Welcome back, Ian Fleming

It took a while, but finally 007’s creator is getting a little attention during the 50th anniversary year of the cinematic James Bond.

On April 29, Eon Productions conducted a press conference in Istanbul. It was almost six months after the early November press conference to kick off filming of the 23rd James Bond movie. Fleming, without whom the “Bond wagon” of the past half century would not be possible, hasn’t been mentioned much. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, spent some time talking about the author of the original Bond stories.

Here’s the account BY SKY NEWS about the April 29 event:

Speaking in Istanbul where the new film is currently shooting, the Oscar winner said he had gone back to the original novels to look at the troubled psyche of the MI6 agent.

“What Fleming created was a very conflicted character,” he told reporters.

Here’s a quote from Daniel Craig in a Reuters story describing what he and Mendes discussed:

“But we couldn’t shut up. It was a chance for us to reread Ian Fleming, and we started emailing each other, ‘What about this and what about this?’, and that’s how it snowballed.” (emphasis added)


“You always go back to the Fleming because the character Fleming created over a number of novels was incredibly complex,” Mendes said Sunday at a news conference in Istanbul, where the crew of “Skyfall” has filmed.

“Some people sometimes forget in the cliche of Bond, which is the international playboy, and someone who’s always untroubled, and almost never breaks a sweat, that actually what (Fleming) created was a very conflicted character,” said Mendes, who was joined by cast members, including Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Until now, we’ve heard how wonderful Daniel Craig is, how wonderful Sam Mendes is, how wonderful Barbara Broccoli is. We’ve heard catchphrases like “Bond with a capital B” and “the money’s all up on the screen.” But we’ve heard very little about the author who actually created James Bond and whose tales were adapted, relatively faithfully, for five of the first six movies of the film series.

Could this be manipulative? Perhaps. Craig talks in 2012 about he “reread Ian Fleming” when he said IN 2008 that Fleming titles mean “very little.” That suggests Craig perhaps didn’t read the Fleming stories that closely where titles such as Live And Let Die, From a View to a Kill and Octopussy were explained.

Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter. Without Fleming, none of this is possible. Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman would be forgotten movie producers. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli might have been successful, but probably not as movie producers. Sean Connery, Roger Moore and other James Bond actors wouldn’t be quite as famous as they’d end up being.

It remains to be seen whether Skyfall will be true to Ian Fleming. And, as we’ve noted before, being true to Fleming has multiple interpretations. But, at least for one day, a long-dead author got a little recognition in an anniversary year that wouldn’t have been possible without him.

5 Responses

  1. Great article. Thank you.

  2. […] background about his hero. The Skyfall principals really only talked about Fleming in detail once, at an April 29 news conference in Turkey. Until then, the subject hadn’t come up very much. It remains to be seen whether the movie […]

  3. […] press conference on April 29 in Turkey where the Skyfall principals mentioned the author in some detail. Meanwhile, Fleming hasn’t […]

  4. […] During the November Skyfall press conference, the principals said the new movie had no connections to an Ian Fleming stories (That occurs around the 15:00 mark if you check out the video embedded in that link). Then, in late April, Mendes & Co. emphasized how Skyfall was true to Fleming. […]

  5. Actually reading Ian Fleming’s books is something even self confessed “Bond Fans” don’t do on a regular basis. When they do go back to or discover the books, they are struck by how much the flavour of the original films (and dare I say it the new ones) comes from Fleming and not from the competent and talented directors, writers and actors who’ve taken the works and adapted them for the screen. Readers discover that Fleming’s Bond was much grittier and less campy, they see there are no gadgets to speak of apart from useful and workmanlike tools which do the job, they see he drives a Bentley and not an Aston Martin, and they see he drinks mostly bourbon and not vodka martinis. And Fleming’s writing style is gorgeously involving and full of sensual details and insights. (see my own effort at aping his style for the purposes of writer coaching here http://goingdownwriting.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/how-to-write-like-ian-fleming/ in a retelling of Red Riding Hood in the style of “The Spy Who Loved Me”) Like all adapters of creative works and copyists, most copy superficial details, but the real meat of Fleming’s work was in his grasp of what it’s like to be alive, the joy of living, the enjoyment of small things, luxury, travel and the whole human experience. In short when people go back to the books they discover that when all’s said and done he was a very good writer. Just my 2p.

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