Get to the choppa: A Modern Sci Fi Films FAQ excerpt

Thirty years ago, we saw Arnie take to the screen in his most iconic role as the Terminator! Modern Sci Fi Films FAQ (new from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books) includes a special synopsis of this classic robot action film. Don’t worry – we won’t include any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet.

 

Robots and Robot Wannabes

Do You Worry About Rust?

The word “robot” is Czech in origin. Their word, “robota,” refers to drudgery, and, in general, a robot is a device designed to perform tasks usually done by a human (apparently, my time spent up to my elbows in dish soap would make me a “robot”).  As such, robots tend to appear in humanoid form, at least in the cinematic world.

The concept of a humanoid robot made sense in Hollywood, as the easiest way to portray one was to build a stiff metallic costume that could be worn by an actor or stunt man. That is, at least, until robots became reality in the 1960s and 1970s. Function overtook form, as the real robots of the world—such as the Stanford Cart—looked more like overloaded tea carts than mechanical men.

The miniaturization of technology took the “man-in-suit” out of the equation in many movies that featured robots. Still, actors Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker served robots C-3PO and R2-D2 well from inside their stuffy confines in the Star Wars epics. Ditto Peter Weller in RoboCop.

Stop-motion animation and computer-generated graphics made non- humanoid robots an alternative to men in suits. Take, for example, 1984’s The Terminator. Once stripped of its cyborg flesh, the T-800 skeleton was presented by way of a full-sized remote-controlled figure built by Stan Winston, as well as stop-motion animation by Doug Beswick, Gene Warren Jr., and the Fantasy II effects team.

The Terminator

Synopsis

  • 1984—American/Orion—108 min./color
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Original music: Brad Fiedel
  • Film editing: Mark Goldblatt
  • Art direction: George Costello

Cast

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator)
  • Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese)
  • Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor)
  • Paul Winfield (Lt. Traxler)
  • Lance Henriksen (Det. Hal Vukovich) 


In 2029, a raging conflict persists between an army of war machines and guerrilla soldiers. The machines send one of their own back to 1984 Los Angeles, where they intend on killing Sarah Connor. If they don’t, she will give birth to John Connor, who is the leader against the machines in the future war. This killing machine, a “terminator,”—Model T-800—is an incredibly sophisticated cyborg. It’s constructed of human tissue, with a high-tech hydraulic skeleton and a single mandate—to kill Sarah. It arrives in a flash of lightning and immediately clothes its nude body by killing a group of toughs and taking their clothes.

But the Terminator is not the only time traveler. Kyle Reese also arrives from the future, sent by John Connor to save Sarah. She is a young single girl who seems dependent on many people. Looking in a phone book, the Terminator finds three Sarah Connors listed. He seeks them out, coldly killing the first two. Going to Sarah’s apartment, the Terminator kills her roommate and room- mate’s boyfriend. 
Sarah is not home, and she is disturbed when she hears on the news that two Sarah Connors have been murdered. She becomes even more fearful when she observes Reese following her. She calls her apartment from a disco, but only gets her answering machine. Not realizing the Terminator is still there, she leaves a message telling her roommate where she is. She then calls police, and Lt. Traxler tells her to stay put. 
In the disco, the Terminator arrives and zeroes in on Sarah, but Reese saves her by firing a salvo of shotgun blasts into the cyborg. It doesn’t faze him, and he responds with fierce gunfire, killing dozens of innocent patrons. Sarah and Reese escape in the fray, but the Terminator takes off after them. They duck him in a car chase, where Reese lets Sarah in on the whole story.

 Read more from Modern Sci Fi Films FAQ here

Watch: Inside Look at Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ

 

Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ by Tom DeMichael  (coming this Fall from Applause Books) focuses on films that give audiences two hours where they can forget about their troubles, sit back, crunch some popcorn, and visit worlds never before seen… worlds of robots, time travel, aliens, space exploration, and other far-out ideas. This book takes a look at the genre’s movies from the last 40 years, where the dreams of yesterday and today may become tomorrow’s realities. Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ travels to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… visits a theme park where DNA-created dinosaurs roam… watches as aliens come to Earth, hunting humans for sport… and much, much more. 

 

Happy Birthday, Pierce Brosnan!

A very Happy Birthday to one of our favorite Bonds! To celebrate, check out this excerpt from James Bond FAQ that describes how Brosnan rose to Bond-dom:

 

00314951Pierce Brosnan was well known as the title character of private investigator Remington Steele, from the NBC-TV show of the same name. But that notoriety nearly cost him the role of James Bond.

Pierce Brendan Brosnan was born in County Meath, Ireland, on May 16, 1953. He was an only child to mother May and dad Thomas, a carpenter who walked out on the family after only a few years. May moved to London to seek work as a nurse, leaving Pierce to move among relatives, friends, and even a Christian Brothers mission. In a 1997 interview in Cigar Aficionado magazine, Brosnan admitted, “It wasn’t all bleak . . . you learn how to create your own happiness.” When May remarried, eleven-year-old Pierce joined the couple in London. One day, stepdad William took the boy to the cinema to see a film called Goldfinger. Young Pierce was very impressed, realizing “James Bond was very cool.”

Brosnan attended school to be a commercial artist and landed an apprentice job in a small South London studio at the age of eighteen. But he had become enamored with movies and, at the urging of a coworker, joined up with a local theater workshop. Soon, they had formed the Oval House Theater Company, and Pierce quit his art job. He waited tables, cleaned houses, anything that allowed him to be free to act in the evenings. Brosnan attended drama school, acting in repertory theater and London West End productions like The Red Devil Battery Sign by Tennessee Williams. The playwright had personally selected Brosnan for the lead role.

British theater led to appearances on British TV by 1980. His wife, actress Cassandra Harris, landed a supporting role in the 1981 Bond flick For Your Eyes Only. Brosnan would amuse Harris by offering his impression of 007 when he would drive her home from the studio. (Perhaps a view of things to come for Brosnan. Tragically, Harris would succumb to ovarian cancer in 1991.) A successful 1981 ABC-TV miniseries, The Manions of America, led to Brosnan’s casting in NBC-TVs Remington Steele in 1982. The detective show ended up being in the top twenty-five TV ratings, but was canceled after four seasons as those numbers waned. Broccoli recalled Brosnan from the For Your Eyes Only days, and he tested for the role of Bond for the upcoming The Living Daylights. Pleased with the results, producers named Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond.

Apparently, NBC read the trade papers that day, and, realizing the ratings boost having the “next James Bond” would give the network, they immediately renewed Brosnan’s contract as Remington Steele—effectively blocking his chances to play Bond. Ironically, the series would only air six episodes before getting the ax once more, but the damage was done. The Living Daylights would shoot with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Brosnan was understandably upset, but continued to work on TV and in films, including hits like Lawnmower Man in 1992 and Mrs. Doubtfire in 1993. When the 007 legal snafus were cleared up in 1994, it became apparent that Pierce Brosnan would be Bond in GoldenEye (over suggestions that included Mel Gibson and Ralph Fiennes), and it wouldn’t be enough to rescue the world—this time, he was expected to rescue the character from oblivion.

So, with that small task at hand, it was Pierce Brosnan who brought Bond into the twenty-first century. It was Pierce Brosnan who had to come to terms with a new boss—still M, but this time, a female (gasp!). It was Pierce Brosnan who, with his four Bond films, brought nearly $1.5 billion to box offices worldwide. In his four turns as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan brought the suave and calm demeanor to the character that one would expect from an experienced performer. In 1995, he told Big Screen magazine, “The way I see James Bond is as a man with a passion to get the job done . . . This film is . . . not a cure for cancer, it’s supposed to be fantasy.” Film critics like Roger Ebert praised his portrayal of 007, offering that Brosnan was “somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete, than the [other] Bonds.” High praise indeed.

No matter, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided to (get ready, here it comes . . .) “reboot” the role of Bond once more in 2005, just as Brosnan was in negotiations for a fifth whirl as 007. In a 2005 interview for Premiere magazine, he said, “It would have been sweet to go back for a fifth . . . It would have been wonderful to go out there for one last game and pass the baton.” Less poetically, he added, “it f . . . ing sucks.”

Indeed. But bad luck for Brosnan meant good fortune for the next actor to don the shoulder holster and cock the Walther PPK (or Walther P99, as the case may have been). Once again, Broccoli and Wilson considered hundreds of actors to play 007 (the list this time around included Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, Jason Statham, Gerard Butler, Colin Firth, Colin Farrell, Clive Owen, Colin Clive . . . no, wait—he played Dr. Frankenstein years ago). After a search that took most of the remaining months in 2005, the winner was: Blond, James Blond.

Listen: Tom DeMichael on Pop Culture Tonight

Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Everyone’s Favorite Superspy, was a guest on Pop Culture Tonight with Patrick Phillips.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00314951A favorite of film followers for more than  50 years, James Bond is the hero loved by everyone: Men want to be just like him, women just want to be with him. Moviegoers around the world have spent more than $5 billion to watch his adventures across the last five decades. What’s not to enjoy about such a glorious multitude of gadgets, gals, grand locations, and grandiose schemes hatched by master villains and megalomaniacs?

Now, 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 Trivia

Be the first to answer all four questions correctly and you’ll receive a free copy of James Bond FAQ, by Tom DeMichael. Make sure to include your email so that we can contact you if you win!

1. Who is the author and originator of the James Bond series?

2. How many Bond films did Sean Connery make?

3. Who played Le Chiffre in the 2006 film Casino Royale?

4. What was the latest James Bond movie?

James Bond FAQ

A favorite of film followers for 50 years, James Bond is the hero loved by everyone: Men want to be just like him, women just want to be with him. Moviegoers around the world have spent more than $5 billion to watch his adventures across the last five decades. What’s not to enjoy about such a glorious multitude of gadgets, gals, grand locations, and grandiose schemes hatched by master villains and megalomaniacs?

Now, 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. This book includes a foreword by Eunice Gayson.

The Spy Who Loved Me: Jaws

Thirty-six years ago today, The Spy Who Loved Me was released. In this James Bond film, we meet the metal-teethed henchman Jaws, played by Richard Kiel. The following is an excerpt from Tom DeMichael’s book, James Bond FAQ (Applause Books).

Jaws: The Portrayal

Being seven feet two certainly didn’t hurt Richard Kiel’s chances of getting into the movies. As a leading man, not so much, but as a character actor— almost entirely roles as aliens or villains—you bet. Add to it the fact that he really could act, and you’ve got your perfect Jaws for Bond films.

Born in Detroit in 1939, Kiel grew fast—by age twelve, he was already six feet two. Planning to be a lawyer, he changed directions at age nineteen and made his way to Hollywood, hoping to cash his unique height into an acting career. Working as a bouncer in a nightclub, Kiel eventually got into TV westerns playing bad guys and monster movies playing the you-know-what.

Appearing in high-profile films like 1974’s The Longest Yard and 1976’s Silver Streak gave the big man plenty of visibility when Cubby Broccoli called. Over lunch, he described the character of Jaws and mentioned that actor David Prowse (a former British weightlifter, later inside the dark uniform of Star Wars’ Darth Vader) had already been considered. Kiel first thought the role was another monster, and he’d had enough of that. He convinced the producer that, to offset the near-invincible strength and menacing teeth, Jaws should have human attributes like perseverance and frustration. Broccoli took the bait and Jaws was cast.

The custom-formed chromium steel teeth were incredibly uncomfortable, and Kiel could only wear them for thirty-second increments. But Kiel relied on more than just metal teeth to create his character. As director Lewis Gilbert said, Kiel was able to improvise and ad-lib (much like Roger Moore was prone to do), giving Jaws the chance to lighten up a tense scene. For example, when Jaws raised an enormous boulder in an attempt to crush Bond and Agent XXX, he dropped it on his foot with a comedic reaction. Or, when thrown off the train, he tumbled down a ravine, picked him- self up, brushed off his jacket, and headed toward his next meeting with 007. While many fans didn’t care for the humorous direction the films were taking, producers felt Kiel was right in line with what they wanted.

It was also Kiel’s suggestion to have a diminutive Dolly, his girlfriend in Moonraker. The production team had originally lined up a seven-foot, four-inch woman—even taller than Kiel—for the part, but the actor felt it would result in a one-note joke. When producer Broccoli offered his doubts that people would accept a tiny woman with such a huge man, Kiel noted his own wife was only five-feet, one-inch tall. Everyone bought it and French actress Blanche Ravalec was cast as Dolly.

After Bond, Kiel was cast in the title role for TV’s Incredible Hulk, but was considered too tall and not brawny enough (just as well, as the special contact lenses and green body makeup didn’t agree with the actor). He continued to show up in films, including Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider and the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore.

Kiel semiretired from performing, often making appearances at film collectibles and autograph shows, where he always drew long lines of fans who just wanted to spend a few minutes with Jaws.

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.

Pierce Brosnan’s 007

Tom DeMichaelGuest Blogger: Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ. Today, we celebrate Pierce Brosnan’s 60th birthday with a reflection on his iconic role as 007.

Celebrating his sixtieth birthday today, Pierce Brosnan was well-known in the 1980’s as the title character of private investigator Remington Steele, from the ABC-TV show of the same name. But that notoriety nearly cost him the role of James Bond.

Pierce Brendan Brosnan was born in County Meath, Ireland. An only child to mother May, Pierce’s dad, Thomas, was a carpenter who walked out on the family after only a few years. May moved to London to seek work as a nurse, leaving Pierce to move among relatives, friends, and even a Christian Brothers mission. In a 1997 interview in Cigar Aficionado magazine, Brosnan admitted, “It wasn’t all bleak…you learn how to create your own happiness.” When May remarried, eleven year-old Pierce joined the couple in London. One day, stepdad William took the boy to the cinema to see a film called Goldfinger. Young Pierce was very impressed, realizing, “…James Bond was very cool.”

Brosnan attended school to be a commercial artist and landed an apprentice job in a small South London studio at the age of eighteen. But he had become enamored with movies and, at the urging of a co-worker, joined up with a local theater workshop. Soon, they had formed the Oval House Theater Company and Pierce quit his art job. He waited tables, cleaned houses, anything that allowed him to be free to act in the evenings. Brosnan attended drama school, acting in repertory theater and London West End productions like Red Devil Battery Sign by Tennessee Williams. The playwright had personally selected Brosnan for the lead role.

British theater led to appearances in British TV by 1980. His wife, actress Cassandra Harris, landed a supporting role in the 1981 Bond flick For Your Eyes Only. Brosnan would amuse Harris by offering his impression of 007 when he would drive her home from the studio (Perhaps a view of things to come for Brosnan. Tragically, Harris would succumb to ovarian cancer in 1991.) A successful 1981 ABC-TV mini-series, The Manions of America, lead to Brosnan’s casting in NBC-TVs Remington Steele in 1982. The detective show ended up being in the top twenty-five TV ratings, but was canceled after four seasons as those numbers waned. Broccoli recalled Brosnan from the For Your Eyes Only days and he tested for the role of Bond for the upcoming The Living Daylights. Pleased with the results, producers named Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond.

Apparently, NBC read the trade papers that day and, realizing the ratings boost having the “next James Bond” would give the network, they immediately renewed Brosnan’s contract as Remington Steele – effectively blocking his chances to play Bond. Ironically, the series would only air six episodes before getting the axe once more, but the damage was done. The Living Daylights would shoot with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Brosnan was understandably upset, but continued to work on TV and in films, including hits like Lawnmower Man in 1992 and Mrs. Doubtfire in 1993. When the 007 legal snafus were cleared up in 1994, it became apparent that Pierce Brosnan would be Bond in GoldenEye (over suggestions that included Mel Gibson and Ralph Fiennes) and it wouldn’t be enough to rescue the world – this time, he was expected to rescue the character from oblivion.

So, with that small task at hand, it was Pierce Brosnan who brought Bond into the 21st Century. It was Pierce Brosnan who had to come to terms with a new boss – still M, but this time, a female (gasp!). It was Pierce Brosnan that, with his four Bond films, brought nearly $1.5 BILLION to box offices worldwide. In his four turns as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan brought the suave and calm demeanor to the character that one would expect from an experienced performer. In 1995, he told Big Screen magazine, “The way I see James Bond is as a man with a passion to get the job done…This film is…not a cure for cancer, it’s supposed to be fantasy.” Film critics like Roger Ebert praised his portrayal of 007, offering that Brosnan was  “…somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete, than the (other) Bonds.” High praise, indeed.

No matter, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided to (get ready, here it comes…) “reboot” the role of Bond once more in 2005, just as Brosnan was in negotiations for a fifth whirl as 007. In a 2005 interview for Premiere magazine, he said, “It would have been sweet to go back for a fifth…It would have been wonderful to go out there for one last game and pass the baton.” Less poetically, he added, “…it f***ing sucks.”

Since leaving the world of Bond, Brosnan has worked steadily in films, with a wide variety of genres – drama, comedy, romance, western – even singing his own parts in Mamma Mia!, the quirky musical featuring the music of ABBA.

Like several of the actors who played 007, Brosnan has used his celebrity status to further many philanthropic causes. He has championed environmental activities by organizations like Save the Whales and Global Green, among others. Brosnan’s work for children’s welfare includes First Star and UNICEF in his home country in Ireland. The actor has also supported animal rights and women’s health.

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.