MARK O'CONNELL

Writer, Author, Bond Fan

Tag: Ian Fleming (page 1 of 2)

THE OTHER FELLOW’S CHOICE – Catching BECOMING BOND on DVD

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CASINO ROYALE IN CONCERT – A triumphant Bond debut at the Royale Albert Hall

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THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS – 30 years of living on the edge

 

“It’s all so boring here, Margo. Nothing but playboys and tennis pros. If only I could find a real man…

Thirty years ago this week Bond bullet The Living Daylights premiered on a particularly balmy June evening at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. Continue reading

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.

 

2015 – THE YEAR OF THE SPY

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes’, otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life” – Ian Fleming

2015 is fast shaping up to be the big and small screen’s YEAR OF THE SPY…..

year of the spy 7

SHAKING AND STIRRING – Belvedere Vodka named as 007 and SPECTRE’s new drinking partner

I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.”

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, 1954

Under the apt PR guise “PROJECT TUXEDO”, the world’s luxury vodka brand Belvedere has announced its new global partnership with James Bond 007 and 2015’s SPECTRE.

“We are delighted to announce that when it comes to his martini, Mr Bond Knows The Difference” says Charles Gibb, President of Belvedere Vodka.

First created in 1993 when the taboos and trade boundaries of Cold War Russian vodka were lifting (and 007 was of course about to enter into an officially sanctioned marriage with Smirnoff – his and the Bond image’s on/off vodka of choice since 1962’s Dr. No), Belvedere Vodka has hit the ground running in its two decades tenure. Generating a new standard and thinking around vodka and its side industries and variants, Belvedere has quickly established itself as a bespoke vodka striving for excellence and distinctive character. Made in Poland from Dankowskie Rye and blended with water, Belvedere’s taste profile is a must for premium restaurants, eateries, bars, hotels and clubs. And now Bond fan gatherings, birthday lists and – yes, I asked – bachelor party libations.

In total, James Bond orders 19 vodka martinis and 16 gin martinis in Fleming’s work.

But as much as this is a cracking marketing angle for both Bond and Belvedere, there is more to this new relationship than sheer profile. Belvedere’s chief of mixology Claire Smith is ‘the first lady of vodka’. At a private demonstration of Belvedere and vodka martinis in an equally private Armed Forces private members club in London (and one with its own Ian Fleming links, of course), Smith proves not only her passion for vodka – and of course Belvedere’s new relationship with 007 – but that she wants the revival of the vodka martini to continue. According to Smith there is a momentum of interest in vodka martinis (no doubt revived by 2006’s Casino Royale and its presentation of the Vesper cocktail). People are wanting to know more from their barman, they are wanting to get that martini and their drinks right just for them. Like our evolving food tastes and knowledge, we are all wanting to know what is in our drinks. We are also moving away from that 1970s and 1980s menu of cocktails and spirits (there was no Babycham at the bar of this particular club).

SPECTRE cast banner 8

This new promotional pairing between SPECTRE and Belvedere is also about democratising the vodka martini – forever a perceived requisite of out-of-reach high-end establishments or disappointingly bad office party Bond nights with some bloke in a corner mixing drinks like Tom Cruise in Cocktail . Treated by bar consultancy and drinks wizard Joe Stokoe to three stunningly realised standards – a Dry Martini (stirred, not shaken), a Wet Martini and a Reverse Vesper – I was instantly able to discern the differences created by preparation and experience. My preference would be the Reverse Vesper (1 part Vermouth, 1 part Tanqueray and 3 part Belvedere vodka). A twist on the iconic Vesper (which is not necessarily the onscreen vodka martini Bond has always had), this Belvedere imbued cocktail was a saucy strapless dress of a glass – attention grabbing but refined with a whisper of Lillet and lemon rind.

“One medium dry vodka martini mixed like you said sir, but not stirred”

Dr. No, 1962

Claire Smith’s engaging and easy passion for mixing, presenting and augmenting vodka is all about creating “a dialogue” between the consumer and bartender. Smith spends time opening up the consumer’s confidence. She wants us to build relationships with our barman. How many of us have wanted to be James Bond and take our place at the bar with that just arrived poise only to fall at the first hurdle – confidence. One of the mainstays of Belvedere and tenets of Smith’s approach is to arm the consumer with the realisation that there are no rules. Bond’s own iconic shaken, not stirred vodka martini is itself an alleged faux-pas of ingredient-bashing excess. Some gin and martini scholars would have you believe stirring and not shaking is the end goal – that shaking can excessively aerate the core components. But Smith and Stokoe are quick to encourage “there are no rules”. What is one person’s martini foible at the end of the working day is another’s starting pistol or refreshing interlude before dinner. Know Your Martini is a recent mantra of Belvedere Vodka and one that equally applies to its marriage with Eon Productions and James Bond. The renowned vodka house wants more than just a fiscally beneficial union. “Vodka is so often overlooked as being neutral, anonymous. And vodka is so much more dynamic than that.” notes Smith. “The future of bar-tending lies in trying to find elegance and beauty and simplicity and making that compelling for the consumer to really get involved with. That’s really what I’m interested in.” Belvedere teaming up with Bond is more than commercialism. It makes bespoke, aesthetic sense.

MONTAGE

 

Of course the panic-peddlers and naysayers will all have their headlines primed about 007 selling out and movie producers taking product placement too far. The Heineken usage in 2012’s Skyfall was scorned by easy headline makers, but when a secret agent is in a backpackers beach bar in Turkey I am kind of assuming ordering a “vodka martini, shaken not stirred” is not quite going to cut it as much as a cold beer. It is worth noting too that Ian Fleming himself would drop in names and products – because they were part of his world and hence 007’s, but also because there is an immediacy and westernised reality about labels. Our homes and daily technology are bound by labels and familiar monikers. Why should 007 the character be  exempt from that? And why should 007 the film franchise not seek out and align itself with the finer leanings of a house like Belvedere? Belvedere join a rich array of Bond beverage “co-stars” including Bollinger, Absolut Vodka, Smirnoff, Macallan and Finlandia.

Head of Belvedere Charles Gibb is a quietly proud man right now. “It’s the size and scale of everything that is James Bond” – he notes – “This union is unique because an integral part of our brand and Bond’s character meet in this wonderful intersection called the Martini. The fact that Ian Fleming and Bond are credited with re-energising the building of what is today the modern-day Martini – and the vodka martini – I think that’s a very unique partnership, you don’t often find something with such a unique crossroads.”

And there is no fear of this business fit not finding the same enthusiasm and knowledge within the Bond family camp. “They certainly know their history of vodka“, remarks Gibb. “They certainly know their history of the martini. And they certainly know their way around a vodka bottle”. 

Belvedere Vodka 007 Launch Day 15-12-14 (23) (c) Mark O'Connell 2014 (1)

Gibbs continues – “the thing for me is we’re going to create our own advertising around it. What that looks like, how that looks is at the moment probably subject to another discussion“. Of course Gibbs, EON and Belvedere are being tight-lipped about just how their vodka will be incorporated into SPECTRE and maybe beyond (I tried to ask of the long term relationship, but ex-Army officer Gibbs is not going to spill this particular bottle of insight and, to be fair, 007 and Belvedere are merely at hand-holding first base right now).

BV_007_Silver Saber

Belvedere will produce two custom-made, limited edition bottles to celebrate Bond’s shaken, not stirred vodka martini and this new partnership with SPECTRE. A 007 twist has been added to Belvedere’s quite beautiful Silver Sabre bottles (they have their own light switch and vague hints of snow-globe flakes inside – I know, right!). The famous Belvedere Palace blue bottles and emblem will be replaced by that of MI6’s Vauxhall headquarters and in February 2015 a marketing campaign will launch with a focus on “on-premise establishments and retail stores” across the globe. Dwight Caines, Theatrical Marketing for Sony Pictures says, “James Bond’s cool attitude and stylish sophistication have always gone hand in hand with his choice of vodka martini. Belvedere is a perfect match“.

MONTAGE 2

To officially launch Bond’s new bond with Belvedere, a “smart and chic” party was held at Covent Garden’s Bond In Motion exhibition in December 2014. With Charles Gibbs, the CEO of Moët Hennessy Christophe Navarre in attendance (Belvedere is part of the LVMH group – Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), representatives from EON Productions and more in attendance the night was a slick and charming way of toasting 007’s newest marriage to the Polish house of vodka. The music decks were manned by one Tinie Tempah and the likes of Douglas Booth, Pixie Geldof,  Kim Hersov, Lily Cole and this Bond fan lent some star appeal to proceedings (I didn’t lend star appeal at all, despite sporting a suit in DB5 silver).

Tinie Tempah spinning / clicking some tunes (c) Mark O’Connell / 2014

Joe Stokoe was also on hand again to keep an eye on three martini bars spread amidst Bond’s car heritage, and various plinth-proud bottles of Bond vodka stood tall. Each bar had a theme – Wet/Dry, Shaken/Stirred and Reverse Vesper. Glimpsed was a new SPECTRE edition of Belvedere as well as the rarest of the rare – edition number ‘007’ of Belvedere’s Palace bottle. In true Elliot Carver launch style, Gibbs and Christophe Navarre unveiled the bespoke bottle just as Tempah filled the room with Kanye West’s Diamonds Are Forever (Diamonds From Sierra Leone).

Moet Hennessy's CEO Christophe  Navarre & Belvedere's Charles Gibb unveil the new MI6 bottle

Moet Hennessy’s CEO Christophe Navarre and Belvedere’s Charles Gibb unveil the rare ‘007’ edition of the equally limited MI6 bottle. (c) Mark O’Connell / 2014

Though one SPECTRE vehicle was sadly absent from Bond In Motion on the night. Resigned to the cloakroom for probable safety where it was surrounded by coats and satchels, SPECTRE and Blofeld’s Bath-o-Sub from Diamonds Are Forever was kept out of harm’s way and sadly didn’t get to see just how the new SPECTRE agents conduct themselves. Quite right too.

For more photos of the launch night and more go to Catching Bullets on Facebook.

With special thanks to Belvedere Vodka, Charles Gibb, Claire Smith, Remmert Van Braam, Joe Stokoe, EON Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Mission team.

www.belvederevodka.com

BV-ECMB-300

 

 

SPECTRE – EON Productions let the cat out the bag on the 24th Bond opus

SPECTRE cast banner 8

“Welcome to the 007 Stage – where budgets go to die” – Sam Mendes

So sure as light follows day, finger follows gold and fall follows sky, there will be a new James Bond movie. So at a traditional press call (this time at the famed 007 Stage on the equally famous Pinewood Studios lot where the new 007 epic has been setting up shop for a while) it has been officially announced that shooting on the twenty-fourth 007 epic is about to begin. And whilst “B24” will continue to be signposted to various locations and unit bases during the seventh month shoot, the rest of the world will know the newest 007 movie now as SPECTRE.

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Official press release, MGM / Sony Pictures / EON Productions

Joining producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, and Daniel Craig on his fourth Bond outing as agent 007 will be two-time Oscar winner, Tarantino favourite and all-round Austrian acting powerhouse, Christoph Waltz. Playing the under-specified “Oberhauser”, Waltz’s casting alongside the title has pulled back the anti-shark floodgates for all manner of speculation and supposition suggesting Roger Moore failed in his efforts to rid the world of Ernst Stavro Blofeld down a chimney at Beckton Gas Works. To be fair on Sir Roger, the biggest victim of Blofeld’s treachery has always been continuity which certainly implies the scarred/not scarred/drag act/wheelchair bound chameleon himself is right royally back in SPECTRE. Or is he?

Ever since Barbara Broccoli and Waltz shared time on the judging panel at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival it felt like only a matter of time until the two-time Oscar winner graced the Bond podium. And of course Waltz has already had a loose brush with Bond having played a German spy in 1989’s Fleming TV drama, Goldeneye. Like Javier Bardem before him, you don’t cast Waltz in a Bond film and not use him. “And the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 2015 goes to Christoph Waltz….”

The SPECTRE Boardroom (from left) Daniel Craig, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear & Andrew Scott.

Sidling up alongside Waltz in a delicious piece of physically ill-matching casting is Dave Bautista. Fresh from his summer 2014 success in Guardians of The Galaxy, the American-Filipino ex wrestler is to play henchmen Mr Hinx. It’s been a while since Bond has a decent bitch fight with a man monolith who can actually act. No – Zao, Kil, Bull and all manner of Brosnan henchmen don’t count.

Irish actor Andrew Scott is to play “Whitehall” colleague Denbigh. Scott (Pride, Sherlock) is a massive fan favourite via his current turn as arch nemesis Moriarty in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Sherlock and no doubt a great box office lure for a whole slew of early 20s lady cult fans. Trust me. I have seen the Whovians and Sherlockians go crazy in Scott’s company and his casting represents more of a box office coup than may yet be realised. He is also a top notch actor. Scott’s Sherlock colleague and co-star Mark Gatiss (Catching Bullet’s very own cat-stroking ‘pre-title’ contributor) told this site upon Scott’s SPECTRE news “I’m naturally thrilled about Andrew being in Bond. He’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant man and now Her Majesty gets the unalloyed pleasure of his secret service!”

“I’m naturally thrilled about Andrew being in Bond. He’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant man and now Her Majesty gets the unalloyed pleasure of his secret service!”

Mark Gatiss on Andrew Scott’s casting in SPECTRE

Returning as MI6’s Chief of Staff Tanner, Rory Kinnear returns to the Eon fold for the third successive time. Clocking in with him at MI6’s new Bernard Lee-tastic HQ is Ben Whishaw as Q (who is already quite pleased to be back in the suit and glasses), Naomie Harris as arch-secretary Moneypenny (she is not arch at all but SPECTRE has now brought back such parlance) and of course Ralph Fiennes as 007’s new boss, passport holder and all-round brace wearing machine, M.

Remembrances of Things Past 

And what of Bond’s women? Well as was touted, rising French actress Lea Seydoux (Blue is The Warmest Colour, Grand Central, Midnight In Paris) is to play the Proustian Madeleine Swann. A possible play on words and continuing Skyfall and writer John Logan’s literary cameos, a madeleine cake was famously referenced at the beginning of Proust’s Swann’s Way – when the subject marks how a nostalgia-making madeleine brings back a tumult of hard emotions and childhood remembrances. A possible clue to Seydoux’s role, Swann’s Way was the first chapter of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherché Du Temps Perdu, 1913) which translates as the more familiar Remembrance of Things Past. A possible pointer to Bond’s personal journey in SPECTRE?

And in what has quickly made bigger headlines than was maybe expected, Italian actress Monica Bellucci (The Apartment, The Matrix Reloaded) is to play the brilliantly named Lucia Sciarra. Aged 50, Bellucci will be the oldest leading Bond actress and marks the first time – if these things really matter (they don’t) only the second actress in 007 history to be older than her Bond (Honor Blackman was older than Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger). Married to French actor Vincent Cassel (Mesrine, La Haine) and already more of a Bond Cougar than a Bond Woman, Bellucci has set many a heart racing and could well – despite her standing already – be the breakout star of SPECTRE.

SPECTRE cast banner 10

 

SPECTRE NUMBER 1 :

How does it stand as a Bond title?

In two words – cool and ruthless.

To paraphrase Ian Fleming it is a blunt instrument of a title. Perhaps like no other 007 marquee name for quite a while it packs a cracking punch. There is no hiding or interpretation with SPECTRE. It certainly makes total sense for a Bond movie that has to sidle up to its sizeable 2015 box office cousins – The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Fury Road, The Man From UNCLE, Inside Out, Terminator – Genysis, The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2, Mission Impossible V, The Martian, The Fantastic Four, The Peanuts Movie (Bond’s US release day buddy) and Spielberg’s own Cold War spy drama St. James Place – to load itself up with the bombast, heritage and killer intent of a title like SPECTRE.

There is no deceit or bluff about SPECTRE. Or is there? Despite the official line being that Christoph Waltz is playing “Oberhauser”, reports and rumour merchants have opted for the easy copy stating Christoph Waltz must ultimately be playing Blofeld. A title like SPECTRE only fuels that and the thought of Waltz waltzing in as a new wave Ernst is just too delicious a premise. But this is 2015. EON are following up Skyfall and Sam Mendes is making his first sequel. This will be a story with plenty of secrets, surprises and triple bluffs up its Mao suit sleeves. The phrase “hiding in plain sight” comes to mind.

(c) Aston Martin Ltd

SPECTRE NUMBER 2 :

Who else will be sat round SPECTRE’s table of Bondage?

Barbara Broccoli confirmed at the March 2014 launch of Bond In Motion that Bond 24 will see the return of a new Aston Martin. Well in true game-show unveiling style, director Sam Mendes whipped back the sleekest tarpaulin ever designed to reveal possibly the sleekest, juice-inducing Aston Martin – the brand new and wholly unique DB10. Designed by Aston Martin’s Gaydon HQ and in unison with EON Productions, the model has been specifically engineered for SPECTRE , the first time the famed car company has created such a bespoke, film-steered sidekick for our man James.

Dr Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, says : “In the same year that we celebrate our 50-year relationship with 007, it seems doubly fitting that today we unveiled this wonderful new sports car created especially for James Bond…I’m incredibly proud of everyone in the team at Gaydon who have brought this special project from concept to reality.” (AstonMartin.com). Aside from the probable stunt requirements dictating more than one back-up of the car, production of the beautiful DB10 will be limited to merely ten models.

Production designer Dennis Gassner has his biggest Bond gig so far as the Ken Adam Does SPECTRE boots are hard to fill. Confirmed locations are now Austria – where the townsfolk of the mountainous Obertilliach in the Tirol region have already seen the Bond circus come to town in preparation for the new year’s ambitious and sizeable shoot. Alongside that, Sölden and Lake Altaussee will be on Bond 24’s itenary too.

Incidentally the Tirol region and Kitzbühel is known Fleming turf. Ian himself would regularly holiday there and Fleming heavily references “Oberhauser” and Kitzbühel (see below). Perhaps Obertilliach is doubling for Kitzbühel?

Flanking such Bond-tastic locations (and nothing screams Bond more than a mountain covered in snow) will be London – playing a significant role, following on from Skyfall – Mexico City and Morocco’s Tangier and Erfoud. Possibly linking Bellucci’s turn as the Italian Lucia Sciarra, the capital Rome will finally feature significantly in a Bond movie. Production has already been based at the mod-classic and landmark Cinecittà Studios for quite a while. As Variety reported on the 24th November 2014, “MGM’s 24th James Bond film is instead expected in Rome between February and March 2015 with reported plans for high-speed car chases down the Eternal City’s narrow cobble-lines streets, and Bond parachuting down onto the ancient Ponte Sisto bridge on the Tiber“.

 

SPECTRE NUMBER 3 :

So what do we need to know about SPECTRE?

SPECTRE_LogoFirst mentioned by Ian Fleming in 1961’s Thunderball novel, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (or  Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – go on Don Black, get that one to rhyme) was next mentioned in 1962’s The Spy Who Loved Me, before taking centre stage in the following year’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The shadowy organisation’s infamous kingpin Ernst Stavro Blofeld later re-appears in 1964’s novel, You Only Live Twice. The Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice books are often classed as The Blofeld Trilogy. But then came the Bond movies which tapped into S.P.E.C.T.R.E. from the start (despite Ian Fleming’s on-going wranglings with producer Kevin McClory who claimed he shared ownership to Ernst and SPECTRE – having allegedly crafted both when developing Bond with Fleming, Jack Whittingham and others for a touted TV project). The dispute behind SPECTRE, Blofeld and indeed Thunderball’s content reputedly stalled the ninth 007 novel from being the first Eon produced Bond movie, so producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman went instead for the [then] less litigious and easier-to-mount Dr. No.

DR. NO: I’m a member of SPECTRE.

BOND: SPECTRE?

DR. NO: SPECTRE. Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion. The four great cornerstones of power headed by the greatest brains in the world.

BOND: Correction. Criminal brains.

DR. NO: The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be.

Dr. No, 1962

The Doctor No of 1962’s Dr. No was instantly on the SPECTRE staff. In its rapid sequel From Russia with Love (1963) the toe-filleting Rosa Klebb had recently defected to SPECTRE from SMERSH (the real life Russian Soviet counter-intelligence organisation). From Russia With Love also marked the first feature appearance of one Ernst Stavro Blofeld – albeit shot with narrative chaste through a careful frame where only his hands and lap cat were seen. Played by Anthony Dawson (who also played SPECTRE agent Professor Dent in Dr. No) and voiced by actor Eric Pohlmann, it was From Russia’s Blofeld that set the template for the onscreen Blofeld – all Mao suits, Angora cats, menacing cuffs and the peril of anonymity.

That notion continued into the fourth Bond movie Thunderball (1965) before later evolving into a no holds (or faces) barred Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (Donald Pleasance, 1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Telly Savalas, 1969) and Diamonds Are Forever (Charles Gray, 1971).

More men have collectively played Blofeld than Bond. Though it is only one Blofeld who has ever tried to win Bond over in a panic by offers of a bizarre delicatessen start-up restaurant scheme (For Your Eyes Only).

Are we keeping up SPECTRE agents? This will not be repeated.

The 1970s saw various legal challenges, internal developments and ownership wrangles plaguing the Bond movies. The return of SPECTRE and Blofeld were toyed with for subsequent 007 episodes but times [and lawyers] changed and Eon Productions reputedly wanted to move on from Blofeld, his organisation and the possible claimants to the artistic properties in question (though the first draft notions of many a later Bond film was to go with SPECTRE). This possibly accounts for 1981’s in-joke overture – where an obscured wheelchair-bound Blofeld and his cat are plunged by Roger Moore and a 80s chopper  into a chimney at Beckton Gas Works (ironically, the site is now part of the SPECTRE inspired Docklands Light Railway monorail).

“He lets the other two fight while he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted then he cannot defend himself. And then like SPECTRE, he strikes”

BLOFELD, From Russia With Love, 1963

 

SPECTRE_Logo Blofeld’s er filmic ‘swansong’ marked the final [to date] onscreen appearance of Blofeld in an Eon produced 007 opus. Of course 1983’s rival Bond film Never Say Never Again saw producer Kevin McClory exercising his rights to SPECTRE and Blofeld (having had the courts rule he does share an element of creative ownership with factors from that one novel). Max Von Sydow portrayed a decent enough Ernst in the less decent enough re-tread, but that would not stop McClory mounting various attempts to remake his remake (the only Bond property he was legally allowed to). Every decade and nearly every ex Bond actor it seemed were beckoned in to McClory’s remake plans with an abundance of schlocky titles (Warhead 2000?!!) and acrimonious lines in the sand.

“SPECTRE’s a dedicated fraternity to whose strength lies in the absolute integrity of its members”

BLOFELD, Thunderball, 1965

007 holding company Danjaq LLC and their various legal representatives naturally responded. Some courtroom altercations made headlines and some did not. The 2012 documentary movie Everything Or Nothing documents the toll it all took on Fleming, McClory, Eon and their associates. However, the end upshot was that in November 2013 the onscreen rights held by the McClory estate (which included Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE) were finally given to Danjaq/Eon and MGM. McClory himself passed away in 2006.

As Variety reported in November 2013, representatives of the McClory estate declared “the 50-year intellectual property row involving James Bond was settled because of a great deal of hard work by the attorneys for the estate of Kevin McClory, MGM, and Danjaq and will benefit James Bond film fans throughout the world.”

 

SPECTRE NUMBER 4 :

Right ideas, wrong rumours

So what does this Bond fan think or hope we have in store? A bespoke, bigger budgeted sequel to Skyfall (which was deliberately produced – as much as you can on a Bond – with an eye on the budget, hence the brilliant domestic, UK based scenes) with the luxury now of a great canonical title and story background. This will not be 1960s SPECTRE. There will not be hollowed out volcanoes and monorails (despite my pleas on a recent media interview for such design quirks). There is also not the concern of the Blofeld/SPECTRE parodies easy copy writers are already throwing at Bond 24. This SPECTRE and its ownership will definitely be cut from that Mendes/John Logan cloth. Already the suggestion is that SPECTRE has one of the biggest intents of a Bond film. Mammoth sets and stunt sequences are being constructed throughout the globe and the box office success of its predecessor buys it some budgetary goodwill (as well as immense pressure).

The cast is cracking. Gone are the days of unknown models and European art-house actors flanking the Bond stage. The cast of SPECTRE could easily be in the next Coen Brothers movie, a Paul Thomas Anderson drama or Tarantino’s next final film. Likewise, the craftsmen and women responsible for this movie have between them been responsible for the look, tone and creative success of Let Him Have It, Interstellar, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Her, Road To Perdition and American Beauty.

We still have no confirmation of a title song performer but lets something for the new year. Sam Smith has made the rumour rounds, but maybe it is time for a Depeche Mode or Rolling Stones type number – something a bit more cock-rock. Less Adele, more Cornell. But I would not be remotely surprised or delighted if Ms Adkins name is once again flanking a Bond film and the Best Song performances at the 2016 Academy Awards. However, two words though for Mendes, Thomas Newman and the EON team – London Grammar.

SPECTRE will be a natural successor to Skyfall. SPECTRE will inhabit its tonal and story world. Whitehall and how MI6 is run and led will once again be a thread, but in ways no-one possibly fathomed. Personally I would like to see Helen McCrory’s MP Claire Dowar being revealed as a SPECTRE agent all along. And what was in that file Mallory threw at Bond at the end of Skyfall?  One thing it is worth remembering – SPECTRE is not solely Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Nor are villain casting conclusions always right.

One final caveat for now is that “Oberhauser” is of course known to the Fleming / Bond world already. Hannes Oberhauser features in Ian Fleming’s 1966 short story Octopussy & The Living Daylights. In this novella (which inspired the onscreen Dexter-Smythe story strand in 1983’s Octopussy), this Oberhauser is pitched as a father figure to Bond, a ski and mountain instructor who was friends with his parents – the deceased Andrew and Monique Bond (referenced in the final act of 2012’s Skyfall). Bond’s parents also died in a climbing accident, the details of which could well be up for speculative grabs.

“It just happened that Oberhauser was a friend of mine. He taught me to ski before the war, when I was in my teens. He was a wonderful man. He was something of a father figure to me at a time when I happened to need one.”

Octopussy & The Living Daylights, 1966

Might SPECTRE be pitching Bond and Blofeld as former childhood friends?

 

ALBERT R BROCCOLI’s EON PRODUCTIONS LTD.

presents

DANIEL CRAIG

as IAN FLEMING’S

JAMES BOND 007 in

SPECTRE

Starring

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

MONICA BELLUCI

LEA SEYDOUX

RALPH FIENNES

BEN WHISHAW

RORY KINNEAR

DAVE BAUTISTA

STEPHANIE SIGMAN

BRIGITTE MILLAR

PEPPE LANZETTA

and NAOMIE HARRIS as MONEYPENNY

Directed by SAM MENDES

Produced by BARBARA BROCCOLI & MICHAEL G WILSON

Written by JOHN LOGAN and NEIL PURVIS & ROBERT WADE

Co-Producer ANDREW NOAKES

Associate Producer GREGG WILSON

Production Designer DENNIS GASSNER

Director of Photography HOYTE VAN HOYTEMA

Editor LEE SMITH

Main Titles designed by DANIEL KLEINMAN

Original Score by THOMAS NEWMAN

Costume Designer JANY TEMIME

Casting DEBBIE McWILLIAMS

Unit Production Manager CALLUM McDOUGALL

Second Unit Director ALEXANDER WITT

Special Effects & Miniature Effects Supervisor CHRIS CORBOULD

Sound Design PER HALLBERG

Stunt Coordinator GARY POWELL

Visual Effects and Miniature Supervisor STEVE BEGG

Filmed on location at Pinewood Studios and Cinecittà Studios, Rome

and Italy, Austria, Morocco, Mexico, London and the UK.

Spectre_onesheet

Catching GOLDENEYE and the London launch of Matthew Parker’s new book

© Mark O'Connell / 2014With Blackwell Rum on standby (a prized brand aptly produced by the owner of the Goldeneye estate, Chris Blackwell), Matthew Parker’s lush tome Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born : Ian Fleming’s Jamaica has been launched in fine Caribbean style.

Charting the physical, political, literary and personal influences of how Jamaica and the Goldeneye estate helped shape Fleming’s writing – in particular James Bond 007 – Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born is a rich, nuanced, highly researched and clever work. It is most accessible at the same time as being deeply complex and an intelligent survey of an island, an empire, a man, his loves and a literary and cinematic sensation.

Author Matthew Parker proudly window-shopping. © Mark O’Connell / 2014

Pitched up at London’s Daunt Books – and surrounded by fiction and non-fiction travel writing – this London launch was a fine location to wet the book’s head and for Hutchinson Books and Random House to proudly announce how Goldeneye is now a Sunday Times Bestseller. And very rightly so.

Various connected guests and scholars were in attendance – including biographer and historian Andrew Lycett (author of the 1995 defining work Ian Fleming – The Man Behind James Bond), Chris Salewicz (author of Firefly: Noel Coward in Jamaica) and other representatives from Noel Coward’s life and estate (Coward was famously Fleming’s neighbour, close friend and confidante at Oracabessa, Jamaica), Ian Fleming’s niece Kate Grimond, the James Bond Radio guys Chris Wright and Tom Sears, the Jamaica High Commissioner Her Excellency Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba and all manner of Jamaican knowledge, artwork and food kindly provided by the team at the Jamaican Tourist Board. Oh, and me.

Personally I was more than glad to be able to have a little, inadvertent chat with Fionn Morgan. Daughter of Ann Charteris, Fionn was sixteen when Ian Fleming married her mother and has a wise stance on her step-father’s life, work, loves and outlooks. She has recently written an interesting piece on Ian and his brother Peter for the The Spectator (Was Fleming as cool as his Brother) and suggested that one of the things Ian is rarely known or recognised for was that he was a great deal more “cosily domestic” than his press and reputation allows. But the night quite rightly belonged to Matthew Parker and that Ian Fleming chap who fifty years since his death can still hold sway at a London drinks party.

My review and thoughts on Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born : Ian Fleming’s Jamaica.

Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born : Ian Fleming’s Jamaica is available now from Hutchinson / Random House. It will be published in the US in March 2015.

 

“See reflections on the water…” – Catching Matthew Parker’s GOLDENEYE – WHERE BOND WAS BORN : IAN FLEMING’S JAMAICA

Ian-Fleming

Following BBC America / Sky Atlantic’s four part Fleming drama series and aptly launching on the fiftieth anniversary of Ian Fleming’s premature death, Matthew Parker’s top-notch Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born : Ian Fleming’s Jamaica is a timely tome exploring just how and why the author fell in love with the island seven years before his typewriter ever did.

Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born is not solely about the genesis of a literary hero (or even his empire hangover of a creator) but the founding of a project, an ideal, a workplace, a lovers retreat, a home and eventually a state of mind. Though it was an abode that key neighbour Noel Coward forever mocked for resembling a medical clinic and would chip away at friend Ian by referring to it as ‘Goldeneye, Ears & Throat’. Designers and labourers who shaped the hillside haven are discussed and referenced as Parker provides a narrative of the land itself. The flora and fauna, the Shamelady green weeds, the colonial sugarcane heritage and how the site was once part of a larger estate with “over 1,000 slaves” carefully reminds of the natural and less natural shadows and traumas serving as an almost greenhouse to the burgeoning seed that was James Bond 007. Fleming is written here as a man with a conscience about the natural world and the moral laws against harming it – a trait which Matthew Parker believes is evident in Bond himself.

Parker – himself born in Central America with a West Indies childhood to follow – is highly aware of the complicated colonial (and less colonial) ownership of Jamaica and how such proprietorships have their own evolutions, devolutions, fall outs and successes. Likewise, this work is also a vital record of the governors, wives, mistresses, laws (both at home and abroad), newspaper magnates (this book crosses history timelines with my own Catching Bullets more than once), vivacious lady pals, boozing and all manner of fallen aristocrats afforded a societal rise on the island.

No stone is left unturned when it comes to the social and societal demarcations of the island and – more importantly – how they changed, progressed and possibly even regressed in the almost two decades Fleming called ‘Goldeneye’ home. This is a Jamaica that Parker is still fascinated in long after Fleming’s death in 1964. “Jamaica provided a home for British eccentricities” says Parker – with the plantocracies and their players avoiding maybe more than just the British winters and the discussions of them in the members club of London. “For Empire nostalgists”, he continues, “Jamaica seemed a delicious slice of the old imperial uncertainties”. But later on, Ian’s wife Ann (and other peers) help Parker underline how the fading of empire in Jamaica had various last hurrahs. To be fair, a lot of Jamaica’s history has been predicated on someone’s last fling of the dice. Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born is as much a history of Jamaica and British rule as it is Ian Lancaster Fleming and Commander Bond.

Parker evokes playwright Stephen Poliakoff’s great sense of how personal intervention, passing characters, eccentric pals and less obvious friendships can all shape a narrative – whether it is James Bond’s or Fleming’s himself. That Poliakoff placement of moments and happenstance is one of the pearls of this book. The accounts of Ian and Ann’s sometimes wilfully tempestuous relationship is familiar to Bond scholars. But here Parker ensures a rich historical insight runs alongside an examination of a marriage, a relationship and, initially, an affair fuelled by two fascinating life-forces colliding in ever-fascinating ways.

Later bound quite rightly to the chronology of Fleming’s novels in the second half of Goldeneye, Parker uses that framework to account for the creative and personal ebbs and flows at ‘Goldeneye’ – and of course Jamaica and the West Indies world beyond that. Parker expands upon his thoughts on each book and its story vices and genesis, but is equally quick to FLEMINGexplore and underline the concurrent relationships Ian has with the likes of housekeeper Violet and  gardener Ramsay Dacosta.  The real-life Havelocks, Strangways, Tanners and Posenbys either cameo or star – adding fair linkage to the fictional and real world of both author and subject. Yet, Parker avoids joining dots that are not there. Not everyone who was very real to Fleming needs to be echoed in his work. In a similar vein, Parker fails to fall into that origins genre trap. He navigates with finesse the now familiar punctuation points of the Bond genesis story. How the Birds of The West Indies tome serves as a possible inspiration for the name of James Bond is never eulogised. More pertinently, lesser known island skirmishes, arrests, smuggling rackets, double-crosses, back-hands, brokered deals, local and less local politicians and their favoured drinking holes are what Parker picks up on as he deftly supposes and impresses with the real world correlations between Fleming and his literary world. A later fictional crisis at the hands of SPECTRE in some exotic land is often traced back to the clash of personalities witnessed first or even third hand by Ian in Jamaica, with Britain as empire as a constant brass frame round Fleming’s mirror.

And like his author subject, Parker occasionally yields his own blunt stoicism too. Towards the end of his life Fleming later noted [as he was preparing Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica with friend Morris Cargill] ‘Jamaica has grown from a child into an adult’. Parker is quick to suggest how Fleming’s own depiction of Jamaicans had however maybe seen less maturation over the years and books.

Less a dry narrative of sandal wearing chaps paying over the odds for their Morland cigarettes than a studious array of thoughts and insight, Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born is no isolated island of a tale. Britain, its media and political animals, the literary and entertainment circles, trade conditions, a devolving empire and the characters of Hollywood itself are involved from the start. With quite a timeline while to go before Eon Productions, Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman came knocking, this is an Ian Fleming and a Jamaica already in the company of visiting Hollywood dignitaries and key players. Some become trusted and vital friends – Blanche Blackwell, Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh and of course ‘Goldeneye’ neighbour Noel Coward (who soon becomes a great Tanner to Ian’s ‘Commander’). Whilst others maybe sit less comfortable with Fleming – such as Errol Flynn who no doubt posed an instant rival of notoriety, womanising and liver strength. A great moment sees Coward and his Firefly abode demand the poolside rules of “nude only” be obeyed at all times. Cue Fleming wandering in one day to find Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh fooling around buck naked with a jazzy, locally sourced ‘cigarette’ on the go.

The Broccoli / Saltzman involvement comes late in the day but that is because – in terms of Fleming and his story with Jamaica – it was the closing chapter, the final act that quickly ran away from him as he returned to Jamaica to write and narratively house his last 007 novel, The Man With The Golden Gun. Parker gleans fresh insight around the Dr. No production and just what Fleming thought about his first screen adaptation. Or to be more specific – what someone said he thought about it. A recurring trait of some of Goldeneye’s contributors creates a real members club gossipy take on Fleming (and joyously so). There is often a real time-capsule sense of being stuck at the quiet table at a function with Parker relaying the better scandal coming from the next table for the reader’s benefit. In discussing the Jamaican production context of the film version of Dr. No, Parker astutely weaves initially random, but ever relevant nods to a visiting Princess Margaret and how the beginning of Bond’s onscreen independence coincided with that of Jamaica’s own burgeoning self-rule (and the British government’s 1962 vetoing of immigrants being able to travel to a Britain that was once known as the ‘mother country’).

It is curious too how the Jamaica, West Indies and Bahamas of Fleming’s real world are discussed by Parker as being on their own final hurrahs. He notes “In the West Indian stories, in the For Your Eyes Only collection, there is also a palpable sense of decline and retreat. In Quantum of Solace, the Bahamas are tired and dull”. Yet one possible oversight of the book is overlooking the explosion of renewed interest in Jamaica, the Caribbean, its depiction and tourism fallout fuelled quite aptly by the Eon movie making take on 007. Though Roger Moore and 1973’s Live and Let Die is aptly discussed. And of course 007 will one day return to Jamaican soil.

Hoping for at least a BOAC airplane holdall of a retro minded story, Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born is so much more than a Mad Men with Red Stripe and sand sort of a biography. It is a skillful mash-up of both time and history, wisely realising –  just like Ian himself – that the island was never just Ian Fleming’s Jamaica, Parker has crafted a valuable document of a publishing phenomenon and now cinematic mainstay, an overseas Britain, a Cold War as witnessed from the warm climes and colonially sourced comforts of Oracabessa and an acute study of an author, his typewriter and which room gets the best sun in the morning.

Goldeneye – Where Bond Was Born : Ian Fleming’s Jamaica by Matthew Parker is published in the US on March 11th 2015 by Pegasus Books and was released in the UK on August 13th 2014 by Hutchinson / Random House.

 

Blofeld is on iPlayer Radio! BBC Radio Four airs ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE

BOND“Why not make it for always?” 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

by Ian Fleming (1963)

 

 

 

 

 

Following on from the success of the radio adaptations of Dr. No in 2008, Goldfinger in 2010 (with Ian McKellen on duty as the titular villain) and From Russia With Love in 2012 (starring Catching Bullets very own foreword-er Mark Gatiss), husband and wife production company Jarvis & Ayres present their new Ian Fleming adaptation, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Adapted by Archie Scottney and both directed and narrated by Martin Jarvis as the voice of Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service once again stars ex Bond villain Toby Stephens in the role of James Bond 007. Alfred Molina is on vocal duties as arch nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld and actress Joanna Lumley steps into the heavy boots of hench-bitch Irma Bunt. Lumley of course was in the 1969 film version of OHMSS, playing one of Blofeld and Bunt’s Angels of Death, narrated OHMSS for BBC Radio Four in the 1990s and in 2008 presented BBC1’s Ian Fleming – Where Bond Began in October 2008.

James Bond seems more interested in gambling at the Casino Royale than tracking down elusive SPECTRE chief Blofeld. Then he meets Tracy, emotionally disturbed daughter of mafia boss Draco. Now he has a double motive: seek and destroy Blofeld, and prevent Tracy killing herself.

(BBC press release)

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was broadcast on BBC Radio Four on Saturday 3rd May 2014. It is available to hear for a small amount of days via here.

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