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  3. Interview: Paul Duncan, Editor of The James Bond Archives

Interview: Paul Duncan, Editor of The James Bond Archives

Here at Utility we're incredibly excited about stocking The James Bond Archives which, as we imagined, is the most comprehensive James Bond tome out there, especially considering it includes material from Bond's very latest film, Spectre. It's an extensive look at everything that goes into making a James Bond film, including behind-the-scenes shots, interviews, letters, storyboards, and memos, as well as in-depth essays about each of the films from some of the industry's most respected authors.

To celebrate its release, we interviewed publisher TASCHEN's Paul Duncan who had the somewhat mammoth task of editing the book. Paul has edited over 50 books for TASCHEN including similarly comprehensive looks at the works of Charlie Chaplin and Ingmar Bergman. Here's what he had to say about how the idea came about, just how much work was involved and his favourite things he found in the James Bond archive...

How did the idea for the book come about?

Fourteen years ago in my job interview with publisher Benedict Taschen, he said, “I’ve always wanted to do a big James Bond book,” so it was an idea that had always been there. Then over five years ago he brought it up again, and a couple of months later I got a call from EON asking if we’d like to do the book for the 50th anniversary of Bond. I said, “Sure, when did Benedict contact you?” But he hadn’t. TASCHEN and EON had the same idea at the same time. It was a great moment of synchronicity.

Images from the James Bond Archive

There must have been an incredible amount of material to go through

There have been hundreds of books published about James Bond, and I thought that maybe the world didn't need another one. However, EON said that we could have complete access to their vast archive - over a million photos, and over 100 filing cabinets – so I thought that maybe I could find something new for fans to read. I spent 30 months researching the archives, and decided to present the book as an oral history of how the films are made. I think the resulting book gives an accurate picture of the inventiveness, perseverance, and humour the cast and crew needed to employ to get the movies onto the screen, on schedule, and hopefully under budget.

Although James Bond is the figurehead of the series, he is supported by a vast number of people, and I wanted to explain how the series works, and why it works.

After an interview with Ian Fleming, there is a chapter on every film from Dr. No to Spectre, including the 1967 spoof Casino Royale and the 1983 Never Say Never Again, which were not made by EON who produce the official Bond movies.

The approach has been to include the iconic images that people love, but augment them with material that nobody has published before. We have storyboards, production designs, some technical drawings, and the production documents. Nobody has been through those systematically, looking at all the cables, telexes, faxes and internal documentation that tells us what happened and when, what were the problems and how were they solved. Throughout, the producers and every body at EON were fascinated by all the things I found and the facts I uncovered.

The James Bond Archives

Did you have a process for going through it and deciding what to include?

Looking through the documents, it soon became apparent that as well as the producers and the original directors (Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert), there are many people involved in making the Bond movies, from scriptwriters, like Richard Maibaum, to production designers (Ken Adam, Peter Lamont), special effects gurus (John Stears, John Richardson, Chris Corbould), stuntmen (Bob Simmonds, Vic Armstrong, Gary Powell), production managers (Anthony Waye), and editors (Peter Hunt). They all had great, and often hilarious, stories to tell about the problems they needed to overcome, and so this became the connecting thread of all the films. This is why the book became an oral history – it makes the book easy to read and entertaining. It’s also nice to have the people who experienced the stories tell them in their own words – the water is freshest at the source.

Once I had acclimatised to the vast amount of paperwork generated by making movies – there are many filing cabinets full of insurance documents, contracts, purchase orders, and customs forms – I realised that the overriding concern of a movie was to finish the filming on time and under budget. So each movie is a thriller, a race against time, and each movie throws up its own problems. On Tomorrow Never Dies they wanted to film in Vietnam, obtained permission to film there, shipped containers full of camera equipment, vehicles, and special effects rigs by sea, and then were told that they could not film. The ship had already sailed, but it had nowhere to land. So it was up to the location manager, director, and the producers to find locations within a week so that the ship could dock, and preparations be made so that they could start filming on schedule.

I decided that this “thriller” format was the one to follow, so I organised each of the chapters in chronological order, using the progress reports – the documents that tell you exactly what happened on every day of the shoot. With all the information available to me, and all the great stories, my major problem was how to cut it down to fit it in. The text runs to over 200,000 words, but I could easily have run to 5 times that amount.

The James Bond Archives

Do you have a favourite piece of Bond memorabilia or item that you came across?

The great thing about the archive is that it can give extra little details about how the films were made, and how sometimes things go wrong. On The Spy Who Loved Me, Roger Moore was filming the scene where Stromberg shoots Bond with a gun hidden under the table. A pyrotechnic device was primed to go off under a chair Moore was supposed to be standing behind. But, at the last moment, Roger decided to sit in the chair. He didn’t get off quick enough and the device burnt his rear end! Whilst looking through the archives, I found the medical report, which reads: “Explosion on set A stage caught Roger on the right buttock, causing various fairly superficial burns to his flesh. Treated with cream and dressing.”

The documents also revealed that the producers did not want to make Dr. No as the first film, but wanted to make Thunderball instead, which was Fleming’s latest hit novel. A script was written for Thunderball, which is the first time the line “Bond, James Bond,” appears, and schedules were drawn up to film in the British West Indies and at Shepperton Studios, but ultimately it was decided to shoot Dr. No because it would be easier in terms of logistics.

Another interesting anecdote was that while filming in Jamaica on Dr. No, producer Cubby Broccoli sent a cable to United Artists in New York asking for somebody to go down to Sak’s Fifth Avenue and pick up six white bikinis. We have that cable. This is a few days before they shoot the scene on the beach where Ursula Andress comes out of the water. They sent the bikinis to Tessa Welborn, who had her own boutique on the island, and she adapted the bikinis to be the one that you see on screen. It’s only with the aid of hindsight that we can go through these documents and pick out the things that are important. And I found this cable on the first day of my research!

The James Bond Archives

Do you have a favourite Bond film?

My first Bond film was Sean Connery's Diamonds are Forever whilst on holiday in Ilfracombe in Devon. I got the Corgi Aston Martin DB5 as a present for my birthday, and then my dad took me to see a double bill of Thunderball and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I loved the cars, the stunts, the exotic locations, but most of all I loved the confidence and humour of James Bond.

As I grew older, from The Spy Who Loved Me onwards, I made sure that I saw the films when they were released. As each new actor was introduced as Bond, it seemed to rejuvenate the character, and the series.

I loved Daniel Craig’s debut as Bond, Casino Royale, and think that Quantum of Solace is underrated - it probably suffered from the weight of viewer expectation.

While making the book, I realised just how great some of the previous films were: From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and especially Licence to Kill.

What new, Spectre-related material can we expect?

During production of Spectre I was given access to the production materials, photos and crew, as for previous films, to make an oral history of the making of the movie. And, of course, there are stills from the movie, on-set photos, and concept paintings included in this edition. So the book is still a COMPLETE history of the making of all the Bond movies over 53 years!

A massive thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer some questions. Grab your copy of The James Bond Archives now!

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