A sampling of Ian Fleming’s U.N.C.L.E. correspondence

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

A Bond collector friend let us look over his photocopies of various Ian Fleming correspondence. Much of it included the 007 author’s involvement with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

First, there were photocopies of 11 Western Union telegraph blanks where Fleming in October 1962 provided ideas to U.N.C.L.E. producer Norman Felton. The first blank began with “springboards,” ideas that could be the basis for episodes.

One just reads, “Motor racing, Nurburgring.” Fleming had a similar idea for a possible James Bond television series in the 1950s. This notion was included in this year’s 007 continuation novel Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horwitz, which boasts of containing original Ian Fleming content.

On the fifth telegram blank, Fleming includes this idea about Napoleon Solo: ““Cooks own meals in rather coppery kitchen.”

Whether intentional or not, this idea saw the light of day in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie released in August. In an early scene in the film, Solo (Henry Cavill) is wearing a chef’s apron, having just prepared dinner for Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) after getting her across the Berlin Wall.

Fleming also made some other observations about Solo and the proposed series.

Telegraph blank No. 8: “He must not be too ‘UN’” and not be “sanctimonious, self righteous. He must be HUMAN above all else –- but slightly super human.”

Telegraph blank No. 11: “In my mind, producing scripts & camera will *make* this series. The plots will be secondary.”

On May 8, 1963, the Ashley-Steiner agency sends a letter to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which includes details about Fleming’s financial demands for being a participant in U.N.C.L.E.

“He definitely wants to be involved in the series itself if there is a sale and is asking for a mutual commitment for story lines on the basis of two out of each 13 programs at a fee of $2500.00 per story outline,” according to the letter.

Fleming also wants a fee of $25,000 to be a consultant for the series per television season. In that role, the author wants two trips per “production year” to travel to Los Angeles for at least two weeks each trip and for as long as four weeks each trip. The author wants to fly to LA first class and also wants a per diem on the trips of $50 a day.


On June 7, 1963, Felton sends Fleming a letter containing material devised by Sam Rolfe, the writer-producer commissioned to write the U.N.C.L.E. pilot.

“In the latter part of the material, which deals with the characterization of Napoleon Solo, you will discover that those elements which you set down during our New York visit have been retained,” Felton writes Fleming. “However, the concept for a base of operations consisting of a small office with more or less a couple of rooms has been changed to a more extensive setup.”

This refers to the U.N.C.L.E. organization that Rolfe has created in the months since the original Fleming-Felton meetings in New York.

“It will give us scope and variety whenever we need it, although as I have said, in many stories we may use very little of it,” Felton writes. “This is its virtue. Complex, but used sparingly.

“In my opinion almost all of our stories we will do little more than ‘touch base’ at a portion of the unusual headquarters in Manhattan, following which we will quickly move to other areas of the world.”

At the same time, Felton asks Fleming for additional input.

“I want the benefit of having your suggestions,” Felton writes Fleming. “Write them in the margin of the paper, on a telegraph blank or a paper towel and send them along. We are very excited, indeed, in terms of MR. SOLO.” (emphasis added)

However, Fleming — under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman — soon signs away his rights to U.N.CL.E. for 1 British pound.

On July 8, 1963, Felton sends Fleming a brief letter. It reads in part:

Your new book, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, is delightful. I am hoping that things will calm down for you in the months to come so that in due time you will be able to develop another novel to give further pleasure to your many readers throughout the world.

They tell me that there are some islands in the Pacific where one can get away from it all. They are slightly radioactive, but for anyone with the spirit of adventure, this should be no problem.

Fleming responds on July 16, 1963.

Very many thanks for your letter and it was very pleasant to see you over here although briefly and so frustratingly for you.

Your Pacific islands sound very enticing, it would certainly be nice to see some sun as ever since you charming Americans started your long range weather forecasting we have had nothing but rain. You might ask them to lay off.

With best regards and I do hope Solo gets off the pad in due course.

Final SPECTRE trailer is released

Sony Pictures today posted this 1:15 trailer for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

There are a few shots not seen in previous trailers, including Bond (Daniel Craig) scrambling to avoid falling wreckage.

Presumably, this version is intended for U.S. audiences because it lists a Nov. 6 release date. The U.K. and Ireland will be able to see the movie later this month.

Take a look for yourself:

Caveat Emptor Part III: More Daniel Craig comments

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Daniel Craig has commented to Esquire and the Daily Mail about his 007 future. Now, it’s Entertainment Weekly’s turn to quote the 007 star.

The entertainment publication has POSTED THIS STORY where the actor comments about his future in the role as Ian Flmeing’s secret agent.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I can’t give you an honest answer at this point,” Craig said, reaching for a double espresso in an opulent London hotel suite. “It’s not that I’m trying to play hard to get. I’ve just given it no thought whatsoever.”

“This movie has taken up two years of my life. And I just need a break,” Craig continued. “I need to get back to normal life. I need to reintroduce myself to my family who are not best pleased with me. The idea of planning ahead — I’m not trying to be coy. People want an answer and I don’t have one.”

Meanwhile, Barbara Broccoli, the co-boss of Eon Productions, once again praised the actor, as she has many times since he was cast as Bond in 2005.

“Daniel has reinvigorated this character,” Broccoli told EW on the set of Spectre at London’s Pinewood Studios in May. “He’s made it contemporary, given it depth and resonance and humanity. The part is his. He’s so great and attracts so many people who want to work with him like Christoph and Lea, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw.”

And the world goes round and round.

When the Esquire interview came out, some fans reading the tea leaves figured Craig was done. When Craig commented to the Daily Mail, some fans figured Craig was a lock to play Bond for years to come.

Again, caveat emptor — let the buyer aware. Meanwhile, audiences in the U.K. and Ireland will see Craig’s fourth performance as Bond later this month. U.S. fans will have to wait a little more than a month from now.

Caveat Emptor Part II: Daniel Craig’s 007 future

Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz at Dec. 4 media event.

Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz at Dec. 4 media event for SPECTRE.

In early September, details of AN ESQUIRE INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL CRAIG came out where the actor said of doing another James Bond film, “At the moment I can’t even conceive it.”

The 007 fan base — not to mention various entertainment news outlets — questioned whether this meant that SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film due out in the U.K. before the end of October, would be Craig’s 007 finale.

Toward the end of September, A DAILY MAIL STORY EMERGED where Craig said this about making James Bond films:

‘It’s getting harder. But such is life. I’ll keep going as long as I’m physically able.

‘I’m contracted for one more – but I’m not going to make predictions.’

The James Bond fan base — not to mention entertainment outlets quoting the Daily Mail (CLICK HERE for an example from The Guardian) — have proclaimed this to mean that Craig may be making Bond films for years to come.

When the Esquire interview came out, this blog RAN A POST that began with the words “caveat emptor” — let the buyer beware.

The only person who really knows is the actor himself. Even some of Craig’s most ardent fans say on 007 message boards they take delight in how he yanks the chain of the press.

But that also means if you can’t trust one statement, that pretty much means you can’t trust the other.

Being the star of a James Bond movie means enduring long, grueling productions. SPECTRE, for example, was a seven-month shoot. Marvel Studios plans a nine-month shooting schedule FOR **TWO** COMPLETE AVENGERS MOVIES to be released in 2018 and 2019.

What’s more, those Avengers movies won’t rely on one actor the way a Bond movie relies on its star.

The Esquire interview with Craig was done shortly after the completion of SPECTRE’s principal photography. It’s not hard to imagine the actor could have been exhausted. On the other hand, at least one Bond actor (Pierce Brosnan in 2002) thought he’d be back until he wasn’t.

So it bears repeating. When it comes to Daniel Craig’s future, caveat emptor.

At this point, fans would be better off enjoying the SPECTRE wave and worry later about Daniel Craig’s future.

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is the new ‘Only Myself to Blame’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith’s awaited main title song for SPECTRE, titled “Writing’s On the Wall,” was finally released last Friday.

As expected, the Bond fandom was divided between those who called it “an instant classic” and the ones who opened a petition drive to banish it to the end credits.

Still, even when Smith’s voice may not be the most appropriate, the orchestration and lyrics excel in examining James Bond’s feelings and emotions, something only given before by a discarded end title song, Scott Walker’s “Only Myself to Blame,” put away from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough in favor of the triumphant James Bond Theme.

“I walked way past midnight, I’ve driven for days I tried to forget in so many ways,” the vocalist sang Don Black’s lyrics. “From city to city, I still see your face… it follows me ‘round, all over the place. I shouldn’t look back, but I do just the same. And I’ve only myself to blame,” the song continues.

The composition, still available on track 19 of David Arnold’s soundtrack, was the first song to narrate the misfortune of a heartbroken Bond, far away of the “Nobody does it Better” or “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fanfares.

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

As a vocal version of Elektra’s Theme (Black told composer Arnold “there was a song” hidden in it), it laments the ill-fated romance between James Bond and the young oil tycoon played by Sophie Marceau: an innocent girl, corrupted after being kidnapped, turning into a criminal mastermind capable to use both Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and her former kidnapper/lover Renard (Robert Carlyle) as fools.

As we know, the story ended with the cold shot of a 007 who “never misses,” but also takes a minute to caress her dead body.

Much like “Only Myself to Blame,” Sam Smith’s song “Writing’s On the Wall” tears miles away of the triumphalist conception of James Bond and dives into his biggest weakness: his inability to enjoy a lasting relationship due to the hazards of his violent job.

Times had been tough for Daniel Craig’s version of 007: in Casino Royale, his love interest Vesper Lynd commits suicide. That leads him, in Quantum of Solace, to Mr. White and subsequently to ecologist Dominic Greene to unravel a secret criminal organization while seeking the help of the vengeful Camille, who barely kisses him before walking away after the mission is over.

In Skyfall, all this story arc seems put away but Bond still has to face another challenge to his emotions: Judi Dench’s M dies on his arms after being wounded during the attack led by former agent Silva.

“I’ve been there before, but I always hit the floor,” Smith sings, evoking these fateful events between 2006 and 2015: the deaths of a love interest and a mother figure, facts that are supposed to come back with a vengeance in SPECTRE.

“If I risk it all… would you break my fall?” Smith powerfully sings, referring to Bond’s relationship with Madeleine Swann, apparently the first character to aim to his emotions and “analyze” him for the first time since Vesper told him that “because he’s done something doesn’t mean he has to keep doing it.”

Back at the beginning of September, Smith described his song for the film as “a love song,” a category that could very well fit older pieces such as “From Russia with Love”, “You Only Live Twice” or “We Have all the Time in The World”. Yet, Jimmy Napes’ lyrics go one step further by revealing the inner feelings of 007 facing the possibility of putting his heart at stake once more.

More than a love song, “Writing’s On the Wall” proves to be a declaration of love. The song goes: “But I feel like a storm is coming if I’m gonna make it through the day. Then there’s no use in running, this is something I gotta face.” Is it insinuating that, even if a disaster occurs again, he can’t run away of his feelings?

The title sentence seems to confirm it: “For you, I have to risk it all… ‘cause the writing’s on the wall.”

The expression “writing’s on the wall” refers to an imminent disaster coming, but it looks like, even if this disaster occurs, he’s willing to go all in. Compared to “Only Myself to Blame,” Bond (or the performer getting inside his inner thoughts) isn’t offering a retrospective reflection, and despite the negative connotation of the song’s title the vibe of Smith’s song proves to be more positive than Walker’s: “When all hope begins to shatter, know that I won’t be afraid.”

There’s almost a month to wait until we see if, this time, Daniel Craig’s Bond will have a happy ending with Léa Seydoux’s character. So far, it’s interesting to see “Writing’s On the Wall” as the comeback of an idea put away from a 1999 Bond film, a nostalgic song that wouldn’t have fitted the victorious ending of that story and would have raised the eyebrows of the fans, in a historical context where Pierce Brosnan’s 007 was meant to win.

Now, as Daniel Craig’s 007 ran away of many emotional battles that didn’t seem to be healed, an introspective Bond song will get the main titles treatment. We don’t know if this will turn out to be good or bad, but interesting for sure.

Robert Sellers talks about Thunderball

Thunderball poster in 1965

Thunderball poster in 1965

The Spy Command interviewed Robert Sellers, the author of The Battle of Bond, about Thunderball ahead of the film’s 50th anniversary.

Because of its length, the FULL INTERVIEW is posted on our sister site, The Spy Command Feature Story Index. Here are some highlights:

Sellers on Kevin McClory’s bad side: “He was a shyster and thank God his Thunderball film never got off the ground, it would have sunk the franchise before it had a chance to get started.”

Sellers on McClory’s good side: “However, one must not underestimate the importance of McClory, after all he was the first person to fully realize the potential of Bond as a screen character when Fleming had already been turned down by most of Hollywood. He also contributed lots of ideas to the project.”

Sellers on Ian Fleming: “I think an element of arrogance seeped into his thinking…Maybe he thought his establishment credentials (Eton, Sandhurst, Naval Intelligence) lent him superiority over the brash, Irish and working class McClory.

Sellers on Jack Whittingham, the screenwriter hired by McClory, who turned in the first Thunderball-related script in 1960: “To a large extent Whittingham also changed the character of Bond himself from the one in the original novels to one that contemporary cinema audiences would find more palatable.”

Sellers on Thunderball itself: ” I love Thunderball, it’s my favourite Bond film. For me it retains the dark, edginess of Dr No and From Russia With Love, combined with the fun and campness of Goldfinger, while looking ahead to the all-out epicness of things like You Only Live Twice.”

To read the full interview, CLICK HERE.

Some notes about the Daily Mail’s SPECTRE story

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

This weekend, the U.K. Daily Mail’s Event arts section had A STORY about SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Here were some things in the article that caught our eye:

200 million/300 million: Price in British pounds and U.S. dollars for SPECTRE’s overall budget.

The figure, which makes SPECTRE one of the most expensive movies of all time, was originally disclosed in the hacks at Sony Corp. But the Daily Mail was given a lot of access for this article. The fact the publication is using it amounts to a tacit confirmation of the hacked information.

24 million/36 million: The price in British pounds and U.S. dollars for the budget for expensive sports cars (Aston Martins and Jaguars) to be smashed up in chase sequences.

Possible cost of delays: During filming of a Rome car chase, “one of the crew tells me that every hour of rain could cost the production a cool million pounds,” according to the Daily Mail story.

It took a few months, but we finally got our Barbara Broccoli “the money’s up on the screen” quotes. In fact, we got two.

Long-serving producer Barbara Broccoli tells Event she is immensely proud of those stunning pre-title scenes: ‘My dad Cubby Broccoli always said, “Put all the money on the screen.”

‘There’s a lot of money on the screen in this one! Bond has such an extraordinary tradition of awe-inspiring openings, it is difficult to top them. But this sequence is up there as one of the greatest.’

To read the entire story, CLICK HERE. No real story spoilers, but those especially sensitive fans (i.e. the ones who consider trailers and commercials to be spoilers) may want to think twice.


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