Author discusses her James Bond fashion book

Llewella Chapman, author of Fashioning James Bond

Film historian and academic Dr. Llewella Chapman is out with a new book, Fashioning James Bond.

For a character with a license to kill, fashion in the form of suits, dinner jackets, etc., has always been important. The new book examines the costumes and the fashions of the James Bond film franchise, starting with 1962’s Dr. No and running through 2015’s SPECTRE.

According to the book’s listing at Amazon, Fashioning James Bond “draws on original archival research, close analysis of the costumes and fashion brands featured in the Bond films, interviews with families of tailors and shirt-makers who assisted in creating the ‘look’ of James Bond, and considers marketing strategies for the films and tie-in merchandise that promoted the idea of an aspirational ‘James Bond lifestyle.'”

The blog interviewed Dr. Chapman by email. It was edited to go with “American” English rather than English English.

THE SPY COMMAND: There are various books about James Bond. What makes yours different?

LLEWELLA CHAPMAN: There are! And one of my favorites is Dressed to Kill: James Bond the Suited Hero (authored by Jay McInerney, Nick Foulkes, Neil Norman, and Nick Sullivan (1995). I also really enjoyed Peter Brooker’s and Matt Spaiser’s co-authored book From Tailors With Love: An Evolution of Menswear through the Bond Films (2021). The key difference with Fashioning James Bond is that I not only analyze Bond’s costumes but also the costumes worn by the villains, the “Bond girls,” the henchmen, and many others besides.

Hopefully, there will be something in there for everyone! Everyone has a favorite character, of course, and so I’m sorry if yours isn’t analyzed in my book. Unfortunately, I had a word limit and had to stop somewhere!

In many ways, of course, and as Julie Harris, the costume designer for Casino Royale (1967) and Live and Let Die (1973), summarized the key difference between fashion and a costume designer’s role to The Times in 1967: “fashion is the big pitfall in costume design. Not only because the time lag between drawing the designs and the film’s showing averages a year, time enough for anything to have happened in fashion … film designers have to keep a sharp and beady eye on fashion. They have to develop a flair for fashion futures, for the average time between starting designs and the actual appearance of the film can be anywhere between nine months and a year.”

In direct relation to Bond, the character’s suits evolved depending on need and not just fashion. From Sean Connery until the end of Roger Moore’s tenure, Bond wore bespoke tailored suits. From Timothy Dalton onwards, we see Bond dressed the majority of the time in made-to-measure and off-the-peg suits. The main reason for this was the sheer amount of suits needed for the films, particularly since Dalton’s, and the timescale required to make them.

TSC: As you researched your book, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

CHAPMAN: I compiled my research for this book from many different archives, libraries, and repositories, and one of the surprises and rather fun anecdotes was discovering a connection between Bond and the multiple menswear firm Montague Burton. The company attempted to capitalize on the “Bond mania” of the mid-1960s following the release of Goldfinger in the U.K. by briefly hiring Anthony Sinclair as a consultant, and producing a small range of 007 suits.

However, Montague Burton quickly realized that ‘young people, although they may like Bond, do not want to dress like him, and middle-aged men don’t want a coat that has pockets for hand grenades, and so the range was swiftly dropped before the release of Thunderball in the U.K. You can find out more about this story in Chapter 3 of my book.

TSC: Who had the biggest influence with the style of James Bond? Anthony Sinclair and his suits? Someone else?

CHAPMAN: I think that it mainly depends on who made the decision to go with a particular tailor or menswear firm to dress Bond in his suits. With Sean Connery, Terence Young recommended his personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and similarly with George Lazenby, Peter Hunt elected to dress George Lazenby in Dimitrov “Dimi” Major’s suits.

Roger Moore is the first actor to play Bond who had his own agency over the way the character was dressed, owing to his interest in menswear and him being an established television star. It is somewhat appropriate that he also had three tailors dress him over the course of his Bond films: Cyril Castle, Angelo Vitucci, and Douglas Hayward.

With Timothy Dalton, he particularly influenced Bond’s style, wanting a more casual look for the films, and for Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s first film, Casino Royale (2006), it was Lindy Hemming, the costume designer, who elected to dress Bond in Brioni. For Quantum of Solace, costume designer Louise Frogley explained that she chose Tom Ford to provide Bond’s suits owing to “needing to solve a problem,” and from Skyfall until No Time To Die, we see Craig possess more agency over the way his Bond was dressed.

TSC: How would you characterize the James Bond style?

CHAPMAN: In three words, I think that the “James Bond style” should be: classic, elegant, and timeless. Though ultimately, Bond should be a chameleon in any situation in which he finds himself: fitting into the scene seamlessly and in order to obtain what he needs.

TSC: What do you think accounts for Bond’s continuing popularity?

CHAPMAN: Good question! I think because the films aim to not only present a fun, often humorous, and thrilling story for audiences worldwide with the money “spent on the screen,” but also because over the past 60 years the films have continuously evolved to reflect the political, social and cultural contexts during the time they were made.

Cover to Fashioning James Bond

You can order Fashioning James Bond at Amazon’s U.S. site by CLICKING HERE. Or you can order from the U.K. Amazon site by CLICKING HERE.

Bond 26 questions: Bond’s return

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Spoiler for No Time to Die

At a recent event sponsored by the Deadline entertainment news site, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli said Eon has yet to figure out how James Bond will return after the events of No Time to Die.

By the end of the 25th Bond film, Bond has been blown to smithereens and other characters are in mourning. Yet, in the end titles, it says “James Bond Will Return.”

“We’ll figure that one out, but he will be back,” Broccoli said. “You can rest assured James Bond will be back.”

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Another reboot?

This would be the easiest route. With 2006’s Casino Royale, Eon started things over. Eon finally had its hands on the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So one continuity ended after Eon dismissed Pierce Brosnan, another began after it brought on Daniel Craig.

Having multiple continuities is not unprecedented. Look at Warner Bros. and its various Batman movies.

Four movies from 1989 through 1997 were one continuity (multiple actors played Batman but all four had the same actors as Alfred the butler and Commissioner Gordon). Films from 2005 through 2012 were another continuity. And various films with Ben Affleck as Batman comprise yet another continuity. Now, yet another continuity is in works with Robert Pattinson as Batman.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, you can’t complain about reboots. Yes, Eon fudged things at times, primarily with the Aston Martin DB5. But a new reboot may be the way to go.

What about the “code name theory”?

That would be another way to go.

For the uninitiated, the “code name theory” is a way of explaining all the different actors who’ve played Bond in the Eon series. Under this scenario, “James Bond” is a code name assigned to different people.

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have said there’s only one Bond, just played by different actors. Besides, 007 is Bond’s code number. Why does he need a code name on top of that?

Nevertheless the “code name theory” refuses to die. It traces its origins to the development of the 1967 Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman. The original James Bond (David Niven) orders all British agents to be named “James Bond” to confuse enemies. This notion may be the 1967 movie’s legacy.

You’re not serious, are you?

To be clear, I am NOT advocating for it. However, “code name theory” would be one way to retain Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Rory Kinnear as Tanner.

What would be the drawbacks?

A new Bond actor would be burdened by the Craig continuity. Remember, Craig’s Bond was burned out from Skyfall on. Personally, I would start fresh with a reboot. You DO NOT have to another Bond origin story. Just introduce your new Bond and go from there.

Sean Connery’s Bond never had an origin story. That worked out pretty well.

NTTD advances to $763M global box office

No Time to Die’s worldwide box office has reached $763 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s up from about $758 million a week ago.

The 25th James Bond film is reaching the end of its theatrical run. It has been available on premium video on demand since last month. It will become available on home video later in December.

No Time to Die’s U.S. box office stands at $158.6 million. That’s 20.8 percent of the global figure.

The Bond film is No. 1 globally for 2021 among non-Chinese movies. In the U.S., No Time to Die is No. 6 for the year.

Bond questions: The Wrap edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions granted an interview to the entertainment news website The Wrap. The half-siblings proclaimed they’re not interested in Bond film spinoffs. However, some questions appear not to have been asked.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

You say you’re not interested in spinoffs. But what about the James Bond Jr. cartoon show or that attempted Jinx spinoff movie?

Apparently, that was a different era. James Bond Jr. was made during Eon’s 1989-1995 hiatus from making James Bond films. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer eventually pulled the plug on the Jinx movie.

What about all those non-Bond movies you’ve worked on?

You mean Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017) ? Which had a global box office of $4 million? Or Nancy, which had a worldwide box office of $92,000. Or, The Rhythm Section with a global box office just shy of $6 million.

Yes, that’s what I mean.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy were small, dramatic films. The Rhythm Section was an espionage-themed film that sought a larger audience and, for whatever reason, didn’t achieve it. It happens that way sometimes.

What is the bottom line?

Eon’s record outside of the Bond film series is rather mixed. Compared to Nancy, Call Me Bwana (1963), the Bob Hope comedy Eon made between Dr. No and From Russia With Love, is a blockbuster. (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, based on an Ian Fleming’s children story and produced by Albert R. Broccoli, was not made under the Eon banner.)

Clearly, Eon wants to do other things besides Bond films. But Bond still is its major asset. Eon’s leadership needs to evaluate its future. We’ll see how that goes.

Broccoli & Wilson say (yet again) no Bond spinoffs

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions have, yet again, said they’re not interested in television spinoffs of the James Bond film franchise.

The half-siblings spoke to the entertainment news website, The Wrap.

“From our point of view, we try to focus on making good James Bond pictures and that takes a lot of time and thought — it takes a couple of years working on the script with a director,” Wilson told The Wrap. “If we had to make a TV series on top of that and put that same amount of energy into 10 or 20 hours of content, that’s a big commitment. So, we’d have to delegate. And we’ve been very reluctant to delegate.”

“We’re not a factory,” Barbara Broccoli told the website. “Our movies are all hand-made. We’ve always been a family business and it will remain a family business, so long as we keep breathing.”

Eon previously was involved with the syndicated cartoon series James Bond Jr. in the 1990s. Wilson shared a “developed by” credit on that show. The cartoon featured Bond’s nephew who encountered classic Bond villains as well as new adversaries. It was produced during the 1989-1995 hiatus in Eon’s film series.

The home studio of the Bond series is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It has agreed to be acquired by Amazon for $8.45 billion. The deal still is under regulatory review.

Diamonds’ 50th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 50 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular). Also, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case at times seems a capable criminal, while at other times comes across as scatterbrained.

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie was former United Artists executive David Picker (1931-2019). In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans.

Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery. James Bond would return.

Bond 25 questions: What’s up with the U.S.?

No Time to Die poster

No Time to Die is the No. 1 box office movie among non-Chinese-made films. Happy days are here again, right? Well, there may be one nagging concern, the (relative) gap between international and the U.S.

The U.S., even with China emerging as the world’s largest market, remains a pretty big market for movies. Yet, relatively speaking, James Bond’s support in Britain’s former colonies appears to be eroding.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you mean by eroding support?

Here is are the figures during the Daniel Craig era, according to Box Office Mojo:

Casino Royale, $167.4 million, 27.2 percent of the global total

Quantum of Solace, $168.4 million, 28.6 percent of the global total

Skyfall, $304.4 million, 27.5 percent of the global total

SPECTRE, $200.1 million, 22.7 percent of the global total

No Time to Die, $158.1 million, 20.9 percent of the global total.

So?

Some British fans attribute that to Brits having better taste than Americans. These same fans dismiss the importance of the American market at all.

Are you being serious?

Mostly not (though such fans as described above do exist). Rather, it raises the question whether there should be more changes for U.S. Bond marketing versus international Bond marketing.

With No Time to Time, U.S. trailers were different than international trailers. But is that enough?

Remember, Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in 2015 that Eon controls the marketing and that studios just execute that plan.

If anybody at Eon is disappointed with the U.S. box office — and no one has said so publicly — they should perhaps look in the mirror.

Anything else?

For better or worse, the U.S. market likes superhero movies more than international markets The No. 1 U.S. movie in 2021 is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at $224.6 million. It’s based on a lesser-known Marvel Comics title from the 1970s.

Still, $158.1 million in the U.S. for No Time to Die, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, is nothing to sneeze at and not a flop. Many movies would love that size of box office.

Going forward, though, Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Amazon (which has agreed to buy MGM) may want to ponder Bond’s position in the U.S.

NTTD passes $758M in global box office

No Time to Die has surpassed the $758 million mark in worldwide box office as the 25th James Bond film’s theatrical rollout begins to wind down.

The Bond movie was at $758.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That included $600 million outside the U.S. It is the No. 1 global film among non-Chinese-made movies.

No Time to Die debuted in late September in the U.K. and came out in Australia earlier this month. The international release, handled by Universal, accounts for 79.1 percent of the total box office. The U.K. alone has generated $127.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

In the U.S., No Time to Die was No. 9 for the Nov. 26-28 weekend at $1.7 million. The movie’s U.S. total is an estimated $158.1 million. That puts No Time to Die at No. 6 in the U.S. so far in 2021. That accounts for 20.9 percent of the global total.

No Time to Die already is available on premium video on demand. The movie’s home video debut is scheduled for next month.

The Bond film is the fifth, and final, to feature Daniel Craig as James Bond.

RE-POST: Robert Towne channels 007 for U.N.C.L.E.

Richardo Montalban and Robert Vaughn in The Dove Affair

Richardo Montalban and Robert Vaughn in The Dove Affair

Screenwriter Robert Towne celebrated his 87th birthday on Nov. 23. The Oscar winner also participated in the 1960s spy craze. This is adapted from a 2013 post.

1963 saw From Russia With Love, the second James Bond movie. About a year after it came out, a future Oscar winning screenwriter would channel the film for an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Robert Towne would go on to win an Oscar for his script for 1974’s Chinatown. A decade earlier, he was among the writers to pen first-season scripts for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a show that had been pitched as “James Bond for television.”

Towne perhaps took that idea a bit literally. His sole U.N.C.L.E. credit, The Dove Affair, featured an extended sequence on a train going through the Balkans, a very similar setting to From Russia With Love.

U.N.C.L.E. agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) faces a complicated situation. His mission is to smuggle out a medal in the shape of a dove that has tiny engraved names of agents of Thrush, the villainous organization that opposes U.N.C.L.E. Satine (Richardo Montalban) is the top intelligence agent of a Balkan nation where Thrush is trying to seize control. Satine is a genuine patriot but he’s willing to kill Solo if it furthers his country’s interests.

Much of the episode’s second half evokes the mood of From Russia With Love. The TV show, though, isn’t as compelling when it comes to a short fight scene with Solo and Satine compared to a fight between James Bond (Sean Connery) and SPECTRE killer Red Grant (Robert Shaw). Part of it stems from the limitations of 1960s television in depicting violence. Some of it probably stems from tight TV production schedules.

Overall, though, the similarities are telling. With The Dove Affair, there is the additional complication of “the innocent” character, in this case, a school teacher (June Lockhart), who’s escorting a group of U.S. high school students around Europe.

Satine, as written by Towne, has one quirk — he’s afraid of children. Solo uses the presence of the high school students to his advantage. There is also some good dialogue.

SATINE (agitated, referring to the students): They find me interesting!

SOLO: And so you are. I wouldn’t deny that for a minute.

To read a more detailed review of The Dove Affair, CLICK HERE and scroll down to episode 12.

Variety suggests NTTD still is unprofitable

No Time to Die teaser poster

Variety has published a story suggesting No Time to Die still hasn’t made a profit despite becoming the No. 1 box office film in 2021 among non-Chinese productions.

Here is an excerpt:

The action-packed spy spectacle, which endured several coronavirus-related delays, has become the rare pandemic-era box office hit, which is even more impressive considering adult audiences — the core demographic for “No Time to Die” — have been reluctant to return to theaters. However, the movie cost more than $250 million to produce, at least $100 million to promote and tens of millions more to postpone over 16 months. Insiders say “No Time to Die” needs to make closer to $900 million to break even.

No Time to Die cost almost $300 million to produce, according to a U.K. regulatory filing in 2020. And there were THREE COVID-19 delays, not “several.” There were FIVE delays overall. Two were related to how Danny Boyle was replaced as director with Cary Fukunaga.

MGM, replying to Variety, issued a denial.

“Unnamed and uninformed sources suggesting the film will lose money are categorically unfounded and put more simply, not true.”

Just remember: People deny things they know to be true. MGM hasn’t provided any detailed financial information regarding No Time to Die.

According to Variety, MGM crowed about how No Time to Die passed F9: The Fast Saga. (Something that occurred this weekend.) So far, No Time to Die hasn’t matched either 2015’s SPECTRE nor 2012’s Skyfall. That latter is the only Bond film to exceed $1 billion box office in theaters.

Since the advent of COVID-19 in early 2020, the market for theatrical films has shrunk. Before the pandemic, there were 48 movies that had a box office of $1 billion or more. 2012’s Skyfall is No. 28 on that list.

With COVID-19, no movie has reached that worldwide box office level. Some Bond fans don’t like to hear that and have criticized the blog for bringing it up.

That’s how it goes.