MARK O'CONNELL

Writer, Author, Bond Fan

Tag: Ian Fleming (page 2 of 2)

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.

Those Magnificent 007 Men in Their Flying, Driving & Diving Machines – CATCHING ‘BOND IN MOTION’

BOND IN MOTION montage 1 d

BOND-IN-MOTION-32

“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)

Mercury Cougar XR7, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (Photos © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

Mercury Cougar XR7, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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”

Thunderball  (1965)

Overseen by Raoul Silva, GOLDENEYE’s Aston Martin DB5 and the scale model of the same car as used in SKYFALL (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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).

© Mark O'Connell 2014

“Boy with toys” – Various souped up examples of Bond machinery from THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and SKYFALL.
(Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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.

Ken Adam’s iconic designs @ The Storyboard Gallery, BOND IN MOTION (Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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.

(L) Artists Royale : a rare and special moment for BOND IN MOTION. 007’s top production designers (Dennis Gassner, Ken Adam & Peter Lamont) unite with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson to prove the charcoal sketch pen is always mightier than the sword.
(R) “So how many Oscars have you got?” – Dennis Gassner, Ken Adam & Peter Lamont catching up in the BOND IN MOTION café.
(Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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.

Flanked by the family wheels (CUB 1 - as seen in A VIEW TO A KILL, THUNDERBALL and CATCHING BULLETS), 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson chat to the press about all things BOND IN MOTION ( / Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

Flanked by the family wheels (CUB 1 – as seen in A VIEW TO A KILL, THUNDERBALL and CATCHING BULLETS), 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson chat to the press about all things BOND IN MOTION
(Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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).

One [not] careful owner : an Aston Martin DBS, a SPECTRE Bath-O-Sub & a Ford Mustang, BOND IN MOTION (Photos © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

One [not] careful owner : an Aston Martin DBS, a SPECTRE Bath-O-Sub & a Ford Mustang, BOND IN MOTION (Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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)

Sgt Pepper’s lonely boat club banned….The Glastron GT-150 speedboat from LIVE AND LET DIE
(Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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)

Little Nellie causing a big stir, BOND IN MOTION (Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

Little Nellie causing a big stir, BOND IN MOTION (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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.

One of these looks stunning emerging from the surf. The other is a Lotus Esprit from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

“Ever heard of Evel Knievel?”

AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

(Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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.

Lean over!”

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.

BOND IN MOTION - 18-03-14 - Jaguar XKR (DIE ANOTHER DAY) © Mark O'Connell 2014 (7)

BOND IN MOTION (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

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.

www.londonfilmmuseum.com

BOND IN MOTION 2Tickets 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.

From 1963… With Love

“He seems fit enough. Have him report to me in Istanbul in 24 hours…”

Rosa Klebb, From Russia With Love, 1963

10th October 2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Eon Productions From Russia With Love. A favourite of both CATCHING BULLETS and even John F Kennedy (who boosted sales by declaring it was his favourite book) this was the first Bond film with a pre-title sequence, the first overture of a title sequence within the film itself, the first Bond film to go to Europe, the first full score by John Barry and the first film to prove that James Bond can indeed return. It is a clear favourite with the Bond producers Eon Productions and always a film that those responsible came back to when discussing how they got it right.

“I’m not mad about his tailor, are you?”

Read more about From Russia With Love in CATCHING BULLETS.

From Russia With Love @ 50 / (c) Mark O'Connell / 2013

 

 

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM – Mendes returning for ‘Bond 24’

Sam Mendes and Barbara BroccoliSam Mendes returning to the Bond fold is great news. Not because Skyfall was the most successful Bond movie, the most successful British movie ever, won two Oscars and a few high profile gongs. It is not even because it was the first Bond movie for a while to become a cultural event, a film whose momentum and qualities both shook and stirred the public’s consciousness and stoked the anticipation for what James does next in a way possibly not seen since the 1960s. No, Sam Mendes returning to direct Bond 24 is great news as the Bond series is in a new golden age of confidence and impetus. With 2012’s fiftieth anniversary bench-marker Skyfall pulling all sorts of clever doves out of Baron Samedi’s top hat, the pressure is naturally there for all involved to find a new hat to pull some tricks from.

Can lightning be trapped in an empty Bollinger bottle twice? Of course it can. 007 producers Eon Productions have a whole cellar full of lightning bottles. But I doubt Bond 24 will be Skyfall Too – Back to the Chapel. It will no doubt take its predecessor’s baton and sprint with it like a gym-fit Daniel Craig. Yet it will be a totally different kettle of SPECTRE piranhas. Heck, there may even be some SPECTRE piranhas in there. And a submersible Prius. With Union Jack airbags. Maybe not.

Yet it won’t retread. We are in era of Bond directors with firm creative signatures of their own. Mendes’ tends towards films exploring what circumstances and the wider facets of society does to people. Respectively American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Revolutionary Road and Skyfall are a turn of the century classic, an ode to gangsterdom, a bitter stab at suburban nirvana and a home-soil vendetta. They are Sam Mendes looking at what wider circumstances, societal structures and defence mechanisms do to the common man. Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva (Skyfall) is no different to Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham (American Beauty). Both have been chewed up and spat out by life. And both allow Mendes to have fun with how they stick up two fingers to the world. Likewise Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead and Away We Go’s Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski are striving to not let the same happen to them. There are lot of roads to perdition in Sam Mendes work. There is no reason to question why a new facet of Bond will not be explored, another internal scar creating external damage laid bare. That is the world of Fleming. And that is the DNA of Bond onscreen.

But along Mendes’ story paths there is a playfulness and wit. Lester Burnham’s breakdown is a lush descent into suburban anarchy and Away We Go is a fun road movie peppered with non-centric eccentrics. Mendes is currently executive producing Penny Dreadful under the auspices of his own creative company Neal Street Productions (Call The Midwife and The Hollow Crown – which of course saw Skyfall’s Ben Wishaw recently scoop the Best Actor BAFTA). Written by Skyfall and Bond 24’s John Logan, Penny Dreadful is a London Victorian re-imagining of the origins of classic horror creations such as Dracula and Frankenstein. A co-production with Showtime, the series is due to bite TV screens in 2014. This sort of baroque villainy has already shown its own teeth (literally) in Skyfall and could well flick a different villainous cape in Bond 24. With John Logan in the writing seat alongside Mendes, the end result of their 2012 ‘act one’ was a carefully arched Bond film marked by rich exchanges pushing the story forward through dialogue, character wit and drives (Bond and Severine, Bond and Silva, Bond and M, Bond and Q, Bond and Kincade, Bond and Moneypenny). The creative impulse to let the characters steer the story was a welcome one and wholly succeeded. Expect more of the same come the Fall of 2015. Skyfall ended with the orphan James Bond presented with a new family. Ben Wishaw’s Q is suggesting he will be back, as might Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ralph Fiennes as the new M. But what about the bureaucratic Clair Dowar MP (Helen McCrory – whose real life husband and possible ‘next Bond’ candidate Damian Lewis is currently shooting Eon’s new co-production, The Silent Storm) and Rory Kinnear’s much-liked ally Tanner? And of course we may well see more familiar keynotes of Bond re-dressed for 2015.

Mendes clearly relished his time working with Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson. It is a team-led ‘family’ operation with working relationships and continuity much valued linchpins. Throughout the 1980s, director John Glen helmed all five successive Bond movies with great results, creating new fans in new generations and blasting the lazy detractors of that era’s output with aplomb (see this writer’s Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan). Sam Mendes will have already done the same. As part of a maybe three-act regeneration of Bond, Skyfall certainly has re-pointed the character for its guardians and its audiences new and old. The twenty-second Bond film relished the heritage of 007. My hunch is that Bond 24 will move forward from that. Or aside. The history of the films will not be sidelined. The much touted ‘formula’ of Bond is entwined with the heritage of the character, the films and those that produce them. Yet, Mendes will want to produce a brand new movie, a brand new take and a brand new project. He has never directed a sequel to any of his cinematic work (whose narratives admittedly do not leave much room for ‘what happened next?’). We all have our wish lists and suggestions (mine would be Barcelona, Washington, a bit of skiing and a Daft Punk theme tune). However, it is worth noting the curious skill of Skyfall was how it packed in wholly familiar turf for the Bond series – London, the Far East and Istanbul – yet dressed it most wisely. Mendes is not about reinventing the wheel, but how the spokes work. We are still in a time of relative studio poverty (Skyfall had to allegedly hem in its budget and the results worked). Bond 24 will no doubt have to rein itself in too – as best as a multi million pound movie can. But having financial and physical restrictions often aides creativity. The Bond series’ production history has always proved that.

For any director or writer to come into that Bond world is no doubt a daunting task. Next time round Mendes is no longer the new boy at school. He is head boy – a proven newcomer with a few trophies (if that matters alongside such global box office stamina) gleaming in the Eon cabinet. But the team at Bond HQ are not wholly looking to emulate Skyfall. They are looking to emulate the decisions, the discussions, the aptitude and perceptions Mendes brought to the table. Of course the dollars and the studios that gave and then counted them are wanting more of the same. That is simple business sense. But film-making – even on the scale of a Bond – thrives on creative relationships and continuity. It is about both project and product for Eon.

The Sony PR elves were forever telling us how Mendes noted his own Bond fandom launched when he saw 1973’s Live and Let Die. There are echoes of that film in Skyfall (the arched villainy, the deathly opening titles, the throwaway dead girls, the drama often playing out on familiar streets and pavements and even the shared double-decker London buses…maybe). The question now is – what Bond film did Sam like next? My money’s on a direct sequel to Octopussy. That barge had to pull in somewhere?!*

(*joking)

Mark O’Connell is the author of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan (Prelude by Barbara Broccoli). www.splendidbooks.co.uk

“When you were young and your heart was an open book…”

LIVE AND LET DIE @40 (c) Mark O'Connell

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.

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