Co-author discusses Nobody Does It Better

Cover to Nobody Does It Better

Mark A. Altman is an executive producer of television series such as Pandora. He also writes books with Edward Gross. The two have come out with Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond.

The book runs more than 700 pages. It includes the viewpoints about 150 people, including those directly involved with the film series (producers, directors, writers, actors) as well as observers and followers of the film series.

The blog interviewed Altman by email.

QUESTION: What made you want to tackle a book about James Bond?

ALTMAN: After writing bestselling books on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, I was pretty much done, but my co-writer wanted to keep going. For me, they’re basically passion projects so I told him I was done and then I took a dramatic pause and said: “unless we could do a book on James Bond.”

Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, our agent sold it immediately and I found myself committed to it in short order. But I don’t regret it because I had more fun writing this than any book we did previously and it’s my favorite of all the oral histories we’ve written on a subject that is very near and dear to me.

Q: What does your bring to the table that other books haven’t covered?

ALTMAN: As Han Solo says, that’s the real trick isn’t it? I’ve been reading books about 007 since I was a kid and am a big fan of much of the scholarship about the Bond franchise. So the real question was what we could bring to the table that was different from previous books on the subject,. I had no interest in just covering the same ground given that books like Steve Rubin’s The James Bond FIlms and Raymond Benson’s Bedside Companion were dog-eared parts of my childhood and later I devoured John Cork’s Encyclopedia and, more recently, the wonderful Some Kind Of Hero.

Unlike with Star Trek where there were a lot of books, but most of them sucked, this was a subject where the bar was very, very high.  In terms of making it different, we seized on the format combining both making of behind-the-scenes and critical analysis which is what we all do every time we watch a Bond film and that made it different. It was also important to talk to as many people as possible, especially those who haven’t talked about working on a 007 film before or talk to them in a level of depth that hadn’t occurred before.

Q: How did you split up the work with your co-author Edward Cross?

ALTMAN: We basically split the book and then flip it. That’s essentially what we did here with Ed writing from The Road To Bond through On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and then I took over and wrote from Casino Roayle 1967 to License To Kill and then he took over the rest and then we flipped it and added and revised each other’s work.

Q: How long did the book take to complete? You’re a showrunner and that can be time-consuming by itself.

ALTMAN: The biggest problem for me is time since I have a day job running a TV show. It’s been a problem in the past on other books as well where I start during hiatus and then get busy on a TV series and have limited time to do interviews and then write and promote. This was no different, but we spent about two years on it off and on and I think it shows in the quality of the book.

On the other hand, my day job often gives me access I wouldn’t get strictly as a journalist. I also was able to revisit some interviews I did back when I was a journalist like Tom Mankiewicz which I never got to use and finally was able to share in this book and he was a national treasure so that was a real incentive for me to do this book as well.

Q: What was the biggest surprise (an anecdote, piece of information or something else) you encountered while working on the book?

ALTMAN: There’s so much to unpack here. One of the most interesting stories was Jeff Kleeman, the former president of United Artists, explaining what really happened with Timothy Dalton leaving the franchise for Pierce. Also, there are some great stories from Woody Allen about Casino Royale 1967 and I felt that Paul Haggis who did his first in-depth interview on Casino Royale and Quantum really had some terrific insight into how Quantum went off-the-rails.

I also loved so much of the Yaphet Kotto and Jane Seymour stories about Live And Let Die that go a little deeper than what we’ve heard before about that film and, of course, a real deep dive examining the Pierce era which it hasn’t really gotten before. There are also some great stories from John Landis about The Spy Who Loved Me which I thought were fantastic.

Q: What’s your analysis of where the series stands now? What impact will the delay in the release have?

ALTMAN: I was really disappointed when No Time To Die was pushed to Thanksgiving, but obviously in retrospect it was a very smart and necessary decision. I’m really hoping that it is a fitting capper to the Craig era and takes its cues from Casino Royale not to mention On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and doesn’t double down on the family drama of Spectre.

But I always go into every 007 movie hoping it’ll be the best one ever and sometimes I more disappointed than others. I actually think the release date might help the film as it could play all through the holidays. It’s not unlike when Force Awakens got bumped from summer and ended up being a huge hit for Christmas and changed the whole release pattern for Star Wars films with Solo proving a notable outlier.

Q: Is there something you’d like to add?

ALTMAN: I’m really proud of this book. I think anyone who is a fan of the James Bond films and the spy mania films they spawned in the ’60s is going to enjoy this book. No matter how much you think you know about 007, you’re likely to find some new and fascinating information and also some wonderful arguments that will potentially engage and enrage you as well. But that’s the fun of being a Bond fan.

Anyone who was alive in 1983 still is fighting the same battle of Octopussy vs. Never Say Never Again and that’s what this book is in a nutshell. Not to mention there are some GREAT Never Say Never Again stories in here. Barbara Carrera and Dick Clement were two of my favorite interviews despite the fact that I really don’t like that movie very much :))

The book is available in hardcover, digital and audiobook and a great way to spend your time in social isolation if nothing else.

To view the Amazon listing for Nobody Does It Better, CLICK HERE. You can follow Mark A. Altman at Twitter and Instagram @markaaltman. To read a review of the book from The Associated Press, CLICK HERE.

One Response

  1. They don’t include any annotations for the interviews they did not perform themselves. It’s a bit disingenuous. Some of those people are long dead! Compare this to Some Kind of Hero, where every quote is referenced. Altman & Gross made a decision not to reference their 3rd party material, and they dodge covering how much of the book is actually their work. The bulk of it is recycled.

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