Terry Bamber has been working in the film industry as a production manager, location manager, assistant director and actor for nearly forty years now, on TV and film productions domestic and international, small and large. His resume includes seven James Bond films including SKYFALL (2012), LARA CROFT - TOMB RAIDER (2001), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2004), and THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005). I talked to Terry about his extensive and fascinating career, and about his experiences with the man we know as Bond, James Bond.

Read Part 1 here.

How did you get involved with the Bond films?
As my Dad was an employee of Pinewood Studios, he worked on the first five Bonds as a prop man. I worked on THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) as a production runner, and also as a runner on a pick-up unit at the studio. On my first day I had to get Roger Moore's sandwiches. I was so nervous that when he opened the door I dropped the sandwiches on the floor. He was very kind and joked that he had to watch his figure anyway! Some time later I worked on TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997) as the model unit production manager in Rosarito in Mexico. I have worked as the 2nd unit production manager on all the Bonds since, and have also been able to first assistant direct on the 2nd unit on recent Bonds.

The credits we get on films can be very misleading at times. Sometimes one is called a location production manager because one has been in charge of a particular country. Trying to put credits together for everyone at the end of the film is very convoluted. People are sometimes disappointed by their credits. I know the majority of second unit credits are very upsetting because they tend to get placed over the end credits of the film after many supporting crew. This is due to the way unit lists are laid out and does not always reflect the input and value that second units or 'splinter' units contribute to the film as a whole. So often the main unit director of photography will get a glowing tribute for work the second unit director of photography has contributed.

I was the 2nd unit production manager on SKYFALL and did occasional work as assistant director. My first love after acting is first assisting. I got to work in that capacity on the 'splinter' unit for a day on the film. On that day we shot Bond running in Regent's Park, which was used in the trailer but left out of the final film. Not only do my acting scenes get cut out of films but so do my scenes that I have first assisted! On that day we also shot inserts and I had a lovely chat with Rory Kinnear about his father, the great comedy actor Roy Kinnear. I had been a runner on THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER (1975), in which Roy acted.

Why was a 'splinter' unit required for SKYFALL?
It is often a scheduling issue that means additional units have to be deployed. There are often 'splinter' units or pick-up or insert units at the end of a film to help mop up additional photography that is required. On SKYFALL there were several 'splinter' units. One went to Shanghai for the establishing shots and the shooting of plates. My wife, Susie Jones, was the script supervisor on that unit, which was headed by Alexander Witt. We had a 'splinter' unit in London headed by Gary Powell, and when the second unit got tied up in Turkey, Chris Corbould headed a unit in London, which was the one I first assisted on.

Would you describe yourself as a Bond fan?
I have been a Bond fan since a child. My earliest memory is of watching THUNDERBALL (1965), but my dad had been working in Spain and he bought me the 'Goldfinger' single earlier. That song just transported me to another dimension. THUNDERBALL was just like Christmas Day for me after that. I am like a child again working on the Bonds. Even in the worst moments, I am an eight year old staring in wonder at the YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) volcano set that my Dad showed me at Pinewood. The next film, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969, which I saw at the Granada Cinema in Slough), just blew my socks off! Great story, scenery and great, great music. I have to pinch myself that I am in a meeting with Barbara and Michael.

As a child I also loved the 'Carry On' films, the 'Thunderbirds' TV show and even 'Coronation Street'. My Dad worked on the first 'Carry On', and I worked on the last one. I worked on the live-action THUNDERBIRDS (2004), and also a 'Coronation Street' TV special. I've had the most amazing luck.

How would you describe Barbara and Michael as producers?

If I had to choose one word it would be 'phenomenal'. They make decisions and they stick by them. They totally support their director and team. They do it with kindness and really care for the wellbeing of everyone involved. They are superb ambassadors when working abroad. They will always listen to problems and be as constructive in their help or criticism.

Are you now considered part of the Eon Productions family?
I have a good relationship with the folks at Eon and Danjaq, but I would never say I'm part of the family. One is lucky to have employment on a film to film basis. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are fantastic as people but I am only an employee and I would only ever see myself as such. When my wife was seriously ill a few years ago, the first flowers in the hospital were from Barbara and Michael.

As an Englishman, is it a real kick and a source of pride to be involved with Bond?

I am incredibly proud, and it is a fantastic kick to be involved with Bond. The fact that the James Bond character is British is wonderful, and very important to me as my other heroes are American or from the Planet Krypton - Batman and Superman!

That said, the UK side of things is not such a huge consideration nowadays as there are more and more non-UK crew members employed on the films. To be honest, sometimes I am embarassed at being English because the rules and agreements are constantly changing. Also, there is sometimes an arrogance about American and English film crews who seem to think they are the only ones who know how to make films. The real kick for me comes from meeting and working with wonderful foreign crews.

Is it true that Bond crews are full of people dedicated and honoured to be working on Bond films?
In the main, yes. But sadly there are also people who are in it 'just for the money'.

How was working with different directors on your Bond films (Guy Hamilton, Roger Spottiswoode, Michael Apted, Lee Tamahori, Martin Campbell, Marc Forster and Sam Mendes)?
If I like and get on well with the director, then there is more banter and a greater freedom. Michael Apted (THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, 1999) was a gentleman and realised how proper planning was integral to the film's success. He was very calm and a delight to work for. (And he supports West Ham!) Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE) is a hundred miles an hour director whose energy is just fantastic to be around. I adore his energy and drive. I tripped over once in front of Martin and he just stared at me and called me a rude name. Once we were in a production meeting and I thought I had put forward a very good suggestion but it was met with silence, which was broken when Martin turned to Barbara and Michael and asked "Tell me again. Why do we employ this man?" All said in great humour. There are those who have been more quiet and subdued in their personalities on set. There have been some where I simply remember my position and 'keep a low profile'.

How do you feel about the media scrutiny of film shoots, and the way they describe some productions as troubled shoots?
I am afraid I usually despise the media. They report nonsense. They don't try to understand how TV and film productions are made and just want to make a quick buck story. Usually they cannot even get the names of individuals and their responsibilities correct. The media love bad news and revel in it and never let the truth to get in the way. Every film and TV production has issues. As I was on the model unit and away from the main and second unit on TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997), I can't really comment on any issues we might have had. We had several accidents on QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) in Lake Garda that had everyone pulling together. SKYFALL had some sad and difficult moments to contend with in Turkey that weren't really to do with filming but because we got to know the local community. When we were filming in Istanbul we endured a freak wind storm which completely destroyed the market set (where Eve and Patrice's cars are side by side just before Bond flips Patrice's car). The same with THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH when we filmed in Chamonix and avalanches claimed so many lives. We all helped out, and it's hard not to be part of a community and not be affected by local events.

What was it like working with Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig?
All are great to work with. All of them need large entourages that have to be looked after and with the logistics of moving them and planning travel etc it can be time consuming and sometimes 'difficult'.

For example, I first worked with Daniel on I DREAMED OF AFRICA in 1998, directed by Hugh Hudson, and then on LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (2001). He has always been very kind to me, and always aware of the backup that is needed to make these films. He treats everyone with respect. The main difference is the protection afforded by his entourage on the Bonds. It was much easier for one on one interaction on the first two films we did together. Mind you, as a production manager, one can work on films and have nothing to do with the cast at all. On ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, which I am working on now, I have not even said good morning to Mr Tom Cruise!

Pierce is also great to work with. He is a kind man who would give up his time to fulfil a youngster's dream to be photographed alongside 'James Bond'. Roger is simply a great man. My Dad worked with him on THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF (1970) as the second assistant director. Whenever Roger did something clever or made a joke, Dad would remark "It hasn't gone unnoticed". At the end of the film, Roger presented him with a wonderful pewter mug with "It hasn't gone unnoticed" on it!

Which of the other Bond cast members have you enjoyed working with?
A very difficult question! Desmond Llewelyn ('Q' in seventeen films) was just the most fantastic person, as is Judi Dench. Maud Adams was just so kind to an eighteen year old who had a huge crush on her during THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. I actually manage to avoid the actors as I deal more with the stunt doubles!

Have you felt a much different approach and emphasis whilst working on the Craig films?
Yes, the emphasis on Daniel's Bonds has been for a grittier feel and reminds me of Bond from the novel of 'The Man with the Golden Gun' (1965).

Is it typical on Bond films and films in general for casting and locations to be tied down very late in the schedule? it must be very stressful, but is it now part and parcel of the job?
Sadly, nowadays it is. We had real problems with the Iceland location on DIE ANOTHER DAY as it seemed the ice would not be thick enough for us to work on, so we were searching everywhere for an alternative. I got to spend a weekend in Alaska recce-ing a possible alternative. Last minute decisions do create a great deal of stress with the booking of hotels and locking down of permissions and so on.

How do you feel about the mixed response to QUANTUM OF SOLACE?
I was very disappointed by the reaction to the film. I often watch it. I hated the ending, though. Strangely enough, it is often the endings that are my least favourite parts of the films. I loved the endings to YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) and GOLDENEYE (1995), but generally I tend to wish for something a bit more 'special'.

Can you talk about your love of the music of John Barry, the arranger of 'The James Bond Theme' and composer of eleven Bond scores?
I was eight when I saw ZULU (1964). The music blew me away. John Barry's music has been a part of my life ever since. What is it that makes us enjoy one person's work and not another's? A new John Barry score was more important to me growing up than the film itself. I have recently had the pleasure to buy so many of his re-issued scores. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE is outstanding. The arrangement of the '007' theme in the underwater scenes in THUNDERBALL takes my breath away. The various arrangements Barry did of 'The James Bond Theme' are without equal. I had dinner once with John Barry and his wife Laurie. It is one of my greatest ever memories.

Are you also a fan of David Arnold's Bond scores?
I love David Arnold's songs and less hectic music for Bond. 'Surrender' (the end titles song from TOMORROW NEVER DIES) is terrific. His 'Night at the Opera' cue from QUANTUM OF SOLACE is superb. I am so disappointed in the score for SKYFALL (by Thomas Newman) but that is just me. I hope David Arnold or Hans Zimmer does the next one!

SKYFALL is a great film, and deserves all it's success. It's the biggest Bond film since LIVE AND LET DIE (1973), inflation adjusted. How do you account for the increased popularity of this particular film?
It's been four years since QUANTUM OF SOLACE , and the advertising campaign has been brilliant. It's the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the series. The cast line-up is impressive. Like the whole series, it's entertainment on a grand scale.

What are your personal hopes for the direction of the franchise?
I'm 56 now, so I am sure my wishes are all related to selfish dreams. When I saw THE ROCK (1996) with Sean Connery, I thought "Wouldn't it be great to have an older Bond who could appeal to my ageing generation?". The great thing is that when Daniel retires he has helped ensure the series will continue and I know that the producers will read the 'current trends'. I would like to see more swagger and more of those 'that has never been done before' moments. Oh, and a great musical score.

Who do you think would make a good replacement for Daniel Craig?
Daniel is terrific. I would love Idris Elba to be the first black Bond. He has the ruggedness, danger and charm of Sean Connery. I worked with him on the first two seasons of 'Luther' for TV.

I interviewed Terry by email and telephone throughout December 2012. I would like to thank him for his generosity and candour.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film.


Terry Bamber has been working in the film industry as a production manager, location manager, assistant director and actor for nearly forty years now, on TV and film productions domestic and international, small and large. His resume includes seven James Bond films including SKYFALL (2012), LARA CROFT - TOMB RAIDER (2001), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2004), and THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005). I talked to Terry about his extensive and fascinating career, and about his experiences with the man we know as Bond, James Bond.  

How did you get started in the industry?
I got started through my Dad, Richard (Dickie) Bamber. He was an assistant director and then a producer with Portman Productions and TVS Films. He used to get me jobs as a runner during my school holidays.

You have worked mostly as a production manager, location manager, or assistant director. Can you briefly outline the responsibilities of the respective positions?
A production manager is concerned with the budget and the hiring of the crew and equipment. A location manager usually works with the production designer, is responsible for sourcing locations for the specific requirements of the set, and then does deals with the location and manages the location logistics and requirements. An assistant director runs the 'floor' (the set) and is responsible for organising and planning the schedule and the day's work. This is reflected on the daily call sheet, which shows what times the cast and crew are to be called in, how the day's scenes will be filmed and in what order.

Which position do you prefer?
I prefer being the assistant director as I am much more creatively involved with the background action and am always in the thick of the action.

On a film, how far in advance of shooting do you usually get involved?
It depends. A large scale production like a Bond can be up to six months in advance of shooting. On a TV shoot as a first assistant director it might be only 4 weeks; or 8 weeks as a production manager.

You continue to act in films and TV productions. Does your training and experiences come in useful when working on films?
All the time, especially when working as an assistant director. I try to give the actors the time and space they need, and try to give them courtesies like making sure there is a 'beat' on set after all the setting up is done and filming is about to begin, so that they have a chance to 'get in the zone'.

What are some of the challenges and stresses?
The hours can be very stressful and tiring. Sometimes dealing with large studio productions and the 'bull' that goes with it is the largest challenge of all.

What are some of the most memorable experiences you have had in your career?
I love travelling and working abroad, and meeting new people and different international filmmakers. Filming in Iceland on DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) on the frozen lake; with Sharukh Khan on RA. ONE (2011), and at Heathrow on the forthcoming ALL YOU NEED IS KILL (2014). Nearly dying in India in 2005 when my heart stopped after seven continuous weeks of working. Filming in Mumbai for RA.ONE was just fantastic with an orgy of colour, chaos and noise. When I was in South Africa for I DREAMED OF AFRICA (2000), we had the most incredible hail storm and we had to abandon filming for the day. I had to make sure we got all the crew off the location which was about to be flooded by torrential rain.

I've also worked in the likes of Fiji, Ethiopia (where we were shot at!), Kenya, Greece, Turkey, St. Petersburg (a stunningly beautiful city), Venice, Lake Garda, Chamonix, Thailand, Australia (Port Macquarie), The Bahamas, The Canary Islands, Pakistan, The Orkney Islands (survived a Force 8 gale ferry crossing!! - very scary), Belfast, Dublin, the Isle of Skye, Cardiff, Glasgow, and Liverpool.

I loved working with Derek Jacobi, Angelina Jolie and Ray McAnally (a quite brilliant actor and the kindest man). Working on 101 DALMATIANS (1996) and 102 DALMATIONS (2000) with amazing animal trainers and the exceptional Micky Moore. Micky was 85 when we worked on the latter film and was also the second unit director on the first three Indiana Jones films. He actually played the baby Jesus opposite Mary Pickford in 1916, and was Cecil B. De Mille's assistant director. He is 98 now and I hope to visit him at his Malibu home over the Christmas period.

The list goes on and on! There are so, so many memories. I have had a most fantastic adventure.

Which particular films are you the proudest to have worked on?
CASINO ROYALE, RA. ONE, 101 DALMATIANS. RA. ONE was the highest budgeted Bollywood movie and we shot the London part in just over five weeks with 2 units and we came well under budget. We had a chase sequence that would have graced a Bond film. I am very proud of my involvement in this film as David Cain (my colleague since 1996) and I planned and executed both units as one entity and created a brilliant working atmosphere. David happens to be the son of production designer Maurice Cain and the grandson of Bond art director Syd Cain. On 102 DALMATIANS we used to have a party every week where we handed out crew awards for Best Creep, Best Achievement, Worst Mistake of the Week etc.

What are the least glamorous parts of your job?
Signing the crew timesheets every Monday!

I imagine in your position you have to be tough and crack the whip sometimes. How do you managed to still be so well liked in the industry as you are?
I think the main thing to remember is to try and treat everyone on the crew with equal respect and with an understanding of their jobs. I used to work at the Ministry of Defence and they taught me that preparation is everything. 'The 7 P's'. Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. If one talks to all the departments when planning and everyone is kept fully informed, then one 'cracks the whip' it is done with humour and through that comes a positive energy that drives the set. I am always updating plans for the day and always trying to keep everyone informed of how the day is progressing. Sometimes one has to make decisions like sacking someone and I always try to do that remembering the individual's dignity (even if they don't deserve it).

How does working on British and international productions compare?
Every production from training films to corporate videos, to films to TV, to commercials are all driven by the same principle of planning and execution. It is the scale that changes and the time one can afford each production.

What do you feel are the main changes that have occured in the film industry over the decades you have worked in it?
Enjoyment has become harder to achieve. There are problems with raising independent finance and how the studios have created a working practice heavily influenced by so called Health and Safety, but that actually has nothing to do with actual Health and Safety but merely to ensure no blame can be attached to the production company. The amount of paperwork nowadays is absolutely horrendous. The rise of computers has many positive aspects but there is now a 24/ 7 attitude where emails can be received and sent regarding changes of schedules or scripts at any time without due regard to the 7 P's. People have lost manners. Agents have created monsters in producers, directors and actors who behave in manners that in other walks of life would be called 'bullying', but in our industry is referred to as 'artistic temparament'. I sometimes wonder why an industry I love so much has so many things I hate!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in any of the capacities you have worked?
Believe in yourself. Have a good education and a back up for the times when one cannot get work in the entertainment industries. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices with regard to family, and learn to take disappointments and bounce back. I have recently lost two jobs that I had set my heart on, and when the jobs went to someone else the sense of disappointment and being a failure are always there.

What can we expect from the forthcoming WORLD WAR Z (2013), on which you were production manager?
You can expect an edge of the seat, CGI driven thriller.

I interviewed Terry by email and telephone throughout December 2012. I would like to thank him for his generosity and candour.

In Part 2 Terry talks about his experiences on the Bond films. You can read it here.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film. 

SKYFALL (Sam Mendes, 2012)

A Spoiler Free Review by PAUL ROWLANDS


SKYFALL, the fiftieth anniversary James Bond film makes an interesting comparison to DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), the fortieth anniversary film. Pierce Brosnan's swansong wanted to have its cake and eat it by awkwardly melding the lean thrills of DR. NO (1962) with the epic grandiosity of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967), and by peppering proceedings with subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the previous nineteen pictures, SKYFALL is as bold and as inventive, but much more subtle, dialed-down and focussed. Despite its many acknowledgments to Bond's heritage, DIE ANOTHER DAY had its eye on the future much more than the past, in the sense that a Bond film always exists in the near-future. SKYFALL is concerned with the results of the old clashing with the new. It's an exciting film that could be summed up by an observation made by Naomie Harris's character, Eve, concerning 007 - 'Old dog, new tricks.'

The film sees Bond (Daniel Craig) come up against a figure from 'M' (Judi Dench)'s past, a certain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Silva is prepared to wage war against MI6 in order to settle a personal score. He's also in possession of a file of all undercover MI6 agents and is gradually releasing their names on the Internet, making his capture doubly important. 'M' puts her best man on the job - James Bond. Threatening the mission is that Bond, although  deemed fit for duty after being accidentally shot by field agent Eve, surviving a long 'drop in the ocean' and being out of action for three months, is not psychologically and physically up to par. This mission could revitalise him or end him. 

The melding of new boys Sam Mendes (Daniel Craig's director on ROAD TO PERDITION, 2002), co-writer John Logan (GLADIATOR, 2000) and cinematographer Roger Deakins (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, 2007) with veterans like five-time Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli has made for thrilling results.

Mendes and Logan have brought an emphasis on drama and character thathas made SKYFALL one of the most dramatically engaging and best acted films of the series. The director has also attracted a prestige cast that apart from series regulars Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Rory Kinnear, also includes the cream of British talent both established (Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Helen McRory) and relatively new (Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw). As is custom, the casting directors have cast their net far and wide to reel in exciting talent from international territories, both established (Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem) and relatively new (French actress Berenice Lim Marlohe and Swedish actor Ola Rapace). There's not one disappointing or underwhelming performance here, and like the film itself the acting work is a wonderful mix of old and new.

Daniel Craig dominates the picture with a performance that is perfectly judged at every turn. This is a man who can communicate a thousand words with his eyes. He is is complemented by Judi Dench who has one of the most wonderful voices in acting, and Javier Bardem whose body language says more than a well-scripted monologue ever could. SKYFALL is essentially a three-hander and all three are at the top of their game, creating very human characters within the archetypes of the stoic hero, the authoritarian boss and the larger-than-life villain. For all the excitement of the action scenes (particularly the pre-credits sequence set in Turkey and a climax that wonderfully evokes the ending to a controversial 1970s classic), you will find yourself equally remembering the dramatic scenes - Javier Bardem's entrance into the film, Craig's first meeting with Berenice Marlohe, and a scene set in the National Gallery.

Bardem manages to create a classic Bond villain who is both larger-than-life and yet very human, with an arguably legitimate axe to grind but rather cruel methods. One pities him almost as much as one hates him. He's a harbinger of Scaramanga from the MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN film (1974) and book (1965) - Bond's dark shadow. With Max Zorin (Christopher Walken)'s hair from A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)! Naomie Harris is charming and spunky in her role of field agent Eve, and she has good chemistry with Craig. Whishaw (in his fourth film with Craig) creates a memorably confident, intelligent and amusing character. Fiennes' Gareth Mallory is a highly interesting character - a man who isn't all he seems amd is more like Bond than Bond himself would expect at first. Berenice Marlohe's Severine, in just a few scenes, resonates as a multi-faceted, tragic character with depth and a convincing backstory. Rory Kinnear, who didn't get a chance to shine as Bill Tanner in QUANTUM OF SOLACE, thankfully does here and hopefully his character will be as important to the series in future films as he was in the books, where he is Bond's best friend in MI6.

SKYFALL is a film which is less action-packed, fast-paced, noisy and spectacular than most Bond films, but no less exciting. This is first and foremost a thriller, in the style of the first three films DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) and GOLDFINGER (1964). In some ways this is the film that THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999) could have been. A film where the action sequences feel connected to and integral to the plot, and grow out of the drama and story. Mendes has delivered a superb balance of action and drama that allows the drama and characters to resonate and make the action more exciting because we have more to invest in. SKYFALL also continues Bond's emotional journey from the previous pictures, so that finally what the film becomes is the end of a trilogy dealing with James Bond becoming the man we love. (Yes, he's not QUITE the Bond we love in this film.)

The film resonates class at every turn, and fittingly for not only the fiftieth anniversary of the series, but the year of the London Olympics and Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, SKYFALL spends a lot on time on British soil (as did the 1955 novel 'Moonraker'), and feels like a very British film. It is also interested in the answers to a very specific and uniquely British question - has the age passed when MI6 should rely less on human intelligence gathering and more on digital and satellite intelligence gathering? Do we need a man like James Bond anymore? When the enemy no longer has a face, don't we need humans in the field even more than before? Mendes, inspired by THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), has fashioned a film that delivers blockbuster entertainment, has artistic value and also speaks about the times we live in.

For the Bond 50 celebrations, we have a Bond film more in touch with its legacy than CASINO ROYALE (2006) and QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008). It has some surprises up its sleeve which mark it as a more traditional Bond film. Say no more. There is a return to the series' ridiculous elements (a larger than life villain, Komodo dragons, Bond hanging on to the bottom of an elevator all the way up to the 67th floor, and the return of a palm print encoded 'signature gun' from LICENCE TO KILL. There is also a return to the series' sense of fun and humour, and beloved tropes. The film sees a return to the sexiness and the travelogue feel that has not always been apparent in recent films. 

SKYFALL is a bold film in the emotional terrain it covers. Here we have a startling presentation of Bond early in the film - disillusioned with his vocation and seemingly ready for the scrap heap, full of self-doubt and addicted to alcohol and painkillers. Even his legendary gun arm is unsteady. (Bond in the shooting gallery brings back memories of the opening to the 'Moonraker' book.) Bond's age is addressed (Craig was 43 when he filmed SKYFALL) by Ralph Fiennes' Mallory, who tells him "It's a young man's game." Although a depressed, out of condition Bond sent on a mission by 'M' that will restore or end him was a plot device included in the 'You Only Live Twice' (1964) novel, it's something we have never seen before in a Bond film (the nearest we had was Bond with a dislocated shoulder in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) and creates a new kind of tension to the film. How long will Bond remain a broken man, and what damage is he going to cause to himself and others before he returns to normal?

The film could have been a by-the-numbers back-slapping celebration of Bond tropes by any other producers than the Broccoli family. Ever since the 25th anniversary film THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) with Timothy Dalton, they have been trying to stretch the Bond character for all he is worth and explore his humanity. In doing so, they have revealed and reminded us of what has made the character so loved for nearly six decades now (the first Bond novel, 'Casino Royale', appeared in 1953). He encapsulates what Tennyson wrote in the final lines of his poem 'Ulysses' (1842) and which are quoted by 'M' in the film. She's talking about England, but she could equally be talking about 007. He may be weakened by time and age (in this film) but he remains resilient, brave and unwavering. Bond is also motivated by his sense of duty, his patriotism and his complicated relationship with 'M', which is further explored in the film.

It's also bold in the changes it brings to the visual palette of the series. The look of the film is somehow simultaneously of the here and now (London, Scotland), the near future (Shanghai) and the past (Macau). Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner (back from QUANTUM OF SOLACE and coincidentally Mendes' regular collaborator) create a Shanghai straight out of BLADE RUNNER (1982) or cyberpunk author William Gibson's imagination - all neon blue and fractured, flashing, floating imagery and data. It's as if the whole Shanghai sequence is coming out of Bond's restless, fevered state of mind. A setpiece involving Bond trailing an assassin on the 67th floor of a skyscraper is the single most extraordinarily conceived scene in the series and is a wonder to behold. It somehow encapsulates the appeal of Bond with its juxtaposition of deadly danger and beauty. To contrast with Shanghai we have a scene set on a floating casino in Macau that harks back to the old-school elegance and panoramic scope of a film like YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. London is gritty but beautiful, Scotland haunting but majestic.

Thomas Newman's score is also a mix of innovation, and nods to past and the recent past. It's very much its own score, whilst paying tribute to both the work of John Barry and David Arnold, the composer of the previous five films. The score aches and soars with its characters and has a distinct air of regency, stature and elegance. At times it is almost ambient, and at others almost Kubrickian. Adele's slow-burning, moving theme song has quickly revealed itself as a Bondian classic - both a traditional Bond theme in the style of Bassey or Nancy Sinatra, and a very modern updating of that same style. Combined with the amazing Daniel Kleinman main titles, the song truly soars. Kleinman's titles are amongst the best of series and break new ground in its focussing on theme and character rather than Bondian tropes. The effect is overwhelmingly emotionally powerful and thematically right for the film.

 SKYFALL then is a successful melding of the old and new, past and present. Bond as a franchise (this is the 23rd 'official' film) is the 'old dog' but the series has 'new tricks'. It's genuinely one of the very best in the series and like the two films before it, it edges the series ever further into exciting artistic terrain. The line between 'artistic film' and 'blockbuster' continues to erode, and SKYFALL sets up a second chapter within the Craig era that means that the prospects for Bond 24 are for a 'reboot' as fresh, exciting and groundbreaking as CASINO ROYALE turned out to be in 2006. 'Brave new world' indeed.

Thanks to Sony Japan.


John Cork is perhaps best known as one of the foremost experts on the world of James Bond, writing several well-received books on the subject and working on the special features for most of the Bond 'Special Edition' and 'Ultimate Edition' DVD and Blu-ray releases. Yet there is more to John than is first apparent. He's the screenwriter of the critically acclaimed racial drama THE LONG WALK HOME (1990), has worked on the special features for many other DVD/ Blu-ray video releases, and came close to writing a Bond film himself. I spoke to John about his fascinating career.

Part 1 can be read here.

How did you then get involved in the special features for the original Special Edition DVD releases of the Bond films?
Well the first thing that happened was that right after I had finished working with Eon, I met Lee Pfeiffer, who now publishes Cinema Retro magazine. He had had some conversations with MGM about working on the special features of a laserdisc edition of GOLDFINGER and possibly THUNDERBALL. He encouraged me to meet with someone at MGM about joining the project, and then my involvement was endorsed by Eon. We did the work on those two laserdiscs with people such as Mark Cerrulli, Dave Worrall, Bruce Scivally, and Paul Scrabo and his wife. It was a huge amount of work but a lot of fun. We finished them and I said to everybody "I'm going back to screenwriting, folks!" I had Goldeneye magazine that I was editing too. The reality is that you get paid a lot more for screenwriting than making special features for laserdiscs.

Those laserdiscs paved the way for the Special Edition DVD releases of the Bond films. I'd been doing a lot of post-production work in L.A., and MGM came to me and asked me to supervise some of the special features for the laserdisc release of GOLDENEYE, which didn’t involve any production per se. We recorded an audio commentary, gathered the trailers and TV spots. I helped them clear the US television special that was produced and spent one day in a post-production house supervising the assembly. I didn't think anything more of it. TOMORROW NEVER DIES came out and I didn't work on the special features. Then, I started getting phone calls from people telling me that they had heard MGM were going to do Special Edition DVDs of all the films. Some people asked me if they could put me down as a reference for doing the special features. I said "Yeah, fine." I was working on a spec script at the time and I literally had a week to get it finished and sent off to my agent. Unfortunately, it became obvious that it wasn't going to sell. It's a hugely depressing moment in the life of a screenwriter. You spend a lot of time writing spec scripts and you use up a lot of savings. Suddenly the phone rang and it was MGM. I figured they were asking me to recommend someone I had given references for. The person told me, "We've seen your name everywhere. We finally called up Eon and asked for a recommendation and they recommended you.'' I told him "Well, here's the deal. I'm a member of the Writer's Guild, and if I work on these DVDs, I'm going to have to have the work covered under a Writer's Guild contract. " He said, "We can work that out."

And then, boom!, within two weeks I was working on the project and it took thirteen months of my life. I built a team, most importantly, Bruce Scivally, but Dave Worrall and Paul Scrabo were involved, as were dozens of others. I realised that I was having more fun talking to real people rather than what you do as a screenwriter, where you talk to the imaginary people in your head! My love of history, which had inspired me to write THE LONG WALK HOME, was satisfied by working on these Bond documentaries. My love of filmmaking was satisfied by being able to sit down and talk to people I had admired all my life. I had a great time with it. I went to MGM after the project was completed and told them "You know, I don't just know about Bond. I'd love to work on some other titles too." They were pleased with the Bond work and they started feeding Cloverland - my company - titles.

It must have been amazing having access to the archives on your Bond DVD and book projects.
We pulled every script out of there when we made the documentaries, and you can see shots of them on the DVDs. It was incredible. I even got to read the 'Jinx' script, which was really a precursor to the CASINO ROYALE reboot. I've been through the Ian Fleming Publications archives, Fleming's private materials, the Eon Bond archives, and MGM/ UA's archives. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to do that. The irony of it though is that when you have the opportunity to go through the archives, you never have the time to go through everything because you're on a work deadline and things have to be done quickly and as a team. For example: We were working on the GOLDFINGER and THUNDERBALL laserdisc documentaries in 1995, and there was a day where Iris Rose, who used to work at Eon, was able to show us through the archives, which were then at Pinewood. Eon was happy to give us access to anything we wanted. Unfortunately, this had to happen at the same time we were interviewing Honor Blackman. You can’t do both. Meet Honor Blackman or go through the archive. I made the decision to go to the archives. There are always choices to be made! Luckily I got to meet Honor later, and she was great.

I have to say I am extremely honoured that Eon put their trust in me and Bruce Scivally and my collaborators to try and celebrate the character that has given me so much enjoyment over the years. This is also true of my other non-Bond work too. I just did the special features for CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981). Sitting down with David Puttnam and Hugh Hudson. It's a very emotional film for them, and in a lot of ways the most important project they were involved in. There's that pressure of 'Don't screw this up! Don't screw us over!' It's my honour and my responsibility to help them celebrate the film they love.

You also did a commentary with Bond author/ historian Steve Rubin for the Special Edition DVD of the 1967 CASINO ROYALE.
Steve Rubin, who was producing the special features on the 1967 CASINO ROYALE and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983), invited me to participate in the audio commentary for CASINO ROYALE. It was a blast, and I'm deeply grateful to Steve for including me. I had known Steve for many, many years. His books, 'The James Bond Films' and 'The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia' (1995) are books that I greatly admire. He also played a key role in some of the work we did for the DVD release of THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) many years ago, hosting an audio commentary made up of interviews Steve had recorded with many of the filmmakers. He also worked with me on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951), providing a key interview for our documentaries on that film.

I took my son with me for the recording session. He was only six or seven when we did the session, but I explained what we were doing. My son got to sit in the control booth. He was excited to see all the controls, and, I think, to be where something was being created, but I'm not sure he fully understood the concept of an audio commentary. We recorded on a fairly large foley stage in Santa Monica (coincidentally enough, the same stage where I supervised the audio commentary recording of Michael G. Wilson and Martin Campbell for the 2006 CASINO ROYALE). After we finished, I asked my son what he thought of the audio commentary. He replied, "I like movies better when people don't talk through them.''

How was working on the Deluxe Edition DVD of the 2006 CASINO ROYALE?
Before the Ultimate Edition DVDs came out, MGM contacted me to assist them in finding deleted scenes and so on from their archives. They weren't interested in new documentaries, although we did actually do some. I think they thought they might find unseen footage of DR.NO or something, but the only unseen footage that exists is raw camera footage of a single shot from the film. It became an incredibly complicated job to try and pull together all this myriad of material to give it some coherence. I think the biggest thing we did for the Ultimate Editions was adding some deleted scenes and scenes with multi-camera angles. It was great fun finding stuff like all that old footage of the Aston Martin and parts of the Fleming interview that didn't make it onto the Special Edition releases.

The Deluxe Edition of CASINO ROYALE '06 was something I very much wanted to be involved in. Since a lot of details on the making of the 2006 film had already appeared in TV documentaries that were included in the initial DVD release, I wanted to find a different approach to pay tribute to Fleming, his world and his creation. It was the first Bond novel that I ever read, the first Bond novel ever written, arguably the most influential spy novel ever written. There are some stories that had never been told, and I thought that we had a chance here to tell some of them.

Were you involved in finding the deleted scenes and shots for the release?

I viewed them very briefly, but they were not something I was involved in. These days, film editors are told to keep all the deleted scenes and shots so that they can hopefully be included on the DVD. That stuff is all archived off, and the producers and filmmakers have to sign off on what gets used and what doesn't get used. We had access to all the raw camera footage, and all the behind the scenes footage but we couldn't (and didn’t really want to) create or edit a deleted scene. Those had already been done. The material in the Filmmaker's Profiles section on the DVD is filled with raw camera footage that we pulled out and wasn't used in the film, so one can see bits of alternate takes there.

In all your DVD work, what are the most rewarding aspects?

The most rewarding thing is being able to tell stories that haven't been told before and to give people a voice that they haven't had before. I love interviewing celebrities and stars but a lot of times the most rewarding interviews are with people who have never sat down in front of a camera before. We did a documentary on Walter Tevis, the author of the novels of THE HUSTLER (1961), THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986) and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976). We talked to his widow and his children, and it was a very emotional experience. I am also incredibly proud of the documentary we did on John Wayne, seen through his career at 20th Century Fox (it's on the Blu-ray release of THE
COMANCHEROS). I got to sit down with Wayne's widow and son. It was really fascinating to be able to do that and hear their take on what his legacy was. It has to be strange to be related or involved with someone who has been transformed by the public into an icon. His son told me that it isn't easy to sit down and watch a film of his father's. I understand that. I am incredibly grateful to have these opportunities.

Are you usually commissioned to do titles, or do you suggest titles to the studios?
Occasionally we suggest titles that we want to work on, like the FLINT movies for Fox, but it is rare that it pans out. We finished the documentaries for them, but Fox decided to delay the street date. They are finally getting released through the Twilight Time label, which has done wonderful work releasing many titles that don’t fit into the studio’s plans. Ones we get commissioned to do offer great opportunities. It often turns out to be a fun challenge. An example would be our work on the Charlie Chan movies. That turned out to be a great window into the 1930s and early 1940s. There were all sorts of stories that we were able to springboard off of that series, and we were able to pay tribute to some great legends in Hollywood whose careers are all-but-forgotten.

You did the trivia track on the SPIDER-MAN 2.1 (2004) DVD. Are you a huge fan or expert on the character?
Charles de Lauzarika did the special features on that release. He commissioned Cloverland to do the trivia track. We had done trivia tracks for a number of MGM releases at that point. Bruce Scivally worked on it with me and wrote the vast majority of it. I enjoyed Spider-man growing up but I am not an expert by any means. It was fun thinking out of the box for the track. We didn't want to have facts that the fans were necessarily thinking about. We went through and read over a hundred issues of the comic books between us, trying to find strange associations between the comic book world of the character and what was in the film.

Do you spend most of your time these days making documentaries with your company Cloverland or do you still write?I have not actually written a screenplay in a long time, but I do have one under option right now. I don't identify myself as a screenwriter anymore. I have lots of ideas and lots of scripts that are sitting around that could probably interest people. But there are only so many hours in a day.

What are some of the current projects Cloverland is working on?
Right now we are doing less special features for movies because it's a shrinking marketplace. We are getting into different types of documentary work. We're doing a documentary on the divorce era in Reno, Nevada and how that ended up changing American notions of what marriage means. The project is titled RENO, AND THE ROMANCE OF DIVORCE (you can see a trailer
here). The story reveals our changing understanding of what marriage means, from a women being legally bound to a man as something more than property but less than an equal partner, to our view today of marriage as a partnership.

How did the 'James Bond -The Legacy' (2002) book come about?
That was another one of those strange circumstances that came out of the blue. I had actually sent a letter to Barbara Broccoli saying to her that I thought there was a book that could be done by taking a lot of the content we pulled together for the DVDs and doing it as a book with Cubby Broccoli's story as the centerpiece, in a way that his memoir ('When the Snow Melts', 1999) couldn't do. I thought we could talk about how the films were produced, and also tell Michael and Barbara's story too. I didn't hear anything back directly but a few months later I got a phone call from Keith Snelgrove at Eon, during a quiet period for Bond (before DIE ANOTHER DAY, 2002). He said "Would you like to write a book for us? It's not going to be the one you pitched us. We have a different idea that came from the publisher Boxtree. I'm going to put you in touch with them.'' During this period, I was just getting started on the non-Bond DVD work that my company was doing. It was literally within the week of MGM giving me my first four titles to work on. It was a hectic week! I said to Boxtree and Eon that "I would really like to work with a co-author on this, and Bruce Scivally is that guy." They were happy to let me do that, and Bruce was the perfect collaborator and partner.

Was the unique approach of the book dictated by the publisher from the start?
What they had more than anything was a title, and the title came with a concept. It wasn't going to be a 'making of' book. It was going to be about where the films and popular culture intersected, and we would be looking at the larger footprint of the series as well as how it developed. We were interested how current events and popular culture influenced Bond and vice versa. Many people have told me that they love the book but that it's too big to hold in their hands when they're reading it in bed! We'd always hoped there'd be a second edition or an e-book or something so we could correct the typos and all the little things that always infiltrate a project of this scope. But it wasn't to be. Eon would rather create new books, which is understandable.

What do you recall about working on 'The Ultimate James Bond - An Interactive Dossier' CD-ROM (1996)?
I worked on that with Lee Pfeiffer, and on my end, Bruce Scivally and Scott McIsaac both did some important work as well. That was quite an extensive project. My favorite part was getting to go through the MGM files of each of the films. We needed the official character and actor bios from the press releases, but we were encouraged to copy every press release they had! These became invaluable when working on the DVDs and Legacy projects (among others). Back in the '60s, they would send out press release for all sorts of things - local theatre grosses in Nairobi, when an actor would arrive in New York, and wonderful stories from the productions. One had to take some of the tales with a grain of salt, but so many of the press release stories checked out, yet had never been published.

You later worked on 'The James Bond Encyclopedia' (2007). How was that experience?
This was a different project - similar to the Interactive Dossier - because there was no narrative flow, just short entries. Dorling-Kindersley creates lovely looking books, but they are created as visual experiences. Writing is secondary, and it was a constant struggle to keep the text as strong as the visuals. I'm very proud of some of the material I wrote for the book, and I was blessed to be working with Collin Stutz along with editorial and writing help from Bruce Scivally. I can't give enough credit to Collin for his hard work and diligence. He also did all the updating for the 2nd edition.

How does it feel to be regarded as a Bond expert? Is it a great burden?
When MOONRAKER (1979) came out, there was a 007 event at the Museum of Modern Art, and I met Richard Schenkman, the President of the American James Bond Fan Club back then. A Bond fan came up to him and asked him a trivia question. Richard confessed "I don't know." The fan was surprised and said "But you're the President of the Fan Club!" Richard replied "It's not about knowing everything. It's about knowing where to look up the answer!” That always stuck with me.

Every time I've done a project I have certainly held on to everything I think I know but I always question myself and question what the accepted notion or story or version of history is. You have to go back and recheck a scene from a book or a movie if you're going to write about it. You have to be willing to dig deeper than your assumptions.

It's not a burden for me to be called a Bond expert. I have done enough work on the subject to be called an expert. On the other hand I have tremendous respect for anyone who peels the onion back to the next layer. There is always more to be explored. To me the great thing about Bond is not the details of how this or that happened, although I love that stuff. To me it's about how you can go through the world of Bond and propagate out into these amazingly fascinating stories that impact in all these different ways. If it hadn't been for Bond, I probably wouldn't have gotten interested in Noel Coward, who was Fleming's friend. These sorts of things expand your world rather than limit it.

Finally, I believe you had your honeymoon at Fleming's Jamaican residence, Goldeneye.
When I proposed to my wife, which was about an hour after the Northridge earthquake in 1994, we began talking about honeymoon ideas. I was looking at the Caribbean, and she suggested Jamaica. I told her, "If we go to Jamaica, it will become the 'James Bond honeymoon,' and I'm not sure that would be the best thing." She said she would love to go to Jamaica, and she didn't want to just lay on a beach all day. I immediately called Goldeneye. They informed me what the rent was and I tried to keep my cool, because there was no way we could afford it! I can’t remember the price, but it was way above what I had budgeted for the honeymoon! I started looking at other places when, a few days later, the phone rings. It was Chris Blackwell, the owner of Goldeneye (and location manager on DR. NO and the man who made Bob Marley huge, etc.). He said that Barbara Broccoli had given him my number in regards to something else entirely. I replied that I had been on the phone to this very nice woman at Goldeneye that week. Chris was somewhat taken aback. "Why?" I told him I was getting married and had called to see if it was available. Chris said, "Oh, you will have to honeymoon there!" I didn't want to say that it was out of my price range, but Chris broke in again. "And, of course, you'll be my guest. There will be no charge." He was as good as his word. I had the honeymoon I had dreamed of having at a place that was not only one of the most beautiful on Earth, but at a place that had lived in my dreams ever since I had read Pearson's biography of Fleming when I was thirteen.

I spoke to John by telephone on 13th September 2012. I would like to thank him for his time.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film.


John Cork is perhaps best known as one of the foremost experts on the world of James Bond, writing several well-received books on the subject and working on the special features for most of the Bond 'Special Edition' and 'Ultimate Edition' DVD and Blu-ray releases. Yet there is more to John than is first apparent. He's the screenwriter of the critically acclaimed racial drama THE LONG WALK HOME (1990), has worked on the special features for many other DVD/ Blu-ray video releases, and came close to writing a Bond film himself. I spoke to John about his fascinating career.   

Part 2 can be read here.  

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Alabama. I still have a lot of family there. My friend Bruce Scivally, with whom I have collaborated on most of my Bond projects, also grew up in Alabama, although we didn’t know each other until we both moved to California. We used to joke that all the serious James Bond scholars grew up in Alabama!

When did you leave Alabama?
Between the ninth and tenth grade I spent the summer in Europe on a student tour. In eleventh grade, I did a semester in England and very much enjoyed that. So I did quite a bit of travelling. I went to the film school at the University of Southern California in 1980, and I have been in California ever since.

Was it easy to settle in to California after Alabama?
It was definitely different from my expectations and a bit of a culture shock. One of the things I loved about England was how much better it was than I even anticipated. Los Angeles was somewhat less than I expected. I have met some wonderful people in L.A, including my wife and some great friends. There are things you can do in L.A. that you can't really do in many other places. My family and I moved out of LA to the Monterey peninsula not too long ago, and I love it up here.

What are some of your most memorable movie-going experiences from your youth?
The first film I ever remember seeing was FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) at the age of three. Apparently it was on a double-bill with DR. NO (1962), but I don't remember the film at all. What I really remember about FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was Bond shooting the flare gun and setting the water on fire. Even at the age of three I knew that water couldn't burn! I remember asking my mother "Why is the water on fire?"

Another memorable movie experience was when my friend and I cycled to watch LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) when I was just eleven. I think one reason it was so memorable is that part of the film was set in the South. My grandparents had a lake cabin, and I would go waterskiing all the time. I knew power boats and that environment really well. I watched the boat chase in LIVE AND LET DIE and I thought "I have never seen anything like this in my life." Of course, there was a lot of other stuff going on too. Bond was confident, sure of himself and knew how to handle himself around women. He had a personal sense of style. Like all kids my age these were all things I was trying to figure out for myself. "How do you talk to girls?" "How do you react when something goes terribly wrong?" "How do you carry yourself?" I don't think it would have mattered if the Bond film had been GOLDFINGER (1964) or DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971). Like so many fans, I was ten or eleven when I became a big Bond fan. I was ready at that particular moment of my life to find something like the Bond series to give me some fantasy vision of masculinity.

What are some other experiences?
There are many. I remember going to see 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) and being mesmerised and absolutely enchanted. I loved STAR WARS (1977) but I think the most emotional science fiction film experience at that point in time was going to see CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). I had no interest in wild stories about UFOs at that point, but the movie is an amazing film about obsession. I had just got my driver's licence that month. Driving back from the movie theatre, I passed the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. It had a big neon star on top of it, but the trees on the roadside were obscuring it. With my mind filled with the images from the film, I see this bright blue neon light flashing through the trees! I'm lucky I stayed on the road!

When I was in England, I saw Bertolucci's 1900 (1976), which was playing in an Oxford cinema in two parts over two weeks. It was really amazing to see an epic on that scale that seemed to have an inner emotional life of that complexity. I loved two Sean Connery films, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and THE WIND AND THE LION (both 1975), and PAPILLON (1973) with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I also loved PLANET OF THE APES (1968), which I saw at a drive-in with my aunt. All these films had a big effect on me.

At which point did you get into the Ian Fleming Bond books?
I started reading the Bond novels in the summer of 1974. The film LIVE AND LET DIE had stayed with me. I eventually went out and bought the soundtrack album. Sometime later, I asked my mother to tell me about the books. She had read them all in the '60s. She came back from the library with a small stack of them and said I could read them. I read everything the library had that was Bond-related, and which also included John Pearson's 'The Life of Ian Fleming' (1966) and 'James Bond - The Authorised Biography of 007' (1973), and Kingsley Amis's 'The Book of Bond, or Every Man His Own 007' (1965). I had read all the Fleming books by the time I had turned thirteen in late '74. By Christmas of that year I had read most of them a second time. Shortly thereafter I got a number of my friends into reading the Bond novels. I would re-read the books as my friends were reading them. During that time, there were a lot of used bookstores popping up throughout small towns and medium-sizes cities in the US. A core group of my friends and I were doing our best to own a copy of each novel. One of my friends bought two different editions of the same novel because he liked both of the covers. That inspired some of us to obsessively collect all the different paperback editions of the novels so we could get all the covers.

Do you still have a huge collection of Bond books?
I would say I have a very substantial collection. It isn't as big as many I have seen! The biggest collection that I have maintained is a collection of paper materials relating to the Bond films, novels and the people involved with them. That took up quite a number of file cabinets. When you work on the projects like I have worked on, you amass a huge amount of material and then at some point, you have to collate and organise it for archive purposes. I donated all my materials a couple of years ago to the University of Southern California Special Collections Library. It will get more use by more people being in that location.

When you originally read the Fleming Bond novels did you see them as being substantially different from the films?
Yes, to a point. In their own way, the books challenged my perceptions of what the films were. I had read all the books before THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974) came out. Back then, the books seemed more current, and not so dated. At that point only CASINO ROYALE (1967), YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967), DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) and LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) had really deviated from the novels, and even in those films contained strong elements of the novels. What fascinated me the most about Fleming was the sense of authority with which he viewed the world. Bond knew the best jam (Tiptree's Little Scarlet) and the best cigarettes (Morland's with three gold bands and a special blend of tobaccos), for example. As a twelve year-old kid, I was digesting this stuff and beginning to get a sense of what was important to me and what things I thought were the best. I saw the books and the films as the same universe. I could see how one lead to the other in most cases.

In Britain in the 1950s and 1960s the empire was disappearing, but the UK was experiencing a boom in the way it was influencing global culture. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are just two examples. There's a swarm of British films coming out, from the great David Lean films to the wonderful Ealing comedies. I was a kid growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, not particularly caring for country music, and realising there was a bigger world out there that I was interested in. At that time I was just dying to see the rest of the world and the Bond films and books really gave that to me.

When I started reading the books, apart from LIVE AND LET DIE, I had seen ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) in the theatre but had very few memories of it; I had seen DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, which I enjoyed but had not had a huge impact on me, and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, which I only remembered that one scene from. I'd never seen THUNDERBALL (1965) or YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967), but I had seen GOLDFINGER (1964) on TV. That was it. I read the books before I knew the films that well.

How did you express your fandom as a youth?
I think I expressed my fandom more than anything else by trying to incorporate elements of Bond into my life in my own way. For example, Bond made me want to get to England to do a semester there. Bond made me want to understand the art of writing and the art of filmmaking. It made me want to make movies. After seeing LIVE AND LET DIE I knew I wanted to do something creative with film. It had a huge impact on me, sitting in that darkened theatre and being swept up in this great story that was perfect for an eleven year old. Of course I also collected the books and posters and kept files of all the cuttings I could get. But for me, being a fan wasn't all about having the best collection.

How did you enter the film industry?
When I was at the University of Southern California I wrote a screenplay called THE LONG WALK HOME (1990), and it was optioned by the producer Dave Bell. We were able to make it into a film with Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg. That got me an agent and a number of writing assignments.

Can you talk about the short film version of your script?
It was a very strange system at the University. Even if you had taken all the qualified classes to be able to direct one of the short film projects (known as '480s' after the class number), you had to submit your screenplay in a way that other students could pitch to direct your script. That caused innumerable amounts of conflict. Another student directed the short film, and I had no direct involvement other than showing up at production meetings. I didn't handle any of the rewrites or anything like that.

How happy are you with it?
I'm not particularly happy with the student film, but it's not something I sit around and curse the day it was made! It was a long time ago.

How personal is the feature screenplay to you? Was it based on events from your youth?
There were certainly events that inspired the writing of it. My grandparents would have Christmas party every year, and afterwards, a formal Christmas dinner with all the family. They had maids and bartenders work the party and the formal dinner, and these were black men and women. There was an incident when I was either a Freshman or a Sophomore at college. One of the guests made a comment about 'welfare mothers wanting too much' in front of the African-American staff at the dinner. It was a pointedly racist comment. Here I was being served by women who worked on Christmas Day, eating a beautifully prepared meal off of fine china and listening to a lecture about how greedy some woman on welfare was. My blood ran cold. I pulled my mother aside after the dinner and said to her ''I may never make a film but if I do, what we just saw there, I'm going to put it in.'' The scene is
actually in the movie. There is another true story in the film where my grandmother sent my aunt and uncle, as small children, to Oak Park in Montgomery. Her African-American maid—named, I kid you not, Elizabeth Taylor—was with the kids at the time. The parks were segregated, but maids supervising white children were allowed. But at this point, as racial tension were rising in Montgomery, a policeman came and kicked her out. My grandmother made the policeman come and apologise for doing so. That's the sequence that opens the film.

What's your favourite memory associated with the film?
My favourite memory of the film was when we premiered it at the Capri Theater in Montgomery, where I had seen the DR. NO/ FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE double-bill when I was three, and also LIVE AND LET DIE. It was a theatre where I had seen a lot of movies. My mother's house was just around the corner from it. It was quite emotional for me to have the premiere there. My grandfather was really the father figure in my life, and the most emotional moment was when I walked down the aisle after the film was over and stood there waiting for him to stand up so I could ask him what he thought of the movie. He didn't see me behind him, and I heard my grandmother ask him what he thought of it and he was obviously very proud. That meant a lot to me.

How proud are you of the film yourself?
I'm extremely proud. It was a film that was done for not very much money. It had a tumultuous production. The original director was replaced by Richard Pearce, who came in and did a stellar job of pulling the film together. It was a tremendous amount of work. With the exception of a couple of insert close-up shots that were done on a sound stage in L.A., every shot was done in Montgomery, Alabama. A lot of the people that were in the film, either in crowd scenes or as supporting players, had living memories of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which I did not as I had been born in 1961, and the film was set in 1955-56. There was a screening of it this summer in Florida that I was invited to come and introduce. It meant something to see that for a lot of people the film still has an emotional impact for them.

How did you get involved with working with Eon Productions, the production company behind the Bond films, on writing treatments for future films?
At a screening of THE LONG WALK HOME at the Director's Guild, Whoopi Goldberg had invited Timothy Dalton, whom she was friends with. I walked up to him, introduced myself and expressed my admiration for his work on the Bond films. I told him that, although he would never know it from the movie, the Bond films inspired me to get involved with filmmaking. He said "Well, you need to speak to Barbara Broccoli over there.'' I got to meet Barbara and she couldn't have been nicer. But it didn't lead to anything at that point.

Later on, I got involved with the Ian Fleming Foundation. I'm no longer on the board, but one of the things that we decided we were going to do was create an American-based fan magazine where we could publish articles that could involve a certain level of research. We called it 'Goldeneye' after Fleming's Jamaican residence. This was before the film of the same name. Through that I had some contact with Eon, although not directly with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. At a certain point, everybody on the board of the IFF started asking me "When are they going to make the next Bond film?'' This was during the six-year gap between LICENCE TO KILL (1989) and GOLDENEYE (1995). Eon had settled the lawsuit with MGM and Giancarlo Parretti, and I called my agent to ask her what she knew about a new Bond film. My agent called me back and said, "They're actually starting to develop the next film, and they're interviewing writers. I have an appointment for you to go in and pitch." This was quite the surprise to me, but very welcome. I went in and pitched to Barbara and Michael. Then I had a second meeting with 'Cubby' Broccoli there, too, and they offered me a deal to work on a treatment for a future Bond film. Michael France, who had written the Sylvester Stallone film CLIFFHANGER (1993) was working on what would become GOLDENEYE. He was hired to do a full screenplay. Richard Smith, who had written another Stallone film, LOCK UP (1989), and I were supposed to be developing treatments so that they could re-launch the Bond series and come out with a number of films, one a year like in the early '60s. That did not pan out, obviously.

It was a tough job to be in that screenwriter’s chair on Bond. Eon has heard all the ideas, every variation on what Bond can be doing. It really comes down to whether you can get them excited by your ideas, whether you can bring something to the table that they feel is original and grabs their interest. Quite frankly, I wasn't able to pull that off. I love to think that I could have, but I couldn't get them interested in my take on any Bond film plots. In the middle of the process I got frustrated trying to develop a Bond story because you put a lot of time and effort into every idea you pitch and sometimes those stories can be shot down when you're five minutes into your presentation. You feel, “That was a week of my life that I just poured into researching that!" But it's their franchise.

All was not lost. One of the things that Barbara and Michael discovered about me very rapidly was that I knew more about James Bond than any sane, rational human being should! I also knew filmmaking pretty well. Michael kept asking "What's the villain's plot? What's he trying to do?" It concerned him a great deal. I sort of turned that question on its head and asked "Which James Bond are we developing these ideas for?" Because the Bond of DR. NO is different from the Bond of GOLDFINGER. And that Bond is different to the Bond of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977), and so on.

So, we went back to Fleming. We started talking a bit about the novels. Barbara and I would read one Bond novel a week and went through the entire series. We would have brief discussions about what was interesting about each book. This got me no closer to getting a story approved, but it was good. Out of frustration, I ended up developing a kind of 'Character Bible', if you like, for them called 'James Bond of the '90s'. In it, I went through and tried to answer the questions "Who is James Bond in the novels? How is this expressed in the films? How should it be expressed today?" I went through the roles of the women in the films, what makes a good Bond villain, what clothes Bond should wear, and so on. It wasn't really a book, but it was a pretty detailed document that could be looked at in bullet point form. They gave me lots of comments when I was writing it, and, obviously, they had a tremendous amount of influence on the final product. What I think I gave them was a document they could hand to screenwriters or department heads and say "This is our springboard. You may follow it, or you may fight against it, but it gives us somewhere to start.''

So that was my biggest contribution to the cinematic world of James Bond. That document was used for a number of years, but I'd be surprised if anything is really left of what I put into it at this point. But I think most of the writers who were involved on the Pierce Brosnan movies certainly got a chance to view it and laugh at it or contribute to it or enjoy it.

Can you reveal some of the ideas that you pitched?

The initial idea I pitched to them turned out to be very similar to Elliot Carver's plan in TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997), but only on a technical level. There was no plot that was terribly similar. I had a scene where a missile was taken off course to sink a British battleship, but it had nothing to do with China or satellite television rights. It did have to do with manipulating satellites. What you realise so quickly in that environment is that everybody is getting the same feedback from society - that if you're looking up espionage stuff in the mid-1990s, what you're going to find is people concerned with digital security, how we're moving intelligence gathering up to satellites, how much we're relying on electronic data to draw conclusions about human behaviour. So, for example, if I'm reading about satellite-guided misiles and technology that isn't quite there yet but is going to happen, you can bet everybody else is reading about the same thing too. The idea of
manipulating a satellite that I had - none of that contributed to what TOMORROW NEVER DIES became. I know Bruce Feirstein, who wrote the first and last drafts of TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and there is nothing amongst the treatments that I came up with that works in a way he put together that script.

At one point in a story meeting, Michael G. Wilson said to me "What do you think about the idea of a media baron being a Bond villain?" I thought about it for a minute and said "I just think that the world of Bond is so behind the cloak that you don't want someone who is too famous and is too much of a public figure. Too many people will be looking at that kind of person for him to be a good Bond villain." And I was wrong! They did a wonderful job in TOMORROW NEVER DIES. I thought Elliot Carver was a fantastic villain. The amazing thing about it was that later I spoke to Bruce and he told me that he had come up with the media baron idea independently of Michael! You can say "Oh, wow!'' but it makes perfect sense because media barons at the time were making the news. People were concerned about how much they were controlling information. You go through a lot of ideas when you're in there with Barbara and Michael. They have a very high standard for what is going to get by. That high standard is "Does it excite us?" Bruce not only had the idea independent of Michael, but he found a way to make it resonate. I have great respect for that.

You mentioned the Ian Fleming Foundation. What were some of the most rewarding aspects of your time on the Board?
I think the most rewarding aspect was doing Goldeneye magazine, and in particular my article on the development of THUNDERBALL (1965). Much of it had been covered beautifully by Raymond Benson in 'The James Bond Bedside Companion' (1984) and by Steve Rubin in 'The James Bond Films' (1981), but there were things that I had access to that they hadn't had full access to back then. It was fun finding new information. Working on the magazine allowed me the chance to meet some incredibly wonderful people who were Bond fans. I miss working on the magazine but of course in the end it was volunteer labour. Eon
eventually decided that they didn't want the magazine to continue and I fully understood that.

I spoke to John by telephone on 13th September 2012. I would like to thank him for his time.

Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film.