A book that is 3 million light years from home.
A book that marks the return of the great adventure.
A book that thought it was safe to go back in the water.
A book that knows what scares you.
A book that is 43 years in the making.
Cue a John Williams overture, a cascade of BMX bikes, a trail of Reece’s Pieces and flying with friends from other stars…
Mark O’Connell didn’t want to be Luke Skywalker. He wanted to be one of the mop-haired kids on the Star Wars toy commercials. And he would have done it had his parents had better pine furniture and a condo in California.
Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman didn’t just change cinema – they made lasting highways into our childhoods, toy boxes and video stores like never before.
In Watching Skies, O’Connell pilots a gilded X-Wing flight through that shared universe of bedroom remakes of Return of the Jedi, close encounters with Christopher Reeve, sticker album swaps, the trauma of losing an entire Star Wars figure collection and honeymooning on Amity Island.
From the author of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan, Watching Skies is a timely hologram from all our memory systems. It is about how George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, a shark, two motherships, some gremlins, ghostbusters and a man of steel jumped a whole generation to hyperspace*.
*Action figures sold separately.
Please rewind all memories before returning.
A BIG and heartfelt thanks to The History Press for the brilliant production and blockbusting efforts to make Watching Skies a true summer blockbuster!
Paperback ISBN 9780750970198
eBook ISBN 9780750986151
For all Watching Skies press, reviewing and media enquiries :
Jess Gofton @ The History Press
For all writer enquiries:
020 7497 0849
Since Bond In Motion‘s launch in March 2014 (full review and galleries), EON Productions and the London Film Museum’s collection of Bond vehicle gems has been attracting fans, tourists, kids and petrol heads alike from across the globe. Masterminded by the London Film Museum’s Jonathan Sands with EON Productions and its Archive Director Meg Simmonds on keen godparent duties, Bond In Motion celebrates those magnificent 007 men and women of Bond and especially their flying, driving and diving machines. Catching Bullets’ Mark O’Connell was invited to take the new display for a spin. And yes, he got to sit in an Aston. And yes, there were buttons to press.
Hot on the heels (or tyre tracks) of 007’s newest bullet, SPECTRE, the London Film Museum has now just launched its first special exhibition celebrating a new 007 movie – The Cars of SPECTRE. Since its 2014 launch where producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson first announced Bond’s newest Aston Martin, this new exhibition helps makes the welcome statement that Bond In Motion will be continuing indefinitely – much to the pride of Jonathan Sands and his museum team who have thoroughly enjoyed the ride, feedback and public enthusiasm so far.
“We are so excited to be presenting our first exhibition dedicated to SPECTRE. We regularly update Bond In Motion with never-before-seen gems from previous adventures but this is the first time we’ve been able to display vehicles from a film that is currently in cinemas around the world”
Jonathan Sands, London Film Museum founder & CEO
Sited in a brand new space amidst 007’s greatest vehicles (which in turn have had a great bout of feng-shui which has refreshed the whole exhibition in the best way – and sees the entire exhibition really using that underground space), The Cars of SPECTRE has now opened its bespoke car doors for the public with apt timing for cinemagoers.
As other SPECTRE exhibits are added to EON’s other two exhibitions (Washington DC’s Exquisitely Evil and the touring Designing Bond), The Cars of SPECTRE‘s main four-wheeled stars are the gleaming triumvirate of Hinx’s Jaguar C-X75, Oberhauser’s 1951 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith and of course the uber exclusive, Aston Martin DB10. Only around ten DB10s were reportedly commissioned but Bond In Motion in fact has two already. Well, one and a very cool half. The DB10 ejector seat stunt rig and a Land Rover Defender (straight from a mountain in Austria) are on display too and testament to the wizardry of Bond, the mathematics of such stunt sequences and the sheer effort that goes into making 007 look effortless. Though there is no Frank Sinatra CD left over in the DB10 by 009.
Added to that is a rich array of SPECTRE storyboards, clapperboards, props and costumes. Easily the coolest cabinet aptly flanking the DB10 is Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford Windsor three piece suit from the Rome funeral scenes and subsequent car chase (complete with collar pin, Tom Ford tie and Crockett & Jones Camberley boots). Yet equally striking is Hinx’s black on black suit on sentry duty by the fire damaged Jaguar and costume designer Jany Temime’s Moroccan trouser suit for Dr Madeleine Swann. Q gets his own display with his ID card, spectacles (SPECTRE-cals….sorry), Q Lab production models, the Omega Seamaster 300 watch and already iconic SPECTRE ring complete the line-up.
The Cars of SPECTRE opens on the 18th November 2015 as part of Bond In Motion. There is no extra charge for the new exhibition (beyond the normal admission price) and the gift shop is certainly stocked with SPECTRE goodies….but no cat food. And be sure to check out the cutest SPECTRE exhibit already making itself at home at Covent Garden – namely Blofeld’s Bath-o-Sub from Diamonds Are Forever.
For a full gallery of photos go to Catching Bullets Facebook page.
Bond In Motion, 45 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London.
Full price – £14.50
Child Ticket – [5-15years] £9.50
Concession Ticket – £9.50 [Students, 65 + and freedom pass holders]
Family Ticket – £38
Under 5 – Free
With thanks to EON Productions, Meg Simmonds, Jonathan Sands, White Ltd and the team at Bond In Motion.
“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….”
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 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.
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?
First 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.
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
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.
as IAN FLEMING’S
JAMES BOND 007 in
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.
With 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.
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.
“I’ve had some optional extras installed”
Aston Martin V8, The Living Daylights (1987)
From the opening shot of the opening Bond movie Dr. No (1962) where three “blind” assassins trundle on a mission of murder across traffic before cowering in a private members club car park, James Bond’s onscreen romance with automobiles was a given. Instantly part of the machismo, panache and kinetic pace of 007, these various fold-up planes, model trains and high-end automobiles are now Bond’s necessary co-stars, sidekicks and maybe even love interest. In 2012’s Skyfall, the fiery death of the Aston Martin DB5 was lent nearly as much impact as the onscreen death of Bond’s wife Tracy forty or so years before. It was certainly as shocking. Maybe. And an earlier reveal in a London lock-up got the biggest cheer in many a screening of Skyfall, including a right royal applause on premiere night.
“I hope my back end will stand up to this!”
Mercury Cougar XR7, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
So it now makes perfect sense for 007 creative house Eon Productions to celebrate Bond’s various vehicular speeding bullets with the London Film Museum’s newly launched exhibition, Bond In Motion. A collaboration between both parties (following a highly successful and extended run at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu through 2012 and 2013), Bond In Motion is the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles and a rich pageant to some of cinema’s most iconic cars. And planes. And motorbikes. And jet packs. And speedboats. And underwater tow-sleds. And that crocodile submersible thing.
“No, some men just don’t like to be taken for a ride”
Kindly invited by Eon Productions and the London Film Museum to a recent preview of Bond In Motion, the day quickly grew faster than an Aston Martin’s self-inflating tyre with surprise reunions, typical Bond glamour, some welcome bubbly and a possible nugget or two of news about October 2015’s Bond 24. Granted a quieter session of grace to fully take in the whole exhibition before the world’s press descended like Japanese ninjas, it was a welcome opportunity to chat to the gathering Bond alumni, particularly top Eon archivist and the ‘M’ of the various Bond exhibitions travelling through the globe, Meg Simmonds. Added to that production designer Peter Lamont, stunt driver and 007 fan Ben Collins (who currently doubles for Daniel Craig and took part in the frenetic Italian road chase in Quantum of Solace), Casino Royale‘s Caterina Murino (who does not have a fear of hammocks as I first queried but does admit they are awful for reading in), current Moneypenny and all-round car wrecker herself Naomie Harris, husband and wife stunt legends Vic Armstrong and Wendy Leech, 007 producer Gregg Wilson, special effects head Chris Corbould (who was able to answer another pressing query of mine – namely, ‘did we do our Christmas shopping last year at the same place?’ … we did), actress Maryam D’Abo (Kara, The Living Daylights), writers Robert Wade and Neil Purvis (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough) and soon to be three-time production designer Dennis Gassner (following on from Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall).
Amidst all the fantasy apparatus and Q-Branch hardware, this Bond author chose instead to not chat to Peter Lamont about his favourite Bond car or maybe even the prop that caused him the most design grief. No, this Bond film author chose instead to take the opportunity to chat about the Octopussy bed (all spray-painted polystyrene and destroyed not long after filming… criminal, I know). Cutting a far too youthful gait for someone in his eighty-fifth year, the now retired Lamont (Titanic, Aliens) was glad to have gone out on 2006’s Casino Royale, which he suggests is one of his best Bonds. That film’s presence is certainly marked in Bond In Motion by one of the Aston Martin DBS’s used for that film’s record-smashing multiple roll, and the curious magic-shattering add-ons necessary to make it happen.
The different phases of Bond production design – all perfectly underlined by Bond In Motion – have always held a fascination. Not just for me, but cinema audiences, design students, new directors and cineastes the world over. Ken Adam’s influence on design (and not just cinema) is immense. Globally renowned architects often cite him as an influence, his bombastic war rooms and HQs are no longer a retro fantasy (The Avengers Assemble and Inception certainly owes him a debt – or an apology), Apple’s flagship stores ape his style, and material contradictions and angular excesses are all over the likes of London’s Canary Wharf tube station.
To witness Mr Adam arrive – and equally cutting a far too youthful gait for his ninety-three years – to a warm welcome from Peter Lamont and current 007 designer Dennis Gassner was a moment to treasure. Clearly, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson couldn’t have been happier to mark such an exhibition with three generations of 007 designers in attendance and some of the most famous examples of all their work flanking proceedings.
And of course Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson were on hand to proudly talk up Bond In Motion for the press, the legacy of all these cars, their own favourites and what the likes of CUB 1 means to the Broccoli family and the history of Bond film production. Naturally the question of 007’s immediate future came up and the astute pair were traditionally coy. However, Wilson confirmed that Bond 24 – Daniel Craig’s fourth spin of the wheel – will feature a brand new Aston Martin. Writer John Logan is indeed hard at work on the script with Daniel Craig crucially inputting as before, the process of casting a villain will begin in earnest in the next few months, the production is based at Pinewood Studios and the film is based on an “original story”. Broccoli declared how this is “the fun bit” – where casting, story arcs, choosing the various creatives and heads of department, planning the stunts and feel of the film is debated and planned to get into enough shape for the commencement of principle photography in the Autumn.
Unfortunately, the gathered Eon ensemble will not be on hand when the doors properly open for the public. But rest assured, there are enough vehicular stars, shiny beauties and colourful flying co-stars on display to keep every Bond fan boy and girl, man and women completely happy. Oh, and the gift shop – don’t let me forget the gift shop! And the ‘get your own gunbarrel pose’ photo room (complete with tuxedos, oh yes).
Astutely situated in London’s Covent Garden (and a gearstick’s length from Bond director Sam Mendes’ current West End hit, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory), from the moment one steps off the street into the immersive and white gallery space of 45 Wellington Street, it is instantly apparent just how much thought and design care has gone into Bond In Motion. Multiple screens herald and celebrate 007’s car moments, Bond anthems are all around you and a 1/3 scale (but still sizeable) model of Skyfall’s Augusta Westland helicopter hangs very carefully on an equally sizeable hoist. Incidentally it was the same hoist that lowered each and every car into the exhibition space in what Bond In Motion’s very own Q – the London Film Museum’s Jonathan Sands – admits was a sweaty process as each car had its own weights, structural concerns and no doubt insurance premiums. And it is the very idea of logistics and planning that sees an upstairs gallery space dedicated to numerous storyboards and design thinking from Bond’s transport options over the last six decades. Including sketches and vehicle concepts by Bond production designers Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Peter Murton and Syd Cain, the collection contains some top notch examples of 007 artistry from the Eon Archive – some of which has never been seen publically before, such as all that now remains of Thunderball’s SPECTRE yacht, the Disco Volante.
“That look like a boat stuck in the Sheriff’s car there, Eddie?”
Glastron V-162 Futura, Live and Let Die (1973)
With an optional tour guide cell-phone ably guiding those that opt for the pre-ordained flow, Bond In Motion takes off proper when one ventures downwards into an underground Aladdin’s cave of 007 delights. Filling a labyrinthine space that once housed a vast flower storage warehouse (serving the Covent Garden’s famed trade) this is now the London Film Museum’s chamber of 007 secrets, an apt underground garage housing the capital’s most expensive run-arounds. Flanked by Auric Goldfinger’s beautiful 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III (which Bond producer Michael G Wilson drove himself to the Skyfall premiere in October 2012) and the all-important Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II aka “CUB 1” from 1985’s A View To a Kill (which due to a familial link is one of the key players in my own Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan), this exhibition very quickly lays it cars on the table with a luxuriant bombast.
“Little Nellie got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances towards her, but she defended her honour with great success”
Wallis WA-116 Agile, You Only Live Twice (1967)
Of course the original factory-floor artistry of these Aston Martins, Lotus Esprits, BMWs, Cougars, Mustangs, Jaguars and Roll Royces speak for themselves. Most of the gathered vehicles here deserve their own pedestal whether they shared screen time with Sean, Roger and Daniel or not. Albert R Broccoli’s very own CUB 1 is a beautiful example of early 1960s car-tistry, regardless of her two Bond film appearances – a lush metallic zeppelin of curves, passenger head room and corners. Likewise, the various incarnations of Aston Martin’s famed relationship with Bond never ceases to amaze even the least car savvy of punters for their sleek aesthetic and low-lying finesse. Rest assured, Bond In Motion is not solely for Bond or film fans. This writer is no petrol head, but the way this exhibition presents itself, the way it allows itself and its visitors room to breathe and let these cars tell their own derring do tales is a key lure for the slightest of Bond geeks. Because this is Eon’s Bond and because their own filmmaking ethos dictates the real thing being real at all times where feasible, this collection is also a high-end reminder of the opulence and quality invested in each new film. There are no Smart cars or family friendly Skodas here. This is an A-grade ensemble of vehicles. The investment Eon pumps into its various filmic projects is no more apparent than in this exhibition.
“Ejector seat? You’re joking!”
Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger (1964)
Of course a great many of these vehicles come with – as 1987’s Bond Timothy Dalton remarks – “a few optional extras“. An added joy is seeing just how the various special effects gurus and design heads over the decades have souped up cars that are so damn cool they didn’t need accessorising. Yet this is the world of James Bond and witnessing the fantasy of that up close is a major plus point of Bond In Motion. So of course the various added missile launchers, studded tyres, ski supports and revolving number plates mark these already special cars as being just that bit more special. Take your time to study the exhibits and props. The amount of detail put into a GoldenEye train, model helicopter or a nearly throwaway Brosnan surfboard is as important to this exhibition and understanding the effort spent on Bond as the smooth fender of an Aston Martin DBS or a Mustang’s red paint job.
“Ever heard of Evel Knievel?”
AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
All delicately lit with aptly positioned montage screens and film friezes adding individual Bond film context, each car is often showcased with visitor access as key. Whilst petting the exhibits will no doubt be frowned upon, this is not an exercise in keeping the public at bay. With a loose theme for the various zones – water, the DB5s (there is more than one), bikes, ski-doos and Skyfall Honda bikes, the destroyed DBSs (the Daniel Craig Astons are invariably Royale-y trashed) and all punctuated with props, miniatures, random helmets, jetpacks and cool piton guns – this exhibition has its own natural flow with a breathing space between these four and two wheeled beauties and plenty of photo opportunities for everyone’s 007 fantasies. Museum head Jonathan Sands has a self-declared fondness for the Roger Moore era (good man) and there is a fun array of 1970s Roger-mobiles. Likewise, there is a lot of Connery kit, particularly showcasing the design alchemy genius of one Ken Adam. Like the quirky cousin that must be in every family photo, You Only Live Twice’s famed gyrocopter Little Nellie is of course in there too – taking pride of place in a spacious wing with various two-wheeled motorbikes, Octopussy‘s tuk-tuk, For Your Eyes Only’s canary yellow Citreon 2CV and The World Is Not Enough’s Parahawks.
Ford Mustang Mach 1, Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Yes, maybe the Lotus Esprit could have been more showcased (or showboated) in the layout scheme of things, but actually its not-obvious placement creates a great “oh my – is that the Lotus?” realisations for any kid of any age to suddenly make an eager beeline for. One of the feng-shui successes of Bond In Motion is how sizing up one car offers a nearby peek of another classic from yesteryear. It’s like being at a school reunion where every conversation is interrupted by someone better to veer towards. More than one sweep through and starting at the end and working backwards is much recommended. And yes – check out the gift shop, nicely sited in one of the underground flower storage catacombs of the museum and inadvertently echoing the “new digs” MI6 end up in 2012’s Skyfall. The ladies can traipse around town with their buff boy Hollister bags, but the Bond fan boys are going to be fighting for a Bond In Motion boutique bag stocked full of mugs, DVDs, prints, clothing and pencils (who isn’t a sucker for a museum pencil?). It also houses a neat case of vintage Bond car memorabilia. And just like how the rather snazzy and kid friendly Scalectrix set available in a canteen room for all to play demonstrates, Bond In Motion straddles a careful line of history, geekery and contemporary.
And my favourite exhibit? Yes, the Astons are beyond lush and the mecha-flippered Lotus Esprit is always going to be the biggest Bond car toy made real. Diamonds Are Forever’s Mustang is – like Las Vegas itself – a bit weather-worn but still holding its sparkle and Blofeld’s Bath-O-Tub from the same film is possibly the campest exhibit in a subterranean world of machismo. But the one that kept catching this bullet catcher’s eye…? Diana Rigg’s Mercury Cougar XR7 from 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Complete with a vintage rack of White Wing skis, this car is simple in its own intent and that of the film it features. No bells. No whistles. Just Steve McQueen cool.
Like a 1970s double-taking Frenchman clasping a near-empty bottle of plonk as a Lotus Espirit motors from the surf, these cars make you pause. Strikingly laid out and physically choreographed by Jonathan Sands, Eon and their respective teams, the exhibition echoes Eon Production’s sister exhibition – Designing Bond – for its insistence on leaving space to let these metallic exhibits breathe. However, it might well overtake Designing Bond on a hairpin bend for the best current exhibition celebrating cinema’s favourite son and spy. Amidst the hardware, ammo and machismo of these cars and vehicles there is an unexpected grace to this collection. But as you shift down a gear for your final lap of the exhibits, there is a private and selfish joy in standing back and surveying the biggest Bond car toy box ever opened in one place. A highly roadworthy experience from lots of careful and not-so-careful owners, Bond In Motion passes its 007 fan MOT with flying (and driving and diving) colours.
“I love a drive in the country, don’t you?”
Citreon 2Cv, For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Bond In Motion opens on March 21st 2014.
Tickets are £14.50 for adults, £9.50 for children and a family ticket is £38. The Museum is currently recommending booking ahead (especially in these early weeks) but also states how people are equally welcome just to turn up and try their chances.
With thanks to Jonathan Sands, Meg Simmonds, Barbara Broccoli & Eon Productions, Sam Fane & Sal Porter at Freuds and the team at London Film Museum. And to Remmert Van Braam, Ben Williams, Adam Bollard & Morten Steingrimsen.
For a whole car boot full of more photos of the exhibition and launch – check out Catching Bullets Facebook page.
November 13th 2013 marked the night the Polari Salon had its annual Polari First Book Prize. Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan was on the shortlist this year so attendance in spesh clothing and clean shoes was a must. And no, I didn’t wear the Octopussy dressing gown or Roger Moore ski-suit despite hinting on Twitter I would (the many open stairs at the Southbank Centre rendered the Octopussy nightgown a no-no for anyone underneath not wanting to cop a peek).
And what a grand night it was, putting – as ever for a Polari gathering – the great and the
good better all together to honour all guises of the queer word – spoken, sung, poetry, narrative fiction, non-fiction, stand-up, performance art and speech. And that was just host Paul Burston’s entrance!
Before the Prize winner was announced, Polari took on its more familiar monthly form. The nights are held at London’s Southbank Centre, cost a very fair fiver and represent two hours (plus interval, book and beverage stall) of the best LGBT readers and writers out there. This month’s menu of salonistas included Rosie Garland, Patrick Flanery, Dee Chanelle, Helen Lederer, Dean Atta and Charlotte Mendelson. It is hard and wrong to underline faves, but Patrick Flanery’s prose was fragile and quick-fire, Dean Atta’s stand-up poetry struck a very contemporary and sadly apt chord (“racism is institutionalised thinking“), singer Dee Chanelle gave the Brazilian street dancers a run for their volume-levels next door and Helen Lederer (a comedy hero of mine) was typically self-deprecating all over the podium.
And then to the grand master-plan, the denouement of the night and Polari’s crowning glory – the Polari First Book Prize 2013. Announced in true “Acadamee Award” style by the quietly incisive VG Lee (a new comedy hero of mine), the Societe Generale sponsored trophy went to Mari Hannah and The Murder Wall. A lovely winner clearly in awe of her charity telethon sized and much deserved cheque took to the stage and made winners of us all. Okay, she didn’t at all. Nor should she. It was her moment and she earned it. Us other four shortlistees got to go home with the ‘win’ that Polari and Paul Burston took us under his sterling wing. Not only have I been asked to read at Polari this year but I have seen first-hand the immense value and support mechanism it represents for queer writers. Writing is a lonely practise at the best of times. Paul himself has rightfully remarked how writing needs a reader to complete the process. Polari allows all manner of voices a podium or chair or even sometimes just a Re-Tweet and gives an audience to so many people, including myself. That is worth its weight in gold. The use of words as help and support versus the use of words to hate and incite is still the centuries old dilemma of language. Even now the use of phrases like “dyke” or “queer” is over-worried by the over-worriers, when it is up to gay individuals to adopt it into their parlance and out of the box marked “abuse”. Included in the audience was Nigerian activist and TV host Funmi Iyanda and out-gay Nigerian Bisi Alimi (now a welcome UK resident having had to flee his home country and family). The pair have their own [and sadly very] valid LGBT story to tell and THIS is where Polari is more than a few dykes and queers supping Pinot from plastic glasses in the name of literature (not that Burston would allow that complacency to sink in – hence his ever changing rota of readers and performers).
Polari and the work and efforts of its alumni, audience regulars (the life and pulse of each monthly gathering), venue owners and just those that pass the word on is one of the greatest LGBT assets in London and indeed the UK (where Polari is stretching its wings north – see here).
Furthermore, Paul and his team of judges give their time and efforts to reading the longlist and shortlisted titles and for my tale of a 1980s Bond fan to even get dropped on the “to read” pile is the stuff of privilege.
The Polari First Book Prize 2013 judges this year:
Paul Burston (Chair of Judges) – author, journalist and host of Polari.
Bidisha – writer, critic and broadcaster
Suzi Feay – literary critic
Rachel Holmes – author and former Head of Literature at the Southbank Centre
VG Lee – author and comedian
Joe Storey-Scott – books buyer
The Polari First Book Prize 2013 shortlist:
The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah (Pan Macmillan)
Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus)
The Sitar by Rebecca Idris (self-published ebook)
Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan by Mark O’Connell (Splendid Books)
The Tale of Raw Head & Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf (Chatto & Windus)
For more on Polari and why you should get along, click here.
Eon Productions Live and Let Die celebrates its fortieth anniversary this week (it opened in the States on June 27th 1973, and a week or so later in the UK). It has been a linchpin of the series and the man on the street’s affection for James Bond ever since. It is also director Sam Mendes stated favourite 007 entry, whose influence is very evident in 2012’s Skyfall.
For more thoughts on Live and Let Die and all the Bond movies, check out Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan.