Robert Sellers talks about his Broccoli-Saltzman Book

Cover to When Harry Met Cubby by Robert Sellers

Author Robert Sellers provided an in-depth look about the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, with 2007’s The Battle for Bond. The writer has re-entered the world of Bondage with a new book, When Harry Met Cubby, about the founding 007 film producers, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

The blog interviewed Sellers about his new book via e-mail.

THE SPY COMMAND: You did a comprehensive book about Thunderball. What about the Broccoli-Saltzman story enticed you to tackle their story?

ROBERT SELLERS: Mainly because no one had done it before, which is strange because seemingly every other aspect of the Bond films has been covered. But not the relationship between these two extraordinary men, not in any great detail that’s for sure. I just thought it was about time their story was told.

SC: The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership was a bit of an Odd Couple affair. What strengths did each partner bring? What was each partner’s weakness?

SELLERS: The words most people used to describe them was chalk and cheese. They shared almost nothing in common, save for drive, ambition and a love of movies. Personality-wise you couldn’t have had two more different individuals. That included their outside pursuits and social circles. If you went to Harry’s house for dinner, or you went to Cubby’s, even if there were 20 people at dinner there was no overlap. Cubby’s friends were completely different to Harry’s.

At the beginning there was this strange alchemy at work, theirs was a relationship that was based on two opposing points of view reaching the same objective and their combined qualities made for an ideal pairing. Things went bad after just a few movies, mainly because Saltzman had so many outside interests. Harry was always buying up companies, signing up talent or movie properties, he had so many other strings to his bow, other balls in the air, whereas Cubby knew that Bond was like the goose that laid the golden egg and was intent on preserving it and to make sure that nobody tarnished it. Broccoli never understood why Harry needed to make other pictures outside Bond and this did lead to friction between the two men.

Both men certainly brought a lot of separate talents to the Bond table. Harry loved the gadgets and gizmos, Cubby was very much concerned with the casting, making sure that the girls were pretty, and worrying about the script, that it didn’t get bogged down with too much dialogue, that it got on with the action, and that the storyline was straightforward enough so people from ten to 100 could follow it.

As (screenwriter) Tom Mankiewicz so brilliantly put it to me: “So much of the pizazz that went in Bond belonged to Harry, and much of the essence and soul of Bond was Cubby.”

SC: Saltzman exited the world of Bond in the mid-1970s. He is perhaps less well known to newer Bond fans compared with Broccoli (especially since Broccoli’s daughter and stepson still run the show). Should Saltzman be better remembered than he is? Why?

SELLERS: Absolutely. People have told me that in the early days Harry was the driving force behind the films, much more proactive than Cubby. That changed later on when Harry began to diversify all over the place. Harry was a real ideas man; he’d churn them out with machine gun rapidity. The only problem was most of his ideas were either too expensive, too impractical or downright dumb. So, it was a case of sieving through the bad ones to get to the good ones. But those good ideas were often absolute gems.

There was also something of the showman about Harry Saltzman, the spit and sawdust of the circuses he worked in during his early days in show business and it was these elements that he later brought to bear upon the Bond movies; everything had to have an over the top style. That was Harry’s circus philosophy, make it bigger, make it more spectacular, make it something audiences have never seen before. There was something of P. T. Barnum about Harry.

SC: Eventually, each partner alternated as primary producer for each Bond film. When did that start? As early as You Only Live Twice? Even earlier?

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with Roger Moore during the filming of Live And Let Die.

SELLERS: The fractures in the producer’s relationship was really highlighted around the making of You Only Live Twice, ironically at much the same time as both of them fell out with their star, Sean Connery.

There had always been disagreements behind the scenes, but what had begun to grate with Cubby was the feeling that his partner wasn’t as committed to Bond as he was. This growing imbalance between the two men in their commitment to the Bond pictures reached a point where Cubby just felt aggrieved that he was carrying the load of the franchise almost on his own. As a result, Cubby was pretty much the working producer on You Only Live Twice. I was told Harry never stepped foot in Japan once cameras started rolling.

By the time of Diamonds Are Forever, the two producers could no longer work together and it was decided they ought to take turns being the operating producer on each new Bond. As Guy Hamilton succinctly put it: “I can work very happily with Cubby, and I can work very happily with Harry. But working with Cubby and Harry together is a nightmare.”

SC: Without giving too much away about your book, what was the biggest surprise you encountered during your research?

SELLERS: I guess the thing I could say that impressed me the most was just how much creative control both producers had over the films.

According to Broccoli and Saltzman, there were two kinds of producers, the business and administrative producer and the creative producer. Both men identified themselves as creative producers, involved in all aspects of the filmmaking process, offering ideas and guidance and ultimately putting their individual stamp on the pictures.

In post-production, too, they were a presence in the cutting room and at rushes. Even when the film was in release their job wasn’t finished; they’d scrutinize ad campaigns, carefully go through every detail with the distributors, attend opening nights round the world and read reviews to gauge what the critics were saying.

This was especially important to Broccoli. He might be on holiday or visiting some city in the world, and if there was a Bond film playing, he would go in and sit and listen to the reaction of the audience to find out what they liked, and what they didn’t like.

The way each of them operated as producers on the set was different, though. Harry would be around, but you wouldn’t know he was there. He might be in his trailer or having meetings somewhere. Whereas Cubby was always very visual, always around. And he knew every crew member’s name. The crew loved Cubby, not so much Harry.

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

SC: In terms of the early Bond films, could any other producers have achieved what they did? Was it like catching lightning in a bottle? I know that a lot of the regular crew members (Ted Moore, Ken Adam, Richard Maibaum) had worked for Broccoli when he was partner with Irving Allen.

SELLERS: I honestly believe the Bond films would not have been the success they were without Broccoli and Saltzman at the helm. Probably their greatest contribution was selecting the right team for the films, many of whom had worked for Cubby before, people that he knew were dependable and could deliver the goods.

On Dr No, Broccoli and Saltzman chose the technicians with the same care and diligence as the actors. They brought together an excellent crew and encouraged them; that was their real talent, hiring the right people and allowing them the creative freedom to express themselves. Can you imagine what the Bond films would have been without the vital contribution of Ken Adam or John Barry? Or for that matter the skillful editing of Peter Hunt, who was brought in by Saltzman.

Broccoli and Saltzman were also risk takers. They knew that in the film business you have to take risks and have the strength of your conviction. Both men were not afraid to make tough decisions and both stood up for what they believed in.

There is no better example of this than their choice of Sean Connery to play Bond. When United Artists voiced their disapproval, Broccoli and Saltzman stood by their man, telling the studio top brass they intended going ahead with Connery or not at all. Instinct told them this was the guy. And history proved them correct, of course. That’s why the Bond films were a success under Harry and Cubby, all the decisions they made were the right ones.

When Harry Met Cubby: The Story of the James Bond Producers is set for publication in September from The History Press. You can view its Amazon entry BY CLICKING HERE. You can view its Amazon UK entry BY CLICKING HERE.

Shane Rimmer dies at 89

Shane Rimmer (1929-2019)

Shane Rimmer, a character actor who often played Americans in British-based productions and who appeared in three James Bond films, has died at 89.

His death was reported by the Official Gerry Anderson Website. Rimmer was a voice on Anderson-produced shows, including Thunderbirds. The website said his death was confirmed by his widow, Sheila Rimmer.

Shane Rimmer appeared in You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). The latter provided the actor with his biggest 007 role, that of a U.S. submarine captain who assists Roger Moore’s James Bond.

Rimmer was born in Toronto. After moving to the U.K., he became a busy actor. Besides his work for Anderson and the Bond films, his credits included Dr. Strangelove, Superman II and various television shows, including The Persuaders!

In 2016, Rimmer did an interview where he reflected on working with Anderson, Dr. Strangelove director Stanley Kubrick and screen Bonds Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

UPDATE: The official James Bond Twitter feed from Eon Productions also paid tribute to Rimmer.

 

About that buzz that Shatterhand will be B25’s title

Cover to the first-edition U.S. hardback edition of You Only Live Twice

There’s been quite a buzz this week that Shatterhand, the name of an alias adopted by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the novel You Only Live Twice, will be the title of Bond 25.

The thing is, the idea has been applied to the as-yet unmade 25th 007 film, at various times in 2017 and 2018 as well as this month.

However, people have short memories. So here’s a recap. This week’s news isn’t exactly, well, news.

Let’s start with 2015’s SPECTRE.

There are indications Eon Productions was at least considering making the film a “soft” remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In 2014, various drafts of the film’s script got out because of the hacking at Sony Pictures.

One draft included a secondary villain named Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s assistant in both the Majesty’s novel (and film) and You Only Live Twice novel.

Another draft, which this blog wrote about, ended with Bond telling Madeline Swann, “We have all the time in the world.” That, of course, is what Bond told Tracy just before the latter was killed in both the Majesty’s novel and film.

Neither bit made it into SPECTRE. Bond and Swann just drove off.

Flash forward to summer 2017.

On July 29, 2017, The Mirror says Bond 25 will be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson titled Never Dream of Dying. However, the story also says the working title is Shatterhand.

Benson says on social media that he was never contacted by the Mirror and that he can only assume the story was a fabrication. Well, that seems to slam things shut. Shatterhand fever is forgotten. That is until….

Flash forward to summer 2018.

On Aug. 27, 2018, The Bond Blog, citing the Production Weekly website, says Shatterhand has been registered as a title for Bond 25. The Shatterhand buzz still lives.

Flash forward to this week.

Despite the fact that Production Weekly has listed Shatterhand as a working title for Bond 25 since last year, a number of outlets discovered that fact and treated it as news.

Among them: Comicbook.com, The Guardian, Empire, The Express. and, last but not least, the BBC.

Those stories, in turn, are recycled by readers on various social media outlets. Shatterhand fever burns hot.

In December, Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that Lea Seydoux, SPECTRE’s female lead, will be back in the new film.

So, will Bond 25 be based on the You Only Live Twice novel? Will Seydoux’s Madeline Swann be Tracy 2.0?

Who knows? However, 2012’s Skyfall adapted bits from the Twice book as well as the 1965 novel The Man With the Golden Gun. So we’ll see. Regardless, Bond 25 has gotten a ton of free publicity from the recurring Shatterhand buzz.

The Oscars step in it again

Oscars logo

So the Oscars show on Feb. 24 is relegating cinematography, film editing, live action short and makeup and hairstyling will be given out during commercials and not shown live, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The news came after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to its members today, according to THR.

The move comes as academy is trying to keep the Oscars broadcast under three hours. The group previous removed honorary Oscars and awards such as the Thalberg (honoring a producer’s career) to a separate event in November.

However, no matter what the academy does to slim down the broadcast, it finds other material and the broadcast stays around four hours. The show insists on doing including skits airing after 10 pm. eastern time when the audience is more than ready to get to find out the winners of major awards such as acting and Best Film.

Had the new rules been in effect last year, the TV audience wouldn’t have seen cinematographer Roger Deakins win an Oscar live after numerous nominations. One of those nominations was for 2012’s Skyfall.

Directors certainly think a lot of their directors of photography. In the documentary Inside You Only Live Twice, Lewis Gilbert called Freddie Young one of the great artists of British cinema. Young had photographed, among other films, Lawrence of Arabia.

Also, a number of directors leaned on their editors. Verna Fields (1918-1982) edited Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical, film, The Sugarland Express, and his first big hit, Jaws. Anne Bauchens (1882-1967) edited a number of movies for Cecil B. DeMille, including The Ten Commandments. Editors are vital to helping a director achieve his or her vision.

Well, as they say, there’s no business like show business.

About Eon’s lack of a long-term plan

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the weekend, I read complaints by friends on social media about the 007 film series.

One cited how Eon flipped the order of filming You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The other cited SPECTRE, the most recent Bond film made by Eon Productions.

Neither friend knows the other. The thing is, both complaints reflected the same thing — Eon isn’t known for its long-term planning.

When Eon launched the series, it initially intended to adapt Thunderball, the then-newest Ian Fleming novel. Richard Maibaum cranked out a script before Eon cast its Bond actor (Sean Connery).

But there were legal issues so plans shifted to starting with Dr. No. For the next entry, Eon opted for From Russia With Love, even though that novel preceded Dr. No.

That wasn’t a big deal at the time. But the OHMSS-YOLT switch was more of a problem. The novels were very connected. Bond is a broken man in the Twice novel because of how Majesty’s ended. But that went by the wayside for a variety of reasons. Still, that wouldn’t have occurred if a long-term plan had been in place.

For some Bond fans (including one of the aforementioned friends), that was a major missed opportunity.

With SPECTRE, the tale is even more complicated.

Quantum is better than SPECTRE. What’s that? Uh, never mind!

Screenwriter John Logan sold Eon on a two-film story, something Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012. But star Daniel Craig vetoed that approach. So Logan retrenched. Eventually, veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s script.

At one point, Logan’s scripts had Blofeld as an African warlord or a woman. After Purvis and Wade got through with it, there was a more traditional Blofeld. However, in the final version, Blofeld was also Bond’s foster brother — pretty similar to how Dr. Evil was the brother of Austin Powers.

Just a guess, but that wouldn’t have been the case with long-term planning.

Over the decades, there are other examples.

At the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, the audience was promised that For Your Eyes Only would be the next entry in the series. But with the popularity of the first Star Wars film, Eon grabbed the only Fleming title with a rocket theme (Moonraker) as the starting point for its next production.

In the 21st century, Eon’s brain trust talked about how SPECTRE was passe and how the new Quantum was more sophisticated. Then, Eon got all the rights that had been held by Kevin McClory. Suddenly, SPECTRE was the No. 1 villainous organization again.

Regardless of your opinions about the individual films involved, it’s pretty clear Eon has never had a long-term footprint. SPECTRE was a belated attempt to tie the four Daniel Craig films together.

That doesn’t make individual entries bad. Still, the lack of a long-term plan still has an impact on Eon’s 007 film series.

U.N.C.L.E. script: Getting the series started Part I

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair.

Having sold Solo (now-renamed The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) as a series, it was now up to executive producer Norman Felton to get the series underway.

In place as day-to-day producer was Sam Rolfe, who wrote the series proposal for “Ian Fleming’s Solo” as well as the pilot script and its expanded movie version To Trap a Spy.

The critical first post-pilot script would be penned by Harold Jack Bloom. Rolfe and Bloom co-wrote the 1953 western film The Naked Spur. They were nominated for an Oscar for their efforts on that movie.

Bloom would also be the first writer employed on the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. He’d receive an “additional story material” credit for the 007 movie.

The copy the blog has of the script is dated May 27, 1964, just a few days before filming would begin on June 1, with Richard Donner directing. Some pages are dated as late as June 4, after filming had begun.

FADE IN:
INT. FARMHOUSE NIGHT
Just inside the door JILL DENNISON, nineteen, eyes closed dreamily, is wrapped in the arms of TOMMY BLAIR, twenty-seven, a uniformed non-com in the Air Force. But then her defenses become alerted to his rising passion.

JILL
Tommy…?

He stops, moving his head back to meet her eyes. A heavy sigh seems to restore his self-control.

TOMMY
Tomorrow night?

She nods. He gives up and grins. This wins him a final peck before he exits.

However, after the final “peck,” things are about to take a bad turn for Tommy. He drives off on a motorcycle.

ANOTHER ANGLE
As Tommy comes out of the turn, he reacts to something he sees ahead, o.s.

SUBJECTIVE FROM HIS POV

CAMERA MOVES ALONG ROAD APPROACHING the silhouette of a man who stands in the center of the road. The cycle’s headlights stop short of the man’s legs.

REVERSE

Tommy has stopped. Bends forward to raise his headlight.

HIS POV

The light picks up Solo standing in the road, his gun held, assembled for automatic fire. He holds his free hand up in a gesture of “halt”. ZOOM INTO CLOSE.

INTERCUT
Tommy reacts. His boyishness is gone now, replaced by an ugly intent. He kicks the motorcycle into full speed and it jerks forward. Solo FIRES. The shots go through the cycle’s plastic windshield behind which Tommy is crouched. Solo somersaults at the last moment to avoid the swerving machine. The cycle swerves past, skidding over on one side to dig its own halt.

The scene in the final version wasn’t quite as dramatic (Robert Vaughn’s Solo didn’t somersault) but it’s pretty much what Bloom wrote.

Solo inspects the body. He also sees that the dead man was carrying scuba diving equipment. The stage directions state that Solo holsters his gun. That would be difficult with all the attachments of what would become known as the U.N.C.L.E. Special. “A final look at Tommy, then MOVE INTO CLOSE OF SOLO.”

In the next scene, Solo poses as the dead man’s brother. He acts outraged when the local authorities have no clues who killed him. The only lead Solo has is Jill, the young woman that Tommy was with just before Solo killed him.

As the agent leaves, he passes “an elderly SCRUBWOMAN” who radios the information to someone named “Hod.” She indicates no harm should come to the stranger yet.

Solo then visits Jill. They’re being observed by “AUNT MARTHA, a hawk-faced spinster in her mid-forties.” She is “doing needlepoint with quick, angry thrusts.” Jill, meanwhile, is telling Solo that she and Tommy “weren’t in love or anything.” It quickly becomes clear Aunt Martha wasn’t happy with Jill dating Tommy.

During the conversation, there’s another visitor: “CLINT SPINNER, a tall, raw-boned man in his early fifties.” It turns out Spinner’s father was a “sharecropper” in the area. He’s purchased land nearby after being a successful oil man. Spinner has dug a deep well to benefit his new farm.

The scene becomes a way for writer Bloom to provide information to the audience. A secret U.S. Army base has built in the area. Spinner says the base houses the SX-9 “catapult plane” which in “case of war” can be hurled “into the air going better’n three thousand miles an hour.”

“They make such a big deal about military secrets,” Solo responds. “I bet everyone around here knows what you just told me.”

“They know what I know,” Spinner says. “We was all right here when they built it.”

As the scene concludes, Solo asks Jill about why Tommy would have scuba gear. The question surprises Jill. Tommy said he couldn’t swim.

It turns out the entire scene has been observed at a distance by three people in scuba outfits including “an exotic Spanish woman.” The other two are men who hold “strange looking rifles.” One begins to aim his weapon but the woman “gently” pushes the barrel of the rifle down.

Solo then returns to New York and U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. He confers with Alexander Waverly. It turns out Tommy was really Eric Freedlander, a saboteur. Solo had been on his trail. Freedlander slipped away in Berlin but then showed up in Iowa, the site of the secret base. There was a real Tommy Blair but he is missing.

What follows is a briefing scene which provides more details for the audience. We’re told more about the plane and its capabilities. In the middle of the briefing, Waverly is told that the authorities in Iowa have released a statement they’ve found the murderer of Thomas Blair.

They react.

WAVERLY (looking at Solo as he answers)
Isn’t that interesting…?

TO BE CONTINUED

Bond 25: “This time, it’s repetitive!”

Bond mourning the death of Madeline Swann in Bond 25?

With the news that Lea Seydoux, the female lead of SPECTRE, will make a return appearance in Bond 25, the “Writing’s on the Wall” where the next 007 film is heading.

Unlike the usual Bond news, this isn’t from an unidentified source. It comes from Bond 25’s director himself, Cary Fukunaga via Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye.

What can we expect?

Madeleine Swann’s life expectancy won’t be very long in terms of screen time. SPECTRE was a kind-of, sort-of remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  One of the trailers even used a new recording of John Barry’s main theme for the 1969 film.

And, a draft of the script, dated one week before the start of filming, had Bond telling Swann, “We have all the time in the world.” While that didn’t make the final film, it was pretty clear that Swann was supposed to be the 2.0 version of Tracy from Majesty’s.

Thus, Swann is likely to get bumped off, perhaps in the pre-titles sequence.

“But you don’t know that!” No, I don’t. But it’s pretty pointless to bring Seydoux back for a scene where she and Bond break up. When Ian Fleming had Bond break up with Tiffany Case, it happened between the novels Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia With Love.

Meanwhile, it’d be even worse if Seydoux is dragged throughout Bond 25. In SPECTRE, Seydoux’s Swann was convincing when she hated Bond. She was less than convincing when she supposedly fell in love with him. Imagine that for an entire movie. It’ll be bad. B.A.D.

If Swann gets bumped off, Bond is out for revenge — again. Or, put another way, the series will again fall back on a trope it has used multiple times beginning with 1989’s Licence to Kill.

“But if that happens, we’ll finally get a faithful adaptation of the You Only Live Twice novel!” The thing about the novel You Only Live Twice is that Bond fell apart once. That’s what made it so special.

Eon has already cherry picked the You Only Live Twice novel (and The Man With the Golden Gun novel) for Skyfall. The 2012 film had Judi Dench’s M writing Bond’s obiituary, a la You Only Live Twice, just substituting “Turkey” for “Japan.” Bond was a broken man who has to get his mojo back.

So now, Eon gets to cherry pick the novel again, like fixing a meal from Thanksgiving leftovers. Will Daniel Craig’s 007 be a broken man again? If Swann gets killed early in Bond 25, how much screen time will Craig have of being on the edge?

“Mind you, all of this is pure guess work,” as M said in the movie You Only Live Twice. But if these guesses are at all close to what’s in store for Bond 25, the film’s advertising slogan is obvious. “This time, it’s repetitive!”