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50 YEARS OF JAMES BOND

 
 
James Bond 50th Anniversary 1962-2012

Everything Or Nothing hits the mark

In the week that 007 fans celebrate 50 years since the release of Dr. No, LUKE WILLIAMS reviews Stevan Riley's documentary Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007, and finds it a refreshingly candid account of the history of the world's greatest film franchise.

Everything Or Nothing poster

With the individual Bond films' production histories having been covered in admirable detail by John Cork and Bruce Scivally's ultimate edition DVD documentaries, and the series' 25th, 30th and 40th anniversaries all having been celebrated with official documentaries of varying quality, I sat down to watch Everything Or Nothing firmly of the opinion that yet another Bond documentary - this time to celebrate the series' 50th anniversary - would be somewhat redundant. Furthermore, although produced by Passion Pictures and Red Box films, this is an official EON production in all but name and my expectation was that an officially sanctioned documentary such as this would tend to be sanitised and uncontroversial fare.

My expectations couldn't have been more wrong; for in the hands of Stevan Riley, the talented director of the fascinating Varsity boxing documentary Blue Blood and the masterful Fire in Babylon, which examined West Indian cricket, Everything Or Nothing proves a surprisingly candid film, packed full of interesting insight and containing a range of engaging and honest interviews, as well as being wittily edited with a sense of style and joie de vivre.

After a punchy and dynamic opening, which blends footage filmed especially for the documentary with shots of Daniel Craig from Casino Royale, and a unique and hugely enjoyable 'sextet of Bonds' gun-barrel sequence, Everything Or Nothing adopts a sensible chronological approach to its material. Riley eschews the hagiographical approach that voice-over led documentaries can lean towards and instead allows a series of interviewees to speak for themselves. If the archival footage and interviews used are, for the most part, pretty familiar to hardcore Bond fans, then where the film really scores is in the wide array of exclusive and new interview material filmed especially for this production. A wide range of significant Bond personnel are on show, from former 007s George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan to current 007 Daniel Craig, as well as significant behind the scenes figures including Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson, Ken Adam, David Picker, Charles 'Jerry' Juroe, Bill Cartlidge and Lewis Gilbert.

Of the former 007s, Lazenby is the most entertaining, as well as surprisingly moving in describing how his experiences as Bond affected him ("for a long time, I didn't really know who I was"); Dalton is the most passionate and articulate and Pierce Brosnan, perhaps inadvertently, is the most revealing, admitting he can't remember most of his post-GoldenEye output (lucky for you, Pierce! Wish we couldn't remember them too!) and displaying appropriate shame at the kite-surfing scene in Die Another Day. Moore, meanwhile, is as charming as ever, and although his comments add little to what we already know about himself or his time as Bond, it is interesting to hear him express his regret, given his later work for UNICEF, about a scene in The Man With The Golden Gun in which he shoves a Thai boy into a river ("I look back on that with absolute horror").

If the film is light on interviews with non-007 actors (Maud Adams, Robert Davi, Judi Dench, Famke Janssen and Rosamund Pike pop up briefly) then it's all the better for that - such interviews have been done to death on the DVD releases and chat-show circuit. The array of banal talking heads who normally populate such documentaries are also thankfully absent, bar brief comments from former president Bill Clinton and Austin Powers creator Mike Myers. Riley is to be applauded here for his editorial approach and decision not to tell the story of the stars who appeared in the Bond films, but instead to primarily focus on the figures of Ian Fleming and original series producers Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, detailing the struggle to get Bond on to screen in the first place - and then keep him there in the face of various financial and legal obstacles and travails.

James Bond creator Ian Fleming with co-producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli on the set of Goldfinger (1964)
James Bond creator Ian Fleming with co-producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli on the set of Goldfinger (1964)

Helping fill in the literary context and personality of Fleming, his social background and world-view are interviews with his distant cousin Christopher Lee, biographer John Pearson, niece Lucy Fleming, step-daughter Fionn Morgan, former companion Blanche Blackwell and literary agent Peter Janson-Smith. Blackwell steals the show here by recounting Fleming's first words on meeting her: "The first time I met him he came up to me and said, 'I hope you're not a lesbian!'"

Meanwhile, as well as detailed contributions from Broccoli's daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson, Saltzman's children Steven and Hilary and his former assistant Sue St. Johns provide some valuable insights into the combustible but highly imaginative Saltzman, whose contribution to the Bond legend has been increasingly over-looked in recent years - a slight that Riley's film goes a long way towards rectifying. It's one of the most moving sections in the film when they recount their father's retreat into insularity after his wife Jacqueline's death from cancer, a retreat which was only reversed when he reconciled with Broccoli at the premiere of For Your Eyes Only.

As demonstrated by this section of the film, Everything Or Nothing is at its most interesting when dealing with the human conflicts of the first 50 years of 007 in the cinema - between Connery and Broccoli/Saltzman, between Saltzman and Broccoli and between Kevin McClory and the whole EON Productions machine. Perhaps the most compelling section in the entire film deals with Connery's dissatisfaction with his treatment and financial remuneration that led to his initial departure from the series after You Only Live Twice. It's quite a tribute to EON's willingness to allow Riley the creative freedom to make an honest film that we see David Picker, former United Artists head honcho, declare, damningly, of Broccoli and Saltzman's approach to managing Connery: "It was very bad judgement on their part. The fact is Cubby and Harry renegotiated their deal with us several times. They were keeping themselves happy, but they weren't keeping him happy. He didn't like it and I don't blame him." Charles Juroe is also very illuminating in describing the deterioration in relations between Connery and Saltzman.

As for Connery himself, new interview footage with the great man is conspicuous, but hardly surprising, by its absence. His reluctance to participate in any of the 50th anniversary jamboree has raised the ire of some Bond fans, which is pretty ridiculous, seeing as Connery has retired and long ago earned the right to decide what he does and when he does it! Although new Connery interview footage would have been welcome, Everything Or Nothing is ultimately, through Picker's aforementioned comments, as well as Barbara Broccoli's emotionally raw description of Connery's final phone call to her dying father, pretty even-handed when dealing with the complexities of his relationship with Bond and EON.

Stevan Riley  

For all the emotion though, the overall theme to the film is a triumphal one - namely, the frequent 'against the odds' success of the Bond films. Despite the many obstacles placed in the way of first Fleming, then Broccoli and Saltzman, then Broccoli himself (upon assuming sole producer status with The Spy Who Loved Me) and, later on, Broccoli's successors Michael and Barbara, the series has endured and looks set to endure for years to come; as Daniel Craig states in the film's opening: "This is 50 years now and they've kept it going. It's unique within moviemaking."

In the final analysis, Riley (left) has not crafted a film that teaches Bond aficionados anything particularly new, but he has succeeded in presenting an engaging, entertaining and honest overview of the series and its development. For that he deserves credit and, for giving him the creative licence to produce an official film which is characterised by unexpected candour, EON Productions deserve a huge slice of credit too.


EVERYTHING OR NOTHING

In the week his Bond documentary Everything Or Nothing hits cinema screens, LUKE WILLIAMS chatted with acclaimed film-maker Stevan Riley exclusively for 007 MAGAZINE.

Bond fans have been spoilt for documentaries in significant 'anniversary' years; the first I remember seeing was 1987's Happy Anniversary 007, hosted by Roger Moore, which was little more than a light-hearted clips compilation of Bond series high points. More recently, the justly praised DVD 'ultimate edition' releases were packed with more in-depth documentary features examining many aspects of the Bond phenomenon.

However, Stevan Riley's Everything Or Nothing is arguably the finest Bond documentary we have yet seen. Appropriately timed to hit selected cinema screens to coincide with the exact anniversary of the original release of Dr. No on October 5th 1962, Riley's film manages to celebrate EON Productions' impressive achievement in keeping Bond on our screens for 50 years without sugar-coating some of the more controversial or troubled moments in the series' history. Riley, a thoughtful and talented former Oxford University history graduate, has already directed the acclaimed sporting documentaries Blue Blood and Fire In Babylon, and kindly shared his thoughts on his new film with 007 MAGAZINE.

Congratulations on Everything Or Nothing, which I've seen and enjoyed very much! What was your overall concept for the film?
I was given the time to go off and research and plot what I wanted to do with it. For me the hook was: how on earth has this series lasted for 50 years? Audiences sort of take for granted that Bond has always been an eternal presence in cinemas but actually it's been shadowed by all sorts of difficulties and obstacles in the last couple of decades. I was keen to tell the inside scoop of what had gone on with Bond over time. I wanted to make a really human story, a human take on the people who were actually involved, focusing on the protagonists themselves - I didn't want any commentators or anything like that. I wanted to focus on the people who were at the heart of matters, discussing what went on. Of course, as a movie I also had to make sure it was entertaining and not just factual, as well as make it as vibrant and exciting as I could. Luckily there were some great characters [involved in the Bond films] who were very much larger than life. It was interesting to see how they all interacted and fell out and made up again! It was a real fantastic saga. The big challenge was how you got that into 95 minutes!

Exactly! With so many interview subjects it must have been difficult to decide what to include and what to leave out! How did you prepare for such a vast challenge?
I was quite rigorous in pre-production. You need to make sure when you're in the interviewer's chair that you have a good idea of what you want to ask people about. I did all the reading I could. There's a real wealth of Bond material that's been produced in the past, although I was trying to find the gaps and see what interested me especially. Some of the interviews went on for three or four hours - that's a long time! I had transcripts that filled big lever arch files! Ultimately it was all great to have and it allowed me to have all the material I needed to make the film as concise and punchy as possible.

Did you have a team helping you conduct the interviews?
No, I do all the interviews myself. I've got a camera person obviously and a producer but the actual interview process I like to keep quite intimate, so it's just me and the subject really. I don't want anyone else in the eye line; I want to make it as one-on-one as possible.

You managed to coax some quite candid remarks from your interviewees. How did you manage that?
Those are the points in the interview I'm waiting for, that I'm looking for; when people loosen up, when they're unaware of the camera - because that's when they're going to give you honest answers. With the Bond actors, for example, I tried to keep it nice and relaxed; that's what you want really.

With so much interview material might we be seeing some juicy extras on a future DVD release?
Yeah, I imagine so. I've been chatting to EON about the DVD and stuff. I've got ideas about what we can potentially do.

Or maybe a director's cut of Everything Or Nothing?
Well, I think maybe I'll stick with the extras - I'm not sure I'd change the film!

Everything Or Nothing director Stevan Riley

Back to the film itself - I thought the opening sequence was very dynamic and set the tone nicely. How did you conceive and film it?
I wanted to start the film in a very Bond-like way. I had the speech from Daniel [Craig] and I knew I wanted to start with the present Bond and with Casino Royale. So the film was circular - we start with Casino Royale and sort of end with it, so I thought how nice it would be to cut the opening into a section of Casino Royale. Daniel wasn't available to do the filming, as you'd imagine, so it was a case of using a body double to create this Bond-like atmosphere that then cut into Daniel. Obviously the illusion is that it's Daniel throughout and it came together quite nicely. It's effectively meant to be a pre-credit sequence before the gun-barrel and because the film proper starts with [Ian] Fleming I thought it was good to give the audience a taste of the current Bond up front to pull then into that Bond landscape.

Who was responsible for the gun-barrel, which I thought was a very effective bit of digital trickery?
There's a girl called Allison Moore, who's great. I worked with her on Fire In Babylon as well. She's fantastic. We talked it through. I was very keen to get all of the Bonds in it. We chatted through various ideas on how to make that happen and then she went off and worked her magic!

I thought it was an unusually honest film for an 'officially sanctioned' documentary. Were you surprised you were given the freedom to include material that was, for example, quite critical at times of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. For example, what [former United Artists executive] David Picker said with regards to their treatment of Sean Connery?
The big question when I submitted my proposal was do they [EON] want me to tell this story? Do we want to go there? I did my best to urge them that now was the time after 50 years to do so - that this was important history. That's when the decision was made. They said yes and once they'd decided yes, then it was a case of: let's do it properly and tell the story as honestly as we possibly can. David, in fact, was one person who asked for reassurance that what he said was taken verbatim, and Barbara [Broccoli] reassured him to tell his story as he remembered it. I didn't know how they were going to react but they [EON] were great and wanted it to be as truthful as possible, which is a credit to Barbara and Michael [Wilson]. Everybody loved Sean and everybody loved Cubby - you've got two heroes in effect who did fall out and there were lots of interpretations of that and it was a case of addressing those things. They're the messiest conflicts, family conflicts, but there was still a lot of love there.

I saw that you were quoted as saying that you thought that anyone who tried to "live the myth" of Bond "came unstuck". Can you expand on what you meant by that?
I was curious because there's a lot of pressure on the people who are involved in Bond to always portray that Bondian air. It came from Ian Fleming really and the whole suggestion that Bond was his alter ego; that whole conflict between fantasy and reality. You have characters like Harry [Saltzman] who lived a very showy lifestyle, he was very ostentatious, which maybe masked an insecurity. Bond in some respects represents a heroic alternative to our ordinary drab lives and I think anyone who buys too much into that notion could potentially come unstuck. Kevin McClory, for example, had a lot of the Bond trappings. When Bond-mania and the cultural phenomenon of Bond was really pronounced, many people genuinely wanted to live that sort of Bond lifestyle and I don't think the protagonists of the story were exempt from that. In contrast Cubby, in my estimation, was very much family focused. He was very grounded and rooted and as a result he was the last guy standing, who was looking after the franchise. So it started with Fleming and many others bought into the fantasy of Bond. George Lazenby is the perfect example, in my film there's basically almost a monologue from him of about eight minutes which highlights the jeopardy of being Bond or trying to be Bond, as well as showing how a recalcitrant actor can de-rail the franchise, or at least cause it to stumble.

I thought Lazenby's comments were quite interesting and moving really. He obviously got caught up in the whole whirlwind of the Bond image and didn't really know how to handle it at the time.
Yeah, I mean he wanted to be Bond and yet, from talking to him, I think he also panicked that he couldn't be himself, he was trying to be someone he wasn't. That would unsettle any individual, especially someone as self confessedly nave as he was. He blew his big shot. I think his story is quite interesting. It's an example of what happens if an ordinary bloke is thrust into the spotlight as Bond, as he was. I think that's why there's a lot of feeling for George, he's very honest about it all.

Interestingly 007 MAGAZINE readers recently voted OHMSS the best Bond film ever.
The fans love it, don't they! And [box office] receipts at the time were still pretty good - it wasn't a disaster. Maybe the disaster was internally because they had to switch actors again. George could have done very well if he'd stuck with it.

I also thought you dealt with the Dalton era in an interesting way. It was interesting to hear Barbara Broccoli say that he was "ahead of his time", which is something I'd definitely agree with.
Yeah, I think Dalton is interesting - everyone loved The Living Daylights - one of my favourite scenes in a Bond film is the pre-titles in The Living Daylights which really gets you pumped up and we were thinking: great we've got a fantastic Bond ahead of us. And he was, I really enjoy his films, I enjoy Licence To Kill as well, but addressing what audiences think and actually looking at the receipts - that needed to be looked at and attended to. The alchemy of Bond is interesting - why might a film work better in this period if not then? You know, it was similar for Roger too - he had a difficult 'second album' with The Man With The Golden Gun and the same was true with Tim but people really put the boot in with Tim. I wanted to make sure that was not overlooked.

007 MAGAZINE thanks Stevan Riley for speaking with us and wishes him good luck with Everything Or Nothing!

Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 will be released on DVD January 28th 2013


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