MARK O'CONNELL

Writer, Author, Bond Fan

Tag: Goldfinger

RIP Guy Hamilton – the director who gave Bond his momentum

“My guess is that if they now choose to change of director for every other film, it’s just because you can’t really change the formula, you can merely try to film it your way.” – Guy Hamilton

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PENS MIGHTIER THAN SWORDS – Reviewing BOND BY DESIGN – THE ART OF THE JAMES BOND FILMS

With a growing archive of at least 15,000 illustrations, famed Bond creative hub EON Productions has collated a celebratory [and of course timely] coffee table look at 53 years of 007 design. Written by EON’s Archive Director Meg Simmonds, Bond By Design – The Art of The James Bond Films is a lavish 320 page tome – as much about the unnoticed artisans of cinema as it is James Bond 007’s glorious design legacy.

Straddling the various artistic strands feeding into the onscreen Bond – costumes, sets, graphic design, props, cars and stunts – Bond By Design explores the 007 design palette chronologically from Dr. No through to SPECTRE. As Archive Director at EON Productions, Meg Simmonds not only contributes to countless 007 books, articles, DVDs, auctions and documentaries, she has also helped curate, launch and maintain a triumvirate of Bond exhibitions. Designing Bond (which has just finished a summer run in Madrid), Bond In Motion (now parked up for a successful run in London’s Covent Garden) and the lesser known Exquisitely Evil (at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC) are all must-see branches of this ongoing project to mark and celebrate Bond’s production, sociological and cultural history.

As the lushly reproduced storyboards, charcoal sketches and hand-drawn illustrations evolve into rich marker pen interiors and beautiful water-coloured vistas before making way for the new era’s digital schematics and pre-vis imagery, Bond By Design is as much a document of late 20th century movie entertainment design as it is 007 – an opulent tribute to the lost heroes of movie design. The painted ponderings of costume designer Julie Harris (Live and Let Die) are as rich and relevant as any Cecil Beaton drawing for My Fair Lady. Anthony Mendleson’s costume paintings for 1965’s Thunderball equal any Edith Head etching for those balletic frames and never-ending legs. Donfeld’s watercolour illustrations for Diamonds Are Forever’s Tiffany Case are as luxuriant and era-pinning as any Vogue Paris cover or Robert McGinnis Matt Helm poster from the same time. And check out Barbarella’s Jacques Fonteray and his Moonraker suits and “Breeder” gowns! It is telling too how the ‘house style’ for Quantum of Solace, Royale and Skyfall ‘s digitally produced designs still hark back to that pulp fiction style of paperback cover art.

Of course the creative endowments to Bond and cinema from the likes of designers Ken Adam, Peter Murton, Syd Cain and Peter Lamont go unchallenged. Yet Meg Simmonds and the EON archive go further with Bond By Design. The end result is a rich reserve of those sleek sketches, languid watercolours and the vital scope of ambition EON and Danjaq afford these designers. But, Bond By Design also underlines the furnishing, decorative and architectural savvy these designers had [and continue to have]. The detail and notes Peter Lamont assigns a fairly incidental set and his clear awareness of materials, light, manoeuvrability and tone is as striking as any triangular ceiling of Ken Adam’s. And this is before the internet, online libraries and catalogued furniture archives. It is not enough for these designers to know their production and construction restraints. As this book testifies, they have to be ahead of fashion, erudite with what they know about the history [and future] of interior design and what will let all the global audiences into the story. And that is before you factor in the final challenge that twenty-four Bond films and their design teams increasingly come up against – originality.

“My job is to give them sets to work in that will surprise and amaze an audience”

Peter Lamont

Of course these designers are all sketching for the good of Bond and cinema. But Bond By Design lays bare their own characters. Ken Adam’s thick, dark and angular images for The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldfinger perfectly highlight just how he was indeed “the man who drew the Cold War” (The Daily Telegraph, 2008). Bond By Design sees those filmic and real life influences of his – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Alexander Korda, that Germanistic penchant for precision and cavernous industry and a post-war, Space-Age renaissance of new materials and substances. Likewise, Peter Lamont’s career as a set draughtsman cannot be missed when you witness the mathematical precision he puts into each set, walkway or even doorframe.

“Never a dull moment working on a James Bond film, I can tell you!”

Syd Cain

The devil is naturally in the detail with this collection. It is as much about what we never see as what we do. So costume sketches contain reminders that stunt teams have to wear wet-suits under Lindy Hemming’s red dresses for Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd and notes hint at how Blofeld’s coat of arms from OHMSS must be technically wrong.

 

The what nearly happened clues are nearly as rich as what did make its way up onto the screen. Close scrutiny of the artists notes and thoughts betray that Solitaire might well have worn an afro wig in Harlem in Live and Let Die (with a possible early thought that Diana Ross was in the running for that film?), the scarlet hues and hanging bling of The Man With The Golden Gun’s Bottoms Up Club are now a VIP room norm, that Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever may have had an unused office complex to end all office complexes, that Whyte was first called ‘Graves’, Tomorrow Never Dies’ antagonist was once called Harmsway and that OHMSS’s Syd Cain designed an abandoned dog fight for GoldenEye. Very little is creatively wasted in the Bond franchise.

“What the Bond films did, they stimulated my imagination. I felt the sky was the limit. I could do anything.”

Ken Adam

Bond-by-Design-The-Art-of-the-James-Bond-Films-2It is the staggering specifics that go into these drawings – and ultimately on-screen – that makes Bond By Design such a valuable document for all film lovers, let alone Bond fans. The thought and notes jotted down for a simple flower-covered pillar in a party scene in A View to a Kill or the in-depth measurements Lamont makes for the flower elevations in OHMSS lay bare the commitment to quality first pioneered and bankrolled by the likes of Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and now well and truly continued with Barbara Broccoli and the man with the most producer credits on Bond, Michael G Wilson. This is the tireless effort going on behind, in-front and beside the scenes as hardened fans panic about gun-barrel logos infinitum on 007 forums. So much is actually designed for a Bond film beyond physical sets and theatrically-minded interiors. Gold bars, the front of Baron Samedi’s train, Bond’s MI6 logo, casino chips, Martini glasses, what ornaments a villain owns, is it to be a headscarf or a necklace a panicking tourist wears are all elements that viewers will never see and yet have to be factored in, designed, made and duplicated. This writer has always been a tad partial to a good villain’s logo. And those faux-corporate emblems are lovingly presented too including Zorin Industries’ try-out logos.

“I go with my instincts on every aspect of how I design films. It’s all emotional response to things”

Dennis Gassner, production designer on SPECTRE

SPECTRE is understandably not explored in too much depth this time round as a great many of its design and visual tricks are tied to its plot and story surprises. However, designer Dennis Gassner’s discussion of director Sam Mendes’s urge to explore “hot and cold” in the film makes utter sense for a Bond movie as does the use in Mexico City of those prime 007 colours – “red, black and white”.

As if it needs endorsing any more, this new champion of Bond production books also comes with a pair of glossy Ken Adam designs and a foreword contribution from Adam, Lamont and Gassner. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

 

Bond By Design – The Art of the James Bond Films

by Meg Simmonds

Dorling Kindersley

Published 1st October 2015

 

With thanks to Dorling Kindersley and EON Productions.

 

 

Catching TRIGGER MORTIS at its London launch

“It was that moment in the day when the world has had enough”

Trigger Mortis

The race date was Monday September 7th 2015.

The starting grid was London’s Waterstones Piccadilly.

The grandstand was flanked by Ian Fleming Publications, Orion Books, Fleming family and gathered guests proudly watching the newest Bond author take to the driving seat and rev up the engines for the official launch of the newest 007 continuation novel, Trigger Mortis.

“The man was a genius at what he did”

Anthony Horowitz on Ian Fleming

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

Arriving to a packed crowd in a 1950s Bentley, the 60 year old author of The House of Silk, Moriarty and the Alex Ryder series soon arrived at the Film & TV section of Waterstones’ flagship London store with apologies for taking up so much room with his new tome. In true 007 style (well, true 007 launch style), part of the floor has been dedicated to Trigger Mortis : Unlocking Bond – Les Enfants Terrible’s immersive tribute to 007, Fleming, 1950s motor racing, codes, clues, vintage globe-trotting and Bakelite telephones. Heck, even Geoff Love’s flagship Big Bond Movie Themes album was resplendent on the vintage turnstile! And it was here that the BBC’s Mishal Husein (looking pretty sharp herself) talked through Trigger Mortis with Horowitz – examining its genesis, research and thinking.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

“He’s very good at jumping in and out of Bond’s head”

Anthony Horowitz on Fleming

 

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

One of the key phrases Horowitz’s mentioned throughout was his constant need to remind himself to be “selfless” with Trigger Mortis. This is not his series or even his creation to showboat his own creative foibles, fancies and tics. It is a honest and endearing approach and one that has clearly fed into the strong reviews the book is garnering from critics and Bond literature fans alike. Horowitz is adamant he has not rebooted what Fleming has created. He highlights how you “need a good title, a good girl and good villain“. Quite right. He is also highly mindful of the era that surrounds Trigger Mortis. It is no author’s role to change his book’s societal backdrops or the world vision of its protagonist. Horowitz discusses the gay characters in the book but is forever mindful of keeping faithful to a late 1950s context alongside acknowledging too the shifting attitudes of 2015. Again, it is that “selfless” approach.

“With original material by Ian Fleming”

With Fleming himself looking on in the form of Anthony Smith’s bronze bust of the cigarette-clutching writer, the poetry and casting of Anthony Horowitz’s new role as Bond author became most clear. A TV screenwriting veteran himself (having written such TV fare as Robin Of Sherwood, Poirot and Foyle’s War), Horowitz is the perfect choice to write the 007 novel that incorporates Fleming’s own TV treatment work, Murder on Wheels into a new 007 novel. Murder on Wheels was one of nine TV treatments written by Fleming for a television drama that ultimately never manifested. Some went into the published Bond novels, but four remained tantalisingly unused and, hence, unread.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

The always animated Horowitz explains how he was invited by the Fleming family to use some of these unread works – to somehow weave them into his novel as a starting pistol of sorts. Horowitz has of course changed a few details and names from Fleming’s treatment notes. But Murder on Wheels is very much 007’s original creator waving his lap number flag at Trigger Mortis. He may have died 51 years ago but Horowitz is clearly proud to be able to be in this collaboration of sorts with Bond’s creator on this one.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

Horowitz discusses too how he was fortunate enough to visit Germany’s infamously dicey racetrack – the Nurburgring – with racing driver and expert, Mario Franchitti, how an unsuccessful attempt to get noticed for writing a Bond film screenplay ultimately fed into his first Alex Ryder novel (Stormbreaker) and a small matter of a very public apology at the start of the week. Horowitz had caused a mild storm in a teacup (the sort that only gets unnecessarily amplified by social media) by claiming potential Bond actor headline maker Idris Elba was too “street” to play 007 on screen. Having told Horowitz that he did not need to apologise (Elba is as street as Jack O’Connell and Tom Hardy – so the sentiment has no racist overtones to it), he astutely told this writer he felt it was better to nip it all in the bud. Which he did. He also continued to clarify how he had not slated Skyfall and the forthcoming Spectre, but actually said they were just not as brilliant (in his mind) as 2006’s Casino Royale.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

So there we have it. A full house of press, fans and Bond readers new and old were witness to the latest 007 novel firing off the starting grid. They certainly left feeling Trigger Happy as Horowitz did a lap of honour by signing copies of the hardback. 

It is worth noting that the Waterstones edition of Trigger Mortis features the unseen Ian Fleming text for Murder on Wheels and a discussion chapter from Horowitz himself on how he was inspired and spurred on by it.

With thanks to Anthony Horowitz, Mishal Husain, Riot Communications, Waterstones Piccadilly, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, Fergus Fleming, the Fleming family, Ajay Chowdhury, Remmert Van Braam, Brian Smith, Matthew Field and Orion Books.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2015

 

Trigger Mortis is published now by Orion Books / Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.

For more on Anthony Horowitz’s own site click here. For further photographs from the evening check out Mark O’Connell’s Catching Bullets page.

With thanks to Anthony Horowitz, Mishal Husain, Riot Communications, Waterstones Piccadilly, Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, Fergus Fleming, the Fleming family, Ajay Chowdhury, Remmert Van Braam, Brian Smith, Matthew Field and Orion Books.

 

The film with the Midas Touch – GOLDFINGER @ 50

Goldfinger @ 50

 

A Sunday in March, 1964

Auric Goldfinger’s Ford Country Squire station wagon motors its charge along Main Street on a Sunday afternoon, passing the Embassy Picturehouse and pulling up dutifully at the lights. Its Mustang poppy-red and faux wooden panelling is 1960s Ford personified and the car’s wide dimensions spill into neighbouring lanes of traffic.

But this is not America. And the car’s fictional owner Auric Goldfinger is not at the wheel. Nor is his fictional chauffeur, Oddjob. James Bond is not even sat captive on the back seat as he does in Goldfinger.

This is Esher, Surrey. The year is indeed 1964, but Jimmy O’Connell is driving, his wing man is my Uncle Gerald and my dad, John, is sat in the back. The locals frequenting the pubs of Esher – including Jimmy’s much-loved The Bear – are most intrigued by the left-hand drive and Yankie expanse of the Ford …. and how it handles “like a tart’s waterbed on wheels”. Not very James Bond.

(extract from Chapter 8, Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eszhV1M3Dk8

“Like all institutions that must safeguard their survival, the Bond series adapts and adopts. Three films in and we already recognise where the villains, heroes and those in between are positioned. The film’s glossy calling-card of dousing Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) in gold paint is not just a proficient and nasty way of telling the audience all we need to know about Auric Goldfinger. It tells us what this film series now wants to be – bespoke action adventures, a little bit kinky, a little bit violent, often original, always stylish, yet forever aimed at mass audiences. The Bond films are now in the business of showing their intent rather than telling it.”

(extract from Chapter 8, Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan)

Catching GOLDFINGER throughout the world on its golden jubilee

Following on from fiftieth anniversary screenings in Nottingham, Adelaide, Calgary, the Florida Film Festival, Edinburgh’s famed Cameo Cinema, at the Egyptian in Hollywood and Norway already in 2014, many other global cinema-spots are getting out the gold paint to mark the golden anniversary of the classic 007 blueprint, Goldfinger with their own special screenings.


PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT AND SOME OTHERS HAVE NOW PASSED.

Marking the first time a restored vintae Bond film has been screened in this style in Norway, organizers Morten Steingrimsen and Anders Frejdh are pleased to announce that the film’s production designer Ken Adam (countless iconic Bond films as well as Dr Strangelove, The Madness of King George, Barry Lyndon) and his biographer Sir Christopher Frayling (Ken Adam Designs The Movies). This is the first time Adam has come to Oslo in this context and organisers are justly excited. Joining Adam and Frayling will also be Norman Wanstall (Oscar winning sound designer on Goldfinger) and Margaret Nolan (Bond’s first girl, Dink and title sequence star) will also be in attendance. Adam, Wanstall and Nolan will participate in a Q&A following the screening. The British Ambassador in Norway, Ms. Jane Owen, will also be in attendance to open the festivities.

‘Forventer du at jeg skal snakke?’

‘Nei, Mr Bond, jeg forventer at du skal dø!’

The May 22nd screening and Q&A will be a closed and exclusive event for 292 invited guests. The film will be shown with a newly restored version and all manner of 007 accoutrements will fill the evening in apt style.

A public screening will follow on May 23th – with Norman Wanstall and Margaret Nolan also in attendance.

For more information, click here.

Goldfinger

Oslo Kino, Oslo

May 22nd & 23rd August 2014

8.00pm

PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.


Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens in Alabama is launching Flicks Amongst The Flowers with their first film taking viewers back to the decade the Gardens were founded for their screening of Goldfinger.

The free event will take place in the Formal Garden in front of the newly renovated Conservatory.

“Couples are encouraged to enjoy a unique, themed menu created by Kathy G. which includes “Gold Dust” Truffle Popcorn, Homemade Parmesean Potato Chips, the “Operation Grand Slam,” a unique take on the Cuban sandwich and a Smoked Portabella Panini. The evening’s drink menu will include beer, wine, champagne and martinis” (www.bbgardens.org)

Gates open at 6 p.m., and the film begins at 7:30 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket and find a spot on the lawn to enjoy the film.

For more details.

Goldfinger

Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, Alabama.

May 16th 2014

7.30pm / Free

PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.


And the American Film Institute (AFI) is getting itself in on the celebratory action with three nights of screenings also this May at its Silver Theatre in Maryland, US.

For more details.

Goldfinger

American Film Institute @ Silver Theatre, Maryland, US

May 23rd, 26th & 29th 2014

8.30pm / £18 & £30

PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.


London’s Courthouse Hotel is proud to present their Cinema Club’s own summer showing of Goldfinger in their unique venue.

For more details.

Goldfinger

Courthouse Hotel, London

June 7th 2014

Evening / Cinema Club members only

PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.


London’s Grosvenor Square (home of the real US Embassy) is the setting for The Nomad Cinema’s pop-up cinema screening of Goldfinger. Founded to give 100% to charities, The Nomad Cinema is a roaming cinema experience, setting up camp in the strangest of settings to bring cracking cinema to movie fans. Please note – this screening is silent with Wi-Fi headsets.

For more details.

Goldfinger

The Nomad Cinema (Grosvenor Square)

Thursday 10th July 2014

8.00pm / £16.50 (all profits go to the Sustainability

Institute)


Not to be outdone, the savvy and retro minded Cinespia is hosting a downtown Los Angeles open air screening of the film in perhaps one of the most unique locations Goldfinger has ever been shown at. The film is being screened outdoors on Fairbanks Lawn, a field inside the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (and a stone’s – or hat’s throw – from Paramount Studios). Bring blankets, pillows, picnic and drinks. Wine and beer is permitted, but no spirits please. DJs spin the decks as the sun sets and after the film too.

For more details.

Goldfinger

Cinespia @ the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Blvd)

Saturday 12th July 2014

7.00pm doors / 9.00pm screening / $14


And hot on the golden heels of these Goldfinger events comes news from London that Luna Cinema in association with the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is screening the 1964 classic. To mark the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, arguably the most iconic Bond film of them all, famed outdoors exhibitors Luna Cinema presents a special celebratory screening in the unique tree-lined setting of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre on Sunday 17th August 2014 at 8.30pm.

For more details.

Goldfinger

Regent’s Open Air Theatre, London

Sunday 17th August 2014

8.30pm / £18 & £30


Illinois’s Classic Cinemas’ Paramount Theatre is holding a Bond weekend. Beginning with a newly restored version of Goldfinger in the evening of September 5th, the weekend is also screening The Man with the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me (both on Sunday 6th September 2014).

For more details.

Goldfinger

Paramount Theatre, Kankakee, IL

Friday 5th September 2014

7.15pm / $5


Masterminded by the Swiss 007 club, James Bond Club Schweiz, their Goldfinger – Reloaded event forms a full day of all things golden. Beginning with a location bus tour (following the famed mountainous Furka Pass route of the Swiss-bound cars in the film’s first act – including the DB5), the day also involves a meet and greet with Oscar winning sound designer Norman Wanstall and Bond actress Tania Mallet (Goldinger‘s Tilly Masterson), plenty of photo opportunities, a three course dinner and more…

For more details.

Goldfinger Reloaded

6490 Andermatt, Furkapass/Schweiz

Saturday 13th September 2014

12.00pm  / 190 Euros


From the James Bond Club Deutschland, comes a September screening of Goldfinger at the UFA Palast, Stuttgart. With Bond fan Danny Morgenstern, cars and a Vodka Bar on standby, the day’s events start at 3pm.  For more details.

Goldfinger

UFA Palast, Stuttgart

Saturday 27th September 2014

From 15.00pm  / 8 Euros


 

 

Catching FLEMING – Sky Atlantic & BBC America’s new Bond genesis drama reviewed

Everything I write has a precedent in truth” – Ian Fleming

FLEMING 14

 

More men have played Ian Fleming on-screen than have portrayed his key creation James Bond 007. At least nine in total. Charles Dance (Goldeneye, 1989), Leo Fenn and Jason Connery (Spymaker, 1990), Ben Daniels (Bondmaker, 2005), Skip Goeree (Bernhard – Scoundrel of Orange, 2010), Tobias Menzies (Any Human Heart, 2010), James D’Arcy (Age Of Heroes, 2011),  Jeremy Crutchley (A Caribbean Mystery, 2013) and now Dominic Cooper in Ecosse Films’ new four-part Sky Atlantic / BBC America series Fleming. And that is not including any docu-drama Flemings (Jonathan Pryce voiced him in 2008’s Ian Fleming – Where Bond Began) and the long-mooted Fleming biopic based on Andrew Lycett’s key tome, Ian Fleming – The Man Behind James Bond (1995) which Moon director Duncan Jones was formerly attached to helm.

FLEMING 1Obviously bankrolled by the unabatting global interest in James Bond and itself dramatically launched by an initial question as to “who?” is this 007 character, British director Mat Whitecross (Ashes, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) and writers John Brownlow and Don McPherson (with noted Fleming biographer John Pearson on consultant duties) circle a World War Two context to try and explore the world and motivations of one Ian Lancaster Fleming. It has long been acknowledged that Fleming’s own wartime experiences shaped the outlook and experiences he in turn fed into Bond. His various episodes and Intelligence hijinks were rife for any writer to get their story claws into. But just as Fleming has the obvious audience-savvy agenda of detailing how the Second World War shaped one of the 20th Century’s most iconic characters, this drama also tackles what created Ian Fleming, the writer. Added to that, in Whitecross’s version of events the First World War also has its echoes – and not just with Fleming himself (his father Valentine died in 1917 and received an obituary penned by his friend Winston Churchill) but his family, Britain and the world.

FLEMING 6An initially too contemporary choice to play the very 1930s Ian Fleming, Dominic Cooper is at first too slight, too young, too smooth-chested and just too damn beautiful for Ian Fleming. But very soon under Cooper’s performance this Ian Fleming and, by default, 007 himself emerge as an identifiable figure rather than a Etonian clone, and one carefully shaped by the wars abroad and at home, exhibiting a cruel duplicity in the fields, corridors and silk sheets of battle. It is important to remember too that Ian Fleming was quite a ladies man in his day. It has to make sense he is a modern-day catch like Cooper.

The character of James Bond was always a touch different to James Bond as filmed. Less handsome, less cool, less Scottish. But like Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and JM Barrie, it is a narrative challenge to separate the author’s world from that of their characters when the temptation is to forever assume and join the life dots. It is made doubly difficult with a man whose public persona only really started in his final decade or so. FLEMING 9A product of the dying embers of empire, Fleming’s own carriage and poise is from a different era of Britain, a different era of masculinity and a different era of global oneupmanship. This was a time when thirty year olds looked forty-nine. Cooper is actually older than Ian was at the time. Fleming himself looked far older than his 56 years when – in 1964 – heart disease, life stresses and his vices sadly proved you only live once. Portraying an actual person so often naively boils down to “does he look like him?”. Of course it helps and is a concern. But so too is attracting an audience to a project and a decent actor to a role. It’s about essence not essentials. For that reason, Cooper is very quickly an apt and canny choice – an agile and natty ladies’ man who, no doubt like the real Fleming in his day, is fetching in and out of that naval uniform. The real Ian is often presented in those familiar black and white, smoke-blowing publicity shots – all taken in response to the books and then early films success. But Fleming, Cooper and director Whitecross’s own Eyes Only mission is to remind he had a whole life and a world where his proclivities and roving eye were not enough and one which was possibly hemmed in by becoming a fully fledged writer and author. Cooper lends his Ian FLEMING 11an authority-clashing intuition throughout, partly borne out of a frustration his mistress is someone else’s and that nagging concern about what will any of that generation do after the war has ended? Cooper nails the script’s suggested loneliness with a sense of personal purpose that is very much adrift in the face of a domineering mother and life-thriving older brother (“he’s married to a film star – I’m not”). “Having something to offer” is quickly a key motif. And it is that – rather than the pinch-of-salt homages to gambling, cars, arm-stretched gun poses and monotone European bad eggs – where Fleming more astutely suggests the personal refuge of writing and imagining stories led to 1953’s Casino Royale. Here the creation of that pivotal debut novel is simply presented as being a gesture for eventual wife Ann (Lara Pulver) – even if Cooper’s typewriter-bound Ian dismisses it during an opening coda with “it’s not bloody literature, it’s a pot boiler” which somewhat contradicts his later wish for it to be “the spy story to end all spy stories”. FLEMING 15The historians and archivists all have their insights and theories, but maybe Fleming wrote because sometimes that is all that writers can do. It is not perhaps intentional, but one of the successes of Fleming is its suggestion James Bond 007 was a literary hero for those that experienced and survived the war – for those that knew its duplicities, never-again opportunities, sexual emancipations and regrets.

Playing opposite Cooper is Lara Pulver (Sherlock) as Ann O’Neill, married to a war-absent husband and betrothed as a mistress to Lord Rothermere (Pip Torrens). It is a deliberately confused set-up – for Fleming and the society circles witnessing it. This is an Ann whose cut-glass skills in the function room match her appetites in the bedroom – a sort of Princess Margaret meets Wallis Simpson. Though a near-rape scene as Fleming is mourning the death of a loved one sits goes from harsh to ridiculous and back again as the ‘romance’ crackles away over four episodes. The series narrative core, Ian and Ann’s love maze is a welcome flipside to the spying hijinks as the sadomasochistic leanings of their union become a very adult counterpart to Cooper’s fun Boys Own antics playing spies in Europe.

Some characters do vanish too fleetingly. Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) pops up as a brief and nervous navy junior, Dean Lennox Kelly (Shameless) is a refreshing working class Scot in a sea of stiff upper chaps and German actor Wolf Kahler (familiar to anyone who has seen Raiders of the Lost Ark) plays a crucial conscience-altering Nazi commandant. FLEMING 13Likewise Camilla Rutherford (The Fifth Estate) is cruelly resigned to a couple of scenes (though one of them certainly has impact) as Loelia Ponsonby – Fleming’s more-than-feasible inspiration for Bond’s secretary of the same name. Samuel West as Fleming boss and eventual friend Admiral Godfrey is obviously channelling Judi Dench and Bernard Lee, but the easy nods to ‘M’ make way for a warm, principled series regular. Similarly Anna Chancellor’s marvellous and loyal Lieutenant Monday (the series own Miss Moneypenny) is more sister than conquest turning a blind eye and faked signature where necessary. But it is Lesley Manville’s icy turn as Ian’s mother Eve that steals many a scene with a simmering resentment at Ann whilst making an empirical play at hiding her own skeletons.

As a genesis project (not that Genesis Project – though there is a curious take on The Wrath of Khan’s Kobayashi Maru in the form of ‘The K Protocol’ which Fleming gets involved with) the screenplay lacks the grace and finesse of Mark Gatiss’s sublime An Adventure In Space and Time (2013) which so eloquently focused on the origins of the onscreen Bond’s 1960s cult cousin, Doctor Who. However, the breathing space of a four-act structure focusing almost solely on the war years is a welcome one – even if some of the narrative implications of some of the war exploits will set the eyebrows of the Fleming purists to Roger Moore raising heights. Fleming’s involvement in the famed Operation Mincemeat is not ignored, nor is his alleged brainstorming assistance in the early days of the CIA. However, the subsequent Cold War that shaped Fleming and Bond is kept at bay leaving a gap of context that is perhaps equally important to the origins of our man James. Likewise, some further fun and intrigue could have been somehow had with Fleming’s trademark habit for contrary and provocative titles (You Only Live Twice, Octopussy, Dr No, Live and Let Die, Goldfinger) as well as his alliterative character names (Moneypenny, Pussy Galore, Rosa Klebb, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Scaramanga). FLEMING 10But maybe then the piece becomes a knowing in-joke to itself where Whitecross is damned either way as those life-dots get in the way. Fleming’s intuition for intelligence is a better played out device. It is entwined here with a need and ability to spin a tale, to add a backstory to a war-vital dead corpse, to fake an accent and persona when needs must and to make heart-wrenching false promises for the greater good. All this feels more of a natural parallel to the Bond we all know than fun allusions to golf-ball gadgets and hidden cameras. And like 2012’s Skyfall, this Fleming is also comedically dismissive of the exploding pen culture with a silly scene involving Chancellor’s Lieutenant Monday.

Of course Fleming himself was known to elaborate and embellish (as all good writers should, and certainly those that experience war) so we should forgive the series about him occasionally vaulting over the literary Bond to homage and honour the cinematic Bond. Episode One’s billowing opening titles are a deliberate underwater homage to 1965’s Thunderball and its own overture graphics (which may actually be the last film Ian himself would have wanted referenced as that entry and its now-famous legal shenanigans were hardly welcome). And moments later we have a nicely lensed 007-esque skiing sequence – all shot quite radiantly by Ed Wild with an indie-budget defying bravura seen in each episode. Real-life locations Budapest and London ably double and triple up for Canada, Germany, Austria, Paris and Lisbon and the society bashes, jazz joints and war rooms hold their own under Sophie Becher’s production design. Quite rightly, the whole piece often feels more Bletchley than Broccoli. FLEMING 12The film Bond nods soon make way for the politics at play, with Fleming sickened by witnessing the rising cruelty towards the Jews – a motif repeated later when a braver Ian is able to do something about it. And a cracking sequence sees Fleming and new love Ann flouting the air raid sirens for a first slo-mo clench with glass shattering aplomb. There is a painterly, sleeve-jacket sort of charm to the [computer generated] visual likes of a snowy Nazi mountain retreat no doubt homaging Bond onscreen’s design alchemist Ken Adam, the modernist excess of an archive room’s glass ceiling or a pan-European steam train powering through Austria seen from above. These visual tics dotingly ape that John Buchan cover-art world which writers Brownlow and McPherson suggest inspires the desk-bound Ian. Added to the opulence is Caroline Harris’ sublime costumes – especially the women’s attire which nearly out-Downton’s Downton as various levels of high-end couture swan in and out of many a Mayfair bash with Lara Pulver’s Ann O’Neil particularly turning more than Fleming’s head.

World War Two was a launching pad for Ian Fleming’s discovery of Bond. Whilst Fleming lacks the Jamaican world that furnished Fleming’s writing, any initial encounters with Broccoli and Saltzman and the Cold War time-frame which one could argue finally enabled the writer and his mind a valuable context and distance to twist and fly with the Blofelds, SPECTREs and Tiger Tanakas of his arched, baroque world, it is nevertheless a fun, often lavish and well played ‘imagining’ of the all-important starting pistol. Now where are my Morlands…?

 

Fleming begins on Sky Atlantic in the UK from February 2014 and on BBC AMERICA from January 29th 2014.

 

Mark O’Connell is on Twitter and the Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan Facebook Page.

 

tumblr_mu3bbq4C1c1sh00v0o1_1280With thanks to Sky Atlantic.

 

 

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