Dean Hargrove talks about U.N.C.L.E.

Dean Hargrove

Writer-producer Dean Hargrove gave a March interview to the Writers Guild Foundation. A chunk of it concerned The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 1964-68 series where he was one of the main writers.

Here are some of the U.N.C.L.E.-related comments made by Hargrove, 80, during the interview.

First-season producer Sam Rolfe: “Sam Rolfe…was a superior writer and a brilliant guy to devise formats for television shows. Sam was a tough cookie. Writers were going through this show like rabbits on the run. We sort of hit it off.”

Hargrove becomes staff writer in Season Two: Rolfe departed after the first season. Hargrove wrote two Season One scripts and was hired on for Season Two.

“I sort of had a handle on the show so it came easy to me… It was considered I had the Holy Grail. I was the one who knew the show. Nobody else really kind of understood it.

“People would turn to me and ask me should it be like this or like that. I’m saying, ‘Try that, I really don’t know.’ I just knew I had a facility for writing that show. And from a career standpoint, it’s like somebody turned on the lights.

“The show I thought was a bit of a hula hoop because it wasn’t based solidly on character, you know, it was based on style and other superficial things which were very entertaining. I loved the show and really loved working on it.”

David McCallum and Robert Vaughn in The Never-Never Affair, the first U.N.C.L.E. episode written by Dean Hargrove.

Executive Producer Norman Felton: “Norman was a very nice man and a character at the same time. He was always afraid of having to pay people money. This was one of his quirks. He didn’t like giving people raises.

“At one point, because he was getting more and more successful, he moved down into a little office…when he had a big office up in the Thalberg Building (at MGM). That way, he felt people would be less entitled to come down and ask him for raises.

“He drove an old Chevrolet. The studio asked if would he please let them give him a new car because it’s embarrassing a guy who’s producing all these shows is driving this old car.

Producer turnover on U.N.C.L.E.: Three different men filled the producer’s chair in Season Two. “I don’t think it helped the show. I don’t think any of the guys who came on really had a good handle on the show…I don’t think the producers had a good handle on the material….I thought one producer in particular didn’t understand the show at all.”

Hargrove declined to name that producer. During the second season, David Victor, Mort Abrams and Boris Ingster served as producers. Ingster returned for Season Three. He was replaced in Season Four by Anthony Spinner, who brought a more serious approach.

U.N.C.L.E.’s legacy: “I don’t think there’s a real legacy. I don’t think you can point to shows on television and say this is the spiritual grandchild of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

The U.N.C.L.E. portion of the interview starts after the 35:00 mark of this first part.

Part two begins with U.N.C.L.E. and that lasts about 20 minutes.

007 Stage damaged, injury suffered during Bond 25 filming

The 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios was damaged and a crew member suffered an injury during Bond 25 filming, the official 007 Twitter feed of Eon Productions said.

“During the filming of a controlled explosion on the set of Bond 25 today at Pinewood Studios, damage was caused to the exterior of the 007 Stage,” according to the post on Twitter. “There were no injuries on set, however one crew member outside the stage has sustained a minor injury.”

No additional details were available.

Filming has taken place at Pinewood following initial location filming in Jamaica.

(UPDATE 2:17 p.m. New York time): The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid is out with a story. It came out before the Eon statement. The Sun made it sound as if the injury was more serious. You can read it for yourself.  Given the conflicting information, I’m going to hold off writing more until there’s more definitive word.

James Bond and ‘timeshifting’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week, 007 film fans studied the words of Bond 25 screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge very carefully after she had given an interview to Deadline: Hollywood.

The Bond films, she said, have “got to grow. It has just got to evolve, and the important thing is that the film treats the women properly. He doesn’t have to. He needs to be true to this character.”

Fans debated whether Waller-Bridge’s remarks were “politically correct” or not. On social media there were pretty intense comments on both sides of the argument.

In a way, though, Waller-Bridge’s interview points up something else — issues with “timeshifting” a character.

James Bond was created in early 1952 when Ian Fleming wrote the first draft of Casino Royale at his winter home in Jamaica. Winston Churchill was prime minister of the U.K. Harry S. Truman was president of the United States. By the time Fleming wrote his last Bond novel in early 1964, Alec Douglas-Home was the PM and Lyndon B. Johnson was president.

In short, Bond’s original era was a long time ago. So for decades now, 007 has been timeshifted in the movies. A number of Bond continuation novels (including John Gardner’s and Raymond Benson’s) also used the timeshifting technique, although more recent books (including two by Anthony Horowitz) have been done as period pieces.

Threading the Needle

Part of this may be commercial. Making Bond films as period stories set in the 1950s or ’60s might hold down the box office. Presumably, it would be harder to make product placement deals for period piece 007 films.

At the same time, taking a character created more than 60 years ago and placing him in a modern setting has its own issues. Those associated with the Eon series like to say they’re set “five minutes in the future.” That means Bond films have to acknowledge, at least on some level, how the world has changed in the 21st century.

As a result, making a Bond movie today involves threading the needle — keeping Bond true to his roots while adjusting to current realities.

In doing so, the Eon camp sometimes comes down pretty hard on its meal ticket.

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said of Bond during a 2015 interview with something called The Red Bulletin. (The original link is gone, but the blog did a 2015 post about it as did entertainment outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter.) “(W)e’ve surrounded him with very strong women who have no problem putting him in his place.”