On Superman’s 80th, a few 007 connections

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

This week marks the 80th anniversary of the introduction of Superman. DC Comics is out with Action Comics No. 1,000 to celebrate the occasion

The thing is, there are some elements in common, thanks to how the Christopher Reeve Superman movies were made at Pinewood Studios, the long-time home to the James Bond film franchise.

So here’s a few of them. It’s not a comprehensive list and I’m sure there are many stunt performers who worked on both.

Geoffrey Unsworth: Unsworth (1914-1978) was a celebrated cinematographer, whose credits included Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981), much of which was photographed at the same time as the film movie. Unsworth’s credits also included 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Unsworth also had a James Bond connection. On Dec. 21, 1961, he photographed screen tests for actresses vying to play Miss Taro for Dr. No.

John Glen: Glen directed five James Bond films, 1981-89, after earlier editing and being second unit director on three 007 films. He was one of the second unit directors for the 1978 Superman film.

Stuart Baird: Baird was editor on the first Superman movie. He performed the same duties on Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012).

Alf Joint: A stunt performer on the Bond series, perhaps his most famous bit was in the pre-titles of Goldfinger as Capungo, who gets killed by Bond (Sean Connery). He was also a stunt coordinator on Superman.

Shane Rimmer:  He had small roles in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever while having a larger supporting role as a U.S. submarine captain in The Spy Who Loved Me. It also *sounds* like he does some voiceover work in the pre-titles of Live And Let Die as an agent who’s killed in New Orleans. (“Whose funeral is it?”)

He also played a NASA controller in Superman II. The IMDB listing for Superman III lists him as “State Policeman.” Truth be told, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, I can’t confirm.

Guy Hamilton: He directed four 007 films, two with Sean Connery and two with Roger Moore. He was signed to direct Superman but exited the project and replaced by Richard Donner.

(UPDATE 9:40 a.m., April 20): By popular demand, two more.

Tom Mankiewicz: The screenwriter of 1970s 007 films was credited as “creative consultant” in Superman and Superman II. He essentially rewrote the scripts, combining elements of very serious Mario Puzo drafts and much lighter drafts by David Newman and Leslie Newman.

Clifton James: The veteran actor, who played Sheriff J.W. Pepper in two Bond films, again played a sheriff in Superman II.

Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No Part I

Dr. No poster

Dr. No poster

Squabbles over money, production delays and the exchange of terse words.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film? No. Dr. No, the first.

In 2011, Film Finances Inc., which specializes in “completion bonds” that ensure movies get finished, published A Bond for Bond. The book presented the company’s history with Dr. No, including reproducing memos and production budgets.

For a fee, Film Financing, founded in 1950, guarantees completion of a movie, including providing contingency financing. With Dr. No, Film Financing ended up taking financial control of the film as principal photography ended and post-production began. That meant all expenditures from that point forward had to be approved by Film Financing.

According to the book, written by Charles Drazin and reprinted in 2014, Film Finances had previously provided completion bonds to earlier movies produced separately by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. While the new partners had a distribution deal with United Artists, Film Finances would provide the completion bond for the first Bond.

As Film Finances considered the project, executives were enthusiastic but had concerns.

A Dec. 16, 1961 memo analyzing the movie’s budget questioned whether shooting schedule was too optimistic and whether director Terence Young could meet it.

John Croydon, a consultant for Film Finances, wrote, “I must confess to alarm at the combination of Broccoli, Saltzmann (sic) and Young in charge of the picture, especially as (L.C.) Rudkin, although a good PM (production manager) is probably not the strongest controller of people of this type.”

Croydon wrote from first-hand experience. He had been associate producer on the 1960 Saltzman-produced film The Entertainer.

Dr. No had an initial budget of 317,399 pounds (almost $889,000 at an exchange rate of $2.80 per pound), later revised to 322,096 (almost $901,800), with 23,199 pounds in contingency funds.

Various crew members, including Young and production director Ken Adam, wrote brief letters to Film Finances saying the budget was adequate for the movie. Harry Saltzman wrote a similar but more detailed letter.

Young was slated to receive a fee of 15,000 pounds ($42,000), but agreed to defer 10,000 pounds of it into an escrow account. This would cause tension later.

The pre-production documents in A Bond for Bond also show the distinguished British director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth worked on Dr. No for a day. On Dec. 21, 1961, Unsworth photographed screen tests of four actresses contending for the role of Miss Taro, including eventual winner Zena Marshall.

In January 1962, principal photography on Dr. No began. Before it was over, executives at Film Finances would make a move the company rarely made because of financial concerns.

Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

NEXT: Dr. No falls a half-day behind schedule on its first day.

 

How British are 007 films?

Skyfall's poster image

BAFTA winner for Outstanding British Film

Of course James Bond films are British. They concern a British icon and are filmed in the U.K. What could be more obvious? That’s like asking if Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley are British.

Well, that might not be the best comparison given that Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. and Bentley is owned by Volkswagen AG. Still, 007 films have always been considered British.

Still, the answer isn’t as easy as it might appear.

In the early days, the series made by Eon Productions Ltd. was U.K.-based. While producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were born elsewhere, they were operated out of the U.K. and the movies were full of British film talent such as director of photography Ted Moore, (naturalized citizen) production designer Ken Adam and editor Peter Hunt. Of course, the U.S.-based studio United Artists financed the movies.

It pretty much remained that way until Diamonds Are Forever. The Inside Diamonds Are Forever documentary directed by John Cork notes that the producers initially intended to Americanize Bond, even hiring an American (John Gavin) for the role. It was going to be based out of Universal Studios.

Things changed. Sean Connery returned as Bond (at the insistence of United Artists) and U.K.’s Pinewood Studios was again the home base. Yet, some key jobs were split between British and American crew members, including stunt arranger, assistant director, art director, set decorator, production manager and visual effects.

Also, as the years passed, Eon for a variety of reasons (financial among them) based some films primarily outside of the U.K. They included Moonraker (the first unit was based out of France, Derek Meddings’s special effects unit still labored at Pinewood), Licence to Kill (Mexico) and Casino Royale (Czech Republic, with some sequences shot at Pinewood).

What’s more, movies not thought of as British, such as Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) were based out of the U.K. Each had key British crew members, including: Star Wars with production designer John Barry (not to be confused with the 007 film composer), whose group won the art direction Oscar over Ken Adam & Co. (The Spy Who Loved Me); Superman with Barry again, director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth, and second unit director John Glen; Batman with art director Terry Ackland-Snow, assistant director Derek Cracknell and special visual effects man Derek Meddings. Batman was filming at Pinewood at around the same time Licence to Kill’s crew was working in Mexico.

Still, Superman and Batman (which both debuted during the Great Depression) are American icons and Star Wars, while set in a galaxy far, far away, is too.

At the same time, Skyfall, which came out on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 12, is very British. Much of the story takes place there and many of Shanghai and Macao scenes were really filmed at Pinewood, with the second unit getting exterior shots.

On Feb. 10, Skyfall picked up the Oustanding British Film award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It was a first and a lot of 007 fans are still taking it all in.

In truth, movies generally are an international business these days, Bond films included. But 007 isn’t likely to lose his identification as being a British product anytime soon, much the way Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley have a British identity regardless of ownership.