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15. June 2013 03:49
by m
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On the set of "Never say Never Again"

15. June 2013 03:49 by m | 0 Comments

Sean Connery returns as superspy-superhero James Bond 007 in Never Say Never AgainNever Say Never Again. This vintage Starlog issue visits the set and explores Sean Connery's long road back to the role of 007.

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SEAN CONNERY IS AGENT 007

The updated remake of ThunderballThunderball" returns a veteran superspy to secret service and presents an explosive challenge in this biggest Bond year of them all.

By RICHARD SCHENKMAN

James Bond rode through the villa on horseback, ducking under doorways and fighting off attackers, looking for Domino. There she was: blonde, beautiful, clad only in a beige teddy, and not displeased to see him. He pulled her onto the horse, and burst out to the back, only to discover that they were hurtling through space. Horse and all, they flew off the rocky cliff and down—100 feet to the water. Surviving the brutal fall, they barely had time for a breath before they found themselves under fire from the villains on the cliff.

This isn’t the climax; it isn't even the pre-title sequence. It's just one of the action scenes in the forthcoming Never Say Never AgainNever Say Never Again, a new James Bond film. "A" new James Bond film? Not "the"! This is the "other" Bond. The one that doesn’t star Roger Moore, that’s not produced by Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, that isn’t coming from United Artists. The background people on this motion picture may not be familiar names to 007 afficionados, but there’s one foreground name which everyone in the world knows: Sean Connery. The "real" James Bond is actually back!

The story of Connery's return to Bondage goes back to the late '50s, before the first film was ever made. Kevin McClory, a young Irish filmmaker, became involved with Ian Fleming, a novelist, then enjoying a moderate success in America with his James Bond adventures (the books sold strongly in his native England). McClory saw Bond as a natural for underwater adventure, perhaps as a film to be shot in Nassau, in Todd-AO (McClory had worked on Around the World in 80 Days, which was lensed in Todd-AO, a widescreen format). McClory, Fleming and ultimately, several others collaborated on a story which they hoped to film, but the project eventually fell apart. When Fleming transformed those same ideas into the novel ThunderballThunderball, McClory sued for his share, and was awarded the film and television rights to the story.

"Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had secured movie rights to nearly every other Bond book—except Casino Royale, filmed separately in 1967—and had to work with McClory when, in 1965, they decided to bring ThunderballThunderball to the screen, McClory ended up as Executive Producer, agreeing with Broccoli to not exercise his story rights for 10 years after ThunderballThunderball's initial release.

Photo: Sean Connery and Kim Basinger astride new vehicle provided by "Q" for N.S.N.A.

The '60s came and went, as did several actors in the role of James Bond, and in 1976, McClory announced he would be making James Bond of the Secret Service (scripted by McClory, Connery and spy novelist Len Deighton). That film eventually became Warhead, and then, under the weight of continual lawsuits brought by Broccoli, the project seemingly collapsed. Tens of millions of production dollars had to be raised, and movie studios had to be convinced that releasing a renegade Bond adventure wouldn't be their ticket to court. They weren't convinced.

Photo: Barbara Carrera, as Fatima Blush, a sensuous-yet-deadly female. Fatima likes to sleep with her opponents before killing them. Is James Bond next?

Enter Mark Damon's "Producer's Sales Organization," and Hollywood lawyer/deal-maker-type-turned-producer Jack Schwartzman. They somehow, using Connery's name (McClory had persuaded the original Bond star to agree in principal to play 007 back in the mid-70s), pre-sold foreign rights to the film (raising money), and convinced Warner Brothers to distribute the movie in America (securing an essential market, and lots of credibility).

Schwartzman hired Irvin Kershner (who directed Connery in A Fine Madness, and scored recently with The Empire Strikes Back), and Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (screenwriter of Papillon, The Parallax View, King Kong, Flash Gordon, and the Batman TV series), and lo and behold! Bond was back on the boards with a very familiar face.

On November 11,1982, that face, dripping with salt water, popped up out of the ocean to scream, "Clear the line to Washington! I've located Bomb One!"

Production officially started October 27, 1982 in the south of France. At any given time, the film had at least two units going. In France, while Connery played big stakes at the Monte Carlo casino action was also underway in Villefranche-sur-mer. Now, in Nassau, three weeks of main unit production was being complemented by at least six weeks of underwater shooting.

The actual cliff jump on horseback was executed in France, but the remainder of the sequence would be completed in the Bahamas. While stuntmen and the principals performed the final segments, workmen were building a tower on Paradise Island for the actual splashdown. Stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong (you know him as Indiana Jones, as well as a selection of people in Superman) is doubling for Sean Connery, and in makeup, looks very much like him. He and Wendy Leech, the stunt-lady doubling Domino, made daily trips to the tower.

"It doesn't look so high from the bottom," Armstrong explains. "But when you're on top, looking down, it's a different story. And add six feet more for the horse."

Photo: Sean Connery is back as Bond.

The veteran stuntman wasn't worried about the fall itself: roughly 35 feet in 12 feet of water. "I just hope the horse doesn't flip over. I wouldn't like two tons of horse on top of me."

Both Armstrong and Leech were on hand the day Connery delivered his "Bomb One" line. The scene has Bond and Domino surfacing after their fall,only to be shot at from the cliff. Bond attempts to distract the fiends from Domino, but things look bleak until the US Navy (along with Bond's CIA pal, Felix Leiter) sails up to rescue them. "You're a hard man to find, Bond," Leiter quips, but 007 needs to use the hotline.

Casey and Carrera

Leiter is portrayed by American actor Bernie Casey {The Man who Fell to Earth). It's an interesting casting decision; Casey is big and black, and Leiter, according to Fleming anyway, is anything but. In fact, the closest filmmakers have ever come to duplicating the character physically was in the original ThunderballThunderball, in which Bond's only American friend was played by Rik van Nutter.

What does Casey think of this choice? "There's no reason Felix Leiter couldn't be black; he's just a government agent," he says. "I think it's a nice change. Even if I would not have been cast, I think it's a great idea."

Whose idea was it for Leiter to be black? By all reports, Sean Connery. Casey recalls, "Sean had said, during one of our conversations, that Felix Leiter is not memorable. 'Let's make him black, .at least that will make him more noticeable and therefore, more memorable because he is, after all, my best friend, and he does always come to help me, and no one remembers that he was even there.' It changes nothing in the context of the story."

Bernie Casey is a big man; the kind who looks like he can hold his own in any confrontation. His age complements Connery's. The most important part of the Leiter-Bond scenes is the chemistry between actors. If that's right, Leiter could be an alien, and it would still work.

Casey's hardest job on this film has been learning how to scuba dive. As in the original ThunderballThunderball, NSNA climaxes with an underwater battle between the good and bad guys. Casey admits, "It's something I always wanted to do, but the opportunity never presented itself." He got his P.A.D.I. certification in France. [GENESIS: fulfills]

Barbara Carrera hasn't gotten her card yet, but, she says, "I should get a medal!" The French—Nicaraguan model-tumed-actress, seen in Island of Dr. Moreau, I, The Jury and Masada, has been hard at work, making her character, the villainous Fatima Blush, a memorable presence. "After this film comes out, I am going to have so many offers for physical parts! I do so many things—things I have never done before! I had to learn to scuba dive, to drive a stick shift in a Renault Turbo, to water ski; the activities are tremendous!"

All this action certainly hasn't hurt her gorgeous dark looks, nor diminished her excitement about the movie. She committed to the project in its early stages; there wasn't even a script. "I always liked Sean Connery," she explains. "I saw him as James Bond, and I thought he was wonderful! Kershner's excitement got me hooked on it. When I first saw the script, I was scared—I didn't think it was too good.

"But writers came in, and now it just keeps improving, more and more every day. We all have this attitude—which I think is very exciting—of everyone wanting to give their best. When you have people who are all working on the same wavelength, it becomes very creative."

Word from those who have seen dailies is that Never Say Never AgainNever Say Never Again becomes truly electric when Carrera is on screen. She's putting everything she has into this part, and it doesn't take long to note that's quite a lot. Carrera has done some special searching to find out what is inside this character, whom one could classify as crazy. She says, "It's fascinating, the human mind, isn't it? The thing that I get off on most of all in being an actress is I realize there are millions of ways to see the truth. Everybody perceives their own truth. When you develop a character, you have the choice to give it all these traits! That's why I give Fatima all these things; I want to make her a special femme fatale, or whatever you want to call her. I don't want to make her anything that's been done before. I'd like her to be a new kind of villainess; a villainess who goes beyond, for instance, just doing an assassination.

"One can play even the simplest role; it all depends on what you put into it. There are many ways to make an entrance." Carrera's Fatima is a martial arts expert who has "Kali:" she makes her own rules and creates a system of right and wrong which exists outside of society's norm. She often makes love to a man before she kills him, and her final showdown with Bond, Carrera promises, is a thriller. Between bombs under the bed and $50,000 fur capes, this is no ordinary murderess.

Stars, stunts and scripts

The lady on the hero's side is Domino, played by American Kim Basinger. Blonde and wide-eyed, she is an acomplished high-diver who also had to spend days practicing for her underwater scenes. She previously starred in the telefilm Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold and appeared with Jan-Michael Vincent in Hard Country and Charlton Heston in Mother Lode.

Basinger stood shivering in a white bathrobe while the entire crew waited for the Bahamian sun to emerge from behind a cloud. The production has been plagued by weather problems from the start, but Nassau proved especially troublesome. Scrambling for indoor scenes, Kershner built a submarine set in the ballroom of the Sheraton British-Colonial hotel (production base for the unit), and blew up the penthouse suite of the Ambassador Beach Hotel (home of the Playboy Club).

Finally, however, here was a nice day. The crew drove halfway around the island of New Providence (on which Nassau is located) to Clifton Pier. With two cameras ready to roll (one regular, one specially adapted to facilitate matte effects), assistant director David Tomblin arranged the background fishing boats, and placed special-effects riflemen upon the rocks. The stunt people and the stars were in makeup, the sharpshooters were ready to fire. Then, the sun went away. A young man with several suitcases walked up and asked how he could get onto the huge ocean liner sailing away a mile offshore. The crew broke for lunch.

When they returned, the sun was deciding what to do, and the area was covered in black smoke and soot. The local electric plant had conveniently chosen to begin burning some mysterious, horrible substance: the beautiful vista beyond the fishing boats now resembled the Los Angeles basin on a bad day. Some quick maneuvering got the stacks temporarily shut down, and Vic Armstrong and Wendy Leech dived into the water. With Leech in a blonde wig which did little justice to Basinger's beautiful mane, and Armstrong with chest hair and forearm tatoos painted on, the surrogate heroes dodged bullets, swimming around and under the old fishing boats until Felix Leiter arrived to save the day. Then, they came out of the ocean, and the same action was repeated with Connery and Basinger—and a noticeable difference in proximity of bullets in the water to the people. Connery did his own horseback riding in France, but both he and Basinger are limited in what they can do themselves. The pair are physically active people and in excellent shape. They would love to enact many of their own stunts, but on a film costing upwards of $25 million, who can afford delays caused by possible injury to a principal?

Semple's script does follow the ThunderballThunderball story (SpectreSpectre has stolen several nuclear bombs), but, as usual, many lines are made up on the spot, especially the humorous ones. Sean Connery has always been noted for thinking up the clever quips, but he says, "It's very serious playing James Bond. I always start very seriously and try to inject the humor." For his part, director Kershner agrees; he, too, wants to "make it fun," feeling "the action is important, and the film has lots of action, but it also has people. One should always use a character's humanity as a base. However original the gadgets are, Bond still has to figure his way out."

Connery is working very closely with Kershner. Every shot, every line, has Connery's stamp of approval. He knows that no matter who else is associated with this film, the entire world will regard it as "Connery's New Bond Movie." He is tan, fit, and playing Bond as tough as ever. The pressure to wear a toupee was apparently too much to resist, so Connery's 1982 007 sports a reasonably full head of hair, although not unbelievably so.

Other cast members include the excellent, eccentric German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo, Fatima's boss. In the film, Largo is the proud owner of the Nabila, the floating mansion which actually belongs to billionaire Adrian Kashoggi. As of November, Moneypenny (secretary to "M," head of Her Majesty's Secret Service) hadn't been cast, but English actor Edward (The Day of the Jackal) Fox plays Bond's boss. For years, Bernard Lee played the crusty old admiral who rose to the head of the secret service. His death left even the Broccoli Bond group in need of a new M, but now 007 will be answering to a younger man. British comedian Rowan Atkinson also appears as a bumbling agent.

* * *

It was all scheduled to wrap up last month. OctopussyOctopussy, the new Moore/Broccoli Bond, will premiere early in the summer, in June with Never Say Never AgainNever Say Never Again lagging a bit behind, tentatively set for July 15. But a battle of the Bonds, it will be. The stars, who are good friends of screen, are all quoted in the papers as saying there are no hard feelings, no thoughts of competition, but you know there are those who wish this film would not see release. Comparisons will be made, and ultimately one film has to win the big money in these high stakes. Certainly, 007 is facing his toughest challenge ever, but fans will come out the winners. Two films in one summer! Connery returning as Bond! Moore probably making his last appearance! Things haven't been this exciting since Connery returned in 1971, and there's every indication he wants this film to be as memorable as the first time he ever said, "My name is Bond, James Bond."

~~~~~~~~

LAST WORD

Now, you may be asking yourself, "Why are they doing a special James Bond issue?" That's certainly a valid question for a magazine devoted almost exclusively to science fiction and fantasy films.

The answer is contained in the phrase, "almost exclusively." STARLOG has never been strictly a one-dimensional mag. We have always covered other areas of interest to our readers, including the art scene, literature, hard science and the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. Our film coverage itself has been wide and varied, taking in such diverse productions as the Flash Gordon serials, Heavy Metal, Conan, The Thing, Altered States, The Dark Crystal and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

And in the past, we've done cover stories on two other Bond films: MoonrakerMoonraker and For Your Eyes OnlyFor Your Eyes Only. Reader response was extremely favorable—more than enough to justify feature coverage of the two new Bond flicks. Interest in Agent 007 seems to cut across all barriers and other special interests. In fact, right after Superman, James Bond may be the most popular and recognizable hero in the Western world. We have taken Ian Fleming's cultured rogue to our hearts.

He may have been born as a British Secret Service Agent, but he has evolved into a star-spangled, red-white-and-blue, American superhero.

Bond's exploits intrigue and excite. He is perceived as a kind of futuristic vigilante who operates outside of the law, always gets the girl, and laughs in the face of danger as well as the faces of his enemies. And... he is licensed to kill. A fascinating (if a bit morbid) attribute for a superhero.

Bond lovers have always been divided over which actor makes the better superspy, Roger Moore or Sean Connery. This summer will provide an excellent opportunity for contemporary comparisons.

In covering OctopussyOctopussy and Never Say Never AgainNever Say Never Again, writers Don McGregor and Richard Schenkman expressed their doubts and hopes about this unprecedented situation—the almost simultaneous release of two Bond movies. McGregor worries that one film must suffer at the box office because of the competition. He also raises the economic question: can people afford to see both Bonds? Remember, there are a few other heavyweights premiering this summer, films like Revenge of the Jedi and Superman III:

Schenkman, on the other hand, eagerly anticipates the upcoming feast, feeling that Bond fans must come out winners. Both views are well-stated and, perhaps, equally valid. Personally, I don't see how a James Bond fan can lose out this summer, while it's distinctly possible that one of the productions could. But, as always, only time will tell.

Howard Zimmerman/Editor

[Source: Starlog Magazine #68, March 1983, P35-37,P65-66]

Also in this issue of Starlog

Richard Maibaum

James Bond Is Back - and Octopussy's Got Him!

Related Dossiers

Vintage 1983 Starlog interview with Never Say Never Again Screenwriter

Producing "Never Say Never Again"

Never Say Never Again on Blu ray for $25

On the set of Octopussy

 
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