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.

Happy Birthday, Timothy Dalton

We have a special blog today in celebration of Timothy Dalton’s birthday.

Tom DeMichaelGuest Blogger: Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ.

The 007 Film Formula…

Consider, if you will, the number one fast-food purveyor in the world. You know which one – golden arches, billions sold, meals that make kids happy – yeah, THAT one. What is it that makes them so successful?

Of course, there are a number of reasons and just a reminder – this isn’t a business blog. But consider one of the main reasons: They have a formula that works. They make sure that the sandwich you buy in any of the twenty-five Portland, Oregon locations is just like the one you buy in any of the six locations in Portland, Maine. As a consumer, you know what to expect; you know what you’re getting when you walk in.

The same can be true for the James Bond film franchise across the last fifty years. Certainly, there have been major changes (for the positive) in the latest films (Skyfall, while offering a welcome throwback to the solid action and character-based films from the beginning of the series, is the most recent retooling of the 007 flicks.) But, just like the aforementioned fast-food chain, much of the success across the last five decades can be credited to an established formula: a “Bond formula.”

Some scholars point to a set of rules originally established by author Ian Fleming in many of his 007 stories – similarities in villains, women, plots, predicaments – all which led the reader to a satisfying literary experience. Likewise, the movies discovered what worked and stuck to it.

Without overdoing it, (and while not always in the same order,) take a look at the following events found in most Bond films:

The gun-barrel sequence: Consider this to be the movie equivalent of the yellow semicircles that the above-mentioned fast-food purveyor has used to brand their company. Created at the last  minute by Maurice Binder, the gun barrel sequence has appeared in every Eon Productions-produced Bond film – although not always at the beginning. Casino Royale, in 2006, incorporated a brief gun barrel view as Bond fires his pistol at a bad guy in a public restroom. The following two flicks – Quantum of Solace and Skyfall – placed the familiar opening at the end.

The pre-credits scene: A mini-film of sorts, as Bond encounters some sort of conflict, wrestles with it, and comes to a resolution – usually in the form of some sort of fantastic escape to safety. (Except for Dr. No. Being the first in the series, there was no pre-credits scene.) There have been variations, especially since the retooling of the Daniel Craig films, but Bond’s mission to destroy a Latin American radar system and his escape in a miniature jet during the opening minutes of Octopussy are perfect examples, complete with wry witticism. When the jet ran low on fuel, 007 merely landed it at a gas station, calmly instructing the attendant to “Fill it up, please.” Cue the theme song…

Opening credits: Whether delivered by Maurice Binder, Robert Brownjohn, Daniel Kleinman, or MK12, the opening credits over the theme song clearly convinced the viewer that “this MUST be a James Bond film.” While a previous blog entry covered the story of the 007 credits, suffice to say that the “formula” called for writhing female forms, bold colors and pools of lights, and signature icons from the franchise.

Bond receives his mission: Originally set in the office of Universal Exports – the cover for MI6 – 007 dallied with Miss Moneypenny, was rudely interrupted by M and ushered into the private and plush quarters of Bond’s boss. When that got old, the location of M’s briefing went mobile – a British sub in You Only Live Twice, even at Bond’s apartment in Live and Let Die.

Bond’s visit to the Quartermaster: With orders in hand, Bond visited Q – usually deep in his lab – to receive an assortment of gadgets and goodies to keep him out of peril. Occasionally, Q got out and joined Bond in the field – like in Octopussy and Licence to Kill. Of course, Major Boothroyd was totally intolerant of Bond’s lack of respect for the hours of hard work behind every item, invariably chiding, “Now – Pay attention, 007!”

Bond heads out on his mission: Keeping his Frequent Flyer miles current, Bond more often than not found himself at an airport – either leaving for or arriving at his destination. Whether at Miami International, LAX, Heathrow, McCarran International, Palisadoes International, JFK, or another airfield, 007 knew that commercial jets were “the only way to fly.”

Bond connects with an ally (often the “sacrificial lamb”): Male or female, this character often provides Bond with a valuable bit of information, access to the villain (as they are sometimes in cahoots with him,) or other service – then usually gets bumped off by the bad guy. Picture Quarrel, Kerim Bey, the Mastersons – Jill AND Tilly, Aki, Plenty O’Toole (drowned by Wint and Kidd, who mistook her for Tiffany Case in a scene not seen in Diamonds Are Forever,) Rosie Carver, Andrea Anders, Corinne Dufour, Vijay, Sir Godfrey, Saunders, Sharkey, Paris Carver, Solange, Agent Fields, among others. Gone, but not forgotten.

Bond meets up with an associate/bodyguard of the villain: Sometimes a female, but often a large, brawny man possessing superhuman strength – Professor Dent in Dr. No was hardly an imposing brutish specimen, but the tarantula he placed in Bond’s bedsheets was no lightweight. Soon, figures like Oddjob, Hans, Tee-Hee, Jaws, Zao, even Xenia Onatopp and others, flexed their formidable physical skills to give 007 a real run for his quid. In some cases, this person was combined with the role of “sacrificial lamb” – May Day, for example.

The “Bond Girl” is introduced: Sometimes more than one (minor “Bond Girls” were often combined with the “sacrificial lamb,” such as Aki, Plenty O’Toole, Andrea Anders, Paris Carver, and others,) they were always easy on the eyes. The Bond Girl actresses were often international beauties (Ursula Andress – Swiss, Daniela Bianchi – Italian, Claudine Auger, Carole Bouquet, Sophie Marceau, Eva Green, and Bérénice Marlohe – French, Mie Hama – Japanese, Britt Ekland and Maud Adams – Swedish, Famke Janssen – Dutch.) Early on in the series, the Bond Girl was usually portrayed as helpless and unable to cope with conflict without 007′s assistance (although Honey Ryder and Pussy Galore stood out as women capable of handling themselves well within the world of 1960′s men.) Fortunately, time recognized woman’s ability to stand up on her own two (albeit shapely) legs, as strong and independent characters like Dr. Holly Goodhead (despite the double-entendre name,) Octopussy, Pam Bouvier, Jinx Johnson, and Camille Montes, among others.

Bond engages the villain in a game or sport: This allows 007 and his foe to come face-to-face and size each other up, where they both realize their opponent is no pushover. Golfing with Goldfinger, poker and skeet with Largo, Tarot cards with Kananga, baccarat with Kristatos, backgammon with Kamal Khan, horse racing with Max Zorin, blackjack at Sanchez’ casino, fencing with Gustav Graves, Texas Hold’ Em with LeChiffre, etc. Win or lose, the game was afoot.

The villain’s lair: Where money is no object – Doctor No had his bauxite processing plant – a cover for his expansive nuclear-powered control center that fiddled with rocket launches at Cape Canaveral. Goldfinger outlined his plan to knock off Fort Knox in a cavernous conference room – complete with pool table/control panel, a mechanical bucking bronco, and a huge detailed model of the gold depository and surrounding landscape (a model that, in reality, is now on display at the Patton Museum as part of the REAL Fort Knox in Kentucky.) Blofeld had his marvelous and vast volcanic headquarters in You Only Live Twice, loaded with rocket pad, a monorail, and more soldiers and ninjas than one could ever imagine. There’s more and more, all the way to Gustav Graves’ Ice Palace in Die Another Day. No matter, these hangouts were the place to hang out.

Bond’s death-defying labor: Once again, the very first film established the need for Bond to go through hell in order to get to heaven. Dr. No found 007 crawling through the searing heat of the villain’s ceiling duct work in search of escape, only to be nearly drowned in a rush of water in the same conduits. Whether it was a swim with man-eating sharks in Thunderball, a bobsled race with Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a brief stroll along the backs of jaw-snapping alligators in Live and Let Die, or a last-minute jolt from a portable defibrillator in Casino Royale – among many others – Bond was always challenged to look death square in the eye. Inevitably, it was always death that blinked.

Final confrontation: (with spectacular demise of villain and his command center.) Face-to-face with the antagonist, 007 always had the last word as his opponent bit the dust. Rosa Klebb “had her kicks;” Goldfinger wound up “playing his golden harp;” Mr. Wint “left with his tails between his legs;” Kananga had “an inflated opinion of himself;” Gustav Graves thought it was “Time to face destiny,” while Bond reminded him it was “Time to face gravity.” Despite the glib remarks, 007 and good always prevailed, as Bond and the Bond girl escaped (where their attempt at a well-earned romantic tryst was always interrupted.)

Reassurance that James Bond Will Return: The first dozen Broccoli/Saltzman films all finished with a tease that the series would continue – although they weren’t always accurate. The end of The Spy Who Loved Me promised viewers that For Your Eyes Only would be next. But the success of Star Wars in movie theaters prompted the Bond producers to reconsider and make Moonraker – with its spaceflight theme – the follow-up film. For a while, the tease for Bond’s return was omitted from the end of the Bond films. Skyfall, in 2012, while not mentioning a specific title, did promise that “James Bond Will Return…” Just like the good old days.

Lewis Gilbert, director of three Bond films – You Only Live Twice in 1967, The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, and Moonraker in 1979 – acknowledged the existence of such a formula, saying: “I think that part of the charm of the Bond picture [is] you know what you’re going to get… You can change it slightly, but it’s very well laid down, the Law of Bond, and people want you to abide by it.”

Heaven forbid one should break the “Law” and receive a ticket from the movie police.

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.

The First Lady of Bond Turns 85

Guest Blogger: Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ. Happy birthday to actress Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench), who wrote the foreword to the book.

For those readers who have never paid much attention to their books, you should note that many of them have a “foreword” at the front (of course, if it were at the rear, it would probably be called a “backward…”) The foreword is usually penned by someone famous, or at least closely associated with the book’s subject. The purpose of the foreword is to establish immediate credibility with the reader, since the notoriety of its writer is basically an endorsement of the book – Voila! Instant approval (and a not-too-sneaky way of boosting sales.)

When writing the James Bond FAQ (due for release in February of 2013 by Applause Theater and Cinema Books,) the question came: Who could I get to write a foreword? It had to be someone (as noted above) closely associated with the 007 franchise and, if possible, have some amount of fame. Although I had made some nice connections while researching the book, I realized that their work behind-the-scenes would carry little weight with everyone except the most hardcore of Bond fans.

To paraphrase an old adage: Don’t put all your Walthers in one holster. In other words, I couldn’t reach out to just one person and ask them to write my foreword. A refusal from that one person would have been, like many sports contests, “one and done.” So, who would I ask? I figured it should be someone with an extended legacy in the 007 films and, ideally, still living (which immediately eliminated great candidates like Bernard Lee, who played M in eleven Bond films, Lois Maxwell, Miss Moneypenny in fourteen 007 flicks, and Desmond Llewelyn, who portrayed quartermaster Q in seventeen James Bond features.)

I flagged fourteen people closely associated with the James Bond films – mostly performers who would be immediately recognizable and, by most definitions, very famous. I will let your imagination wander as to their identities and tell you I received two very nice responses from two very nice performers – the rest of them, as might be expected, seemed to have lost my email address or phone number. From the two respondents, I chose a very wonderful actress and a lady with a long career in film and television. After reading an advance copy of the manuscript (thank goodness for PDF files,) she wrote a very nice, clever, and humbling foreword for the James Bond FAQ. When you buy the book, it will be one of the first things you read.

Known as “The First Lady of Bond,” Eunice Gayson will forever be associated with the character of Sylvia Trench in Dr. No and From Russia With Love, the first two Bond films. Clad in a sophisticated red dress, Trench first encountered Bond at the casino in Dr. No. Gayson was honored with perhaps the greatest setup line for a character’s introduction in film history, when Trench stated, “I admire your luck, Mr…?” Sean Connery replied with the iconic words that every cinema 007 has uttered for the last fifty years: “Bond. James Bond.” Later, she showed her fabulous legs by practicing her putting while wearing one of Bond’s shirts and little else. In From Russia With Love, she and 007 enjoyed a shoreside tryst before a phone call from Bond’s office broke the magic of the moment.

Born in England in 1931, Ms. Gayson studied music and dance as a teen before going into repertory theater. At age seventeen, she earned her first film role in My Brother Jonathan, with more parts in British movies and television shows during the 1950′s.

She joined the group of comics known for BBC Radio’s Goon Show in a TV movie called Goonreel in 1952. The troupe included Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Seacombe. Gayson also joined the Goons for a follow-up film, Down Among the Z Men. In 1957, she starred with Peter Cushing in The Revenge of Frankenstein, Hammer Films’ follow-up to the shocking Curse of Frankenstein.

Having worked with director Terence Young in the 1950′s, Gayson was easily cast in Dr. No, with Young’s intention of bringing Gayson and the character of Trench back in every subsequent 007 film. Every time, the romance between Bond and Trench would be cut short just when things would get interesting. Unfortunately, the idea died when Guy Hamilton came in to direct Goldfinger.

Gayson continued to appear on British television through the 1960′s and early 1970′s, including The Saint, The Avengers, and Secret Agent, starring Patrick McGoohan. Retiring afterward, she returned to the London stage in 1990 to play Little Red Riding Hood’s granny in the musical, Into the Woods. She remains active today, often appearing at film conventions, where she connects with fans from around the world.

I consider myself to be very fortunate to have Ms. Gayson open my book and, to the others who missed out – you’re still part of the greatest film series around.

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.

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.

How to Judge a Bond Movie by its Opening Credits

Tom DeMichaelGuest Blogger: Tom DeMichael is the author of James Bond FAQ.

While the old proverb of “You can’t tell a book by its cover” may be true, one can’t say the same thing about the world of cinema – You CAN tell a film by its opening credits.

At least in the case of the James Bond films.

For many decades in American cinema, the function of the opening credits was to simply acknowledge the efforts of the various filmmakers who were involved in the film that the viewer was about to see. Throughout that time, creativity would occasionally poke its head out – usually by means of clever stop-motion animation or other visual enhancements. But seldom did the opening credits of the film involve themselves in the actual telling of the story.

By the mid-1950s, that had changed with the efforts of credits designer Saul Bass. His clever and highly artistic credit images in films like The Man with the Golden Arm, Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, and Psycho, among many others, provided the viewer with visual icons and clues to the story that was about to unfold on the screen.

In a similar fashion, the James Bond films of the last fifty years have relied upon artistic and compelling title sequences to set the tone for the film that would follow. Just as the Bond films were trend setters in many facets of cinema, so too did they lead the way in opening titles. Thanks, in large part, should go to Maurice Binder.

Born in New York City in 1925, Binder studied art for a short period of time before working in advertising and eventually heading the ad department of Macy’s Department Store. From there, he moved into films in the 1950′s, first for Universal Studios and then Columbia Pictures. Bond producers had seen a title sequence that Binder had designed for director Stanley Donen’s The Grass is Greener in 1960 and they liked what they saw.

Rushing to a meeting with the producers, Binder spent all of twenty minutes to storyboard an opening sequence that would feature animated white dots (actually price stickers) against a black background, revealing a walking James Bond viewed through a gun barrel. The figure would quickly turn and fire his gun, and a sanguine wash of red would flow down the screen. The unique introduction grabbed the Bond producers’ attentions and they knew Binder was their man.

Maurice Binder would design the opening sequences for the first sixteen Bond films, excepting From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, which were designed by American graphic designer Robert Brownjohn. Right from the start – Dr. No – Binder’s titles were bold, with animated colored dots and squares resembling bold flashing lights, as Monty Norman’s James Bond theme blared underneath. The artist also introduced his first images of moving human silhouettes, which would quickly become synonymous with his 007 film work.

Robert Brownjohn approached the opening sequence of From Russia With Love with a concept not widely seen before – titles in various colors projected directly onto the writhing body and undulating extremities of a beautiful belly dancer. He expanded on the idea for Goldfinger – this time, projecting actual scenes from the film (and From Russia With Love, as well) onto the bikini-clad body of a lovely lady – who just happened to be painted from head to toe in gold.

In Thunderball, Binder returned and embraced the underwater motif of the film, warping titles into waves and showing silhouettes of damsels in distress swimming away from spear gun-toting scuba divers, all amid colorful and billowing clouds of air bubbles. For You Only Live Twice, Binder created a montage of boiling volcano lava, neon-bright Japanese umbrellas, and silhouettes of nude Oriental women – a first for the Bond franchise.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service saw the return of nude silhouettes, interwoven with images of hourglasses, clock faces, and clips of women and villains from the previous five Bond films (absent any views of Sean Connery, who was being replaced in the current film by George Lazenby.) For Diamonds Are Forever, Connery was back and Binder replaced many of the saucy silhouettes with extreme close-ups of sparkling diamond-adorned body parts – lit with high-contrast detail – along with a Persian cat sporting a diamond necklace.

With Roger Moore taking on the iconic role in Live and Let Die, Maurice Binder’s titles opened with blazing fire, along with a buxom and clearly nude black woman facing the camera. Another’s flaming head popped her eyes wide open before a jump cut turned it into a grinning skull, focusing on the film’s voodoo and blaxploitation themes. More nude women, with strategically-placed items to cover their “naughty bits,” closed out the sequence.

Binder’s titles for the following 007 films continued with variations on the themes he had so well established – nude women in some state of movement, wavy titles, body-less hands firing guns, roaring flames, all with bright, bold colored lighting and plenty of discreet shadows. The Spy Who Loved Me introduced the actual image of Roger Moore as Bond into the sequence, finally including 007 in the frolicking fun. For Your Eyes Only took one more bold step, as Binder featured singer Sheena Easton performing the title song amid silhouetted footage of acrobatic females and a gun-flashing Moore.

The next three Bond films – with Moore finishing and Timothy Dalton taking over – would feature more jumping and dancing and burning and shooting and skiing and spinning and waving and all the other things that came to be expected in a James Bond title sequence from Maurice Binder.

When Maurice Binder passed away in 1991 at age 66, artist and music video director Daniel Kleinman took over. His Bond-based production of Gladys Knight’s Licence to Kill performance convinced 007 producers that Kleinman was capable of keeping the look and feel of the iconic title sequences that Binder had pioneered.

Kleinman knew the openings needed to be exciting, sexy, as well as tease the upcoming story of the film. GoldenEye - his first sequence and Pierce Brosnan’s first turn as 007 – stayed close to Binder’s template, while becoming more three-dimensional. The director worked his images deep into the screen, as well as across it. His opening also presented the fall of Communism, as icons of Lenin, as well as the hammer and sickle, were broken apart. Brosnan’s remaining three films saw Kleinman’s titles continue to evolve, moving somewhat away from the Binder formula, with repetitive images and bringing computer-generated graphics into play.

As Daniel Craig became James Bond in 2006′s Casino Royale, Kleinman explored the geometry and art of playing cards and casino games, with images of the four traditional suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades intermingled with those of Craig and lead actress Eva Green. Animated images fought on-screen, often exploding into geometric shapes in defeat. Kleinman had finally left Binder’s legacy behind and established his own trademark look for 007 film openings.

And, as quickly as Daniel Kleinman had established his own distinctive style for the 007 titles, they wound up in the hands of MK12 for Quantum of Solace, the next Bond pic. Director Marc Forster had worked with the firm on several of his previous films and chose it over Kleinman. A group of design and production creatives based in Kansas City, MK12 opened their titles with Daniel Craig sending an artistically-enhanced bullet soaring over an arid desert, as nude female forms became subtle parts of the landscape.

Kleinman returned for the latest 007 film, Skyfall. An enormous hand pulled Bond’s lifeless body underwater into a spinning mass of silt. He continued to fall among paper shooting targets of his own image, then a hailstorm of Walther PPKs and daggers fell as the camera moved quickly through a graveyard. Images of 007 firing at multiple shadows, a wash of red swirling in green, numerous flaming torches, dozens of advancing Chinese dragons, and shattered mirrors, finishing with a slow zoom into and through Daniel Craig’s eye, all made for a truly unique opening sequence for a Bond film.

Hopefully, Binder and Brownjohn were looking down from somewhere in approval.

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.

Considering the Six Bonds

Tom DeMichaelTom DeMichael is the author of James Bond FAQ. Below is an excerpt from that book provided by Bookgasm.com.

Considering the six actors who donned the crown of Bond, here is one person’s opinion of how they rate, worst to first. Of course, you may believe differently (as is well your prerogative). Guaranteed to be a hot topic of conversation around the water cooler, but remember—this is not a competition so, please, no wagering.

6. George Lazenby. Not necessarily for the reason you may think. At only one appearance as 007, he hardly had the chance to develop any sense of character or continuity. Of course, his limited acting skills certainly factor in, as well.

5. Roger Moore. Although he gains points for longevity, he loses even more for his lack of chest hair. Not just by his own doing, Moore took a dark and thrilling character and, in terms of sincerity, left him just short of Shemp Howard.

4. Pierce Brosnan. Not bad, not bad at all—but he looks too skinny to peel a banana, let alone save the world. Still, he gave Bond a sense of urgency and worked very hard to make the character his own. Bravo, Brosnan.

Read the other three on Bookgasm.com!

James Bond FAQ

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: 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.