M.I.6 Briefing: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY: From the desk of M to 007 fans everywhere.
A couple of years ago (time goes by so quickly) I ran a six part series on the Turner Classic Movie Fan site detailing my adventures on the set of Bond movie number fourteen, and Roger Moore’s seventh and last appearance of 007- A View to a Kill (1985). Unfortunately it ranks as one of the worst of the series, with Moonraker and The Man with the Golden Gun tying for a close second. On the plus side, it did afford me the opportunity to meet its star Roger Moore and the Bond series legendary producer, Albert R. Broccoli, as well as watch both the first unit (principle photography) and second unit (stunts) in action. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the series (1962-2012). I was there from the beginning, and to this day there is no other Bond than Sean Connery. Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball were the films in their finest forms. After that it started on a gradual- although slight- downhill, with the exception of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which although it lacked a good Bond, the story was pure Fleming. Daniel Craig is presently doing a good job, however their shift to the darker side has taken some of the tongue-in-cheek fun that those early Connery vehicles had away. Granted Moore went too far towards the absurd, but ultimately what Bond was and is all about is balance. Enough with the introduction however, it’s time we dim the lights, part the curtain, and wait in anticipation for that gun barrel to make its appearance- the signature of grand adventure to come- T. Piazza 3/20/2012.
A View from a Fan- Part 1
I have been saving this blog for all you James Bond fans; myself, being one of the biggest. I am going to spend some time relating this story because there is a lot to tell; and especially for the fans, I have separated the story into six parts so I am sure not to leave out any of the details.
In the summer of 1984, I finally got my dream of being on the set of a James Bond film. If I had had a choice, it would not have been this particular production; for being an admirer of SEAN CONNERY, I would have preferred to see him in action. However, it was still an official James Bond movie, and as a long time enthusiast, who could ask for more!
Dr. No (1962)
I had been a fan (although a late one) from the films’ fourth entry into the series, “Thunderball”. Once I saw that film- which was nothing like anything I had ever seen before- I was hooked! Thereafter I made sure that I was first in line for the re-release of the three earlier ones (“Dr. No”, “From Russia with Love”, and “Goldfinger”) and present on the first night for all the subsequent new releases.
Secretly, I had hoped that since Bond was such a globe trotter, that his film adventures would some day take him to San Francisco. Those expectations were raised during the summer of 1970 when I had learned through my father that the Bond producers (Broccoli and Saltzman) and some of the writers (Tom Mankiewicz, amongst them) were searching out locations in the Bay Area. To my disappointment, nothing seemed to have developed. However, as I learned later, this was not an uncommon practice for the Bond production team- who were known to scout locations far ahead of time, using what they found in films produced later. So, in 1984, the research that they had done 14 years earlier was finally put to use for the production of “A View to a Kill”, starring ROGER MOORE in his last Bond outing.
A View to a Kill (1985)
For weeks, the local paper and television news broadcasts- no doubt to the producer’s angst- announced their coming, and expectations grew high in the city. Finally the trucks started rolling in and a Fuji blimp could be seen making an unusual number of “fly-bys” over the Golden Gate Bridge.
The adventure was about to begin!
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN in PART 2 of “A View from a Fan”
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————A View from a Fan- Part 2
I was not in the film industry at the time, having left 7 years earlier, and was then employed as a research biologist at a private university. However, I still had contacts, and so putting them to good use was able to find the Bond Company one Friday evening working on a chase scene at Market and California Street.
Second unit working on chase down Market Street.
It was around 10 pm and traffic on Market St. was surprisingly light. I remember the evening was warm- shirt sleeve weather- for San Francisco was experiencing one of those rare occasions of an Indian summer. Amber lights lit the street, but as I approached the intersection of California I spied some arc lighting, covered by blue gels, and knew that I had arrived.
Placards designate this a company car.
Parking my car, I wandered out onto the area where the trucks were located- placards placed prominently on their windshields announcing that they were from the 007 Production Company. There was also a SF hook-and-ladder fire truck amongst the other vehicles which displayed an equally obvious sign announcing the film’s title “A View to a Kill”.
Company bus for transport of crew.
After noising around a bit, I determined that this was the second unit filming the hook-and-ladder chase scene where Bond (in fire truck) is being pursued by the police, after supposedly killing an official at city hall and setting the building on fire. Allow me to transgress here, but that was probably the worst chase in Bond history- more keystone cops than 007! Anyhow, at the time that I arrived they were rigging up two police cars with attach bars- in the film they had locked bumpers- and were attaching those to a tow car equipped with the camera, lights, and sound equipment.
Camera car towing police car, filming actor’s dialogue.
The famous stunt driver, Remy Julienne was in charge of the action- along with the 2nd Unit director, Arthur Wooster. Julienne had his entire team there, which included family members as well.
Once the rigging was done, the unit, escorted by two SF solo police officers on motorcycles, moved onto Market Street where the running shot took place. Two actors dressed as police officers were placed at the wheel and were exchanging dialogue (shouting of course) between the two cars. This was repeated a number of times before they were satisfied with the results, and announced a “print”.
Hook-and- ladder- on loan to 007 company.
On television productions- a usual number of pages shot a day range from 12 or more- the scheduled work load for example of a 1 hour show such as “Streets of San Francisco” having to be completed in 7 days. Feature films have the luxury of incredibly more time- perhaps as little as 5-7 pages could be shot a day- and so, when it came to action that evening, that was pretty much it. They wrapped just shortly after midnight, and I headed home satisfied with my nights work.
BOND WILL BE BACK! in Part 3.
A View from a Fan- Part 3
The following Friday evening I came across the 1st unit of the Bond Company at San Francisco City Hall. As I walked up to one of the grip trucks I spotted (from the local branch of teamsters) an old friend I had worked with on “Streets” several years earlier. I eagerly asked him what was being filmed that evening. He told me that it was the burning of City Hall, and (to my disappointment) only the doubles were scheduled to work. I followed with the question, when would the “principle” actors be shooting? He replied, the following day at this same location. Immediately, I started (mentally) re-arranging my schedule so I could be there.
Actor’s dressing rooms parked outside SF city hall.
As the sun sank, the arcs started firing up and filming commenced. From behind the barriers, off to one side, I watched with mounting excitement the evening’s activities. Butane gas tanks were placed on the roof of City Hall on either side of the dome and burners were lit by the special effects team to simulate a major fire engulfing the building. It was an extremely convincing effect, and one which I caught through the lens of my own still camera.
Special effects doing their magic.
Next, I moved closer for a better view, to where a group of fans were gathered in the park directly across the street from the activities. On “action” from the director, John Glen, the same hook-and-ladder I had seen a week before on Market Street came roaring down Polk Street, siren wailing. Pulling up to the steps at the entrance of the building, several firemen poured out, hooking up hoses and raising an extension ladder towards the roof where the fire blazed. Just after a couple of firemen started the climb, the director yelled “cut” and the scene was complete. Of course this took a number of “takes”, and since they all seemed good to me, I wondered what the director was looking for.
Movie fire truck and police car at the scene.
As they set up for the next shot, I wandered around observing some of the “movie cars” parked amongst the equipment. One particular caught my eye- a brand new Mercedes sedan, jet black, with wipers for the headlights! Another fan caught me gazing at it and commented, “Now that is a real Bond car!” at which I agreed. It was used as General Gogol’s (WALTER GOTELL) car in the movie.
The next scene filmed had stunt doubles for Roger (James Bond) Moore – Dick Ziker and TANYA (Stacey Sutton) ROBERTS– Karen Price, climbing down the ladder and the crowd of “extras” waiting on the sidewalk bellow applauding the rescue. That also took a number of “takes”, which took the production well into midnight.
Another shot of the city hall fire.
As the hour was growing late, and as I had had more important plans for Saturday, I decided to call it a night before they wrapped for the evening. I had expected more exciting things would happen the following day- and as it turned out- I wasn’t disappointed!
BOND WILL BE BACK– in Part 4 of “A View of a Fan”
A View from a Fan- Part 4
I arrived on the set around noon, and noticed that their caterer had set up tables for lunch in the same park I was standing in the night before. Glancing over the tables, I spotted Roger Moore wearing a navy blue jogging suit, with a cigar in hand, sitting across from the Producer, ALBERT “Cubby” BROCCOLI. Immediately I started snapping pictures using my long distance lens, and as I got braver moved in for some more shots. I knew I was taking a chance because paparazzi have made it difficult for the average “Joe” to take pictures without raising the suspicion and ire of film people- however, to my surprise, Mr. Broccoli actually looked my way and smiled! This puzzled me at first, but then I realized (and I swear this was not planned) that I was wearing a T-shirt I had purchased some months earlier at the SF Italian Fest. It said Italy on the front and had an image of the Italian flag. Obviously (and it is the only conclusion I can come up with) our common background had something to do with the friendly reception. In a biography I read on Broccoli later I learned that his family came from Calabria-the same area in Southern Italy that my Mother’s side of the family came from. Of course, he (nor I) knew that at the time.
Moore enjoying a cigar and conversation with “Cubby” after lunch.
During that afternoon, I spent some time snapping pictures, and watched as others approached Moore- who seemed very receptive- to ask for autographs. One young girl passed by me, exclaiming excitedly to a friend, “I got James Bond autograph, how cool is that!”
Cubby (foreground) and Moore in park across from city hall.
I remember thinking, “he is not really James Bond- he’s Simon Templar. Sean Connery is James Bond.” But then again, that was just my own preference speaking. Anyhow, after watching numerous fans approach him and leaving with all limbs in tack, I mustered up enough courage to approach him myself and ask for an autograph. He was extremely pleasant and complied readily. I was also tempted to ask for Mr. Broccoli’s as well- but decided not to press my luck. Besides he signed the checks for the company- and if he knew I was also half Sicilian-he might view that with suspicion!
My Roger Moore autograph.
The scenes that afternoon were all interior shots, inside City Hall. I therefore did not get to see any actual filming- public access being prohibited. But still, I felt content- after all, I had gotten plenty of pictures of my own, and got to meet and get an autograph from Roger Moore- so who could ask for more (pun intended) then that.
This however, was not my last encounter with the company- in my next blog I will describe the festivities of James Bond Day in SF- and seeing the entire cast and key people from the production.
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN in Part 5.
A View from a Fan- Part 5
Moore with proclamation in hand- James Bond Day in SF.
All my encounters with 007 seemed to be at city hall, and this was no exception. I did once catch them just wrapping a shoot at Fisherman’s Wharf, and I saw the blimp flying high above the city often during those weeks that they took seize of the city. However, this meeting was under different circumstances than my earlier ones, which will be seen as follows:
Patrick MacNee, actor who played another secret agent, John Steed in tv’s The Avengers.
I was sitting in my lab, mid-work week, reading the paper, when I came across an article announcing that later that day (noon) the mayor (Feinstein) would be proclaiming “James Bond Day” on the steps of city hall with full cast in attendance. Seeing that I had a long lunch period owed me, my plan was to spend it at the festivities. Grabbing my camera, I caught a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train and got off at Civic Plaza. As I walked up the block, I could see a crowd gathering at the foot of city hall. Barriers, police, and a podium placed upon the landing set the stage for things to come. Gingerly I made way forward as best I could, and actually found a good spot to watch.
Broccoli, Walken,Wilson, and Gotell.
Precisely at noon they all filed out- Diane Feinstein in a yellow dress and Roger Moore (dressed more Bond- like than in my previous encounters), in sport coat and tie, both leading the pack. Those in attendance were; CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, TANYA ROBERTS, GRACE JONES, DURAN DURAN, WALTER GOTELL, and my favorite, PATRICK MacNEE (he still looked great -even after gaining a few pounds- from his John Steed days). Of course the producers Albert R. Broccoli and his step son, MICHAEL WILSON and the director JOHN GLEN was also present.
The Mayor, Jones, Gotell, and Glen.
The mayor presented Roger Moore with a proclamation mounted on a wooden plaque, and he followed with a few words of thanks. He next directed everyone’s attention to the sky where a helicopter was hovering some distance above the crowd. On cue, a stunt man dressed in a tuxedo leaped from the aircraft and came parachuting down into an area cordoned off (for this purpose) by the police. This was the same stunt man, B.J. Worth, and type of parachute that was used in the film for the Eiffel Tower jump. Upon landing, he instantly shed the chute, and came running through the crowd, where upon reaching the Mayor, he handed her a check (from the company) made out to the Mayor’s Youth Fund. The crowd was thrilled, and as usual I took plenty of shots of the activities. If one thing could be said about this Production Company- they really knew how to put on a show!
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN (for the finale) in Part 6!
A View from a Fan- Part 6 Conclusion
Tanya Roberts, Duran Duran, and Cubby watching sky diver.
Once “A View to a Kill” was wrapped and in the can, preparations were made for its’ premier and San Francisco was chosen as the site. It was announced that the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre would provide the venue for the viewing of the film and an adjacent hall for the reception. 007 Martinis were on the bill and no, I was not in attendance. The cost was beyond the salary of a Biologist, and so what I report is drawn solely from the local news crews that covered the event at the time. All the cast and some of the crew was in attendance- and I believe music was provided by Duran Duran. It was a red carpet affair- and I remember watching on television as a limousine drew majestically up to the entrance. The reporter got very excited, and built up the expectations of the audience, only to end with a thud as two “unknowns”- teenage girls exited the vehicle with broad smiles on their faces.
Entrance to premier at Palace of Fine Arts.
As films go, it was unfortunately one of the worst. I got to see it with the peons during the general release. Moore seemed tired of the role, and was obviously just going through the paces. And the plot, it was simply outlandish (which is saying a lot considering that this was the same team that robbed Fort Knox!). And what about that soundtrack…Bond escaping the enemy on a snowboard to the music of the Beach Boys! Ahem! Of all the films, this one, and “Moonraker” I believe, have vied for last place. All attempts of making a serious spy film (or at least as serious as a Bond film could be) was obviously thrown out with the bath water in this script and in its place, a hybrid that made the Charles Feldman’s version of “Casino Royale” a masterpiece. The chase between the SF police and Bond in the fire truck was pure Keystone Cops…only devoid of the laughter. And if Tanya Roberts shrieked her shrill, “Help, me James!” one more time, maybe Bond would have been better off leaving her with Zoran. In short, what Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E tried to accomplish against Bond…this film nearly did.
And so ends my experiences with 007. It was not one of his better missions, but it was still personally an exciting event.
Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No.
Bruce Glover in Diamonds are Forever.
Pleasance (as Blofeld) and Persian friend in You Only Live Twice.
I don’t know if I mentioned it earlier, but this wasn’t my first brush with the secret agent. I did work with some of his allies and enemies during the seventies. On “Streets” I got to work with “Dr No” himself, JOSEPH WISEMAN*, and BRUCE GLOVER* of “Diamonds are Forever” fame. Some of the camera crew on “Streets” had also worked in Los Angeles and Las Vegas on that same film in-between seasons. I also got to work with the original Blofeld, DONALD PLEASANCE, in a film starring CHARLES BRONSON– “Telefon”, which also filmed in the Bay Area. Of these and others, I have more stories to tell, but for now, we will leave the world of James Bond, Martini in hand…shaken, but not stirred!
* I have personal photographs I have taken of both these men, and will post them in a later blog.
My favorite author, and the man who started it all- Ian Fleming.
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.