I had various other writing jobs, so I delivered Book Four early to Puffin, and pushed it through to make sure it was finished well in advance so that I could clear the decks to get on with other writing before I started on Book Five. But, of course, publishers being publishers, they got the book early and said “Well, we’ll publish it early!” So they brought publication forward by about four or five months, which basically means that I’m four or five months behind on Book Five. We obviously want to get it out for next year for the centenary, so I am working on it and I’m going to work on it through the winter, but it’s going to be quite tight up against the deadline at the end.

    JC:So the plan is to release the book next year?

    CH:Yeah, towards the end of next year. I mean that would be great for the centenary. There’ll be the Sebastian Faulks book. There’s some various big stuff the family has planned. There’ll be the paperback of Hurricane Gold. There’ll be the graphic novel of SilverFin. And there’ll be the last of the Young Bond books. It should be a good year. If I can finish the f——ing thing! (Laughs)

    JC:Finally, was there anything in the series that you wanted to do that you weren’t able to do. A location? Or a Fleming reference?

    CH:
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbspWell I’m still trying to get quite a lot into Book Five… so, no, I think I’ve done everything I’ve wanted. The thing with books is they never turn out anything like you expected them to. And particularly me, because I don’t plan things down to the last full stop. I leave it quite fluid in the writing. And it changes a lot from one draft to another. And so, oftentimes the book you end up with is not the book you set out to write. But certainly in terms of locations and characters and stuff, I think I’ve covered the James Bond world. And, yeah, as I say, any last loose threads will be tied up in Book Five, I hope.

    JC: Thank you Charlie for being so generous with your time and answers. I think I can speak for most Bond fans that we really enjoy the Young Bond series and look forward to the release of Hurricane Gold on Thursday.

    CH: Cheers then. See ya.

    johncox @ 2007-09-01
  4. The Chris Corbould CBn Interview

    Chris Corbould must be ridiculously good at D.I.Y.

    Seriously, his house must be a technical marvel; with hydraulic platforms raising you to the floor of your choice, a garage filled with vehicles so technically marvellous that us mere mortals just couldn’t comprehend the technology (and we’d suffer a stroke if we tried to), one of those machines that makes your food for you if you tell it what you want and properly constructed flat-pack furniture. Imagine THAT on Through The Keyhole. Loyd Grossman would have an embolysm.

    …Oh hang on. He doesn’t do it any more.

    Paul DunphyAfter all, this is the man who –along with his team of magicians– brought us the spunky little Q-Boat in The World Is Not Enough, the ice chase between Bond and Zao in Die Another Day, the sinking Venetian House in Casino Royale and (if I may turn heathen and mention something non-Bond for a moment) Batman’s latest front-axle-free tank of a Batmobile.

    He’s the man to whom directors turn when they want the technically impossible made possible: when that bike needs to be adapted to fire lasers and shoot grenades, or that car has to transform into a giant pair of knockers and back again at the flick of a switch.

    Nobody’s been doing it better than him (sorry) for over two decades, and last month CommanderBond.net had the honour of talking to award-winning Special Effects Co-ordinator Chris Corbould about his career and his time and experiences as a well-respected member of the Bond family.

    The Chris Corbould CBn Interview

    Q:First things first, Chris, how did you get into the business? Was it your Uncle (Colin Chilvers) who influenced you to get started?

    CC:I first started in special effects after going to work with my uncle during my summer holidays from school whilst he was working on a film called Tommy. I was going to go back after the summer break to commence my a-levels but never set foot in the school again. That early introduction was especially exciting as I was a great fan of The Who and Eric Clapton both of whom were in the film. My claim to fame on that film was opening every single tin of baked beans that Ann Margret rolled around in, which was approximately 500 gallons. In those days we didn’t have electric can openers either. The thing that influenced me most was the variety, creativeness and teamwork needed to carry out complex special effects. QUOTE: To my knowledge, a tank had never been seen chasing through the streets...It became immediately obsessive and I was hooked to this day. After Tommy, I gained a position as trainee with a special effects company in Pinewood where I proceeded to learn engineering and fabrication work, vital to the years ahead.

    Q:We’re sure everyone’s familiar with you as a member of the “Bond family”, but how did you get to be part of that “family” in the first place?

    CC:I first worked on a James Bond during my early years with Effects Associates in Pinewood. I was involved with making Special Effects gadgets and props for Spy Who Loved Me and later spent some time on the 007 Stage filming the submarine sequence. Shortly after that film I left Effects Associates and went freelance on Moonraker, which was where I was first introduced to Cubby Broccoli and Michael Wilson.

    Moonraker was based in Paris but we spent many months on locations such as Venice, Florida and Brazil which promoted a closeness and camaraderie amongst the crew, especially with Cubby and Michael.

    The “family” were intensely loyal to crew who had served them well and hence the reason they kept recalling the same names as part of their “extended family”. This was the magic era of Derek Meddings on James Bond and I was lucky enough to continue as part of his physical effects team under John Evans for For Your Eyes Only. The next dynasty in Special Effects was under the auspices of John Richardson, with whom I worked for on View to a Kill, Living Daylight and Licence to Kill. During this period I formed a working friendship with Barbara Broccoli, who together with Michael Wilson were becoming prominent producers with Cubby at the helm. Finally, I achieved my ultimate goal and became Special Effects Supervisor on Goldeneye right through to Casino Royale. During those eleven films, I shared many experiences with the “Bond family” and consider myself privileged to have been part of it.

    Q:So how has your job on the Bond series evolved since joining the series?

    CC:As I have just mentioned, my first involvement with Bond was on Spy Who Loved Me but Special Effects as a craft has grown immensely over the last 15 years which was contradictory to what we thought would happen with the advent of CGI. At one stage, we all thought CGI would take over our role and leave us obsolete. In effect, it propelled us forward with great momentum as we were required to liaise with CGI effects on films never achievable before. On Goldeneye, my Special Effects crew consisted of approximately 40 technicians whereas on Die Another Day we were running at about 120 technicians, partly due to Bond policy of trying to retain as much reality as possible. Generally our workload encompasses a wide spectrum of skills but heavy engineering involving movement and hydraulics is a massive part of our work as typified by the 100 ton sinking room on Casino Royale.

    Q:It was your idea for the tank chase in GoldenEye. How did that idea come to you?

    CC:Originally in Goldeneye, the sequence was a motorbike chase but Martin Campbell, Michael and Barbara were worried that a chase on a motorbike was probably not going to be spectacular enough. Eventually we had a round table brainstorming session where I put forward the idea of the tank. To my knowledge, a tank had never been seen chasing through the streets and once the idea was agreed, we came up with numerous events, far more than we could ever shoot, but the scope we had with this new vehicle was immense. We worked on the principle that the car being chased was governed by the restrictions of the roads whereas the tank could take short cuts like going through buildings. If we had had our way we would still be shooting the sequence today with all the ideas that were springing up. We also had great fun testing out the tanks running over cars and going through walls. I think one of the highlights with the tank was when it first appeared through the wall. Simon Crane, the stunt coordinator, wanted it to jump from a ramp through the wall to give it more height but 30 tons of steel hitting the ground from 4ft up is quite a bang as Gary Powell, the stunt driver later testified.

    Q:Do you save unused ideas from one film to use in another in a little
    book or something, or just in your noggin’?

    CC:No, I don’t have a little book of unused ideas. Generally each film requires totally new concept ideas although I do have a huge library of tapes containing years of tests that I can refer to, some of which are quite amusing where things haven’t gone quite to plan.

    Q:What were the highlights of special effects that you and your team accomplished for Casino Royale?

    CC:The biggest highlight was the sinking room sequence. It was a sequence that I was concerned would look phoney if we didn’t get it right. The hydraulic interior set was enormous and highly complex with each movement controlled by computer. Casino Royale's Special Effects and Miniature TeamThe set weighed in at over 100 tons and was 4 storeys high and loosely based on the Hotel Danielli in Venice, courtesy of Peter Lamont, the Production Designer. The script read that it was a sinking house but it turned into more of a sinking mansion. The whole rig lowered 19 feet into a twenty foot deep tank of water and also tilted through fifteen degrees on every axis. The water was turned into a bubbling cauldron using a bank of sixteen huge road compressors. In addition to this rig, we were responsible for building a third scale miniature of the exterior of the house which also had to sink into an exterior tank to match the interior. We spent many hours testing how each individual item of the exterior would collapse such as chimneys, balconies and even a third scale crane barge moored against the house.

    Q:Do you have that 2007 VES Award in your toilet or on your mantelpiece? If not, where is the blighter?

    CC:To be honest, I haven’t received the award yet although they did send me the engraved brass plaque to screw onto it. Hopefully it will arrive in the post someday. Actually, winning an award was a bit of a surprise as I have a wall full of different nomination certificates but was resigned to not actually winning anything.

    Q:What does “James Bond” mean to you?

    CC:James Bond has given me the opportunity to explore all my wildest ideas and witness my incredibly talented crew bringing them to life. QUOTE: At one stage, we all thought CGI would take over our role and leave us obsolete.Nothing gives me more pleasure than their utter dedication to achieving spectacular results. James Bond has given me the freedom to let these guys loose.

    Q:What were you doing a year ago today?

    CC:I was preparing to film in Venice on Casino Royale. It’s a beautiful city and one of my favourite locations.

    Q:What would you say is the most challenging part of your job? Is there one day that stands out where everything went a bit wrong?

    CC:The most challenging part of my job (apart from the creative side) is trying to make sure Special Effects crew, equipment and materials are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes we can have filming units in two or three different parts of the world and prep crews in another two or three locations. Schedules are always demanding. Another challenging item is safety. Everyone wants spectacular Special Effects, but every effect is tested again and again to make sure that it is safe, not just for artists/stuntmen, but also for the filming crew. The biggest mental challenge is getting into the head of the Director and seeing what makes him tick, what his vision is and hopefully what his dislikes are.

    We generally get one or two days on every film where things don’t go quite right, usually from events thrown at us at the last moment and usually involving the silliest of things. However, we do tend to reminisce about those days for years to come and much amusement is gained from them after the event.

    Q:What do you feel you can bring from your work on other films to the
    Bonds? And what from the Bonds to those other films?

    CC:The main thing I bring from Bonds to other films is a wealth of experience where they have given me the opportunity to experiment and explore new technologies as they appear on the scene.

    The main thing that other films bring to Bond is that they keep my mind fresh and stop me getting formatted in the way I work when embarking on another episode in the franchise. I try to keep some variety in my choice of subject matter on the other films although high level action always seems to be the main ingredient.

    Q:Is there a moment from any of the Bonds that you have worked on that gives you the greatest satisfaction to see realised? What are the little details you’ve added to the series that you’re most proud of?

    CC:There are moments on every single Bond that have given me satisfaction to see realised.

    • Goldeneye – My first Bond as overall Supervisor – Tank Chase
    • Tomorrow Never Dies – Huge explosions in the opening sequence with the Bond in the jet fighter
    • World Is Not Enough – Boat Chase on the Thames/ Helicopter cutting the caviar house up
    • Die Another Day – Aston Martins/Jaguar Adaptations
    • Casino Royale – Sinking House

    I would like to think that I have been instrumental in all the action sequences in the Bond’s that I have supervised. I enjoy working closely with the Directors, Producers and Stunt Coordinators and thrive on putting forward my ideas and sometimes seeing them on screen.

    Q:What will your involvement be in Bond 22? How does it differ from your
    role on Casino Royale?

    CC:My hope is that I will be doing the Special Effects and Miniature Effects again after I finish on the sequel to Batman Begins. The role I might have would be dependent on the Director they choose and his requirements from me. Fingers crossed.

    Q:Where do you think James Bond can go from here?

    CC:Bond has entered a whole new era where the characters are the main ingredient and the action is meaningful rather than being gratuitous. I also believe that Daniel has a huge amount to offer in exploring this new path. He is not only a wonderful actor but puts real effort into getting the most from our efforts. Casino Royale is a hard act to follow but I am confident the next film will surpass it.

    Q:What’s your favourite Bond-related anecdote?

    There are so many anecdotes from my Bond years. We had great fun with the tanks on Goldeneye. Chris CorbouldWe did a shot one day which involved the tank making a sharp turn into an alleyway. An unmanned camera was mounted on a trolley and had a line attached to it to enable it to be pulled out the way if the tank aborted the turn. Unfortunately the tank did abort and the trolley was not pulled out of the way fast enough resulting in 30 tons of metal running over this poor defenceless camera. Suffice to say, the camera was scooped up bit by bit and put in a cardboard box for inspection by the production office and insurance company.

    Chris, thanks a million for taking the time to chat to us, and for playing such a large part in making Bond films so entertaining. Everyone at CBn wishes you the best of luck with Bond 22 and The Dark Knight.

    @mrpauldunphy @ 2007-07-29
  5. The Nicolas Fleurier CBn Interview

    Interview Questions by Devin Zydel and
    Benjamin Fleurier (CBn Forum member Bwanito)

    The interest in the literary James Bond seems to have skyrocketed in recent years. Currently, fans and collectors are treated to Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series and Samantha Weinberg’s The Moneypenny Diaries. Devin ZydelIn addition, there have been several reprints of the original Ian Fleming novels and countless new books examining the films, the novels, the artwork, the philosophy, and much more.

    When it comes to the history of James Bond action figures, however, the sources of information have been severly lacking. Thankfully this is no longer the case with the release of James Bond & Indiana Jones: Action Figures by Nicolas Fleurier. The book presents in-depth information regarding the many different releases from the James Bond and Indiana Jones series; but it also considers the question of what is both a toy and a collector’s item. Exhaustive in detail, thoroughly researched and accompanied by extensive illustrations, James Bond & Indiana Jones: Action Figures is a welcome addition to any Bond fan.

    The Nicolas Fleurier CBn Interview

    Q: Many thanks for agreeing to the interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.

    NF: Well, to focus on licensed products, as you can guess I was first a collector, but not specifically of items related to James Bond or Indiana Jones. Later I have been through different stages and became an exhibitor, a convention seller, and even a convention organizer. But my early goal was to write about licensed products. IMAGE: 'James Bond & Indiana Jones: Action Figures for Two Heroes' coverHowever, the first article I ever did on Bond was not about licensed products, but rather on the script of GoldenEye. It was published in a fanzine from a French club, and this was a way for me to find out if I could satisfy readers who are also connoisseurs. I then began my collaboration with Dixième planète, a French magazine on licensed products. My first article for them was about Bond but at this time, I was not as free as I would become later on in regards to the contents of my writings. Among my last articles, there is another one about Bond, more precisely in regards to video games. The English version of the book contains an exclusive feature, and it is a summary of this particular piece about video games. It was a rather unappreciated subject, but since then the MI6 site began to publish a series on it.

    Q: How did you come to write James Bond And Indiana Jones: Action Figures?

    NF: It is the result of a project on which I began to work back in 1999, and which I proposed to the publisher of Dixième planète in 2001. The first draft was pretty ambitious, a little too much perhaps. It was about many licenses, and not only about Bond or Indiana Jones. It was merely a base for reflection, but the publisher showed interest in a reorganized version about those two topics. I agreed because there were enough connections between the movie series to work on both together, and because there was enough material to work on only the two. But it was agreed upon that the book would not turn into a guide, and that the general thoughts on licenses and collecting that appeared in the draft would reappear in the new project, at the beginning and at the end.

    QUOTE: Some movies seem to be more appreciated by the toy manufacturers than others...

    Q: Which type of toy lines can we find in your book (Gilbert, Mego…)?

    NF: You can find all toy lines that were ever related to James Bond or Indiana Jones and that includes action figures. So, Gilbert and Mego appear among other toy manufacturers’ names, like Mattel and Hasbro.

    Q: What was the most difficult aspect in writing the book? Was there one specific section or line of figures that was difficult to find information on?

    NF: To accept compromises, I think was the hard part. Jokes aside, there are always compromises to go through when your work is to pass through others’ hands in order to be published. I believe the publisher had a more appealing view of the project than I had. However, I decided to take some photographs myself, the ones that were shot outdoor, on actual movie locations in relation with the items. I remember there were many Japanese tourists in Venice, waiting for a boat. When they saw me seeking the best spot to take a picture of the Mego doll in front of the Danieli hotel, they all wanted to take their own picture of me with the doll and their friends. But that was fun. The hard part was not even to write the book with a historical point of view and an almost academic method, because it is the way I normally work. No, the hard part was to convince the Japanese tourists that the doll was not some Space Mountain related item! As for the line on which I spent a lot of time, I think this is the Big Jim James Bond line. Image: Gilbert OddjobIt is only recently that I discovered another vehicle, which does not appear in the book: the “Vehiculo de ataque”. I almost lost sleep since then!

    Q: Could we find some interesting notes about the prototypes or the customs?

    NF: Naturally, there are some developments on prototypes, unproduced items and customs as well. For example, you can find some pictures of an action figure of Sean Connery as Henry Jones in the book.

    Q: Have there been any trends in the release of the James Bond action figures over time? Are there any themes that seem to be apart of most of them?

    QUOTE: ...many collectors prefer vintage over new, even if new means quality.

    NF: Some movies seem to be more appreciated by the toy manufacturers than others, and they are Dr. No, Goldfinger and Thunderball, even The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker. As for the actors, George Lazenby is badly off. Even Sideshow, with its last series, did not what many fans obviously expected: Bond in a kilt outfit. And there is still no action figure of Daniel Craig!

    Q: What comparisons would you make between the various James Bond action figures and those from the Indiana Jones films?

    NF: There are more common points between the movie series than between the toy ranges. Bond never really became a small sized action figure, whereas Indiana Jones was a 33/4 action figure right from the start. However, some toy manufacturers used both licenses: Galoob, Medicom and Hasbro. Unfortunately, the recognizable characters that were played by the same actor in the both movie series are always forgotten in one of the two toy ranges. Sallah, for example, became an action figure soon after Indiana Jones, but the general Leonid Pushkin, also played by John Rhys-Davies, never became a toy.

    Q: Do you have any personal favourites?

    NF: Well, most collectors have their own favourites: the item which is almost impossible to find, the figure that started it all. I did not have any favourite myself, because my favourites, if they are ones, are among the movies. The toys are only extensions of the movies. That is why, when I was young, I almost started collecting movies and not toys. There was this tiny video club, in a distant neighbourhood, where I went to spend a lot of time seeking the last Bond I had yet to see. I think it is for keeping the movies with me that I became a collector. It is one of the reasons, anyway.

    QUOTE: It is the results of a project on which I began work in 1999.

    Q: What is the rarest James Bond action figure you’ve ever come across?

    NF: It is difficult to say. Maybe it is the Largo puppet made by Gilbert in the sixties. But it could be the last figures from Little Lead Soldiers as well.

    Q: Do you have any tips for Bond fans new to collecting the figures?

    NF: To be patient is the first tip that comes in mind. What is rare is not rare enough to jeopardize an entire life. And, after all, what was found was meant to be found, if you can say that. Then, you have to gather information, to know the items and to know their value. So, the second tip I can give is to cross-check sources. And perhaps to start by reading my book!

    Q: In your own opinion, has there ever been a ‘golden age’ of James Bond figures (where whichever line or specific figure[s] being released were far above the quality of all others)?

    IMAGE: Nicolas Fleurier

    NF: The expression “golden age” reminds me of the first age of comics. It is possible, I think, to compare the action figure history and the comic book history. Therefore, a first appearance would become a size change, the thirties, the sixties. But you speak of “golden age” as a period of quality. In that case, Icons and Sideshow, compared to Gilbert and Little Lead Soldiers, are the first names to quote. However, many collectors prefer vintage over new, even if new means quality. In fact, the “golden age” may be a subjective period, related to the childhood of each of us. There is a verb in English that seems to suit well for describing this way of collecting: to recollect.

    Devin Zydel @ 2007-07-24
  6. The Thomas Nixdorf CBn Interview

    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. Devin Zydel‘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.

    The Thomas Nixdorf CBn Interview

    QUOTE: The '60s, '70s and early '80s were the golden times of the painted/illustrated poster.

    Q:Thank you for agreeing to the interview. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

    TN: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.

    Q:When did you start becoming interested in the James Bond posters and designs?

    TN: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. IMAGE: 'Licence To Thrill: James Bond Posters' coverI’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.

    Q: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.

    TN: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. QUOTE: The advance poster for Casino Royale where 007 is sitting at the casino table is simple, cool and effective.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…

    Q:How did you come to be involved with Robert McGinnis?

    TN: 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.

    Q:Tell us about the Robert McGinnis art print series.

    TN: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!

    Q: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?

    TN: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…

    QUOTE: The most unusual posters come from exotic countries such as Hungary, Egypt or Japan.Q:What comparisons would you make between the Bond posters of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s to the more current ones in the series?

    TN: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…

    Q:What did you think about the poster designs for the newest James Bond film, Casino Royale?

    TN: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.

    Q:Do you have any collecting tips for fans/admirers of the Bond posters?

    TN: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.

    Q:As you are obviously quite knowledgeable with the world of Bond posters and designs, do you have any specific favourites?

    TN: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. IMAGE: Thomas NixdorfIn 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…

    Devin Zydel @ 2007-03-27
  7. The Laurent Bouzereau CBn Interview

    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 Laurent Bouzereau CBn Interview

    Q:The Bond books and movies developed in such different directions, QUOTE: ...you have many artists behind the scenes, especially the visionary Ken Adam.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?

    LB: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.

    IMAGE: 'The Art Of Bond' coverQ:The book includes an extraordinary number and variety of images, but choices obviously still had to be made. How did you make them?

    LB: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.

    Q: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?

    LB:QUOTE: I think the ones from the 80s, Moore's latest and Dalton's, are the most dated.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.

    Q:Women, cars, clothes, exotic locations: which is most central to the Bond mystique?

    LB: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!

    QUOTE: There was a specific book that inspired me, the interview book with Truffaut and Hitchcock.Q:Do you have a favorite Bond film?

    LB: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.

    Q:Which films or eras seem dated to you, and which seem timeless?

    LB: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.

    Q:Steven Spielberg wanted to direct a Bond film. What would he bring to the endeavor?

    LB: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.

    Q:What do you think of the new James Bond, Daniel Craig?

    LB:IMAGE: Laurent BouzereauI 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.

    Purchase The Art of Bond:

    Guest writer @ 2007-01-09
  8. The Simon Winder CBn Interview

    This month saw the release of a new entry into the long list of books analysing the phenomenon of James Bond. In The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond, Blair Pettisauthor Simon Winder takes a unique approach, addressing the impact of James Bond on the collective conscience of a mid-century Britain reeling from involvement in two world wars. It is Mr. Winder’s contention that agent 007 played a hugely significant role in healing the wounds suffered in these hard times. Employing an enjoyably witty style, the author does not shy away from criticism of either the literary or cinematic incarnations of James Bond. And he pulls no punches when it comes to analysing the various political, military and social movements in postwar Britain. I will not be reviewing the book here, but I urge anyone who has any interest in James Bond or the developing history of Britain to pick up a copy and give it a read. One might not agree with all of Mr. Winder’s points of view, but one is very likely to be entertained, and perhaps even informed.

    The Simon Winder CBn Interview

    Q:First off, welcome to CommanderBond.net, Mr. Winder.

    SW:Thanks very much. It’s a pleasure to be taking part.

    Q:Whom did you have in mind as an audience for this material?

    SW:Scarcely sane obsessives such as myself. I have spent so many hours watching the movies and reading the books that I thought it about time to put this to some use; and I recognised that at least I was not alone in my interests.

    Q:The book seems fraught with cynicism and pessimism, and yet is filled to the brim with humour. QUOTE: I thought it would be fun to say various... terrible things in a breezy and cheerful style...At one point you posit: ‘As the 1960s progressed, Bond’s ability to maim and kill foreigners became a great consolation to millions of embittered and confused people whose traditional world picture had changed with alarming speed. Bond in fact became in the 1960s pretty much the only British national capable of damaging anybody at all.’ How is that line supposed to make us feel?

    SW:I thought it would be fun to say various more or less terrible things in a breezy and cheerful style to see how people reacted. I am glad you picked on this quote as it sums it up. This is just popularized (and probably misunderstood by me) film theory, but I think everyone, if they think about it, should feel very odd about the way they can watch hundreds of simulated killings on a film screen and view it as entertaining. I also think it odd and appropriate that Britain, which has always had a cult of glamorous violence (a quick trip around St Paul’s Cathedral shows this very clearly, packed with superb white marble statues of homicidal maniacs, some might say), should generate a figure such as Bond who does indeed keep up the
    ‘good work’.

    Q:What do you say to the criticism that the essential premise of the book—that James Bond helped ease Britain’s painful transition from the glory of Empire to the dark days of rationing and political blundering—is not novel?

    SW:It certainly is not new—several writers such as David Cannadine have pointed it out many years ago. I just thought it was a useful peg around which it might be fun to sound off about British history and about Bond—the excuse around which the book could be built. Most of the UK reviews have been extremely positive, but one (in the Evening Standard) was completely baffled by the suggestion that there was any link between Bond and imperial decline—so perhaps it is not an entirely cliched idea—at least to one reviewer.

    Q:Speaking of reviews, you must be pleased that The Man Who Saved Britain has received good notices overall. And whether a given reviewer liked the book or not, the commentary has been interesting, to say the least. A few examples:

    A book of eccentric brilliance that covers everything from Jamaica as lieu de memoire to the sexual magnetism of General Nasser.

    TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

    Hugely amusing… a bizarre mix and yet a weirdly compelling one.

    THE OBSERVER

    Poor Bond is little more than a prop to Winder’s obsession with the evils of Empire… and his desire to denigrate Britain’s intelligence services.

    Stella Rimington, former head of MI5, TIMES

    Q:What do you make of the Rimington comments?

    SW:Isn’t that great? She was so furious—I think the bit I wrote about the security services just sitting around watching CNN or drunkenly photocopying their bottoms was the last straw. The book’s meant to be funny—but Dame Stella certainly didn’t think so.

    Q:At one point you detail what was perhaps the last gasp of British colonialism, a tragic-comic episode in which ‘the RAF proposed a base on Aldabra—an uninhabited island off East Africa, home only to some 15,000 giant tortoises. This idea was scrapped on both finance and common-sense grounds. I love the brief Aldabra debate as it now stands so beautifully as a summary of the last, flickering gleams of an imperial mindset that had seemed utterly solid only twenty years previously. It was a dream of an absolutely pointless airstrip on a tropical island with no human inhabitants and therefore—at last—no troublesome nationalists, but unfortunately only useable for bombing runs against some putative Madagascan or Antarctic enemy. UK Cover Image: The Man Who Saved BritainPresumably a substantial ground crew would have been needed just to keep the airstrip tortoise-free.’ Throughout the book, you cast a critical lens on British political manoeuvering. Were you ever worried that in being so critical of Britain, you might deny yourself a wider audience?

    SW:Well, it has certainly angered a few people quite vigorously so far. I think the serious point behind the book (or semi-serious) is that Britain has had much more ferocious an impact on the world than British people like to think. I wanted to use the book to emphasise, and indeed rub people’s faces in, the limits of Britain as a ‘good guy’ in the way that Bond personifies. In the end Britain has liberal instincts and has behaved more morally than many other countries, but that’s only part of the story and often a late part. I was reading today about the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 where in Allahabad, for example, some 5,000 Indians were summarily executed just to show who was boss. Britain was the principal beneficiary of the slave trade for many years. British settlers around the world have destroyed whole societies. The more I read about the British Empire the more we appear normally horrible—and yet it is crucial to Britain’s self-esteem to be better and nobler. People will disagree with me but I don’t see their arguments—I’m never happier than wandering around North America, but I think it is just a bit odd not to admit that the whole society of Canada and the US is based on expropriation and violence—much of it British-sourced.

    Q:The Man Who Saved Britain is not just a rant on the fall of the British Empire. It’s, thankfully, also a lot about James Bond and his creator. You are at times critical of Ian Fleming, The Man, but you seem to have a genuine affection for a good deal of his literary output, citing From Russia With Love, Dr. No and Goldfinger as his best. In analysing Rosa Klebb, Dr. No and Goldfinger, you come to the conclusion that: ‘[T]here
    is something authentically nightmarish about these new inventions—partly pantomime, partly myth. They are expressionist in the sense that they can only make grand gestures.’ QUOTE: I think the bit I wrote about the security services just sitting around watching CNN or drunkenly photocopying their bottoms was the last strawOn the other hand, you maintain that The Spy Who Loved Me is a transparent and poor attempt to write from a feminine point of view (this despite the ‘gratification’ that particular book brought you in your adolescence). Can you articulate a general feeling about the merits of the books?

    SW:In the end I just feel such affection and respect for the books that it is impossible to be mean. I was so hard on The Spy Who Loved Me in the spirit of all fans who have to attack something just to prove somehow that actually they are not fans. The books simply do not stand up as completely realized novels—they have too many poor patches and are too hastily written. But I do seriously think that real art can come out of such surroundings—that, as with films, particular scenes are enough to float the rest. Comparing to Shakespeare is silly, but it is fair to point that there are chunks of any of the plays which are kind of hopeless or not funny or involving or anything. It is perhaps true too of Fleming—that when he’s really on fire (the shoot-out in the aquarium in Live and Let Die, Oddjob smashing up Goldfinger’s mansion—does anyone on-line have any specific favourite moments?) he’s fantastically memorable and good.

    Q:You don’t have much time for Kingsley Amis or John Gardner, and you don’t even mention John Pearson, Christopher Wood, Raymond Benson or Charlie Higson. Is it safe to say you are a fan of Fleming, but not the continuation authors?

    SW:I read the Kingsley Amis and thought it so bad that it didn’t seem worthwhile to read anything further—but that could well have been a mistake. If anyone thinks that there is one really worth reading I’d be happy to give it a try.

    Q:If you were that unimpressed by Amis, I wouldn’t think you’d find much joy in the later continuation novels. But you might take a peek at John Pearson’s James Bond: The Authorised Biography Of 007, and Christopher Wood’s novelisation of The Spy Who Loved Me is surprisingly good. You might also give the Young Bond books a go. Many adult fans were sceptical when IFP first announced this series, but most of us have been won over by the first two books in the series.

    SW:I think Young Bond is wonderful and Higson a genius—these books really fell outside my own book’s remit, but they certainly show there is an amazing amount of life left in Bond, even if the official arteries now seem a bit clogged.

    Q:Do you consider yourself a fan of the James Bond films? At one point in the book, you clearly indicate that you feel the first four are really the only good ones. Specifically addressing your interests in the films, you state: ‘I admire Ken Adam and John Barry and the early films’ writers, editors and directors. But even on the central, indeed sacral, issue of Sean Connery himself it is hard to develop specifically devotional feelings.’ But you later state you make every premiere, and that you’ll be there for the opening night showing of Casino Royale. Explain.

    SW:In the end of course I love all the films—once. I think most of the later films just do not stand up to repeat viewings and once you know that Bond is going to get into, say, an invisible car or that he is going to say ‘Christmas comes but once a year’ it is pretty hard not to think there might be better DVDs in the shop. I’m really struck by the ability (or my ability at any rate) to watch the early films over and over again and find so much to enjoy—they are very complete worlds. The later films do not really, to me anyway, seem to have much of a leg up over many other action films.

    Q:You seem very critical of yourself for loving the Roger Moore films so much in your adolescence. But does it not seem that in Roger’s Bond, moreso than any other, British colonialism is glamourously alive and well?

    SW:This is a very good point and one made by a reviewer last weekend who pointed out that surely the real logic of my position is warmly to embrace Sir Roger as he in far purer form defines the general daftness of Britain. Connery is oddly good and plausible (and Scottish) whereas Moore’s Englishness and tongue-in-cheek pseudo-suavity makes a far better case in a more direct way for Britain’s ongoing sense of itself. I’ve definitely missed a trick by not admitting this to be the case.

    QUOTE: Moore’s Englishness and tongue-in-cheek pseudo-suavity makes a far better case... for Britain’s ongoing sense of itself.Q:All Bond fans have ‘pet’ films or books—those which, although the quality of the art may be relatively low, one just cannot help loving. Which are yours?

    SW:A very fine question. I would have to say that chunks of Diamonds are Forever do seem very appealing to me, although as a film it is clearly a real mess. The entire structure came from a bad moment of flailing about by the producers after Lazenby’s departure. Fleming’s book simply supplied some key details—the diamond ‘pipeline’ and the gay killers and Las Vegas—but was too poorly plotted and unambitious to work as a script. There was even a desperate plan to make Bond into an American and bring back Gert Frobe to play Goldfinger’s twin brother hiding in the Las Vegas hotel. Not a good idea. Even as finally done it’s a depressing ruin—that Moon Buggy, Blofeld in drag, Miss Moneypenny appearing for only 5 seconds dressed as a customs official. And Connery looks just too old (aside from suffering from early ’70s clothing issues). And yet, and yet: Wint & Kidd are terrific, it is one of Barry’s best scores, it has some wonderful Ken Adam sets, the fight in the glass elevator is exceptional, the opening credits a treat on a big screen. It’s enough—I’m happy.

    Q:George Lazenby comes in for some rough treatment in The Man Who Saved Britain. Any words for those who feel he’s quite good in the role?

    SW:Well, I have a real sympathy for them. We would all agree I think that OHMSS is the Bond film most argued about. It is the most slavishly loyal to Fleming’s original (even more so than Dr No), it is the most serious, the most carefully acted. The music is superb and everyone would agree that Peter Hunt’s directing is often exceptional. I just think that in the end Lazenby is distressingly uninvolving—that he is asked to act all kinds of scenes (tenderness, comedy) which are just way beyond him. If one could cut out all those and just have him in the action scenes then I agree he would be pretty good, but by the time you have got to those he has spent far too long camping it up (or failing to camp it up) as ‘Hilly’ in glasses and a kilt. What music though. And if we are to see Blofeld at all (which I prefer not to) then let’s have him played by Telly Savalas.

    Q:Who’s your favourite Bond Girl?

    SW:Well, it really has to be Luciana Paluzzi, the villainess in Thunderball—she’s a hopeless actress, but whatever. Having castigated Lazenby for his acting skills, I’m more than happy hypocritically to let Luciana off the hook.

    Q:You express reverence for most of John Barry’s Bond scoring, but you have some harsh words for the Moonraker score. I rather like that one, especially that quintessentially ’70s waah-waah bit when Bond first arrives in Rio. It may be slightly trashy, but it’s John Barry trashy!

    SW:Very true—I just hate the film too much to engage with the music very much—I can hardly hear the music I’m so angry about James Bond in Outer Space or that terrible fight with a plastic anaconda. I need to watch it again—perhaps with the screen covered and just listening to the soundtrack. The bit in the music where the space station is unveiled I think is just magnificent—classic Barry.

    Q:You express bafflement at Bond’s worldwide popularity, in light of the resentment you imagine the rest of the world must feel toward Britain (for its excesses in the days of Empire). Is it possible the rest of the world looks at Bond as just an extremely cool secret agent, without focusing much on the fact that he’s British?

    SW:Yes: definitely. I just thought it was funny (in a childish way) to think how offensive in all kinds of ways he could be viewed as being if you were a sensitive patriot. I left this out of the book (I left a lot of stuff out luckily) but apparently in Udaipur they have videos showing Octopussy everywhere and everyone is really pleased and proud that the film was made there—and of course there is a James Bond Island in Thailand in honour of The Man with the Golden Gun, which was damaged I think in the tsunami. So here are two on the face of it, just possibly not very good and rather offensive movies which have in fact just caused pleasure locally. Surely some people must be wound up though: I’d be surprised to find black Americans thrilled with Live and Let Die or white southerners come to that.

    Q:With respect to the popularity of the Bond films, you wrote: ‘Their success in America seems straightforward enough: they are viewed as comedies of self-delusion’, indicating that you feel American audiences view Britain as some kind of laughing stock. Simon WinderBut, again, there is an argument to be made that Americans dig Bond because he is so damn cool, irrespective of his Britishness; and that Americans (at least that dwindling percentage who possess any significant knowledge of history) look upon Britain as having nobly survived the wars and loss of empire, whilst maintaining its collective dignity. Thoughts?

    SW:Well, I’m sorry you have raised that sentence. I lived in America for some years and my wife is American and I put that in as a private joke really. I saw Four Weddings and a Funeral in New York when it came out and found it unwatchable because all the laughter around me appeared to be at the expense of my country (‘ha! ha! what idiots’) and I eventually had to leave it was so embarrassing. But of course all those New Yorkers just thought it was funny. And it’s the same with the Bond films. Also, to be honest, I did put in several sentences like the above just because I thought that by making such a claim it would completely enrage some British readers. And judging from some comments I have had already, it’s worked.

    Q:Here’s an interesting passage from your book: ‘[W]hat is odd about the sixties in the shape of ‘the sixties’ was that virtually the entire population were in practice excluded—too old, too young, too poor, too busy. This is clearly the case with the James Bond films. These are the fantasies of older men—fantasies of the war, of British greatness, of military service, of class distinctions. What has ‘the sixties’ to do with exclusive golf clubs, knowing what wine to drink with fish, with Venetian hotel suites? The answer of course is a great deal for an older, wealthy generation who felt the whole country was going to the dogs.’ And yet so many of us became Bond fans in our adolescence. Care to play psychologist with that one?

    SW:This section is part of an attempt here by a number of historians (including, for example, Dominic Sandbrook) to convert ‘the sixties’ into a proper bit of history—not simply a place where everyone’s grooving around and taking soft drugs. I think it must be fine though for later generations to buy into what was in reality a pretty confused melange of different overlapping generations. Perhaps my favourite scene in any Bond film is the meal on the Orient Express where Grant gives himself away by asking for red wine with his fish.

    Q:In reference to that same ‘sixties’ passage, can you go into further depth in regards to your comment about virtually the entire population being ‘excluded’? I’d always understood the sixties to have been quite an inclusive time. What do you know that I don’t?

    SW:I just think that most people were not really involved. My dad was the same age as John Lennon but for him, like millions of others, the sixties had no specific meaning—he simply went to work and helped look after a young family. Dominic Sandbrook in his wonderful Never Had It So Good points outthat most of the kids who in the mid 1950s trashed cinemas during the ‘Rock Around The Clock’ riots were working in factories and having children by thetime the Beatles came along and were not part of Beatlemania, which was the next echelon’s business. By ‘excluded’ I mean really that they were looking in other directions and doing nothing very much with a ‘sixties’ flavour. Sandbrook’s theory, which I’m sure is right, is that the period is so dominated by a specific atmosphere because it has been constantly
    mythologised by a bright bunch of people working in the media who came to the fore in the 1960s: and so records and clothing styles and television programmes which were in practice ignored by most of the population (or actively hated) have been endlessly revisited. It’s not that this is illegitimate—it’s just that there are lots of other things going on too.

    Q:I’ll contemplate the mythologisation of ‘The Sixties’ and segue right into your take on main title designer Maurice Binder: ‘He was one of those richly enjoyable figures from a different world whose very specialized skills in manipulating buttocks against coloured backgrounds earned him a unique niche in film history.’ I don’t really have a question here. I just wanted to repeat that lovely line.

    Cover Image: The Man Who Saved BritainSW:I’m glad you like it!

    Q:Is that the final cover art for the American edition?

    SW:I’m not sure—as far as I know it is—swell painting don’t you think?

    Q:Indeed. Do you have any plans for any further Bond-related books in the future?

    SW:That’s probably it. I have lots of spare material and keep thinking of things I’m annoyed I missed out—and things I’m annoyed I left in come to think of it. I’m trying to work out what to write next—but I always plan to write about Bond issues. He’s my first love.

    Q:Just to be clear, although you are often critical of Fleming, the Bond books and films, you are a big fan, right?

    SW:Oh a massive fan. I was in the car yesterday and, as usual, stuck the
    Goldfinger theme onto the CD player. It immediately brought it all back—those marvellous opening credits, with the gold tinted sneak previews of various scenes—fantastically stylish like almost everything in that film—and all thanks to Fleming. I’m disappointed by the later films, but I don’t think those really infect the earlier achievements—a batch of superb books (I reread Dr No last week as I’ve written a new introduction to the UK edition—Just Great) and at least 3 or 4 of the best of all ’60s films. definitely a fan.

    Q:Mr. Winder, thanks so much for your time. Do you have any last words for us?

    SW:Just that your website is seriously interesting and a fascinating resource. It’s great to know there are so many rather terrifyingly well-informed people out there who will no doubt be scouring my book and coming up with an ever bigger running total of gross errors.

    The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

    The CBn Team @ 2006-07-06
  9. The Sylvan Whittingham Mason / Jonathan Whittingham CBn Interview

    James Bond films have been written by a wide variety of screenwriters, from those famous for their adaptations, Charles Helfensteinsuch as Richard Maibaum, to humorists like Christopher Wood, and even children’s authors like Roald Dahl.

    The first man to write a James Bond screenplay was Jack Whittingham, an Oxford-educated journalist and World War II veteran who had much more in common with Ian Fleming and James Bond than any of his Bond screenwriting successors.

    Whittingham’s early screenwriting on Kevin McClory’s ill-fated Thunderball became the center of a legal battle that would rage on for decades.

    Commanderbond.net recently spoke to Jack Whittingham’s heirs, daughter Sylvan and son Jonathan, about the genesis of Thunderball, the subsequent trial, their Beatles’ connections, and an unmade film about Ian Fleming.

    The Sylvan Whittingham Mason/Jonathan Whittingham CBn Interview

    Q: Your father had a long history of writing spy stories, from his first credited screenplay, Q Planes (1939) up through to the ’60s with Danger Man and James Bond. Was he a big fan of the spy genre?

    SWM: He did have a sneaking admiration for spies in the same way that some of us do for the big bank or train robbers. I wasn’t aware that this was a huge thing with him though I do still have his little Minox spy camera that was used in one of the films.

    Whilst I was growing up during the years 6 to about 11 he was in fact doing several films with children. Mandy, Hunted and The Divided Heart were a run of them and he often used to read his days work to us as a bedtime story. QUOTE: never heard my father say a word against Ian Fleming.One of our birthday parties was recorded for children’s voices and used in a scene in the Divided Heart. He also wrote a screenplay of The Prince and the Pauper for Disney.

    I remember Greville Wynne coming to see us in Malta and my father found him most interesting and had many conversations with him. But maybe you are right, as the last screenplay he wrote was based on the Penkovsky papers which was never filmed and which seems to have disappeared as I can’t find the screenplay among his papers. He was terribly enthusiastic about and engrossed in that subject and had enormous admiration for Penkovsky who he said was a true communist who had become disillusioned with the KGB and was horrified at how they were sorting away money and buying shares to become rich, and doing things like staying in luxurious hotels with mistresses and throwing expensive perfume on the carpet. He said it was because of Penkovsky risking his life to warn John Kennedy that the Cuba missile attack was thwarted. In fact, as I recollect, Col. Penkovsky was able to give Kennedy the information that the Russian ships in the vicinity did not have the launching equipment to fire the missiles so that Kennedy was able to make his strong stand.

    JW: Jack also was (jokingly, I hope!) concerned that his involvement with Penkovsky at that time would bring him to the attention of the Russian’s. He even spotted a submarine from his house on Malta, which was somewhat remote, and became convinced that they were about to hijack him and take him back to the USSR for a grilling!

    Q: What are your earliest memories of your father’s involvement with James Bond and Thunderball?

    SWM: My earliest memories would be at about the age of 15 when I was still at boarding school. My father went to New York and the Bahamas to meet Ian Fleming and co., and he used to send me the most wonderful postcards from these exotic places. They were huge and colourful and larger than life compared to the ones we had in England at that time and I was quite proud of what he was doing but, being a very shy child I didn’t tell many people. However, I enjoyed my school friends being envious of these glamorous postcards from the Rainbow Room or some exclusive club in the Bahamas.

    I remember that he came back from the Bahamas and was very ill. He had had a coronary heart attack whilst water skiing and went straight to hospital for three weeks and was not allowed any excitement. This had to be kept very quiet because “heart troubles” were the kiss of death for anyone working on a film in those days. Probably still are nowadays!

    I remember an air of excitement while he was working on the screenplay. Long, long story conferences on the telephone; going to visit Kevin McClory at his new wife’s elegant house in Cheyne Walk and seeing movies of sharks in tanks. Kevin was a very colourful and fun person to be around in those days, full of practical jokes. He would see someone he knew in a restaurant and, on the basis, that you don’t normally look at who is serving you, would borrow a uniform and pretend to be the waiter at that table and spill things everywhere till they actually looked at him and realised who it was.

    IMAGE: l. to r. Detective Kelly, Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Leigh Aman (Lord Marley)

    He borrowed someone’s black tie and tails to go water skiing in once, and he had a friend called Detective Kelly in New York whom he got to arrest people as a joke. I am attaching a mug shot of l. to r. Detective Kelly, Kevin, Jack, my father and Leigh Aman (Lord Marley) that Kevin asked Kelly to arrange to have taken ’for fun’.

    In his Memoirs of a Libel Lawyer the eminent and distinguished Peter Carter-Ruck, talks of being, exhaused, after a very long flight from London, trailing round Miami with Kevin and ending up at a bowling alley!

    “I had arrived in the late afternoon after leaving my home in Hertfordshire at 7 o’clock that morning. Kevin and his wife Bobo Sigrist took me in his open Cadillac all over town. By 10 o’clock that night I asked if we could stop for a meal and, after a talk, and bacon and eggs at one of the motels, I really felt like turning in after a twenty-hour day. It was then suggested that we should go to a bowling alley, by which time I was so tired that, taking up one of the bowls, I threw it so badly that it landed in the adjoining alley. Bobo Sigrist was approached by an American who asked her ‘Where did you pick up these two jerks?’ I finally went to bed at 2 o’clock in the morning having been up for 24 hours”

    On another occasion, Peter was met at the airport in Nassau by Kevin in his new amphibian car and, without any warning, driven at high speed straight into the water and across the bay.

    JW: My first memory was sitting at the kitchen table building a plastic model of a Lancaster Bomber. Jack came in and started asking me all sorts of questions about crews on bombers, their tasks, numbers etc. I was quite chuffed to be put in such a position of importance by him. I was however also disappointed to discover that the Lancaster was by then totally out of date and what Jack really wanted was information on crews for the postwar Bombers, such as the Vulcan and Victor Bombers, which by then employed smaller crews and much more sophisticated avoidance of detection techniques.

    Later on at Charterhouse, the Thunderball court case hit the papers and for a brief spell I enjoyed a position of begrudged envy and respect. It didn’t last. In fact it backfired when some boys took the side of Ian Fleming and then life returned to normal!

    Jack used to write in his study facing the garden. As children we learned to tiptoe around the house, or retreat to the furthest corners of the garden when he was working. His routine would involve getting up quite late, enjoying a leisurely breakfast and disappear into his “cave” around 10.00am. His first drink of the day often started around eleven. After lunch he would work for a while and then take a nap during the afternoon. Apart from a break for supper he would then work steadily until very late at night. As a writer he was plagued by the need to come up with fresh ideas and it took a huge toll. He would consume a lot of alcohol and horrendous amounts of tobacco. He kept a pet budgerigar from time to time that lived in a cage next to his desk. However they were always free to fly around at will, and became quite tame. He had one called Charlie. Charlie would sit and snooze propped up against Jack’s neck. Jack would sit at his desk waiting for his “muse”, a glass of gin in his left hand and the neverending cigarette in the other. Every so often Charlie would wake up and take a stroll down Jack’s arm to the well of gin at the end of Jack’s arm, take a sip and then make his weary way back up Jack’s arm and resume dozing. This would be repeated on a few more occasions until Charlie could barely make his way back up the arm. Then he would very quietly whisper or coo into Jack’s ear. Then Jack would begin to write!

    I met Kevin once during the early days when everything was exciting and looking promising. I must have been about 12 or 13 then. We went to a basement flat up in London to meet Kevin. I noticed that he had a rather intriguing model frogman which I seriously coveted. I let it be known to Jack that I would like to have that frogman which he promised to ask Kevin about. Either he forgot or Kevin declined. When Kevin contacted me in the 1980s I humorously reminded him that I was still waiting for the frogman. He apologised. I am still waiting!

    Q: After the novel debuted and they both had heart attacks, it appeared that your father and Ian Fleming were still cordial, leaving it up to the
    lawyers to settle the plagiarism issue. How would you characterize your
    father’s relationship with Ian Fleming?

    SWM: I never heard my father say a word against Ian Fleming. Jack understood the situation between Kevin & Ian though he chose to support Kevin because he felt it was the right thing to do. He had a good regard for Ian and they never fell out. In fact they were supportive of and concerned for each others health as can be born out by the following letters:

    From Jack Whittingham to Ian Fleming:

    The White House
    Oxshott
    Surrey

    6th May 1961

    Dear Ian

    I do hope that you are mending well, doing all you are told, and none of the forbidden things you would like to be doing! My main consolation was morphine, and I’m not too sure that I haven’t been hooked!

    Following the suggestion in your letter, I have asked Freddie Holdaway, who is the legal adviser to my agents – Christopher Mann – to get in touch with your lawyers,and this has been done. But very understandingly, he was told that you are not to be in contact with the outside world for a while.

    I am recovering slowly and impatiently and hope to be off on my travels for a new film at Whitsun.

    Best wishes for a complete and speedy recovery.

    Yours

    Jack

    From Ian Fleming to Jack Whittingham:

    As from the Clinic
    4 Old Mitre Court
    Fleet Street, EC4

    10th May 1961

    Dear Jack

    I am horrified to hear that you have been on morphine and not only that, but that you are already contemplating your next stint at Whitsun. Is this really wise, or can you take the new thing on in a fairly leisurely fashion? It seems to me that you are getting back into your professional stride a bit quickly!

    I am so glad that your legal adviser is now in touch with my solicitor. I don’t wish to sound ominous or to pre-judge anything, but I do think from what I hear from the legal cohorts on our side, that a graceful composure of such differences as you and I may have between each other might be wisdom.

    However, as I say, this is all on the ‘Old boy’ wave and the main thing is that we should both be in good heart (!) again as soon as possible.

    Again with warm thanks for your kindly letter

    Yours

    Ian

    They also shared a love of fine wines and cigarettes and both indulged in them to excess. Both were warned to stop these activities because of their health. I remember being told by my father that Ian Fleming had persuaded his doctor to agree to his having one drink only a day. His doctor said it must be a standard measure and just one. My father was highly amused because Ian had told him that he had done some research and found out that the strongest drink in the world was a Green Chartreuse and so that was the one drink he was having per day!

    QUOTE: I remember an air of excitement while he was working on the screenplay.

    My father was devastated at the news of Fleming’s death. I was with him in the South of France when he received the phone call and he visibly sunk down and put his hands over his face.

    JW: I concur entirely with Sylvan’s view of their relationship. I think Jack was rather in awe of Fleming, being an Eton man.

    Q: When the Thunderball case came to trial in 1963, you were working for the law firm that represented your father and Kevin McClory. Was the firm confident they would prevail? Did you attend any of the trial?

    SWM: I had gone to work for Peter Carter-Ruck’s firm, Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co via the Alfred Marks Employment agency in September 1961. It was just before my eighteenth birthday and it was my first job. I was an assistant Dictaphone secretary to one of the Partners.

    They were many high profile and famous people that the firm was acting for, and I used to go home in the evenings and report on who I had seen and so on to my parents. This brought the firm to my father’s attention. He investigated and the net result was that the whole case was taken to Oswald Hickson’s due to which Peter remained a constant and loyal friend until his death in 2003.

    IMAGE: Jack Whittingham & Charles Crichton on the set of HUNTED,  July 1951

    Once my father was a client, I funnily enough found it embarrassing. Peter Carter-Ruck who had never even noticed me before, started to stop me in the corridor; put his hand on my shoulder, and ask me how my father was. I felt others were jealous that I was being singled out and instead of trying for a raise on the £7.00 per week I was being paid at the time (as I might have taken the opportunity to do in later years), I left after a few months and went to work with my father on a film in Rome. Thus I cannot answer your question as to whether the firm was confident about the outcome of the case. I think we all felt that because we were in the right, that we would win, although I have learned through bitter experience that this isn’t necessarily always the case in law. As Peter CR once told me in later years, “The only thing you can be sure of, when embarking on litigation, is that it will be expensive!”.

    I did attend the Injunction for the book, but not the main court case. I think space was limited as to how many people you could take in with you at the High Court, and my father tended to take his secretary or my mother with him each day.

    We sat in a smallish court for the initial Injunction of the book. There may have been about 10—twenty people there. I think it took about two days. My father and Kevin were very disappointed that they were not able to halt the distribution of the novel which gave them no credit for the two years invested in this project. I remember the Jonathan Cape lawyer saying that the books were already stacked up in the shops and it was impossible to withdraw them at that stage. It was agreed that a piece of paper with the credits on would be inserted into each book for the first edition, and credits given on any further editions. However, I have two first edition of Thunderball and there is no slip of paper inserted in either. This first edition is the only place you won’t see a credit for my father’s contribution. Everywhere else, be it film, novel, DVD etc the credit is included.

    My father was suffering terribly with his heart at this time. He used to have a lot of angina attacks. He would clutch his chest and we would all hold our breaths as we waited for the pills that thinned the blood and took the pain away to work. I was very worried about him at this time.

    Q: The Thunderball case is incredibly complex, and you’ve tried to set the record straight with your website, using original documents and letters rather than guesses and rumors. What would you say is the public’s biggest misconception about the development of Thunderball?

    SWM: I suppose the main misconception from the public is that Thunderball did not begin as one of Fleming’s novels. I have met very few people who know that it was based on the original screenplay and not the novel.

    Secondly, I feel that the industry’s judgement that McClory mainly, and perhaps my father too were somehow “interlopers” or cashing in some way is a complete misconception; very sad and yet understandable. What people don’t understand is that, although Fleming’s novels were very popular with a certain genre in 1959, they were all turned down as potential films because they were too “sadistic, violent and unbelievable! Also, the tongue in cheek humour that makes the films so palatable was absent in the books”. In the late ’50s, drab kitchen sink drama was the genre, and Fleming had just about given up on any idea of films – he was even tired of the books and wanted very much to travel.

    Even though I, and my family, are no fans of Kevin McClory due to his treatment of our late father, I have to say, in all fairness, that it was he who originally got the ball rolling in this department. He would not take no for an answer. It was his idea to use a screenwriter to write a “believable”, “non sadistic” and “not too violent” screenplay using the character of James Bond with Fleming’s permission. Once this screenplay had been expertly crafted by my father using the various ideas that McClory and Fleming and indeed Ernest Cuneo had contributed, the big fish in the shape of Saltzman and Broccolli moved in and having read my father’s screenplay, were now interested as they could see how it could work.

    The problem facing Ian Fleming was that he did not think that Kevin was experienced enough or responsible enough to carry the vehicle onwards. His way of easing Kevin out by bringing out the novel with no credit for the huge contribution and amount of work that had been done already on the original film (story boards drawn up, budgets planned – they were casting for Bond!) was badly judged and came back to haunt him as we all know.

    Another misconception is the public not realising how far along the first film of Thunderball was into production when Fleming scuppered it.

    However, the biggest misconception which is the misconception that upsets us most of all, is the one where people have claimed that Jack “due to financial problems, backed out of the Main court Case and sold his part of the rights to Kevin McClory”. I quote from a letter that I send out recently which addresses this issue.

    “These totally untrue, inaccurate and unsubstantiated remarks are extremely damaging to our late father’s excellent and unblemished professional reputation.“

    The facts are that he was, at that time, considered one of the top ten British screenwriters who, having completed a very successful and financially rewarding run of films with Ealing studios had gone out on his own as a freelance writer, and, was at that time being woed by Walt Disney himself who wanted to put him under contract. QUOTE: My father said, at the time... that Kevin McClory had absolutely 'everything to gain'... whilst my father had 'everything to lose'.(see Thunderball years“ on my website sylvanmason.com which contains complimentary comments about this and about his talent from Ian Fleming)

    He had absolutely no ’financial difficulties’ whatsoever, and we as a family were enjoying a substantial lifestyle due to him being at the pinnacle of his career, however, as the Thunderball case grew larger and larger and with 999 documents as evidence, threatened to become one of the longest running court cases in history with legal costs that could prove astronomical; and as he had NO RIGHTS at all in the screenplay, having assigned them 3 years previously on completion of the screenplay, to Kevin McClory in a fairly standard Film Institute contract which (sadly for our family bearing in mind that Video and DVD had yet to be invented) assigned “all rights of whatsoever nature” to Kevin McClory; he was advised to step down as co-plaintiff which would carry legal responsibility for costs should they lose, and carry on as prinical witness to support Kevin who he felt had been wronged.

    My father said, at the time, and it might help you to understand his predicament to know, that Kevin McClory had absolutely “everything to gain” from this court case due to having financial backing by a South African millionaire friend, and his new wife Bobo Seigrist—heiress to the Hawker Siddely aircraft corporation, whilst my father had “everything to lose”. He had no rights in the screenplay should they win, and 50% liability for the costs should they lose. With two children in expensive boarding schools, he took the advice to drop co-plaintiveness status, and carried on loyally supporting Kevin as principal witness in spite of the same heart problems that Fleming was experiencing at the time. Problems which they amicably shared letters about during the case, and which killed them both in the end.

    My father who was described, even by Kevin McClory, who later abandoned him after the case, as “the most honorable man he had ever met” was very torn between his friendship and affection for Ian Fleming and his loyalty to Kevin whose plight he defended because he felt it was the right thing to do, in addition to the fact that his professional reputation was also at stake

    If he was going to take any “money” he could have done so, when it was ’allegedly’ alluded to by the other side in letters which I still have. That would have been far more lucrative but my father would never have contemplated that.

    Q: When Thunderball was finally released in late 1965—James Bond had reached the peak of his popularity. Did your father feel happy that something he had helped in its infancy had become so popular, or did he feel somewhat left behind?

    SWM: My father was bitterly disappointed that, after the Court Case in which he supported Kevin to no great advantage to himself, Kevin simply turned his back on him and went ahead with making Thunderball without him, and without even notifying him. In spite of the enormous success and financial rewards that Kevin was to have with the film of Thunderball which he eventually co-produced with Saltzman & Broccoli, he never contacted my father again—perhaps because he was too embarrassed that he had “sold out” to Saltzman & Broccoli—who knows?

    Because of this absence of contact, my father was not aware that Richard Maibaum & John Hopkins has been contracted to write a screenplay based on the novel that was based on the orginal screenplay. He presumed that Kevin would use their original one. Again it is understandable that Richard Maibaum would have been engaged as he had worked on previous films but it was a terrible shock for my father to find this out at a screening of the film. In addition the sole “based on an original screenplay credit” which my father is given in the film itself was left off the posters leaving only the “original story” credit which is shared with McClory and Fleming thus weakening the fact of his contribution and strengthening Kevin’s!

    JW: I went to a screening of Thunderball with Jack and my mother. I don’t remember where or when. I do however remember that Jack was quite depressed by the time the lights went up again. I didn’t understand at all why this would be so. Margot made some conciliatory comments about the credits but to no avail.

    After Jack died I went to Malta to be with Margot for a while(1972). We spent quite a lot of time reminiscing about Jack. Margot explained to me how angry and bitterly disappointed he had been with Kevin’s failure to fulfill what she claimed was a promise by Kevin to include Jack in the production of Thunderball ( by which I mean the further writing of the screenplay) in return for Jack’s loyalty to Kevin during the court case. She was very clear about it. In hindsight perhaps, one can see that Kevin was in a tough spot if he was ever going to see Thunderball on the screen. Saltzman and Broccolli certainly owed Jack nothing. However, if nothing else, Kevin should have been straight with Jack. He wasn’t. His later expectations of help from Jack’s children didn’t sit well with either of us. It still doesn’t.

    Q: Britain was the cultural center of the universe in the 1960s—and you had connections to the two biggest phenomenons: James Bond because of your father, and the Beatles because of Dezo Hoffman, as well as your own singing and songwriting career. What are your memories of that period when the world couldn’t get enough of England’s entertainment exports?

    SWM: Gosh—where would I start. Well, having been brought up in “Show Business” I was not that unused to being involved and around celebrities I suppose, so it was not that unusual for me that I would come across them. It really all became most exciting in the mid-sixties. My memories of ’64 are firstly of fashion. We were fashion mad and had to have the season’s latest thing. I remember vividly my ultra mini skirts and Mary Quant “kinky boots’. You couldn’t get to the upper deck on a routemaster bus without everyone on the ground floor seeing your knickers on the way up. I remember going to Florida in 1967 with my ex husband to record Gary Player, the golfer who was making an LP. We were invited to a smart soiree thrown by friends of Gary. I had realised that the mini skirt had not yet hit America en force and certainly not Florida so had selected the longest one I possessed. Still the hostess of the party could not contain herself and actually lifted up my skirt to see what I was wearing underneath! Tights had also not yet hit the States!

    I used to spend at least an hour putting on my make-up and doing my hair. Nowadays, (if I do it), it takes all of 30 seconds! The Dusty Springfield eyes and false eyelashes took up the most time.

    It was quite commonplace to see celebs at the nightclubs we frequented. I remember getting Paul McCarney’s autograph at the Ad Lib and seeing Ringo at the Aretusa in the same week.

    As far as music was concerned, you were either a Beatles Fan or a Stones follower – for me it was the Beatles.

    I remember leaving the cinema with my current beau having just seen Dr No, and everyone including us jumped into their cars and screamed off as if they were driving Aston Martin’s, and I know I felt like a Bond heroine. We all had to be (or to be seen to be) “Cool” in those days. Unlike today, it was not “cool” to show emotion or be impressed with anything. Everyone wore dark glasses. Everyone seemed to smoke pot!

    The thing that was so amazing about those days was how easily one could get a job or follow any path one wanted to. Having decided I was bored with the very good job I had at the Baker Street Advertising Agency where I had become Copy Chief’s secretary after only 3 weeks in the typing pool, I applied to work in Moyses Stephens florist; to put the records on at Annabell’s nightclub; and I also sent a tape of my singing and guitar playing to Cyril Stapleton’s Radio Luxembourg Talent Search where I came in the final six. IMAGE: Photos of home of Barry Mason & Sylvan Whittingham Mason bought from George HarrisonThree weeks later I had written and recorded a pop record having had absolutely no experience whatsoever of singing in public and a month later was appearing on “Thank Your Lucky Stars” and other pop TV shows.

    Most of us were also quite promiscous—that was cool too! The pill became available in 1960; there was no dire warnings about sexually transmitted diseases that you get nowadays, and in addition, we all thought that we were on the brink of nuclear destruction so “Make Love not War” was the young’s battlecry. I was actually taught how to build a fall-out shelter or seal off a room against fall-out, during my last term at boarding school!

    JW: I was living in a bed-sit in Kingston-on-Thames when “Sergeant Pepper’s” came out. Mike Harrison, Daryl Jackson and myself sat around till midnight smoking dope and listening to the album. Mike had a brilliant idea. “George Harrison lives in Esher. I know where. Let’s take him a joint and tell him what a great album it is”. So we did! He actually let us into his house and we sat around smoking more dope until he very politely suggested, at dawn, that perhaps we should depart as he was tired. His wife Patti was there and the two Psychedelic artists who painted his fireplace and Lennon’s Rolls. George was extremely gracious considering that we were intruders. We discussed the upcoming fishing season!. It was quite bizarre. By coincidence, Sylvan and her then husband Barry Mason, bought George’s house shortly thereafter.

    I was in a local band doing John Mayall covers mostly. We were called “Satan’s Disciples”. We had one gig. Friday night at the local Anglican Church Hall. As soon as we started someone would turn off all the lights. Since we now could not see what we were doing, Punk Rock was born. I had a 1940 Austin all painted up with RAF roundels and a giant “SATAN’S DISCIPLES” in gold letters across the back. The phone number of the lead guitarist’s family home was underneath. His father was a prominent doctor in the area. He was not amused to get midnight calls enquiring where the chickens or virgins were going to be sacrificed. My father hated that car. He was always making rude comments about it. When he and Margot left England for Malta, however, he had no way to get to the airport. I drove them there, Satan’s Disciples and all!

    Q: A few years after he had been involved with two lawsuits against Ian Fleming, your father was approached to adapt John Pearson’s biography of Fleming for a film. Your father’s status as one of Britain’s best screenwriters aside, wasn’t this an odd choice considering the litigation? Do you know any details of the production and why the film never got made?

    SWM: I suppose it was an odd choice. It had never occurred to me. He was approached by someone at The Sunday Times—the name John Junor springs to mind? It was a very good screenplay. My father portrayed the Bond persona stepping out of Ian Fleming’s body as he sat on a train on the trans Siberian railway whilst working for Reuters.

    I know that there was a limit on the time that The Sunday Times held the rights, which eventually ran out. I remember my father saying that the main obstacles to the film going ahead were Ian’s wife Ann who would never like the way she was portrayed, and who thoroughly disapproved of the books anyway. Anyway, it was decided that they could not proceed with it whilst Ann was alive. Incidentally, according to Dad, M stood for “Mother”.

    IMAGE: Sylvan Whittingham Mason with her father, Jack Whittingham

    Q: A lot of people were introduced to James Bond through their fathers. I would imagine for you and your brother it would be impossible to view a Bond film without thinking about your father (“dad would have loved that”, “dad would have written a better script than that”, etc.) Is it easy or difficult for you to watch Bond films?

    SWM: It is very easy for me to watch anything with Sean Connery in it!! but I, personally, have never felt any of the other Bonds came close to him and so only really enjoy the first five. I think one always feels that the first Bond you see is the real one.

    My brother and I have absolutely no problem otherwise watching the films. We are thrilled to have a historical link with them. We are proud of our father’s contribution. We have no hard feelings whatsoever as to what happened except for, as said, regarding Kevin McClory. We believe that the Saltzman and Broccoli team have done a fantastic job all the way along and were the right people to do so, and we wish Barbara every continued success with the next series.

    We are also very grateful to you for letting us put our view forward.

    Yours sincerely

    Sylvan Whittingham Mason

    JW: I agree with Suilven. I would also add that I loved the Fleming books. They were the perfect escape for a testosterone maddened 16 year old stuck in a male only boarding school . However I am glad to report that I have evolved past 16 years old. Apparently there are thousands of men in their fifties who have not! I find this quite amusing. Seriously, I stopped reading the books after Fleming died. I could not accept that a pseudo writer could step into the role. My opinion of the films is the same. I enjoyed the early ones but have never seen a Bond film since the 1980s. I make no connection between Jack and any of the modern Bond material. It is very easy for me not to watch Bond films. My greatest nightmare is that the same people who now run the world are also still Bond fans. Now that is scary!

    Best regards.

    Jonathan Whittingham

    Charles Helfenstein @ 2006-06-22
  10. The Paul Michael Kane CBn Interview

    In recent years, the Literary 007 has been staging a massive comeback for all James Bond fans. Devin ZydelThere have been the recent (and excellent) Titan releases of the 007 newspaper strip stories, Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series, the beginning of The Moneypenny Diaries series, and much more. Today, CommanderBond.net has the honour of interviewing an author of one of these new literary 007 releases. Paul Michael Kane, author of 007 A Literary Dossier, (which had a limited release in February 2006, and is due for an unlimited release TBA) spoke with CBn on his Bond book which covers the novels by Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson.

    Details are also revealed about new additions to the upcoming unlimited release of 007 A Literary Dossier, as well as a second James Bond book that Paul Michael Kane has planned. Enjoy.

    The Paul Michael Kane CBn Interview

    Q:Thank you for agreeing to the interview. To start things off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

    PMK:I am, by trade, a graphic designer. I do, however, have a background in journalism. I’ve written for a variety of newspapers and magazines including CFQ, The International Writer’s Open Forum and Blue Harvest Magazine.

    I remember my father telling me I was too young to read Ian Fleming.I began work in the publishing industry in 2004 with the debut of my first comic book, The Perfect Victim. Aside from the various Bond projects I have in production, I am hard at work on my first novel, The Forgiven (a gothic/crime noir yarn), as well as a series of spin-off Perfect Victim novels and a variety of other projects.

    I am a married man of 7 years and the very proud father of a baby girl. These two ladies in my life are the sole reason I get up in the morning and fight the good fight. Their unconditional love and support is what enables me to do the things I love and are why I get to enjoy life to its fullest.

    Q:How did you become a James Bond fan?

    PMK:
    The first time I picked up a Bond novel, I remember my father telling me I was too young to read Ian Fleming. We had just seen For Your Eyes Only in the theaters (my first Bond Film!) and I wanted to read the book on which the movie was based. 007 - A Literary DossierI did manage to skim a few pages while Dad wasn’t looking and I remember being disappointed at how different it was from the film. My young mind didn’t know the definition of a film adaptation back then.

    A number of years later, in junior high school, there was a literary program initiated to help students enjoy reading. The program was called Silent Quality Uninterrupted Reading Time—given the unfortunate acronym, S.Q.U.I.R.T. Everyday, for 10 minutes, students would have the chance to read a book of their choice. One day I had forgotten my reading material and rushed to the shelves of my science teacher’s room and found a well worn copy of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger. I was hooked! Since then, I’ve managed to put together a fairly complete first edition library of Fleming, Amis, Gardner and Benson—not to mention a number of the 007 spin-off titles.

    As a personal note, I still have that copy of For Your Eyes Only that dad wouldn’t let me read. He passed his PAN edition paperbacks down to me and they are a nice addition to my collection!

    Q:What inspired you to create 007 A Literary Dossier?

    PMK:
    This isn’t going to sound as prestigious as I would like it to. I had this huge comic show coming up in February of 2006—The first ever New York City Comic Convention. My comic title, The Perfect Victim had been out for the better part of two years and I needed something new on my table at the show. I had just recently finished reading Dirk Pitt Revealed, a nice summery of all Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventures. I reasoned that I could do something very similar for the Bond books, but gear it towards comic fans. I’d put a comic style illustration on the cover and write short abstracts designed to introduce new readers to the world of the Literary James Bond! I knew it was something I could put together fairly quickly as I’ve read each book a number of times. I set a budget for a limited print run. I never, in my wildest imagination, thought it would receive so much attention.

    I’ve got e-mails from people like Raymond Benson and John Griswold, author of Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories, asking for copies! Sadly, Raymond and John will have to wait till the second edition as I sold out of every copy at the NYC Comic Convention. I did, however, keep a couple for myself. Numbers 001 and 007, of course!

    Q:What did the research for this book consist of? How long did it take you to write it?

    PMK:
    As I mentioned above, the NYC Comic Convention was approaching–a mere four months away, so my research consisted of quickly skimming through the various titles on my bookshelves. I made notes on my laptop as I reacquainted myself with the chapter titles, then set about creating a schedule. I am fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to work from home, so I set out to write 4 abstracts a day. I am remaining loyal to the Dossier’s original intent...A few weeks later, the first draft was done and my wife gave it a quick once over. After some edits it was off to the printers. The book arrived just in time to debut at the Comic Con!

    Q:The book covers the novels by Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, and Raymond Benson. You’ve mentioned before that a second and larger print of 007 A Literary Dossier is coming in the future; any plans to cover the novelizations and newer literary adventures, such as the Young Bond series by Charlie Higson?

    PMK:
    The second edition of the 007 Literary Dossier will have an unlimited print run and feature a larger page count. It will be expanded to include Charlie Higson’s books, the various movie adaptations by Christopher Wood, John Gardner and Raymond Benson. The Moneypenny Diaries will also be included and even the R.D. Mascott book 003 1/2 – The Adventures of James Bond Junior.

    This new edition will also feature some original artwork commissioned just for this volume. Some of the artists will include Chris Ring, artist on my first comic The Perfect Victim, the very talented Matt Busch and Sarah Wilkinson—both of Lucasfilm, Ltd. fame—and many others. I am remaining loyal to the Dossier’s original intent, that being to appeal to comic book fans, so that’s why I’ve got some of the best comic artists I know to contribute their work.

    Q:Can you explain to us about the process of start to finish? Did the book end up roughly as you imagined it would?

    PMK:I like to think that as long as you stick to certain philosophies, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. One of the philosophies I abide by when writing is A.P.E. First you have to ANTICIPATE what you want to accomplish. During this phase of production, I look at the project from a reader’s point of view. What would make me pick this book up? Why am I going to pay good money for this product? Next is PREPARATION. This is where I set my schedule and budget. How many books do I think I can sell. How quickly and effectively can I write this thing. The last is EXECUTION… setting all other things aside and writing the damn thing out. It’s a pretty effective philosophy when you stick with it. The book turned out exactly how I thought it would because it’s how I envisioned it—self-publishing gives me the creative freedom to call all the shots.

    preliminary pencil art for upcoming unlimited print-run edition

    Q:What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?

    PMK:As always, the hardest part is the Execution mentioned above. I have a day job and family responsibilities that must take precedent over any extracurricular activities, especially ones that may not pay the bill right away. So finding the time to sit down somewhere for a few hours and write is always the challenge. There some late nights to contend with, but after a successful bout at writing something down, it makes it all worth it.

    Q:Tell us about the cover – did you approach the artist with a list of what you had in mind?

    PMK:The cover artist on this book was Roy Cover, a very talented creator. The original piece has two other characters on it, Blofeld and OddJob. They looked too much like their movie counterparts, so I digitally removed them and handed the piece to colorist Thomas Mason. Once I had the colored files, I set about designing the rest of the cover, the background image, cover type and all the stuff on the back cover. It’s amazing what modern technology has provided small time publishers with. You can do an entire book from the seclusion of your office and put out a very slick piece of work.

    Q:It was previously mentioned that the first printing of this book, limited to 250 copies, would be set apart for the 2006 New York Comic-Con, back in February. How was the event? Any stories to share?

    PMK:How was the event? It’s was, quite simply, the best show I’ve ever done. I the years I’ve been doing these conventions, I’ve never had a show go so well for me. Not only did I sell out of the first edition of the 007 Literary Dossier, but came pretty close to selling out of my other titles as well!

    Response to the Bond books was as expected. I had posters printed of the cover of the book and had them plastered behind me as well as skirting the table. I turned a lot of heads with that book and am very thrilled at meeting so many Bond fans.

    The highlight of the show was talking with a movie producer out of California about my title The Perfect Victim. I must say I am quite excited about where these talks might lead!

    Q:Concentrating on the many great James Bond novels, do you have a personal favourite?

    PMK:I have to say that my all time favorite Bond book is actually not a Fleming title. Though I do love all of Ian’s work—I mean he created and set the standard—I have to say that Icebreaker, by John Gardner, was my all time favorite read. It is the one I’ve re-read the most. A very well crafted read with double and even triple crosses. It holds up well to this very day!

    Q:Bond fans often compare the continuation novels to Ian Fleming’s original 14 novels and short story collections, what is your take on this matter?

    PMK:My take is this—I love them all, no matter who’s writing them. Sure there are some better than others, but this happens with every author. I mean look at The Spy Who Loved Me! I see what Fleming was trying to do, but it just didn’t have the same appeal to me as his other efforts did. I, for one, am always looking forward to the newest book and really hope they manage to put together more adult tales in the coming years. I’ve been enjoying the young [Bond] novels, but I like my Bond with a little more seasoning on him; a harder edge. There is a market for it as my little effort as proven to me. People want more Literary Bond. We’ll just have to wait and see what develops.

    Q:You’ve mentioned that you are planning another James Bond book for the future. Is there anything you can let us know about it?

    PMK:After this latest edition of the 007 Literary Dossier, my plans are to take an in-depth look at the ‘Graphic 007’—that is, I am going to be doing a book on the various comic books titles featuring James Bond, 007. at the 2006 New York Comic-ConI feel the need to distinguish that this particular book will not cover the amazing amount of comic strips out there—I’ll save that for yet another volume! This book—I am still toying around with the title—will feature reviews and synopsis of every James Bond comic title out there, including Mike Grell’s Permission to Die and Paul Gulacy’s The Serpent’s Tooth. I also plan on doing exclusive interviews with as many creators, both artists and writers, as I can get a hold of.

    There are some logistics yet to be worked out for this book. I have to get my hands on some titles that are not in my library, but I love a good hunt. I am looking to release this one sometime mid to late 2007. It will also feature some original artwork and be an unlimited release.

    I should note that to keep tabs on these and my other works, please visit pmkane.com for the latest on all my projects and appearances. I love meeting new faces, both on-line and at the various shows I attend… hope to see/meet/chat with you soon!

    Devin Zydel @ 2006-04-11