Price of access to 007?

James Bond fandom is different than others. How so? Well, one can make a living off being a fan because of 007’s longevity. But there’s a price.

The other day we wrote a post about how Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli came down hard on commentary tracks produced for early 1990s laser discs for the first three James Bond movies, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. We got a lot of reponses. The consensus was it was understandable why Eon would crack down but those commentaries provided some honest statements from some of the most important creators of the early 007 films.

That got us to thinking. If you’re going to create videos, or books or articles about the cinema world of James Bond, you have to make a choice: do you seek access to Eon Productions, the makers of 007 films? Or do you go it alone, a possibly risky path?

Some of the featurettes on DVDs of the 007 films are made in cooperation with Eon (hence credits such as, “Very Special Thanks to Dana Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson”). These featurettes are entertaining and well done. But they also are sanitized. For Licence to Kill, we’re told the 1989 film failed “to find a breakout American audience.” Translation: the film bombed in the U.S. (an $8.77 million opening weekend in the U.S. and a total $34.7 million U.S. million box office) while doing better in other markets.

Another part of the 007 film mythology is how actors are put up at five-star hotels during filming. That’s true as far as it goes. But we’re also reminded of how Maud Adams, at a fan outing in the early 2000s said that was great because “they don’t really pay you that much.” That’s not part of officially approved narrative.

Others soldiered on despite the lack of cooperation from Eon: John Brosnan wrote “James Bond In the Cinema,” published in 1972 and later updated. Steven Jay Rubin wrote “The James Bond Films,” first published in 1981, with an update in 1983 (we have both). Rubin, in particular, was one of the first to disclose details of the sometimes-rocky relationship with Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the other co-founder of Eon. Both Brosnan and Rubin wrote with affection about 007 but neither was an extnesion of Eon’s public relations machine. Both Brosnan and Rubin commented on what they viewed as weaker entries in the film series.

Meanwhile, over the years, other “professional fans” have developed business relationships with Eon. You do what you have to do what you have to do. At the same time, there is a price to be paid. You lose part of your independence. For some, that’s an easy decision. For others, well, you have to think about it.

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4 Responses

  1. When Lee Pfeiffer and I wrote The Essential James Bond we were given complete access to Eon’s files and also allowed to use material we had that they didn’t. It was an ‘official’ book sanctioned by them. Our book contains criticism, and at no stage were were asked to tone down what we wrote, or did Eon interfere. They were great to work with.

  2. As I said in reply to the previous blog, I feel there was a definite sea change with the way EON treated these various projects and authors. This seemed to happen around the time GOLDENEYE came out, where they really seemed to embrace their history more. I also said a lot of the criticism of the then current Bond’s from the fan scene (and I was one) was very destructive and juvenile. Also I think the making of the rogue Bond NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN made them nervous and very conscious and sensitive of the rights they owned. Now this is pure speculation on my part but authors like Brosnan and Rubin definitely had problems.
    Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worral are two of the most amiable guys you could meet and already had a history with dealing with EON through Lee’s previous book and the GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL laser discs. I think their approach was different and a lot more understanding and subtle. Besides, I think both could sell ice cubes to Eskimos as the saying goes.
    So which approach is best? I say a bit of both. Both THE ESSENTIAL JAMES BOND and John Cork’s JAMES BOND, THE LEGACY are superb books that came out of co-operation with EON. Where for instance Robert Sellers equally superb THE BATTLE FOR BOND could never have been written under EON’s co-operation. All valid studies of the Bond phenomenon.

  3. Let me preface this by saying any remarks I have to share here certainly aren’t meant to characterize or question what others have had to contribute on this subject, including in comment to the first most recent post here on The HMSS Weblog).

    Something also to keep in mind is that even the most demonstrably objective researcher / writer is gonna have to make judgment calls on sources. Sources with different recitations of “fact” that there is no way to reconcile. Both objectively reputable sources.

    The guy who’s accused of bias toward the position that’s given him access may not be any worse off than the guy who’s dismissed as ignorant as an outside. Or the other way around.

    “Objective” is a title to be earned, not claimed.

    Additionally, I think there’s always going to be a challenge when one tries to graft historical fact (“reality”) onto crafted story telling (disbelief necessarily “willingly suspended”). Audiences claim to want to know more about their on-screen idols. But, you know: They get uncomfortable “getting’ to know ’em, personally” strays too far from how they “must be” in reality, based on the “persona” – which audiences firmly believe they also know.

    In the end, these recordings are valuable to me in that they are original sources, unambiguously self-presenting. I’ll draw my own conclusions from there, thank you very much.

    Probably should confess at this point that I own one of these original laserdisc players. My dad has always been among the earliest adopters of such things. Years ago, he actually coaxed me onto some future-presenting attraction or another at Walt Disney World too many years ago, just to show me a physical example in the presentation of what would be coming soon to market.

    Another example of why I’m proud to be the son of an engineer!

  4. I am sorry Dell having now read what you have to say twice what the hell are you trying to say. It has got to be the pretentious, obtuse way of expressing an opinion I have ever read.

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