Anthony Waye Q&A
29th November 2017
Ben Williams reports from the Production Guild event with long-time Bond producer Anthony Waye
By Ben Williams
Last week, at the Courthouse Hotel in London’s Soho, The Production Guild of Great Britain launched a new series of “Close Up” events, designed to offer the public a glimpse behind the curtain of film and television production, featuring talks by some of Britain’s most experienced production professionals. For the inaugural event, the Guild turned to a stalwart of British cinema, producer Anthony Waye.
Starting in the mailroom at Pinewood Studios, Waye swiftly moved up the ranks, eventually becoming an Executive Producer. With a career spanning some sixty years and with over seventy films to his credit (with eleven James Bond films including 'Octopussy', 'A View To A Kill', 'The Living Daylights', 'GoldenEye', , 'Casino Royale', and 'Quantum of Solace') it’s safe to say that Anthony Waye is one of the most experienced and well-respected producers in the film industry.
Alison Small, CEO of the Production Guild, introduced the evening saying: “We are thrilled to have one of our most respected and renowned Production Guild members with us this evening, Anthony Waye. We are also thrilled to have Briony Hanson, the British Council’s Director of Film, to compère for us this evening. We would also like to thank Eon Productions for supporting and promoting this event.”
You've come from the mail room at Pinewood to Executive Producer. You've had the most amazing career, with over seventy films to your credit, many of which are considered to be classics, as well as many of my most-loved films from my childhood. So, it is a huge honour to have you here this evening. One of the things you mentioned before we began was that you’ve been working for sixty years and that sixty-two of the films you made before you even had a mobile phone.
Yes that’s right. Sixty-two films.
You’ve worked in over thirty-three countries, you’ve worked on films, on television, on commercials, on second unit…you’ve done pretty much everything, so you’re in an amazing position to comment on how the industry works, how it works now and how it has worked in the past. You started in the mail room, as we mentioned, but when you went to Pinewood, were you looking for a career in film?
No. I had no idea. It’s only because after the War we’d moved to a house near Pinewood. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t have much education, and so my father said, why don’t you try there as it’s only two miles away. I got an interview and three months later they contacted me and told me I had a job in the mail room. Three pounds, eight shillings for a forty-five hour week.”
But you weren’t a film fan? Did you know what you were getting in to?
No. I used to go to Saturday morning pictures, but that was about it.
But very quickly you moved up from the mail room through to becoming an AD (Assistant Director)?
I went from the mail room to becoming a production runner, from runner to 3rd AD, then came my National Service - two years in Cyprus - then came back and continued as a 3rd, then did a couple of films as 2nd (which I hated), then got made up to 1st AD. This happened very quickly because the contracts person for the Rank Organisation left and I was asked to take over as a 1st, which I did.
How many films had you done at this point?
I think I’d been a runner on maybe two or three…probably about six films from runner to 1st.
Can you give a quick explanation of what the distinction is between those roles?
Well, mail boy doesn’t exist anymore! In those days, you used to do five rounds, delivering and collecting mail around the studio…four rounds of collecting and delivering with a final round in the evening delivering all the call sheets - you’d go around with masses, about five or six films’ call sheets. As a runner, you became more attached to a single film where you helped out on the floor or helped out in the office. 3rd Assistant is really a “gofer” on set, working for the 1st Assistant, getting the actors, keeping everyone quiet, getting tea for the director, getting kicked around. You're a nobody. As you become established as a 1st, then you can exert a little more power.
And your key responsibilities as a 1st?
The 1st runs the set. In conjunction with the production office and all the departments.
You were a 1st AD for over twenty years. Why do you think you were so good at it?
I just had an aptitude for it. I’ve no idea what it was in particular. I just loved the job and I didn’t really want to give it up. Jobs kept coming. I look back over my diary and for something like eight or nine years I hardly had a day off, just going from one job to another.
And it’s the kind of job where you have to be unbelievably organised.
Yup. Ideally. Of course, how organised you can be depends on other people, the director, the producers, scriptwriters - but mainly the director. If you can find a director who knows what he wants…you often get directors who know what they want in their mind but don't know how to say it.
So, your job was to keep everyone in order?
You've got to make it work. You've got Tayo try to keep to schedule and try to keep to budget. You have to deal with egos on set and you have to try to look after them. Being 1st was great and the more experience you got, the more you could dictate the terms.
What are some of the challenges of being a 1st Assistant?
Well, your whole day is constantly changing. You may have actors who don’t feel like doing the scene, you may have someone become ill, you may have weather changes. It’s a constantly changing, flexible business. Making films is a very efficient industry, in a way, in as much as each day is a different day, you move on with the schedule and you do it.
After twenty years doing the job, do you think you developed a kind of shorthand, learnt which things to worry about, which things to disregard?
As you get more experience, you can foresee where problems might lie, and you could talk about it - as there were always issues with schedule and budget. You might be given two allowed to shoot a sequence and you knew damned well that it was highly unlikely that you’d get it done in two days. So, you have to try to think ahead. The production office is always looking way ahead, where as the 1st AD is looking to the afternoon, or the next day, or to the next week. So, you were quite well-prepared.
Can you tell us about the move into producing? You've produced in lots of different capacities, from Line Producer through to Executive Producer. Is it a normal jump to make from 1st AD to production?
I don’t know. Some people do and some people don't want to go into the office. I think a lot of 1st ADs would rather stay as a 1st. They’re not suited to go into the office - I don’t think I was suited to go into the office! I think the first film I moved into the office on was “A View to a Kill” and Tom Pevsner, who was an Associate Producer at the time and is now Executive Producer, he was desperate to find someone and asked me if I’d come into the office and I said yes.
Does working in the office use a different side to your brain than you use on set?
AW: I’ve only got one side (laughs). I think that having the experience of an Assistant Director is extremely helpful and it does help you to think ahead. Because you have to plan much further ahead when you're in the production office. Considerably further. So, the experience of being on the floor certainly helps.
You started as a Line Producer?
I can’t remember what I was. I think I was an Associate Producer. I became a Line Producer when 'GoldenEye' came out.
Throughout your career, you've worked with a huge range of different directors, particularly people who are very artistically well-known, very big names. Do you work in a different way depending on who you’re working with?
Well, every director is different, has different styles and approaches, and some are some are very easy to work with and some are very difficult. I didn't necessarily change my style, but you adapt to how you ask the questions, maybe.
Tell us about your experience working with Stanley Kurbrick.
I worked with Kubrick on “Barry Lyndon”. I told that Kubrick was moving the entire production back to Ireland and I was asked what I was doing. I said: “Lying in bed reading the paper!” I had ten days with no money to set it all up because they wouldn't tell Warner Brothers that they were moving back to England. I set it up - a massive unit came over, something like twenty-two hotels were booked out - and after fourteen weeks I got fed up with Kubrick and told him what i thought and walked off. And didn't go back. He was an absolute nightmare. To get him to make a decision was extremely difficult.
Did you ever consider directing yourself?
I was offered. Charlie Schneer, who was the producer on “Clash of the Titans”, said that if I could find the subject he would back me. But I didn't really want to do it. I’m too practical. I’ve directed second units, but I didn’t really fancy it. I was having more fun as a 1st.
In your time, you must have seen so many changes. Fads coming and going, 70mm, 3-D, different formats, different cameras…do you recognise it as the same industry as you came into?
No. Not at all. It’s totally different, totally changed. We had much more fun! I mean, the hours were shorter! Units were smaller. We didn't have all this digital stuff. Nowadays, you send of an email to people and you get eight different answers come back, whereas before you just went and had a quick talk in an office. We talked! All the American studios had offices in Soho, so we didn't have all this transatlantic time change to get messages. You discussed things on site and that was it. It was actually more efficient.
Did you adapt your systems to the changing world?
You had to, yes. My first computer was a second hand Compaq for two thousand pounds. It had five-inch floppy discs. I think it’s still in the loft! Probably worth a fortune now.
Let’s talk about the Bond films, but just before we do, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, who wanted to be here this evening but couldn’t because they are filming in Dublin, have sent a note. It says: “You were a legend in the business and that your deft ability to solve a multitude of problems that one encounters on a Bond film were handled with tremendous skill and military precision.”
That’s not what Barbara says to me!
You've had a number of different roles on the Bond films, from 1st AD, Associate Producer, Line Producer, and Executive Producer. Tell us a little bit about your experience with them.
I got involved because Tom Pvesner was the Associate Producer, and I’d worked with him on a number of films already. So, when the new offices were open, Tom got me in to meet Cubby and John Glen the director. My first film was 'For Your Eyes Only' and the second one was 'Octopussy'.
How do you think the films have changed?
The Bond films have changed over a period of time. I mean, you couldn’t have Roger Moore playing the same Bond Daniel Craig does now. I think Bond became much harder when Daniel took over. A harder character, coming back to the Bond of Sean.
Do you have a favourite Bond?
I had a bet that you were going to ask me that! Not really; I liked them all at the time. Roger was fun, Tim was great, Pierce we knew from way, way back. We’d tested him before Timothy Dalton. He was doing that series in American at the time and had long hair. When we shot 'For Your Eyes Only' he was married to Cassandra Harris and Pierce used to sit on the beach with Patricia, my wife, and the other wives… and he was just one of the wives!…Daniel is tougher. He has a great fitness regimen.
Cubby was regarded as something of a paternal figure on the Bond films. Was there a sense of family amongst the crew on the Bond films?
I think you didn’t survive if you didn’t get on with the family. We had the same team on probably my first six or seven Bonds. Same team for a long time. They were very much involved with everything. And the thing with Cubby - and the same thing with Barbara now - is that you could have an instant meeting almost and discuss problems.
Do you have a particular genre of films you prefer making? Action? Drama?
Well, action films are more fun, because there’s far more to do…organising big stunts and special effects and explosions is quite good fun, as opposed to dialogue scenes in a bedroom. On the other hand, to make a good acting piece is also very interesting.
You’ve worked with some legendary actors. Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Clint Eastwood, pretty much anybody who’s anybody. Do you have an admiration for particular actors in your career? Have you spotted someone at work and just thought that they’re absolutely at the top of their game?
Not really, they’re just actors. I mean, you called them and expected them to be there, told them what to do, and if they misbehaved you'd have a row with them. They’re just a part of the job.
Special thanks to Lucy Barnes and The Production Guild.
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