Connery still most popular U.K. actor in U.S.

Sean Connery and David McCallum circa 1966

Party like it’s 1966: Sean Connery No. 1 most popular U.K. actor in U.S., David McCallum No. 4

Sean Connery, the original screen James Bond, is still the most popular U.K. actor in the U.S., according to an article in the Sunday Times.

Here’s an excerpt:

Connery, who played James Bond in seven films between 1962 and 1983, eclipses younger British actors including Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis and even Daniel Craig, the current 007.

He is the most popular Briton to feature in the Q Score charts, which are based on opinion polls conducted in America every six months, asking 1,500 people how much they like stars and the extent to which they trust them.

The ARTICLE and full list is behind a paywall, meaning you have to register for the website to view it. But copies have circulated elsewhere on the Internet. Anyway, for readers of this blog, here are some other names of interest:

No. 4: David McCallum, who gained fame as Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and is a supporting player on NCIS.

No. 6: Judi Dench, who played M in seven James Bond films from 1995 through 2012 and an Oscar winning actress.

No. 8: Daniel Craig, James Bond actor in three movies, 2006 to present and has said he’s signed to play 007 in two more movies. The next, the untitled Bond 24, is scheduled for fall 2015.

No. 12: Robert Carlyle, who played one of the villains in 1999′s The World Is Not Enough.

No. 21: Alan Cumming, character actor who played a secondary villain in 1995′s GoldenEye.

No. 24: Henry Cavill: most recent screen Superman in 2013′s Man of Steel and currently playing Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Was also one of the finalists for the 007 role who lost out to Daniel Craig in 2005 for 2006′s Casino Royale.

No. 27: Jane Seymour: busy actress who played Solitaire in 1973′s Live And Let Die.

UPDATE (Oct. 28): This ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN isn’t behind a paywall and a has a full list of the top 20.

1979: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie that wasn’t

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

The impending start of production of a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a reminder of other attempts at reviving U.N.C.L.E. One of the most ambitious story lines was devised in the late 1970s as an attempt at a feature film.

Robert Short and Danny Biederman pitched what they called The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Feature Film. The Short-Biederman tale involved an all-out assault by Thrush, the villainous organization of the 1964-68 series, against U.N.C.L.E. Short and Biederman also intended that Robert Vaughn and David McCallum reprise their roles as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

What’s more, according to a 17-page outline dated April 1979, Thrush “has gained a solid grasp on the world’s economy by having bought controlling interest in numerous multi-national corporations.”

A more elaborate 74-page treatment was later written but the outline provides an idea what this version of U.N.C.L.E. would have been like.

What follows are a few examples:

– We witness the destruction of U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters.

– The “innocent” character is Brandy Burns, an advice columnist for The New York Times. (For a movie made in 1979-80, the New York Daily News or New York Post would have been closer to real life.)

– The femme fatale is Serena, played by Senta Berger in The Double Affair of the original series or The Spy With My Face, the movie version based on that episode.

– Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief of the original show isn’t seen but we’re told by the end of the 17-page outline is still alive. LEO G. CARROLL, who played Waverly in the original series had died in 1972.

– Dr. Egret, a Thrush master of disguise who appeared in two first-season episodes, makes an appearance late in the story.

– The Thrush Ultimate Computer, only seen in one second-season episode (where it was blown up), plays a prominent role in the story.

– Late in the story we’re told that Thrush’s ruling council consists of “major world figures known to have died during the past several decades. As it turns out, each death had been a phony, staged to provide the individuals a means of exiting one position of power and enter another.”

No specific examples are given, but had a movie been given the go ahead in 1979-80, the possibilities are endless. John F. Kennedy (died 1963)? Robert F. Kennedy (died 1968)? Joseph Stalin (died 1953)? Mao Zedong (died 1976)? Nikita Khrushchev (died 1971)?

In the end, it was not to be.

The Short-Biederman project kicked round until the spring of 1982, according to CRAIG HENDERSON’S U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE ON THE FOR YOUR EYES ONLY WEBSITE. Sometimes it was pitched as a made-for-television movie as an alternate for a feature film. Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. timeline says in 1981 Short and Biederman lined up Laura Antonelli to play Serena, Jane Seymour as the innocent and Klaus Kinski as the villain.

A 1983 TV movie, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was made instead and was broadcast in April 1983. Vaughn and McCallum reprised the Solo and Kuryakin roles and Robert Short was technical adviser.

There hasn’t been an official U.N.C.L.E. production since. That will change if director Guy Ritchie begins filming his U.N.C.L.E. movie in early September with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Solo and Kuryakin.

NEVER-MADE U.N.C.L.E. SCRIPTS:
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. EPISODE GUIDE

DECEMBER 2010 POST:
DANNY BIEDERMAN’S SPY-FI COLLECTION

HMSSWEBLOG POSTS ABOUT THE U.N.C.L.E. MOVIE: CLICK HERE

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

Live And Let Die, a reappraisal

We decided, after quite some time, to rewatch Live And Die. It was the debut of Roger Moore as James Bond but, in some ways, it’s more of a milestone than that. For some people, including Skyfall director Sam Mendes, it was the point of entry for a second generation of Bond fans to get addicted.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider Mendes’s own words at the Nov. 3 news conference Eon Productions held: “I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me.” Mendes was born in 1965, too late to catch the first wave of Bond films. For people of that age, their first 007 contact was the Roger Moore Bond of the early 1970s.

Given that, we thought we’d give it another view. First reaction: the Roger Moore 007 didn’t have the swagger, or seem to present the danger element, the way Sean Connery did. At times (mostly when 007 is dealing with African American gangster types early in the film), he’s like Lt. Columbo Bond, trying to lull his adversaries into complacency.

“Waste him?” Bond asks Solitaire (Jane Seymour) after Mr. Big orders his execution. “Is that a good thing?” Shortly thereafter, he’s forced from a door outside into a wall. “Thank you,” Bond says politely.

Later, when the odds have evened up a bit, Moore/Bond comes across as unflappable, rather than having the swagger of Connery/Bond. When he’s told that “Mrs. Bond” has already checked into his bungalow in San Monique, 007 registers concern for a second then cooly says, “Incurable romantic, Mrs. Bond.”

Live And Let Die definitely continues the trend begun in 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s farewell to the Eon Productions-made film series. Both films were directed by Guy Hamilton, with the final Diamonds script by Tom Mankiewicz (rewriting Richard Maibaum’s earlier drafts) and Mankiewicz working solo on Live And Let Die.

The humor in sequences such as the signature boat chase is even more over the top. Diamonds had some clueless law enforcement officers. Live And Let Die exceeds that with Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), a tabacco-chewing redneck (and clearly racist) sheriff. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, indicates he didn’t want humor to be at the expense of the African American villains, thus he invented other characters to be the butt of jokes. Also, the death of Live And Let Die’s villain, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), is on the same level as a Tex Avery-directed cartoon.

The movie is also dated in that it was influenced by so-called “Blaxploitation” films (Shaft, Super Fly) of the early 1970s. That bothers some first-generation fans, who feel that Bond led the way in the ’60s. Then again, when Bond was rebooted with 2006′s Casino Royale and its sequel, 2008′s Quantum of Solace, they were influenced by Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. That doesn’t bother supporters of those films.

Still, the boat chase is amazing, no computer generated special effects (which, of course, didn’t exist then), just real men using their brains guts and tricks such as hidden ramps. So is the stunt by crocodile farm owner Ross Kananga (Mankiewicz’s inspiration for the villain’s name), doubling Roger Moore, he really did risk death five times before finally successful running over the backs of alligators to safety.

Composer George Martin tends to get overlooked because the title song by Paul and Linda McCartney was so popular. After six consecutive John Barry scores, it was up to Martin to provide the film’s background music. Martin didn’t write the Live And Let Die song but was vital to its preparation and selling it to Eon. So, perhaps because he had a vested interest, he weaves the title song throughout the film very effectively while working within the Barry/Bond music templates. If that sounds easy, we suspect it wasn’t.

Finally, upon this viewing, Yaphet Kotto’s performance struck us as interesting. For the film’s first half, he’s dour and doesn’t say much. After it’s revealed he’s both Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big, he suddenly begins having fun with the role. He explains Kananga’s plot of flooding the U.S. with free heroin to drive out criminal competitors. “Man or woman, black or white, I don’t discriminate.” He then says once the plan is implemented, and the number of addicts has doubled, he’ll start charging for the heroin, leaving “myself and the phone company as the only going monopolies in this nation for years to come.”

A Live And Let Die fan


Live And Let Die isn’t a perfect film by any means. (It was mostly panned in a SURVEY OF HMSS EDITORS SOME YEARS BACK.) But you can see how it appealed to a new generation of fans. Sam Mendes doesn’t exactly have a reputation for directing light movies, so we suspect Skyfall won’t resemble Live And Let Die. But it is interesting, at least on some level, that he cites Live And Let Die as an influence.

Finally, it should be noted that Live And Let Die was the first 007 film to have a higher worldwide gross than 1965′s Thunderball, $161.8 million to $141.2 million Its U.S. box office, though, was below Diamonds Are Forever.

In sum, Live And Let Die is a movie that’s going to divide Bond fans. The first-generation fans throw their arms up in the air while, for the second generation, it’s a landmark to explain how they became interested in 007.

UPDATE: 007 Magazine e-mailed us that is has a back issue concerning Live And Let Die. So if you CLICK HERE you’ll see a selection of back issues of 007 Magazine Archive Files, and find the issue devoted to Live And Let Die.

ZOO’s Top 10 Sexiest Bond Girls

British-based teen-boy-wacking-material ZOO.com has a list of their picks for the top 10 sexiest of the James Bond girls.  Whether or not you agree with the list, the piece is striking in that it features some pretty rare photographs of the girls in question.  The one of the perpetually underappreciated Mie Hama (Kissy Suzuki of You Only Live Twice) being a prime example.

Check out ZOO for some very sweet eye candy .  Sexist?  Sadly, yes, but yummy nevertheless.

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