Sean Connery, original film 007, dies at 90

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery, the original film James Bond, has died at 90. His death was confirmed by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, in a post on Twitter.

Jason Connery, the actor’s son, told the BBC that his father “has been unwell for some time.”

The Scottish actor took on the role of James Bond with Dr. No, when he was 31. By doing so, he became one of the major icons of the 1960s, along with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Connery enjoyed a long career, which extended into the early 21st century. His last live-action performance was 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Connery also did voice work for a 2005 video game that adapted the 007 film From Russia With Love and a 2012 animated film, Sir Billi.  The actor’s honors included an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1987’s The Untouchables.

Despite all that, his seven Bond films — six for Eon Productions as well as the non-Eon production of 1983’s Never Say Never Again — defined his career and made him a star.

Dr. No producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, working with a modest budget, decided on Connery relatively early in pre-production. United Artists, the studio that would release 11 Bond films before it was absorbed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, initially was skeptical.

Eventually, UA executives were sold. It was a decision they would profit from handsomely. The 007 series was UA’s major asset in the 1960s, a decade when the studio also released such films as West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night and low-cost but profitable films featuring The Beatles.

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Connery’s Bond was both sophisticated and ruthless. The actor was tutored in the former trait by director Terence Young, who helmed three of the first four 007 movies. It was Young who polished the rough diamond of an actor who came from a working-class background in Scotland.

Audiences adored the combination. The first four Bond films were mostly faithful adaptations of Ian Fleming novels. For the American market, Connery’s Bond was a more macho hero than audience members probably expected.

The actor stayed busy with non-Bond projects, including The Hill, a World War II drama. But the conversation kept coming back to Bond, like in an Oct. 3, 1965 episode of What’s My Line?

Connery, the first of two mystery guests, was present because The Hill was opening in New York later that week. He was also in New York filming A Fine Madness, directed by Irvin Kershner, who’d later work with Connery on Never Say Never Again.

But panelist Martin Gabel, one of Connery’s co-stars in the Alfred Hitchcock film Marnie, cited Bond in deducing the actor’s identity.

What’s more, Connery’s relationship with Broccoli and Saltzman became troubled. As the budgets and scope of the movies expanded, Connery felt cheated with his share of the enterprise.

In 1966, Columbia Pictures released The Silencers, a spoofy version of Donald Hamilton’s very serious Matt Helm novels. The producer was Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen.

To secure the services of star Dean Martin, Allen had to make Dino a partner. That ensured the actor, who received a share of the proceeds, would get a bigger payday than Connery got for 007 films. From then on, Connery would be at odds with his Bond employers.

Connery quit the series after 1967’s You Only Live Twice (the first 007 venture than dispensed with the plot of an Ian Fleming novel).

UA, unhappy with the box office of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, lured Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever with a big payday, including a $1.25 million fee (which the Scottish actor donated to a trust he founded). Connery also received a percentage of the box office.

After Diamonds, Connery said he was done with Eon for good. But he went back into Bondage one more time with Never Say Never Again.

Connery had more behind-the-camera power than he ever had with Eon. He brought in scribes Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to do an uncredited rewrite of Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s script. The actor also recruited Michel Legrand to score the movie.

Both the script and the music would be among the most criticized aspects of Never Say Never Again. But many Bond fans, happy to see Connery one last time, overlooked the actor’s role as de facto producer.

Sean Connery in 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Regardless, Connery was the building block for Eon’s 007 film series that has lasted more than a half century.

The series, of course, had many talented contributors including director Young, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry. However, Connery provided a popular Bond for audiences. All future Bond actors would be compared to Connery.

Some fans and critics have argued that Connery has been surpassed in the 21st century by Daniel Craig. But without Connery at the start, that’s almost a moot point. All of Connery’s 007 successors had the opportunity because of the Scot’s original work.

Zimmer’s site lists track titles for NTTD soundtrack

Hans Zimmer

Post concerns a possible spoiler, but it’s not spelled out in the post itself. But if you’re queasy about spoilers at all, leave now.

The Hans Zimmer website  has a listing of the track titles for No Time Time to Die’s soundtrack.

One page on the site lists 21 track titles for the soundtrack. The title for track No. 16 may indirectly refer to something from an Ian Fleming novel. In case this is up by mistake and gets yanked you can view (if you are so inclined) a screengrab of part of the page.

The soundtrack is now available for pre-ordering, Decca Records said today on Twitter.

Zimmer replaced Dan Romer as No Time to Die’s composer. Steve Mazzaro, who scored The Rhythm Section for Eon Productions, provides additional music for the 25th James Bond film.

UPDATE: The soundtrack list is now out from various sources, including the Film Score Reporter site. Continue reading

About that Bernard Lee/Robert Brown M thing

Portrait of the Bernard Lee M in The World Is Not Enough. Thanks to Ben Williams.

One of the ongoing debates in James Bond fandom is whether Bernard Lee’s M (1962-79) is the same as Robert Brown’s M (1983-89).

The answer: You can argue they are the same or they are different characters, with Brown’s M being Admiral Hargreaves from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

The available evidence is, at best, inconclusive.

Background: Bernard Lee played Sir Miles Messervy for the first 11 James Bond films.

In Ian Fleming’s novels, the character name was not revealed until Ian Fleming’s final Bond book, The Man With the Golden Gun. “Miles” was mentioned briefly by General Gogol in The Spy Who Loved Me movie.

Lee died in January 1981. He wasn’t available to participate in the production of For Your Eyes Only. In that film, it was stated that M was on leave and that the chief of staff was running operations.

Octopussy script: In the first draft by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, dated June 10, 1982, there isn’t a hint that M is another person.

M’S VOICE
(over intercom)
Stop fishing for compliments, Double-O-Seven, and get in here.

(snip)
M’S OFFICE – M MINISTER FANNING
as BOND enters. Fanning is a scholarly looking slightly pudgy man in his late thirties. SOTHEBY CATALOGUE and the FABERGE EGG lie on M’s desk

The rest of the scene is more or less what we got in the 1983 movie. Again, there was no hint that M was a different character than in the first 11 movies.

From that, you can conclude that a simple change in casting took place. Bernard Lee died. Robert Brown replaced him. But the character is the same.

Judi Dench’s M lectures Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond with the portrait of Bernard Lee’s M in the background.

However, in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, things may have changed.

In the pre-titles sequence, there is an explosion at MI6 headquarters in London. British Intelligence is forced to regroup at another headquarters in Scotland.

The art department (Peter Lamont? One of his deputies? One of the lowest ranking blokes?) included a portrait of Bernard Lee’s M.

Was this a “retcon,” or retroactive change in continuity?

There are certainly signs that the view of Lee/M and Brown/M being separate characters has taken hold with many fans. The MI6 James Bond website conducted a vote on Twitter this weekend, with the view that they are different characters winning the day.

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Five years later: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

Five years after the 2015 movie of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came out, my social media inbox is pretty full about the Guy Ritchie-directed film.

It’s a mixed bag. I know some people who loved it. These folks liked the updated take on Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) and Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant).

Within that group, there was a sigh of relief the movie didn’t end up like Wild Wild West (1999) and I Spy (2002) — other films based on 1960s spy shows.

I know others who hated it.

With that group, there’s criticism about the lack of a secret headquarters, badges (to access the secret headquarters) and cool gadgets. It’s not U.N.C.L.E., just something with that name.

Over the past year, I’ve gotten a few questions about my own opinion. For me, despite changing Solo’s backstory, the Henry Cavill version of Solo is more or less where Robert Vaughn’s original was.

The more radical change was Armie Hammer’s Kuryakin. The 2015 movie suggests some serious mental issues. That didn’t stop David McCallum from endorsing the film in a 2015 interview with Fox News.

My main complaint? The filmmakers could have given us more of Jerry Goldsmith’s original theme. Guy Ritchie wanted to avoid that, but a few notes of the original theme were sneaked into the film.

Some original fans complain about Hugh Grant’s Waverly. They cite how much younger Grant was compared with Leo G. Carroll’s Waverly. The thing is, the original Waverly was very manipulative, a trait that Grant’s Waverly had.

One footnote: The 2015 movie worked in one of Ian Fleming’s ideas from October 1962 (namely that Solo liked to cook). So there’s that.

In any event, I personally was surprised by the amount of social media chatter about the fifth anniversary of the movie.

Do I think there will ever be a sequel? I doubt it. I’ll take what I can get, though.

Without whom, etc. (56th anniversary)

Does No Time to Die evoke one of Fleming’s last ideas?

New No Time to Die poster

Is this a spoiler? Only if it’s correct. Nevertheless, don’t read any further if that upsets you.

The MI6 James Bond website today published a story about No Time to Die spoilers based on call sheets issued during filming in Italy last year.

The article reveals a number of details. But one in particular would catch the attention of Bond fans who’ve read Ian Fleming’s original novels.

Specifically, such fans would note the end of the author’s You Only Live Twice novel.

Here’s an excerpt:

One of the final scenes to be shot Italy back in September was with Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and Madeliene (Lea Seydoux) on the coast near Maratea Port for scene #235. This location is doubling for Safin’s island. Local press caught shots of a rib boat with Nomi in combat gear and Madeline on a radio.

But there is a third character included in these late scenes, and it is not James Bond. Her name is Mathilde and she is 5 years old. She appears in scene #235: “Nomi pilots Madeliene and Mathilde to safety with island in the background.”

Could Mathilde be the daughter of Bond? That would be similar to the You Only Live Twice novel, where Bond, suffering from amnesia and thinking he’s a Japanese fisherman, travels off to the Soviet Union. He’s unaware that Kissy Suzuki is pregnant with his son.

The MI6 article adds this at the end:

Could James Bond become a parent? Regular Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have for years worked on including elements of unused Ian Fleming material, and aside from Bond’s brainwashed attempt to assassinate M in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, one of the most glaring omissions from the film series is how Bond leaves Kissy at the end of ‘You Only Live Twice’.

We’ll see. Eventually.

Footnote: Bond continuation novel author Raymond Benson ran with the idea at the beginning of his 1997-2002 run. James Suzuki, the daughter of Bond and Kissy, figures into the short story Blast From the Past. That story was first published in Playboy.

James Suzuki is killed, bringing Bond into conflict with another old enemy.

The remarkable Paul Dehn

Paul Dehn (1912-1976)

While doing some research, it occurred to me how remarkable Paul Dehn’s career as a screenwriter was.

In the space of one year Dehn adapted film versions of Ian Fleming (Goldfinger) and John Le Carre (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold).

In the space of 10 years, Dehn added adaptations of William Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) and Agatha Christie (the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express).

On top of that, he worked on four sequels for The Planet of the Apes.

Dehn (1912-1976) engaged in intelligence activities during World War II, according to his WIKIPEDIA ENTRY. In the post-war years, Fleming, Dehn and former intelligence operatives such as Alan Caillou (1914-2006) drew upon their experiences in spinning stories for film and TV shows.

Still, Dehn had quite a ride. He was the second writer brought in for Goldfinger, brought in by Harry Saltzman after Richard Maibaum had begun the process.

“Dehn solved the final problems of the adoption and added some Britishness,” film historian Adrian Turner wrote in the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“Although Maibaum had disapproved of much of Dehn’s work, Dehn sent him a cable on the day of the film’s premiere — “Congratulations on Goldfinger am proud to have collaborated with you” — which was a nice gesture,” Turner wrote.

Turner added that had “a strong sense of British tradition” and “wrote poetry, lyrics for popular songs, plays and libretti for short operas.”

Dehn died on Sept. 30, 1976, at the age of 63.

Broccoli & Wilson talk up diversity in Bond films

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions have talked up how the James Bond film series has embraced diversity over its almost 58-year history in an interview with the Blackfilm website.

We’ve always tried to have diversity in the films,” Wilson said in the interview.

“We’ve always had international casts, and they’ve all been different ethnicities,” Wilso added. “So it’s nothing new. However, people are more sensitive to what they want to see, and when they see it — they point it out. I think we have a great diverse cast from all over the world. It’s in keeping with the times, but I think we’ve always been a little ahead of the times.”

Barbara Broccoli added the following: “Look at Live and Let Die, which was 1973. It was one of the first interracial relationships, Bond with Gloria Hendry. I mean, it’s crazy.”

Fact check: In Dr. No, Sean Connery’s Bond told Quarrel to “fetch my shoes.” This occurred seven years after the Montgomery bus boycott (a major event in the U.S. civil rights movement) and hasn’t aged well since.

What’s more, Live And Let Die screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz got shot down when he proposed that Solitaire (Jane Seymour in the movie) be played by an African American actress. So Bond films weren’t that ahead of the times. (Soliaire was written as a white woman in Ian Fleming’s novel.)

Broccoli also talked about Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas:

“These women have trained like you can’t imagine. They are absolutely in tip-top, peak condition, and they could take anyone on. It is not just strength; it’s flexibility. Your muscles have to be in good condition, you have to be able to stop and start. So it’s a constant training thing. And then they have weapons training. They have to look like they know how to shoot a weapon, and you want them to be safe, and you want them to look good. It’s been a long, intensive training program for both of them.”

Broccoli also talked up how No Time to Die ties up the Daniel Craig era for Bond films.

“I think the story is really an accumulation of the past four films and this one. So the five-film cycle, and I think the arc of his character — particularly the emotional arc of his character, is completed. We feel it’s a very satisfying conclusion to his movies; hopefully, the audiences will too.”

Author discusses The Many Lives of James Bond book

The Many Lives of James Bond cover

James Bond, whether the literary or screen version, always attracts writers wanting to examine the character.

Author Mark Edlitz’s new book, The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy, has widened his attention to cartoons, video games, television, radio and other media.

The book is billed as offering “the largest ever collection of original interviews with actors who have played Bond in different media.” That includes performers beyond the six actors who played Bond in the long-running film series produced by Eon Productions.

The book also interprets creators broadly, including actors, directors, writers, song writers, artists and, in one case, a dancer.

The Many Lives of James Bond has five parts: Bond on Film, Bond in Print, Being Bond, Designing 007 and Bond Women.

In this interview, Edlitz discusses why he took on the book and the effort involved.

SPY COMMAND: There have been many books written about the literary and film James Bond. As you planned your book, what did you feel you could add? What areas needed to be addressed?

MARK EDLITZ: There have been many fantastic books about the cinematic and literary Bond; I have many of them. In fact, I assume that my ideal reader is a Bond fan who has read all of the books. Of course, books and films are the most visible part of the franchise, but they are not the only parts. So, I certainly cover both of them in detail. But I also explore the character of Bond in video games, radio dramas, television shows, and comic strips. 

The Many Lives of James Bond is a couple of things. One, it’s the most extensive collection of interviews with actors who have played Bond.  But it’s not always the Bond you’d expect.  Two, it’s also a look at the character as he is interpreted in different media by the artists who created them.

SC: How long did you work on the book? It has interviews with directors (Martin Campbell, among others), actors, and an academic. When did you start and when did you finally have a manuscript you could submit?

EDLITZ: The book took me a few years to write. Tracking down actors, writers, directors, and other artists can be a slow process. But my strategy was to take the book one chapter at a time. Eventually, you write enough chapters, put them all together and think, “Yup, this actually might be a book.”

Having said that, writing The Many Lives of James Bond took less time than my first book How to Be a Superhero, which was a collection of interviews with actors who played superheroes over the last seven decades. How to Be a Superhero took a whopping ten years to write. The Many Lives of James Bond took about three years.

The Many Lives of James Bond is a collection of interviews with the creators of Bond films, books, audio dramas, books on tape, poster artists, and more. I spoke to three Bond directors — Martin Campbell, Roger Spottiswood, and John Glen.

I talked with Bond screenwriters, novelists, comic book writers, and lyricists.  I also interviewed some amazing Bond poster artists, including the legendary Dan Goozee and Robert McGinnis. The two of them created some of the best and most unforgettable art from the entire series.

SC: How many of these are original interviews? How many are compiled from other sources? I ask because Sean Connery has been mostly out of public view for some years.

I conducted all of the full interviews in the book. There is also an appendix for sourced quotes from people who had either passed away or were not available to me. But that’s just a small portion of the book.

The lion share of interviews are brand new.  My self-imposed rule was if I could find the Bond actor and they would talk to me, I would devote an entire chapter to their work. I didn’t speak to Sean Connery.  Of course, I tried. But I’m not sure I would have been able to learn something new from him that he hasn’t already revealed.

I think the book’s strength is that I spoke to people who Bond actors who don’t typically get approached for interviews. For example, I interviewed the performer who played James Bond in the Oscars at the tribute to Albert R. Broccoli and the franchise. He played 007 while Sheena Easton sang “For Your Eyes Only.”

(Spy Command note: This took place at the 1982 Oscars when Broccoli received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. A video of the Easton performance is below. The Q&A resumes underneath the video.)

SC: What was your biggest surprise you found as you researched the book?

EDLITZ: There were several surprises. In The Many Lives of James Bond, I solve a longstanding Bond mystery. Bond fans have wondered about Bob Holness’s performance as Bond in the South African Broadcast Company’s production of Moonraker in the ’50s. No one recorded the production, and there is very reliable information about it.

I was able to track down Holness’s daughter, who gave me some very valuable information that proves once and for all when the production took place. And Brain McKaig of The Bondologist Blog shared his personal correspondence with Holness. That letter also sheds light on his performance.

Another surprise is Connery’s feelings about the part. We all know that he has complicated feelings about playing Bond. And that’s true. But there are some remarkable stories in the book about Connery returning to the role for his performance in the video game From Russia with Love.

I don’t want to spoil it, but he went through the arduous process of recording his dialogue for the day, and something happened to the audiotape. It was gone. The recording was gone. What happened next showed how loyal and magnanimous Connery can be.

SC: Do you think people take Bond for granted? The first novel came out in 1953. The film first came out in 1962. I think some fans think it’s guaranteed Bond will go on. But from what I’ve read, 007 has had some close calls over the years.

EDLITZ: I think there are probably elements of the Bond franchise that people take for granted. The general public probably doesn’t realize just how entertaining the Fleming novels are to read. There have been several periods where pundits said that Bond was done for.

In some cases, they were talking about the films. But Eon finds a way to change things up and make Bond continually relevant. In the periods between films, Bond fans read continuation novels and comic books to hold them over. While we wait for the next movie, Bond fans gather in message boards on websites and on podcasts, where they can talk and share information.

SC: Your book includes comments from the likes of Barry Nelson (who played an American Bond on CBS in 1954), Bob Holness (who played Bond in a radio production), and Bob Simmons (Sean Connery’s stunt double who also did the first gun barrel image). What did those guys bring to the party? (I actually defend the 1954 TV production, which many fans insist upon comparing to the films; for me, it’s something different.)

EDLITZ: Most casual Bond fans will say that only six people played Bond. They are, of course, talking about Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig. A slightly more serious Bond fan will mention David Niven or Barry Nelson. But the true Bond fans know that many actors have played Bond in different media.

I wanted to help shed light on some of their unique contributions. That’s why I tracked down actors who played Bond on the radio, on the cartoon James Bond Jr., and in the video games, to name a few.  Each of these performers has contributed to Bond’s legacy and I wanted to honor them for it.

As an aside, I also agree with you about the merits of 1954’s Casino Royale. When you read Barry Nelson’s comments about the production, you get the sense that he was disappointed with it. Of course, the live production took many liberties and wasn’t always faithful to Fleming’s novel. But what they did was pretty unique; especially for a live production in the ’50s.

SC: What do you think accounts for Bond’s durability?

That’s a good but tough question. It’s almost unanswerable.

The artists I interviewed in the book each have their own theories. The producers’ ability to change with the times plays a big part. I also think he’s possible because Fleming created an endurable character, who isn’t completely knowable.

(Screenwriter) Richard Maibaum made him slightly more accessible, added irony and Bond’s wit. But in all iterations; he retains his mystery.  But he’s malleable enough that he can be interpreted and reinterpreted by so many different artists and in many various forms.

The comic book Bond is different from the Bond of the video games, who is different from the Bond on the radio. Bond is also a perfect vehicle for our fantasies. (Screenwriter) Bruce Feirstein said that any guy who has ever put on a tuxedo thinks he’s James Bond. I agree.

SC: What was your reaction when you finally finished? Elation? Relief? Some other emotion?

EDLITZ: I’ll take D, all of the above. Also, I’m a bit wistful. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m a little sorry to let that go. However, I’m thrilled to share the book with my fellow Bond fans.

Many of those Bond fans have been generous, kind, and supportive to me during this process. For many Bond fans, the films and novels are just the tip of the iceberg. The way we deepen our love of the character is by reading books, magazines, and message boards about Bond. So I really hope that Bond fans enjoy The Many Lives of James Bond.

To see the Amazon listing for The Many Lives of James Bond, CLICK HERE.

Looking for a suit? Here’s an U.N.C.L.E. version for $735

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) wasn’t a big box office hit. But that hasn’t stopped the marketing of a suit based on the film.

Magnoli Clothiers is offering a three-piece suit based on the movie for $735. Here’s a description.

This retro three-piece suit features a three-button single-breasted jacket with cloth-covered buttons, three flapped pockets and a square-cut bottom. The six-button waistcoat has matching buttons and two welted pockets. The pleated trousers have angled side pockets and plain bottoms with no cuffs.

Shown in a premium wool blend, dark blue with double window-pane and hand-stitched detailing

Henry Cavill wore a variety of three-piece suits in the 2015 film. Cavill, a one-time contender to play James Bond, portrayed Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

Solo was the role originated by Robert Vaughn in the 1964-68 television series. The Solo character was created by television producer Norman Felton and James Bond author Ian Fleming. The bulk of the series was created by writer-producer Sam Rolfe.

When the U.N.C.L.E. movie came out, some who didn’t like the movie (done as a period piece set in 1963) commented about the costumes, including Solo’s suits.

High-end merchandise related to James Bond is old hat. Currently, you can buy a $6,000 backgammon set, a $3.5 million replica Aston Martin DB5 with gadgets (but not street legal so you can’t drive it on the open road) and another Aston Martin model for $700,007.

Also, clothier N. Peal has come out with a line of James Bond-related clothing such as sweaters.

h/t Robert Short of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — Inner Circle page on Facebook.