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David Arnold At The BFI

28th January 2014

Matthew Field attended the latest BFI Screen Epiphany event at which David Arnold introduced his favourite 007 adventure, 'You Only Live Twice'

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Every month at the BFI Southbank, a prominent figure from the arts and culture community talks about the film that inspired their passion for cinema. On 24th January, David Arnold took to the stage to introduce his 'Screen Epiphany', "You Only Live Twice."

Greeting the audience, Arnold wore a rather appropriate "World Is Not Enough" hoodie on the evening, an evening that also marked his 52nd birthday. BFI Programmer Justin Johnson began by asking the five-time Bond composer why the fifth Bond movie means so much to him. "It was the first one I saw... I don't think it is necessarily the best one but it's my favourite... I think that's simply down to the fact it was the first one I saw."

Arnold's first encounter with Bond was at a Royal British Legion Social Club children's Christmas party in Luton. He recalled bowlfuls of jelly and ice cream as "...they wheeled out a portable screen and a 16mm projector. They stuck this projector in the middle of the hall, turned the lights off and you just heard the clattering of the reels going round. There was one solitary portable speaker underneath the screen. And within five minutes I had seen James Bond post coitally being murdered, a big giant space ship eating a smaller space ship. I'd heard the 'James Bond Theme', I'd heard the song 'You Only Live Twice', and I'd heard 'Capsule in Space'. It seemed pretty extraordinary." Arnold joked, "The opening sequence in Japan looked exotic - but when you're from Luton everywhere looks exotic."

It was a film that triggered his enthusiasm and desire to work in music and film. "I always wanted to make records - I grew up in a house with lots of films, lots of music, lots of soundtracks, classic music, lots of musicals."

Arnold first discussed Bond with MGM shortly before the release of "GoldenEye" while working with the studio on "Stargate."


He recalls seeing a sneak peak of the teaser trailer and being wowed by the then new Bond star, Pierce Brosnan. "At that point they told me they had already signed Eric Serra so I knew I wasn't going to be doing that. But I said 'If there is any way that John [Barry] is not going to be involved in anyway then I would love to do it."

Asked if it was true that John Barry had actually recommended Arnold to Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, he confessed there were several theories as to how he landed the gig on "Tomorrow Never Dies."

"I'd heard that he'd [John] suggested to Michael and Barbara that I might be a person they could trust." But it was "Shaken And Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond project": an album of 007 title song covers that Arnold feels was the real catalyst that won him the job. "Barbara and Michael had heard the record and they were using 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' - the version I did with the Propellorheads - for their car park chase in Tomorrow Never Dies as the temp."

Arnold also recalled that Broccoli has since told him that she was in a record shop buying scores to lay up against an early cut of Tomorrow Never Dies, when the shop assistant recommended she take a listen to his material. "I don't know if that's true or not. I've got no reason to suggest that she should not be telling the truth. But if it is true there is a shop assistant somewhere that I owe a very large drink or a very small house!"

But ultimately the fact "...that 'Independence Day' did a huge amount of business and won a Grammy for the score..." was probably a major factor in the final decision. "All of a sudden I went from being the next John Williams to the next John Barry because I was doing a Bond film."

Arnold began the "Shaken And Stirred" project back in 1995. "I recorded three songs out of my own pocket; I did 'You Only Live Twice' with Bjork, 'Diamonds Are Forever' with David McAlmont and I did 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' with the Propellorheads. I took them round to record companies and asked if anyone was interested. People weren't that interested so I carried on and did a few more. And then East West got involved and they said they would do it. It came out close after 'GoldenEye.'" During one of the recording sessions at Air Studios in London, fellow Bond composer George Martin introduced Arnold to John Barry. "He said he liked them and was very nice about them and we carried on talking ever since."

For more than a decade Arnold worked on five consecutive Bond movies. "I got to know Rob [Wade] and Neal [Purvis] the screenwriters quite well, so they would often tell me about ideas they were having. Barbara and Michael are probably the most glorious and friendly and lovely producers you would ever work with. Even though they know as a composer, you are brought on towards the tale end of things, they always keep me involved and included in what was going on, especially if you were going to be doing something with the title song you needed to know what the core of the story was."

Arnold was full of praise for the latest instalment - "Skyfall" - which was composed by Thomas Newman. "I was just thrilled it did so well and continued up the ramp that started with 'GoldenEye' and went up a notch with 'Casino Royale.'" He confessed: "I'm loving not doing it as much as I love doing it - from a punter's perspective being able to sit back and watch a film again and enjoy it. Arnold admitted that if he were ever offered a future Bond he "...would do it in a heartbeat."

As audiences geared up for the pristine Park Circus print of "You Only Live Twice," Arnold couldn't hide his enthusiasm, "This is the first time I've seen it screened - I've never seen it projected properly. My memory of it is clatter, clatter, clatter, mono and jelly! I notice we haven't got any of that!"

About The BFI
BFI Cinema Membership gets you to the front of the queue for the hottest tickets in town including the BFI London Film Festival where you can experience the glamour of the red carpet first hand as well as exclusive access to special Members' events like the Screen Epiphany series. Previous guests in the last year have included James Franco, Yoko Ono, Edgar Wright, Cillian Murphy and Paul Greengrass.

Many thanks to Matthew Field and Lucy Aronica at the BFI.

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