007 Magazine features Robert Sellers on ‘Search for Bond’

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

The website for Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine has a new article by Robert Sellers titled “The Search for Bond.”

The website bills the article as the “exclusive never-before-told story behind the actors who won, and the many who lost, the most coveted role in cinema history!”

Sellers previous wrote the book The Battle for Bond, a book about the history of Thunderball.

A free preview on the website includes information on how Ian Fleming met in 1959 with screenwriter Paul Dehn (who’d eventually craft the later drafts of Goldfinger) to discuss translating Fleming’s novels to the screen.

The duo discussed how a “pre-Cleopatra/pre-Elizabeth Richard Burton would be an ideal James Bond, according to the preview. Of course, the role of Bond at this point was far from a coveted role.

Parts one and two of three parts are on a pay-to-view portion of the website. CLICK HERE for more information. The yearly subscription is 9.99 British pounds ($12.90) and a monthly subscription 4.99 British pounds ($6.44).

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Goldfinger’s 50th anniversary: the golden touch

Sean Connery and Honor Blackman projected onto the iconic "Golden Girl."

Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and the “Golden Girl.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, the third James Bond film.

Where Dr. No and From Russia With Love were wildly successful, Goldfinger turned 007 into a phenomenon. Where the first two films were escapist, Goldfinger was outlandish — a woman killed with gold paint, a car equipped with an ejector seat, machine guns and other weaponry, a plot to invade Fort Knox and a henchman who killed people by throwing a steel-rimmed hat at them.

Audiences could not get enough. Worldwide, Goldfinger’s box office was 58 percent higher ($124.9 million) than the box office of From Russia With Love ($78.9 million). In the U.S., Goldfinger’s box office more than doubled that of its 007 predecessor ($51.1 million compared with $24.8 million).

Sean Connery had become a star as Bond, his status confirmed by having his name “above the title” in the main credits. In the first two films, it was “Starring Sean Connery” immediately after the name of the movies was shown.

As noted here before, Goldfinger was the tide that lifted all boats of the 1960s spy craze.

In the U.S., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had struggled in the ratings early in its run, rallied around the time Goldfinger made its American debut. By the fall of 1965, spy shows would be a major attraction on U.S. television.

In theaters, Bond’s success encouraged both wildly escapist films (the Flint and Matt Helm series) and the occasional serious, “anti-Bond” film (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Ipcress File, the later produced by 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman and having several 007 production crew members aboard.).

Television commercials likewise were inspired by Goldfinger and 007. Harold Sakata, who played henchman Oddjob, starring in a series of spots for cough medicine. Butterfinger candy bars had a spot that utilized the hit John Barry-Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley Goldfinger title song.

The movie has been analyzed in many, many places, including five years ago at this blog. It was a difficult film to script, with Richard Maibaum, and later, Paul Dehn tackling storytelling issues in Ian Fleming’s novel. The final script turned Fleming’s longest novel into a tight film that ran below two hours.

In the 21st century, some Bond fans will say Goldfinger isn’t the best 007 movie. Some even say they’ve seen it so many times they’re really not sure they can watch it again.

Still, whatever one’s opinion, Goldfinger changed everything in the 007 universe. For years, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman sought “another” Goldfinger. Richard Maibaum’s first take on Diamonds Are Forever included Goldfinger’s twin brother, an idea that was rejected.

You can make the case that various 007 films are better. Some fans cite From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall among them. But Goldfinger, because of its impact not only on the 007 franchise but on other popular entertainment, may be the most important.

Repeat after me, ‘Writing a James Bond movie is hard’

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

John Logan is learning a lesson that the likes of Paul Haggis, Bruce Feistein, Jeffrey Caine and Michael France learned before him. Writing a James Bond movie is hard.

You can be a hero one day (Logan after Skyfall, Feirstein after GoldenEye, Haggis after Casino Royale) and out the door the next (Feirstein for a period during Tomorrow Never Dies until he got asked back, Haggis after Quantum of Solace).

Screenwriting in general is tough. If you’re in demand, you make a lot of money. If you’re not, it can be humbling. Studios make fewer, more expensive movies. With the stakes so high, there are all sorts of people — directors, stars, studio executives — looking over your shoulder. Bond movies take it a step further. You have the Broccoli-Wilson family, which has controlled the franchise for more than a half century. They have definite ideas of what they like and don’t like.

Screenwriters don’t tally up a lot of multiple 007 screen credits. An Oscar winner such as Paul Dehn had only one. Other one-time only scribes include John Hopkins. Roald Dahl and Michael France. Some writers toil without even getting a credit, such as Len Deighton and Donald E. Westlake, hardly slouches as authors.

All of which is a long way of saying it’s remarkable that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been summoned, according to Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, for a sixth turn writing a James Bond movie, taking over for Logan, who, in turn, rewrote their script for Skyfall. The only writer who has more Bond screenwriting credits is Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) with 13. Maibaum had the advantage of a long-standing relationship with producer Albert R. Broccoli.

Maibuam and the Purvis-Wade team have one thing in common. They’ve taken their share of flak over the years. The British film historian Adrian Turner, in a 1998 book about Goldfinger, made it clear he didn’t think much of Maibaum, painting Dehn as the one who brought the Goldfinger script into shape. Purvis and Wade, meanwhile, get criticized on Internet message boards and social media by some fans as hacks. It helps to have a thick skin.

Feirstein, Haggis and Logan were the final writers on three significant 007 hits: GoldenEye (reviving the franchise after a six-year hiatus), Casino Royale (a reboot of the franchise) and Skyfall (the first billion-dollar Bond film). They got invited back but in the cases of Feirstein and Haggis it was hardly easy going. Something similar may be going on with Logan. He was hired to write a two-film story arc, but that plan got scrapped as part of the price to get Skyfall director Sam Mendes back for Bond 24.

The situation undoubtedly is even more complicated and can only really be appreciated by those who’ve gone through the same grind. But the basic lesson still stands. It’s hard to write a James Bond movie.

1964: John Le Carre appears on To Tell the Truth

David Cornell, aka John Le Carre

David Cornwell, aka John Le Carre

There was a time that game shows sometimes featured major literary or even historical figures. So it was in 1964 on the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman program To Tell The Truth when author David Cornwell, aka John Le Carre, was a contestant.

At the time of the broadcast on CBS, the author’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was a best seller. Cornwell had sold the film rights and it would be made into A 1965 MOVIE STARRING RICHARD BURTON. One of the screenwriters would be Paul Dehn, who had penned the later drafts of 1964’s Goldfinger.

The regular panel of Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle faced the daunting task of determining which of three contestents had once worked in British intelligence. The outcome? Well, let’s just say it didn’t turn out well for the panel.

Here’s the broadcast, featuring host Bud Collyer. Our usual caveat: these things are often yanked off YouTube, so it’s possible the embedded video may be gone by the time you see see this. Cornwell/Le Carre appears in the second of the three games:

Len Deighton on From Russia With Love

Len Deighton and Michael Caine


The Deighton Dossier blog has a new interview with author Len Deighton. You can read the entire interview by CLICKING HERE One thing that caught our eye was Deighton’s description of his work on From Russia With Love, the second 007 film.

The Q and A featured questions from readers. One of those readers was Jeremy Duns, journalist (he dug out Ben Hecht’s screenplay drafts for producer Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale) and spy author.

Richard Maibaum got the screenplay credit for From Russia With Love, with Johanna Harwood receiving an “adapted by” credit. Maibaum had a long association with Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. On the early Bond films, Harry Saltzman, the other Eon co-founder, was involved heavily in developing the scripts and often sought English writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins. Saltzman later produced the Harry Palmer series, starring Michael Caine, based on Deighton novels.

Here’s how Deighton in the Deighton Dossier interview, prompted by a question from Duns, described his time working on the film:

I’m very interested in your work on From Russia With Love – do you have any surviving drafts of your script and how do you regard it?

Len: I went to Istanbul with Harry Saltzman, plus the director and the art director. As with virtually all movies, the producer is the driving force who gets the idea, buys the rights, commissions the screenplay, chooses the actors and employs the director.

Harry demonstrated this creative power. We took breakfast together every day so that he could guide me and teach me how film stories worked. It was a wonderful course in movie making especially as the rest of each day was spent roaming around Istanbul with Harry plus the director and art director talking about locations and building the sets back in England.

I’ve always been rather careless about typescripts and notes etc. And having a restless disposition I have packed, unpacked and repacked countless times as my family and I lived in different countries, I don’t have much written stuff left.

Terence Young directed the movie and Syd Cain worked as art director, with Michael White as assistant art director.

The Deighton Dossier and this blog, are members of the Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies. We noticed the From Russia With Love mention from Tweets by Jeremy Duns.

Harry Saltzman, the forgotten man, gets remembered

If the official 007 Twitter feed were your only source of information, you’d have to conclude the two guys on the left weren’t that important to the Bond movies.

It only took eight months and 319 posts, but the official 007 Twitter feed got around to mentioning Harry Saltzman, the co-founder of Eon Productions, which produces the James Bond film series.

OTDIBH: 1961, Eon Productions, the company behind the 007 series, was founded by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. ‪

The 007 Twitter feed, remember, is the official face of Eon as Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film, comes out this fall. The official Twitter feed didn’t get around to mentioning Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator, until May 28 (the 104th anniversary of the author’s birth). It took even longer to recognize Saltzman who supervised script development of the earlier Bond movies. He was the one, for example, who brought in writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins to revise Richard Maibaum’s drafts for Goldfinger and Thunderball.

Of course, if you checked out message boards on some James Bond Web sites, you’d see how some fans would claim that’s not really producing. In fact, supervising scripts is one of the most important things a movie producer does.

However, history is written by the winners. Saltzman sold out his interest in Eon in 1975 because he got into financial trouble. And the Broccoli-Salztman partnership was not an easy one.

Still, on the occasion of the golden anniversary of the cinema 007, it’s ridiculous to pretend as if Saltzman never existed. Saltzman, not Broccoli, had obtained the option for the film rights of the majority of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels. Without Saltzman, Eon would not come to be. If Broccoli had never met Saltzman (thanks to an introduction by writer Wolf Mankowitz), Cubby might have died the obscure producer of less-than-memorable screen epics such as The Bandit of Zhobe and Hell Below Zero.

The official 007 Twitter feed — and by extension, Eon itelf — avoided that level of ridiculousness today.

Two minor observations about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

We caught up with the new movie version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s well worth your time. But, in our own fashion, we wanted to make a couple of tangent observations about the adaptation of the John Le Carre novel. Minor spoilers follow.

1. Anti-Bond George Smiley meets 007 knock off Charles Vine (sort of). In the 1960s, the success of James Bond films helped create a demand for an “anti Bond,” somebody who wasn’t a romantic hero and who dealt in a morally ambiguous world, just like real spies. The novels of John Le Carre (real name David Cornwell) provided the perfect fodder. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold starring Richard Burton came out in 1965, with George Smiley a secondary character, Bernard Lee (the M of Eon Productions’s 007 series) in the cast and Paul Dehn, co-screenwriter of Goldfinger, part of the crew.

The ’60s Bond films also generated 007 takeoffs, including The Second Best Secret Agent in The Whole Wide World, starring Tom Adams as Charles Vine, a Sean Connery-esque, British agent.

Well, in the new Tinker, Tailor, these two trends from the past are merged. The 2011 film has repeated flashbacks to an MI6 Christmas party. At one point, the theme song to Second Best Secret Agent is played. (Le Carre has a cameo, as well.) This is part of an effort by the filmmakers to tie into cultural references of the past, given that Tinker, Tailor is done as a 1970s period piece. Which leads us to:

2. The temptation to overdo past cultural references. This is a minor quibble. But when movies are done as period pieces — especially of a story that has been made before (Tinker, Tailor was made as a television miniseries more than 30 years ago) — there is a temptation to load up on past cultural references. In this case, hairstyles and music. In the new film, Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) sports a haircut more appropriate for ’70s high school students rather than an experienced MI6 operative. And the film sometimes overdoes it with providing ’70s songs.

It’s always interesting to compare remakes done as period pieces with earlier versions made during the same era. Another example: Farewell My Lovely (1975) was done as a 1940s period piece and sometimes over does the culture references compared with Murder My Sweet (1944), both based off the same Raymond Chandler novel.

We want to stress all of these observations are minor. The new Tinker, Tailor is worth the time of any spy fan and Gary Oldman is a wonderful successor to Alec Guiness (star of two television miniseries) as Smiley. Oldman did an NPR interview last year where he said he’d love to play Smiley again if the opportunity presents itself. We’ll second that thought.