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GRAHAM RYE BIOGRAPHY

 
 
Graham Rye in Studio 1995 (Click for enlarged image)

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THE JAMES BOND MAN

  

1995 interview by TERRY ADLAM

Bond is back! After a six-year convalescence on some far flung politically incorrect bikini-ridden paradise, James Bond 007 is back ‘on the job’. The prolonged recuperation and the intravenously taken Vodka Martinis have healed the wounds of a few slightly tarnished celluloid missions, and our James is a new man (in more ways than one).

But six years was a long time to be ‘out of the field’. The question was: “Will double-o seven still be able to pull the birds, save the world – and rake in the big bucks at the box office?”

One man always believed he could, and his name is Rye, Graham Rye (cue Bond theme). For the past 12 years Rye has been President of The James Bond 007 International Fan Club & Archive and editor, designer and publisher of 007 MAGAZINE. What started as a spare time hobby has now exploded into a very full time occupation. The JBIFC’s 007 MAGAZINE has over 4,000 readers in more than 40 countries worldwide, and its Archive has more information on agent 007 than SPECTRE, SMERSH, or any other megalomaniac hell-bent on world domination could dream of.

"Since The JBIFC and 007 MAGAZINE have gained publicity around the world it’s as though I’ve become a conduit for everything and anything concerned with James Bond,” said Rye when I met him during a rare lapse in his busy schedule at his offices in a secret location somewhere in Surrey.

First impressions are that Rye would make a great Bond villain. Ian Fleming would have penned such phrases as ‘the face was tense, strained, and the eyes were watchful and hard’ along with, ‘the finely drawn but cruel mouth rarely smiled.’

Surrounded by a bumper bonanza of Bond memorabilia – and not an anorak in sight, Graham Rye is a pleasant, enormously creative hard-working human being who is dedicated to the world of James Bond, and woe-betide the cynic who would call him a sad man. They’re just asking for hospital food!

Like so many Bond fans, Rye was introduced to 007 (never pronounced oh oh seven he reminds me) by his Dad, who took him at the age of 11 to see Dr. No when the film was originally released in 1962. Two years later, around the release of Goldfinger, he discovered the Ian Fleming novels. From then on he became a permanent passenger on the gadget-laden Bondwagon.

Leaving school at 16 with just an O-level in art (or should that be Double-O level?) and the headmaster’s boot print still wet on his backside, Rye entered the world of advertising. During the next two decades he amassed a wealth of experience as a graphic designer and photographer, learning from the many leading West End advertising art directors he dealt with on a daily basis. This experience would prove invaluable in later years when he would design and publish 007 MAGAZINE.

Rye was 11 years old when he saw his first Bond movie, he is now old enough to know better, but the bond with Bond is strong. Why has this fictional character influenced so much of his life, and for so long? Rye’s reply seemed almost rehearsed. “Bond is a loner. A man who is out there to do a job, and he does it to the best of his ability. I’ve always tried to follow suit in as much that I believe that everything I turn my hand to I give 100 percent – no, make that 110 percent!” And he does. He’s like a shark that lurks in many a Bond adventure, in that creatively, he can’t keep still for long.

In addition to producing 007 MAGAZINE and dealing with the constant flow of enquiries from around the world, he organises yearly conventions in the form of a Christmas lunch at Pinewood Studios, film showings at The National Film Theatre, interviews with Bond directors and stars, and also takes part in countless TV, radio and press interviews worldwide.

He has written and designed the book ‘The James Bond Girls’ (a subject that’s close to his heart, he says), a colourful Bond babe feast that would even impress the most ardent non-Bond fan. ‘The Most Famous Car In The World: the complete history of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5’ is one of the best-selling automotive books in the last four years. No prizes for guessing who was responsible for the design and edit on that one either.

There is much memorabilia that fights for space on the wall’s in Rye’s office, but there is one piece missing, not that you could get it through the doors anyway. It’s the restored Moon Buggy from Diamonds Are Forever. Finding it rusting away in a farmyard in Kent, he purchased it, had it renovated, and proudly delivered it to the Las Vegas branch of Planet Hollywood, where the vehicle sits on loan with another 007 movie prop from his Archive – Oddjob’s deadly steel-rimmed bowler hat.

Fascinating as that may be, it’s Graham Rye I want to know about. Does he want to be James Bond? He grins (or is it a sneer? A Rye smile?). “If most of the male population was to be asked that question and they all gave an honest answer it would be a resounding ‘yes’. It’s the ultimate male fantasy, the girls, the cars, the girls, the glamour, the girls – not to mention a hefty expense account!”

He’s side-stepped the question, so I ask it again. Does Graham Rye want to be James Bond? Does he want to sip vodka martinis among the scent, smoke and sweat of a casino at three in the morning, with a throwaway Bond girl hanging from his arm? Has James taught him a thing or two when it comes to relationships with women?

It’s definitely a sneer now. A view to a kill even. “No, I can honestly say that Bond has had no influence on my view of women. Experience has taught me that I’m not the kind of guy who can settle down with one woman – or at least I haven’t found her yet.” Interesting. Is there a Tracy waiting out there somewhere for Rye? I would have delved deeper had the phone not rang. From what I could hear, it was an enquiry about GoldenEye and the new Bond.

As Rye shares his encyclopaedic knowledge with the caller, I pick up and flick through ‘The James Bond 007 International Fan Club & Archive Fact File’, the most recent addition to the Rye output. Produced specifically as a research document for the publishing and broadcast media – and also ‘well-thumbed’ by many visiting students studying for their course projects – it has over 180 pages packed with every conceivable fact pertaining to James Bond. For example, did you know that Ian Fleming took the name of M’s secretary, Moneypenny, from ‘Moneypenny Farm’ on Romney Marsh, not far from where the author once lived in Kent.

The phone is slammed down and mutterings of “if I had a tenner for every time I’ve answered that question this week” is heard, which prompts me to ask if he ever gets fed up with Bond, and if he only lived twice, would he do it all again?

He sighs and glances at the framed autographed photos of Sean, George, Roger, Timothy, and Pierce – all of whom he’s met. “The incessant exposure to Bond seven days a week can take it out of you, but then again I suppose to a large degree it’s self-inflicted. On the other hand though, I don’t have much time to get ‘fed up’ or pursue other outside interests, and over the last 12 years as President of the Club and publisher of 007 MAGAZINE, I have met so many interesting and nice people.” “This last year has been very pressurised because of the release of GoldenEye, and if I hadn’t taken on an assistant I probably would have been in a mental institution by now!” He indicates with a certain amount of pride to a stack of letters held down by a slightly chipped but not broken 007 mug. “In any case, the feedback and support from the Club members makes it all worthwhile.” He suddenly remembers the rest of my question. “If I only lived twice, would I run the Club again?” There is no pause only a committed “yes.” Nobody could really do it better.

The interview is almost over and I’ve deliberately avoided the most asked questions, Who is your favourite actor to play James Bond? What’s your favourite 007 film? Who’s the sexiest Bond girl? But I do need to know where this is all going. What’s the ultimate goal for Graham Rye and The James Bond 007 International Fan Club & Archive and 007 MAGAZINE?

“I’m convinced that people will still be watching Bond movies on some form of audiovisual display when we’ve all faded from human memory,” he says with enthused conviction. “That’s why it’s one of my ambitions to be instrumental in establishing a permanent exhibition or even a theme park in the UK or USA to celebrate the James Bond phenomenon, and all the many talented people who have been part of it. Like diamonds, Bond is forever!”

Judging Rye’s past record, a walk around the ‘007 Museum’ or a day out at ‘Bond World’ are ambitious projects that may very well succeed.

A few days later I’m watching GoldenEye and ponder on the thought that Pierce Brosnan is now the fifth actor to portray Bond, but there is only one, James Bond man.
 
Graham Rye can be contacted at: editor@007magazine.co.uk


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