The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History Of James Bond

Since James Bond first burst on to our cinema screens in 1962’s Dr No, blazing his Walther PPK and seducing every beautiful woman he came across, there have been 23 more official Bond films, with six actors playing 007. Daniel Craig’s final turn as the special agent in No Time To Die, the 25th Bond film, is due out on April 3. Ahead of its release a new book, Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History Of James Bond, goes behind the scenes of all the Bond movies to reveal the 007 star who became a real-life hero, the iconic author who was saved from financial ruin by writing a very racy script, and the unlikely star who was discovered while having a haircut…

Sean Connery with Claudine Auger on the set of Thunderball. ‘I think a Bond film is a challenge for any woman. I was supposed to make all the men feel that you love them, but not to show it’

The day pussy galore got ‘knocked about’ by Connery

Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in ‘Goldfinger’, 1964, opposite Sean Connery: ‘There were occasions where I did get knocked about for real. You don’t have to wait until you get to the fighting scenes with Sean. He just says “Ah, just a minute”, and gets hold of you and you’ve gone through to the bone, because he really is so tough. There is one scene where he just has to yank me back, and my arm was in a disgusting condition for about a week, simply because of the brute force.’

A saucy script for 007 – and Roald Dahl is saved from ruin

Roald Dahl was in financial trouble until he was offered the chance to write the script for You Only Live Twice in 1967 following a series of tragedies. In 1960, his son Theo suffered a brain injury when his pram was hit by a taxi, then his daughter Olivia died of measles in 1962 and his pregnant wife, Patricia Neal, nearly died after a stroke in 1965. The medical bills left them in some serious financial straits. Dahl had written James And The Giant Peach and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, but these had not sold well, then Bond producer Cubby Broccoli hired him. Dahl said: ‘I was given a formula to write a Bond film. Bond has three women throughout the film: the first gets killed, the second gets killed, and the third gets a fond embrace during the closing sequence. And that’s the formula. So, you have to kill two of them off after he has s****** them a few times. And there is great emphasis on funny gadgets and lovemaking. The main problem was the plot. It was Ian Fleming’s worst book, with no plot for a movie. Broccoli just told me to start with Bond’s ‘death’ and burial at sea, staged to fool his enemies. The Bond movies were at their peak then and no expense was spared, so you went everywhere by helicopter. They were on a gold mine and they knew it. I don’t think Sean Connery behaved very well on this film. He was a very foolish fellow to get bored by Bond, because it made him. It made his life and it made his fame. If it had been me, I wouldn’t have got big-headed and gone off and said, “I’m going to do my own thing now. You can all go to hell.” I would have stuck with them and seen it through. Not let them hire some other actor for the part.’

How did a used-car salesman from Australia become the world’s most famous spy?

George Lazenby was 007 in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ in 1969: ‘I was a used-car salesman in Australia and I was in love with this girl and I couldn’t live without her, but she moved to England. I tried to get in touch with her and couldn’t find her. Then, when I got to England, she was up in Oxford with the captain of the Oxford cricket team. And that’s the luck of the draw. That was in 1964. After I got cast in the Big Fry commercials [for Turkish Delight, in which Lazenby was surrounded by girls], every photographer in town wanted me and I never had a spare moment. Finding even the time for a haircut was a problem, but I happened to be getting one and who should be sitting in the next chair but Cubby Broccoli. That was where he first saw me and thought of me as a possible replacement for Sean Connery. When my agent rang to say they wanted me to test for Bond, I was absolutely stunned. I’d never acted before and didn’t think I stood a chance, but I played a fight scene and made love with a girl and they told me I’d got the part.’

The ice hockey stunt that left Roger Moore in agony

Roger Moore played Bond in seven films from 1973 to 1985, starting with ‘Live And Let Die’ and finishing with ‘A View To a Kill’: ‘Every time I opened my mouth, someone would ask me what it was like following Sean, and I would just answer that 400 actors have played Hamlet. I always played heroes because I’m six-foot-one-and-a-half, but I never really believed I was a hero, so I always played things tongue in cheek. During the ice hockey sequence [in For Your Eyes Only, 1981] I got banged up quite badly. I had to slide 20ft on the ice. After three takes I thought there’s only one way I’m going to do this, which is a shorter roll, elbow tuck and fly. But I hadn’t taken into account that with the jacket I was wearing, I would just slide forever on the ice – it pushed the acromioclavicular and separated the clavicle [in his shoulder]. It was exceedingly painful and my language was horrendous. We were shooting at night and it was cold, and they whipped me off to the hospital. Nothing was broken. It was X-rayed and they said it should be taped up. I would be immobile, but that was the penultimate night of shooting in Cortina, Italy and we would then be stuck for a week while they waited for me to take my bandages off. So I said that I would have a local anaesthetic, and work the next night, which was a mistake…’

Honor Blackman writes the name of her Goldfinger character, Pussy Galore, in the sand

Honor Blackman writes the name of her Goldfinger character, Pussy Galore, in the sand

A swimsuit audition… par for the course for a bond girl

Claudine Auger played Domino Derval in ‘Thunderball’: ‘At the audition they had made a beach in the studio at Pinewood, because the first meeting is there in the movie. So my screen test was in a bathing suit, open at the front with mesh – very sexy. When I heard I’d got the part I couldn’t sleep for three nights. I think a Bond film is a challenge for any woman. I was supposed to make all the men feel that you love them, but not to show it. They must have a feeling of it. You have to be sexy first of all in your heart, and your mind – and your body, of course, too.’

A hair-raising moment in Kananga’s voodoo lair

Jane Seymour played Solitaire in ‘Live And Let Die’: ‘Roger saved my life in the voodoo sequence. He takes me into the grave which descends into Kananga’s lair. The way we got down was we were attached to a forklift truck. I think the gear slipped and the whole thing crashed to the ground from about ten feet. I went flying through the air with my high heels and my white dress with a ton of hair. Roger realised something was terribly wrong and grabbed me by the hair so that I wouldn’t fall underneath it and break my leg, and I landed with my elbow, full force, on his private parts. So we didn’t shoot with Roger for a few days, but he was a real hero to me.’

The one that nearly got away

Pierce Brosnan starred in four films from GoldenEye (1995) to Die Another Day (2002). ‘In 1986 I was offered the role of 007, but couldn’t do it because of my Remington Steele TV contract. I thought, this is going to stick with me the rest of my life – the man who could have been James Bond. When it came up again, I said to my agent, “I’ll definitely do it, because it’s unfinished business.” As an actor, you can’t be scared of the Bond films. In 1986, I was. I didn’t feel I had enough under my skin. Since then I lost my wife Cassie. I’ve lost jobs, but losing Cassie was very significant (the actress, who appeared in For Your Eyes Only, died of ovarian cancer in 1991, aged 43). Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her; certainly in relation to this, because she wanted it so much for me.’

Halle Berry almost misses her flight with 007

In ‘Die Another Day’, Halle Berry played Jinx: ‘I was comfortable with most of the action scenes: knife combat, gun play, propelling off wires – I was able to do all that and look professional. But one stunt nearly beat me. Pierce Brosnan and I had to run alongside a moving plane before hauling ourselves up into the wheel bay. It was only going about 15mph and I was sure I could cope with that. But by the fourth or fifth take, I was exhausted. Pierce did it effortlessly, but even though my legs were running, I was going nowhere.’

Shirley Eaton is painted gold from head to toe for her final scene in the same film

Shirley Eaton is painted gold from head to toe for her final scene in the same film

No pain no gain, Mr Bond

Daniel Craig took over as 007 for the 2006 film ‘Casino Royale’: ‘As soon as I got the part, I started preparing physically. I wanted to do as much of the action work as I could. I went to the gym and I pushed weights and I ran about. It was intense. We increased the weight quite rapidly, because that was the only way that I was going to fill out, and I had a high protein diet. I became a sports nut and that meant acquiring injuries and carrying on, bashing through to the next level of pain. If you don’t get bruised playing Bond, you’re not doing it properly!’

‘Nobody Does It Better: The Complete Uncensored Unauthorized Oral History Of James Bond’ by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross is published by Forge on March 1