The Other Fellow
19th June 2023
MI6 reports from the Q&A with documentary director Matthew Bauer at Trinity College, Cambridge University
By MI6 Staff
Matthew Bauer is a filmmaker on a mission to discover the real life stories of James Bonds. Men. Called James Bond.
He was fascinated by the impact that the name must have had to the lives of normal people. And fascinated to meet men who didn't lean into the stereotype of Bond – tall, dark haired, heterosexual, Caucasian. The output is a long awaited and lovingly developed documentary 'The Other Fellow' which tells the stories of just some of the James Bonds Bauer has met. The film begins at Goldeneye, where Bond aficionados will know Ian Fleming kept a copy of 'Birds of the West Indies' by ornithologist James Bond. Bond was not consulted on the theft of his name for the now world-famous character, but he and his wife Mary Fanning Wickham Bond, discovered the appropriation in a remarkable fashion. Unseen interviews with Mary and James feature in 'The Other Fellow'. The film continues by following seven men called James Bond, learning about their lives and the impact of the Fleming character on their daily existence.
Recently Bauer appeared at Trinity College to screen the film and discuss in an open forum the production of the documentary. MI6 was in attendance and presents some spoiler-free highlights from the wide-ranging conversation.
There must be hundreds of James Bonds in the UK, and hundreds more of course in the States. I'm wondering how you actually made your selection of subjects? Did you choose a subset that were particularly articulate or good for filming or interesting stories?
I'm not a researcher, do you know what I mean? It was a pretty random process, to be honest. I found all I could. Facebook doesn't let you join as James Bond. It flags you and actually it says... "Are you trying to create a James Bond fan page?" On Facebook they're all called 'J.D. Bond' or 'Bond James' or something like that. So anyway, I sent out a lot of messages to everyone I could find on the internet and a bunch of them started writing back. There was a point where we felt we had filled up our slots in the film, you know? There was a point where I had to just stop as well, rather than just trying to interview every James Bond in the world. But then, during shooting, things kept happening. The Swedish James Bond, he was everything I was trying to avoid. When you search for people called James Bond, you find a lot of dudes in a tuxedo who've made a Twitter profile and they're called James Bond and they're a used car salesman or something. But weirdly, we actually got to a point when there was a lot of negativity in the film, and so actually we discovered him. It was like, "No, actually he's a really good counter point as someone who loves James Bond."
Isn't it just too good to be true that the novel Fleming gave to the bloke, the ornithologist, was called 'You Only Live Twice', given all these double identities and whatnot? How do you think Fleming comes out of the documentary? He just didn't seem to care at all about what he'd done to this ornithologist.
Here's the thing, Fleming did this a lot. We don't cover it in the film, but Goldfinger – he stole the name from the brutalist British architect Erno Goldfinger. It was controversial at the time. Fleming hated it, so he decided he was going to call the villain in his new book after Goldfinger, and Goldfinger got really pissed off and got his lawyers involved. And so they had to add a disclaimer to the start of that book. You know, the classic, "This is based on fictitious... any similarities to real people..."
I was going to ask how you got into film making, and what you had done that led to doing this?
I grew up in Australia, and then I went to NYU film school and then this started as my thesis project. I actually filmed the Canadian James Bond – the gay one who's soon getting married – I filmed him first and I cut that into a short film so that I could get my degree rather than, you know what I mean, spending years making a feature. It started as that, and then I just kept filming this. This is my first film. But one of my best teachers she said to us, "Don't rush your first movie." She was like, "Really, don't rush it. Take your time. Get it right."
I saw some of my classmates try and make their first feature in a year and saw it not go well. And sometimes you're talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds, if you know what I mean? We were on this film a number of years but we were just wanting to get it correct.
I've always been a Bond fan as well. I think it's in there. Crucially, my editor is not a Bond fan because my original cut of this had a lot more Bondy stuff. You know there's the sequence where the Sweden's dad escapes the World War II army base? I originally had that as an opening sequence and it went for like five minutes and it was this full-on James Bond opening sequence. My editor was like, "We're not doing that."
So we definitely wanted to have a Bond vibe, but not too much a Bond vibe either. We didn't want this to feel like it was a James Bond fan film or something like that.
Official Synopsis - 'The Other Fellow'
An energetic exploration of male identity via the lives, personalities, and adventures of a diverse band of men, real men across the globe all sharing the same name - James Bond.
1952. Jamaica. When author Ian Fleming needs a name for his suave, sophisticated secret agent, he steals one from an unaware birdwatcher and creates a pop-culture phenomenon about the ultimate fictional alpha-male.
2022. It is the year of 007’s sixtieth anniversary onscreen and Australian filmmaker Matthew Bauer is on a global mission to discover the lasting, contrasting and very personal impacts of sharing such an identity with James Bond.
From a Swedish 007 super-fan with a WWII past, a gay New York theatre director, an African American Bond accused of murder, and two resilient women caught up in it all, Bauer’s cinematic mission is an audacious, poignant, and insightful examination of masculinity, gender, and race in the very real shadows of a movie icon.