Monday, December 10, 2007

My Word... it's Bond.

Yesterday the New York Times informed me that will be directing the next Bond film, the second in Daniel Craig's sure-to-be-illustrious reign. The fine article, written by Terrence Rafferty, pointed out that Swiss-born Forster (best known for directing FINDING NEVERLAND and the upcoming THE KITE RUNNER) is not only the first Bond director who wasn't born in "the Commonwealth," but he's also the first to be born after the release of the first Bond film DR. NO in 1961. In fact, Forster was born in 1969, two years before I was and only four years before Roger Moore's first Bond, LIVE AND LET DIE.


One can only hope Forster will cast a "Bond Girl" as close to perfection as Eva Green was

Ian Fleming's master spy has played as important a role in my development as almost any fictional character. The first Bond I saw in the theater was FOR YOUR EYES ONLY in 1981, and I can still remember the preadolescent tingle that Sheena Easton's theme song gave me as I wore out the cassette copy of the soundtrack for months afterwards. Mother and Father Word Player would dutifully record the ABC Movie of the Week on our "war horse" top-loading VCR whenever it was a Bond movie so I could see them without staying up past my school-night bedtime. I even read several of the officially sanctioned John Gardner Bond books that revived Bond in print fifteen years after Fleming's death (License Renewed and For Special Services were particularly good.)

In retrospect, the odds were good that I'd marry someone who'd gotten Pussy Galore's autograph

All of this accumulated Bond trivia and youthful devotion would come into play on two notable occasions in my adult life. The first contact Mrs. Word Player and I ever had came over the phone, and years before we met face-to-face. In the days before the internet, workplace trivia disagreements had to be settled by calling someone else in. This was the case when she and a workmate, who was a UNC chum of mine and had moved to LA around the same time as me in '95, had some Bond trivia they needed settling. He said he had a friend (me) who would know, they called and we had the brief conversation that would serve years later as the foundation of a much longer one that lead quickly to l-o-v-e.

Oddly enough, that wasn't even the story that popped to mind as I read the Forster article on Sunday. My "other" Bond story came rushing back, and led me to a box deep in storage that contained a prized possession from the day I met James Bond.

Tis better to've been Bond and lost ...

After working on THE FAN, I took a job as office assistant for a wonderful British producer named Kathy Eldon. A few days a week I would drive up to her cool apartment off Sunset Plaza and answer phones, read scripts, etc. Kathy's primary project was developing the artwork and journals of her son Dan Eldon into various book, documentary and film projects. Dan was a celebrated photojournalist who had been tragically killed at the age of 22 in Mogadishu, Somalia, when demonstrators who were rioting over a U.N. massacre turned on him and three fellow journalists and stoned them all to death. Since my time working for Kathy, much has been published from Dan's life, but the only book I've personally looked through is called The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon, which I highly recommend.

As it turns out, Kathy was friends with Aussie actor George Lazenby, who portrayed Bond in 1969's ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. She had George over for lunch one day and, knowing what a Bond fan I was, invited me to join them. I was extremely nervous beforehand, but once we all sat down Lazenby was charming and easygoing, and didn't mind at all answering my questions (although they were all ones he'd certainly answered a million times before).

He freely admitted that he'd gotten caught up in the whirlwind of fame surrounding his ascension from world's top male model to Connery's heir, and that a combination of arrogance, listening to bad advice, and poor management by his trusted advisors led to him turning down a multi-picture deal to continue as Bond. Instead, he signed what appeared to be a sensational deal to star alongside friend and mentor Bruce Lee in his next films. This proved to be the beginning of the end of his acting career, as Lee died shortly before their first film together (GAME OF DEATH) was to begin shooting, and in fact Lazenby had plans to have dinner with Lee the very night he died of a sudden heart attack.

I remember that he seemed more broken up about losing his friend Bruce Lee than about losing the Bond job, which humanized him when he could easily have come off as a sad sack who blew his big chance. He went on to marry tennis star (and member of the Kennedy clan) Pam Shriver, so I doubt he's doing too shabby these days.

Shortly after my lunch with Bond, a close friend (we'll call him Mr. CFA) flew out to LA and attended a party with me at Kathy Eldon's. Lazenby was there and, despite having imbibed a fair share of cheer, remembered me and talked briefly with us. CFA and I laughed for days afterwards at Lazenby's remark that we looked like brothers (even though we look nothing alike).

My brief time working for Eldon was pivotal for yet another reason, and one which I just remembered has another Bond moment embedded. Another expat friend of Eldon's was director , and when Michael told Kathy he needed an assistant (as his latest film IL POSTINO was soon to be released), she sent me over and I landed what turned out to be one of my best and most difficult jobs.

Fast forward to the days following IL POSTINO's five Oscar nominations, when Radford's phone was ringing off the hook with congratulatory calls. One of them went like this:

Hello, Michael Radford's Office?

Yes, is Michael There?

(knowing instantly who it was)
May I tell him who's calling?

Yes, this is Sean Connery.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. CFA approves.