MI6 talked to author Mark O'Connell about his James
Bond memoir 'Catching Bullets'. Win copies
Catching Bullets Interview & Competition
22nd November 2012
How did the concept of 'Catching Bullets'
come about and how long did the project take from conception
had toyed with writing a Bond book for about five or six years.
I believed I could re-frame the films for fresh scrutiny, but
didn’t want to end up with another possibly-must-have coffee
table tome treading the same paths countless writers have successfully
(and sometimes not successfully) taken readers down before. And
then there’s that writers cliché ‘write what
you know’ which, like most writers clichés, is annoyingly
correct. So what I knew was my experience growing up as a Bond
fan. A major part of which was my grandfather Jimmy’s long
working and personal relationship with the Broccoli family and
Eon Productions. That ran together with my own fan boy foibles
of home-made posters, VHS tapes, John Barry soundtracks and being
at TV schedulers’ mercy when it came to catching unseen
007 films in a pre-DVD age.
From conception to print
was a period of 18 months. But I have been so lucky. Many
a writer – Bond or otherwise – often has to
surrender their title, chapter headings or jacket design
ideas along the way. Elements evolve and change. That is
part of any creative process – be it TV, film, music
or literature. But I never once had to defend or lose “Catching
Bullets” as a title and concept. The idea of 007
movies firing at all of us like bespoke bullets made a
sense. And maybe because I shrewdly, and not accidentally,
ensured the chapter headings were all bullet-related (The
Speeding Bullets, The Rogue Bullet, The Stray Bullet and
so forth) no publisher could force something horrific on
me like “A James Bond Fan on the Edge of Dying For
Another Film” sort of title on me. As it happened,
Splendid Books respected the book’s concept from
the very start and their design elves took my somewhat
restrictive and dogmatic notes (“no guns, no tuxedos,
no Astons or Martini glasses”) and came up with something
Would you consider yourself a fan of the
literary 007 as well as his on-screen incarnations?
certainly less aware of the forensic minutiae of Fleming’s
work as some so brilliantly are, though of course I have
all the books (including a prized first edition I will
grab instantly in the event of a house fire, well, second
after my Roger Moore autograph and wall clock).
Publisher: Splendid Books
Format: Paperback / e-book
RRP: £7.99 / $110
“Catching Bullets” relates
initial encounters with Fleming’s work when I was too young
to fully fathom their rather adult twists and turns, but I don’t
see how any Bond fan could totally bypass Fleming. The films
are married to the novels. Even “Skyfall” will no
doubt tip a trilby to Fleming. The films and novels share a sexuality,
sadism, sense of luxury and that ‘death for breakfast’ timbre.
And like all marriages, the films may stray from a fidelity with
the novels but, even now, always return ‘home’.
You mention in the book a few years ago you
became a member of a James Bond Internet forum - do you think
you'd have ever
written this literary account of being a Bond fan if you hadn't
first experienced sharing your opinions about Bond with others
on a forum? Was writing down and sharing your thoughts and
feelings on 007 with other fans around the world in this way
a stepping-stone to writing the book?
Throwing some early Bond thoughts out into cyberspace may certainly
have sped up my urge to get all those
observations and reflections down elsewhere. I certainly got
great traffic when posting early reviews of “Casino Royale” and “Quantum
of Solace” upon their release and that may have lit a few
creative light bulbs in my head regarding possibly readership
of a book. I had actually toyed with writing a sitcom about two
film fans who were Bond nuts, but then “The Big Bang Theory” came
along and stole (quite brilliantly) that particular thunder.
But the film fan online forum world is very different from the
real one – and something I have learnt from writing the
book that there is a rich and vast SPECTRE spectrum of Bond fans
(from the casual viewer who knows that film is “the one
with the car” to the most fervent knowledge peddlers who
know exactly what Lois Maxwell’s shoe size was in 1977). “Catching
Bullets” had to appeal to both camps, yet without selling
either short. Bond fans know when they are being sold short and
casual fans know when they are being left out.
Above: Cubby Broccoli, Harry
Saltzman and Roger Moore.
Catching Bullets is quite a personally revealing account about
the life of being a Bond fan. Did you feel any trepidation opening
up to the world at large in such a way about something that had
been so personally dear to you for so long? And, given being
a Bond fan (as you point out) hasn't over the years always been
the trendiest of lifestyle choices, did you find it a cathartic
experience writing the book?
Obviously one ponders and questions
how ‘personal’ you
go, but as the context was always “Memoirs of a Bond Fan” that
had to be my focus throughout. Not everything is in there (my
parents and agent will be reading this, remember!) but everything
that was crucial to my self-effacing journey as a 007 fan is
there in all its eccentric and hopefully recognisable glory.
Having to hold our hands up to embarrassing behaviour in our
youth and formative years is universal to everyone. Well, I hope
it is! To meit was sometimes more important to get the details
of my grandfather Jimmy’s time with the Broccoli's and
Bond right. I was certainly aware of detailing a working life
a creative family who are famously very private, and rightly
so. Again, it’s about balance. I have no qualms about detailing
my embarrassing Roger Moore-obsessed behaviour during a Scout
camp or outlining my obsession with Maud Adams - who quite beautifully
gets the last word at the close of “Catching Bullets”.
I’m a comedy writer by trade. If something is funny, it
It was cathartic in as much as it was liberating to not only
get my thoughts and musings on Bond down on paper, but to finally
complete a look at a film fan’s life that is taking in
22 (and counting) films, each with their own identity, agendas,
contexts and successes. That was quite a big challenge. There
was a scary point halfway through where the vast project of writing
about 22 films suddenly hit me and I could only see the tunnel
at the end of the light. But because it was a personal story
as much as a filmic one, I had to see it to the end. And remember
my subject matter was the James Bond films. It was never a chore
to return to these pictures.
Obviously this autumn marks the golden anniversary of the cinematic
Bond and the publication of the book at this time is surely no
coincidence - was writing a book on your experiences as a Bond
film fan a way for you to mark the anniversary personally? Will
you be marking the actual day (October 5th) at all and what are
you plans for seeing Skyfall at the cinema?
Well watching all
the films again became a great festival of ‘007-ness’ so
that has been an apt way to honour the fifty year mark. The book’s
2012 release was of course no coincidence, nor though was it
a make or break opportunity. With a defined window of eighteen
months from starting the book to an imagined publication date,
the Golden Anniversary was actually a golden egg for me. It meant
I had a deadline to work towards – which is a great spur.
And after all, the Bond films are the gift that keeps on giving.
I was taking to a member of the team at Eon Productions just
the other day and she reminded me that October 5th 2012 may mark
the UK and US fiftieth anniversary, but in some global territories “Dr.
No” and “From Russia with Love” did not emerge
until 1963 and beyond. The fiftieth anniversary could technically
be marked for months if not years! For me personally, writing
the book was of greater importance than when it might be released.
Though it’s not a bad way of marking half a century of
Bond. I hope to be marking James Bond Day. I have some plans
and notions. A “Catching Bullets” cake sale has crossed
my mind. Or maybe I will finally be able to take Maud Adams out
for that Thai meal I have been mentally promising her for thirty
years. I think it would just be apt to spend the day in the company
of my partner, mates, other fans, a few Vodka Martinis and we
can throw all our bullet catching memories into the mix. I will
certainly be raising a glass or three to my grandfather and the
Bond alumni no longer with us, as well, of course, to the fortunes
of 007’s future.
As for Skyfall… I initially had the perverse
notion of keeping my Bond 23 virginity intact for a while and
when it is shown on television. Weird, yes? I thought there would
be no better way to honour how I first fell in love with these
Bond bullets than watching them live on TV. But maybe that idea
was the result of necking some out of date Bollinger. And I am
still a Bond fan. We are not known for our patience. Nor our
fondness for commercial breaks. So I am sure I will see it at
the earliest opportunity. I have to! Besides, with director Sam
Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins, tunesmith Thomas Newman,
that interstellar cast and of course Eon at the helm, I have
confidence Skyfall will be a truly cinematic Bond, possibly a
new classic and certainly very special.
You're now a TV comedy writer. Do you think your love of Bond
played a role in you becoming a writer for the screen? And, aside
from Catching Bullets, has it informed anything else you've written
It absolutely played a role. Bond got me fascinated with
the workings of TV and film. Through Bond I soon appreciated
a film does not just exist in a cinema screen bubble. A group
of people have to make it. That process became as fascinating
to me as the end product, and from an early age I wanted to be
a part of that. Elements of Bond have crept into other projects
of mine, yes. Aside from the Bond fan sitcom, I once wrote something
about a Glaswegian drag queen with a penchant for belting out
Shirley Bassey 007 anthems at inopportune times. Does that count?
Your grandfather Jimmy was Cubby Broccoli's
chauffeur for many years - and his presence is certainly felt
Bullets. Were he still alive, what do you think and hope he'd
make of the book?
I think he would be mortified! In fact, I know
he would. But that was because he was a very private man. And
his years with
the Broccoli family were part of that privacy. And possibly theirs
too. But I hope he would have been quietly proud of the legacy
his time with Eon and Bond had on me and the subsequent writing
of this book. Through my research I discovered Jimmy had a great
sense of humour that had maybe diminished as age took hold. It
is certainly one I have apparently inherited from both my grandfathers,
so I hope Jimmy would chime with the book’s self-effacing
Barbara Broccoli has contributed a Prelude to
your book - could you describe how that came about?
reasons the reaction of Eon and the Broccoli family
was important to me and Catching Bullets. Barbara Broccoli had
spent a lot of time in the company of my grandfather. She and
Michael G Wilson are also responsible – along with her
father and others – for the very films that ’co-star’ alongside
this fan in “Catching Bullets”. So there was always
a responsibility to get the book right. Barbara was naturally
curious about the book, and as we had met a couple of times over
the years,it went from there. Her kind words meant a great deal.
Even more so when she said we can use them in the book. Michael
and Barbara have long pondered the enduring legacy, dedication
and fascination fans have with the Bond movies. Remember they
too are Bond fans.“Catching Bullets” is able to answer
some of those questions.
What would be your top piece of advice you can
you offer to young and aspiring writers and Bond aficionados?
rewrite and do both again. Then re-write some more. Find
examples of produced screenplays, look at the craft of scripts
and shows you like, don’t be afraid to cut and lose stuff
you’ve written that is great (but can often be tripping
up a scene or chapter) and less is always Moore. Then re-write
again. If you have an angle and a Bond passion and want to write
it down, then write it down. And good luck!
Catching Bullets Books Must
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Which UK television channel was famosu for broadcasting
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The competition closes at midnight GMT
on 22nd December 2012. MI6 will choose the winners at random
from the correct answers received. The winners will be contacted
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