Q&A with Tom DeMichael

Tom DeMichaelTom DeMichael is the author of James Bond FAQ, and today, we’re celebrating Daniel Craig’s birthday! Below is an excerpt of an interview with Tom on Out of the Past. Check out their website for the full interview. 

Which are your least favorite Bond movies? Why?

As I mentioned in my book, I find the 1967 version of Casino Royale to be intolerable – but as I also noted, it’s not considered to be an “official” Bond film. Of the 23 Bond films produced by Eon Productions, my choice for least favorite Bond film would be a tossup between Moonraker and A View to A Kill. Moonraker, because I think Michael Lonsdale – despite his normally fine abilities as an actor – completely underplayed his role of Hugo Drax. Plus, the whole scene with Jaws and his newly-found girlfriend Dolly saving Bond and Holly Goodhead aboard a space shuttle makes me want to turn off the whole film at that point. A View to A Kill forces us to believe that Tanya Roberts is a geologist, villainous May Day is stronger than Oddjob – a character portrayed by a former Olympic weightlifter, and that Roger Moore – bless him – could still be a sexy and action-packed 007 at the age of 58. Both films suffered from a weak script and a general lack of creative direction and inspiration.

Which actor will play the next Bond?

Daniel Craig, who has brought to the screen much of the rough and cold demeanor that Ian Fleming’s original James Bond had, is contracted to star in the next two Bond films – known currently as Bond 24 and Bond 25. At 45 right now, Craig would be only near age 50 when that arrangement is completed. Seeing how Roger Moore lasted until age 58 and Sean Connery returned as Bond at age 53 in Never Say Never Again, it’s not unreasonable to think that Daniel Craig could re-up for another tour of duty as Bond toward the end of this decade.

So, considering that Craig is going nowhere in the foreseeable future, the gossip still rages as to who the “next” James Bond will be. Initial thoughts have tagged Robert Pattinson – from the Twilight movies – as a possible candidate, along with actors like Christian Bale and Guy Pearce. Considering the latter two would be 45 and 50 when Craig finishes his shift, they are unlikely. Henry Cavill, only 30, has also been mentioned as a possibility and actually tested for the role of Bond in 2006′s Casino Royale.

Despite their varied abilities, all six actors who have played Bond were relatively unknown, and certainly not A-list performers, when chosen for 007. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had made their names in television series prior to taking the iconic role, and the rest came to the table with experience ranging from print model, stage performances, and secondary roles in feature films. It’s very likely that next James Bond will come from similar backgrounds.

What is the future of the franchise?

The James Bond film franchise is very unique in the history of cinema. It’s relatively unprecedented for a literary character to be brought to the Silver Screen managed by the same production team for fifty years. Certainly, you have Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan – like Bond, portrayed by different actors over the years – but none of those series were controlled in total by a single creative entity. The Broccoli family members – first Albert, with partner Harry Saltzman until he split in the mid-70s, then stepson Michael G. Wilson and soon after daughter Barbara Broccoli – have maintained the roles of producer since 1962. Today, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli continue to successfully push the buttons for the franchise. Waiting in the wings is Wilson’s son, Gregg, who has been involved with the Bond films since The World Is Not Enough and was most recently an associate producer on Skyfall. It’s generally assumed that he will take over the executive reins at some point in the future. But Michael Wilson is in his early 70s and Barbara Broccoli is only in her early 50s, so they have many years left before turning over the keys to the 007 offices to Gregg.

In terms of the films themselves, you need only to look at the fact that the most recent Bond film, Skyfall, brought in more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. That doesn’t include Blu-Ray, DVD, on-demand, and all the merchandising. I don’t think there’s any doubt that James Bond will return – for many, many years to come.

Keep reading this interview on Out of the Past!

James Bond FAQ is filled with biographies, synopses, production stories, and images and illustrations seldom seen in print, leaving little else to be said about the world’s favorite secret agent. This book includes a foreword by Eunice Gayson.

James Bond FAQ: The Best Bond Film

Tom DeMichaelGuest Blogger: Tom DeMichael is the author of James Bond FAQ, which will be released from Applause Books in February 2013.

OK, my last post featured my five “favorite” James Bond films. Along the way, I tried to explain the difference between “favorite” and “best.” Put succinctly – “favorite” is emotionally-based and “best” is based on logical analysis and measurable qualities. Of course, both categories can be argued and wrestled with – much like 007 going for Goldfinger’s golden gun.

The “best” Bond films entail so many factors for consideration, with cumulative totals sending them to the top of the list. For the sake of clarity, let’s take the following factors into account.

- Performance – Simply stated, actors and actresses that convince the viewer that they are     really who they are in the world of Bond. From Sean Connery and Honor Blackman to Daniel Craig and Eva Green, these folks bring the goods.

- Story/script – The portion of that world that rolls out on the screen for somewhere around two hours. It’s where the viewers are taken, the action the viewers see (including all those wonderful gadgets,) the words they hear coming from the mouths of the performers and, ultimately, how the viewers feel when they leave the theater. Long-time contributor Richard Maibaum, the team of Purvis, Wade, and Logan, and many others brought Bond to life.

- Direction – The bus driver for the aforementioned cinematic trip, creating the vision by translating the written word. Think Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert, John Glen, or Sam Mendes, among others.

- Cinematography and production design – How the film looks – set design, camera movement, and lighting, creating the richness of the projected image, visually influencing the emotions of the viewers. Crafted by Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Ted Moore, David Tattersall and more.

- Music score – Another component of the emotional impact, enhancing the thrills, suspense, humor, and other facets of the story. Courtesy of greats like John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, and David Arnold.

- The myriad of sets, props, special effects, makeup, costuming, and other technical aspects in the movie that fill the screen (and consume the budget) to make the flick most memorable.

While anyone can have “favorites,” choosing “bests” might require a more experienced person, possessing the background and knowledge to separate emotion from the facts. Then, who am I to say what’s “best?” For the record, I have written about the film world for more than twenty years, publishing in books and magazines (including the upcoming James Bond FAQ for Applause Theater and Cinema Books,) as well as being a former college major in TV/film, a technician for broadcast television, and a makeup artist for stage, film, and live performance. As actor Walter Brennan used to say in his 1960′s TV show, The Guns of Will Sonnett – “No brag, just fact.”

That said, I offer the following five films as the “best” Bond films in the last fifty years, understanding fully that – despite the above-stated qualifiers – your results may differ. And that’s OK…

Number five: Licence to Kill

With a non-Communist story based on drug trafficking, and plot points taken from Fleming’s Live and Let Die novel and The Hildebrand Rarity short story, this film focused on the conflict between Bond’s coldness in his job and loyalty to his friends. Timothy Dalton and Robert Davi turned in great performances as hero and villain, while John Glen delivered a gritty film – the best of his five Bond directions.

Number four: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Forget that George Lazenby was not an actor and had the thankless task of picking up the baton from Sean Connery. OHMSS told the story that Ian Fleming had written – Bond falling in love and getting married, only to lose one of the few things that ever had value in his life. Telly Savalas – pre-Kojak and lollipops – brought a determined Blofeld to the screen, sans fright makeup. Diana Rigg played Tracy, Bond’s betrothed, as a free spirit tamed by 007. Editor-turned-director Peter R. Hunt told this story very well.

Number three: From Russia With Love

Only the second film in the series, From Russia With Love was pure espionage, with few gadgets and great performances by Connery, Robert Shaw, Pedro Armendariz (dying of cancer while shooting his scenes,) and Lotte Lenya. The story stayed close to its roots as written by Ian Fleming, while spanning Europe and visiting cities like Istanbul and Venice. The action on the Orient Express was great, with Bond and Red Grant viciously fighting to the death. The movie was pure Cold War stuff.

Number two: Casino Royale

With stories, people, and direction having strayed during the Brosnan days (although still very entertaining films,) 2006′s Casino Royale brought everything back to basics – action, suspense, and three-dimensional characters. The film’s look ranged from harsh (007′s opening and brutal brawl in the washroom) to lush (scenes in the casino and the Bahamas.) Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen were tops in playing their parts and director Martin Campbell kept the action moving. Casino Royale told a great story, breathing new life into a franchise that had begun to look a bit ragged.

Number one: Goldfinger

Perhaps the stars (celestial, not theatrical) were in alignment for this one – everything clicked, presenting the essence of the character of James Bond and his world. With Fleming’s novel as a guide, ruthless and unique characters like Goldfinger, Oddjob, and Pussy Galore were brought to life (German actor Gert Fröbe can thank actor Michael Collins for dubbing the voice of the villain.) Connery hit his stride as 007, the gadgets opened everyone’s eyes, and director Guy Hamilton continued to shape the characters first handled by Terence Young. Production designer Ken Adam’s set of Fort Knox was impressive – considering the US government denied him any access to view the facility (Can you blame them? Someone may have taken a free sample at the end of the tour.) Composer John Barry built the suspense with brass better than anyone, especially during the sequences of Goldfinger’s invasion of the gold depository.

If anyone can only see one Bond film, it should be Goldfinger.

There’s plenty more to the world of 007 to consider, so come on back…

 

James Bond FAQ is a book that takes on the iconic cinema franchise that’s lasted for so many years. Sometimes serious as SPECTRE, sometimes quirkier than Q, but always informative, this FAQ takes the reader behind-the-scenes, as well as in front of the silver screen. Everyone’s included: Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig; little-known facts about TV’s first shot at 007, the same Bond story that was made into two different films; whatever happened to those wonderful cars and gizmos that thrilled everyone; plus much more. It’s a book for the casual, as well as hardcore, James Bond fan. James Bond FAQ is filled with biographies, synopses, production stories, and images and illustrations seldom seen in print, leaving little else to be said about the world’s favorite secret agent.