MI6 caught up with Christopher Wood recently to talk about his two movie novelisations - "Moonraker" and "The Spy Who Loved Me"...

Christopher Wood Interview
6th February 2005

MI6 caught up with Christopher Wood recently to talk about his two movie novelisations - "James Bond And Moonraker" and "James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me".

Which of the two productions did you enjoy most?
I had a wonderful time on both Bond movies. I prefer ‘Spy’ both because it was the first time and because I think it is a better movie - and serves Roger the best of all his 007 roles. Working on a Bond movie is a little like being Bond. Cubby Broccoli, Michael Wilson et al have always been astute in creating a great team atmosphere in which everyone associated with the production is made to feel important and looked after splendidly.

Add to that the glamorous locations and my collaboration with director Lewis Gilbert, a very pleasant, relaxed human being to work with, and you have an ideal creative environment. Sorry if this sounds a bit ‘luvvie’ but it is true. It is also great to work on a movie that you know is going to be made and virtually certain to be a box-office success!

The Spy Who Loved Me
How were you brought into the Bond family for "The Spy Who Loved Me", your first 007 production?
I had written ‘Seven Nights in Japan’ for Lewis. We got on well.

At least a dozen writers had worked on the screenplay at some stage. How aware were you of the different work that had gone on before you joined the production?
There were other writers before me but I have no idea who they were. (Maybe Stirling Silliphant 11 was one, does that ring a bell?) The script I received was vastly different and featured - if I recall correctly - a dastardly band of young radicals and a gloomy Norwegian fiord. I suggested a return to more 007 audience-friendly territory.
"The Spy Who Loved Me" Script History

Above: Christopher Wood with Barbara Bach, who played Anya Amasova in the 1977 film.


"The Spy Who Loved Me" was the first Bond film to be novelised. Did you have carte blanche on this project, or where any guidelines or restrictions handed down?
I didn’t know it was the first Bond novelisation. I had no restrictions. I think the Bond people considered it very much as another merchandising aid.

Did you see “James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me” as a "Flemingian" story, rather than basing it on the movie character of 007?
I re-read several Fleming Bond’s in order to try and replicate the style. I wanted to do the man justice. I was writing a book not a film script. I hope it is more character-driven than the movie - which is obviously dominated by Bondian technical wizardry.

How did you come about Jaws' real name Zbigniew Krycsiwiki?
Did I give Jaws a name? I have forgotten. I guess it just sprang into my mind. Any nods to Fleming would have been an intentional homage. All of us Bond fans owe the man an enormous debt. Without him...

Left: Cover art for the paperback novelisation released in 1997 by Panther.

What material by Lewis Gilbert and Tom Mankiewicz already existed when you came on to the production?
Tom Mankiewicz had mapped out a story line when I came along. I have no idea what Lewis Gilbert’s contribution was - or if there was one.

Did you agree with the producers that Ian Fleming’s story was “mostly irrelevant” to today’s world?
Fleming’s yarn, as I recall it, had Drax planning to destroy Brighton with a rocket. Likely to be confused with a car backfiring these days. So, yes, the stakes had to be higher. Much higher.

What was the motivation to shift slightly away from the Fleming-style novelisation you wrote for "The Spy Who Loved Me", to "James Bond and Moonraker" which stays a bit closer to the film?
I was unaware that there was a change of style in the two novelisations I did. In both books I tried to replicate Fleming’s style whilst taking on board the far more exotic, bravura demands of a Bond movie. Not easy.

A couple of elements are missing or partially included compared to the film: Trudi Parker's murder and Bond killing the sniper during the pheasant shoot. What were the reasons for this?
Any changes I made from the screenplays were done with hindsight and because, I imagine, I thought they worked better. Given all the time (and money!) in the world it would be great to have the luxury of writing a novel full of detail and then paring and adapting this material to the screen. Also, when you see the actual movie you are its/your worst critic. You can see immediately where it could have been better (you think). Doing a novelisation gives you the chance to put things right.

How much input did (uncredited) Michael G. Wilson have on the screenplay?
Michael was always present at script conferences and made a lively contribution - without writing anything.

Above: The British paperback used Daniel Gouzee teaser poster artwork, and the American paperback used artwork from the poster campaign by Robert McGinnis.

Moonraker the movie, although ranked lowly by most Bond fans, transfers nicely in your novelisation with a good plot and realistic characters. Do you feel the movie wandered too far into comedy/slapstick?
Moonraker may be ‘ranked lowly’ but, at the time, it was the biggest-grossing Bond ever.Yes, I agree. Moonraker did go too far towards tongue in cheek, or ‘comedy/slapstick’ as you call it. I constantly suggested that Bond should be put in more real danger, something that the audience could empathise with. One example: in the glassworks scene I wanted 007 attacked with a white hot poker that would be plunged into a padded chair just beside his head. The leather/straw filling would ignite, melt, shrivel, with flames scorching Bond’s face as he struggled to twist away. We would feel what might have happened to his flesh. C.f. the famous laser scene in ‘Goldfinger.’ But, alas, the tone stayed too jokey and I cannot escape some of the blame for this.

Above: Christopher Wood with Michael G. Wilson

Which incarnation of your Jaws character do you prefer? The slapstick cartoon movie version, or the dark and sinister literary version?
In ‘Spy,’ Jaws was meant to be scary. Kiel’s playing persuaded Lewis Gilbert to exploit his menace for laughs. We just got away with it in ‘Spy’. Not, as far as I am concerned, in Moonraker. His petite love interest made me squirm.

Jaws came back in the 2003 video game “Everything or Nothing” as the character is often voted as the most popular villain in the Bond series. Would you like to see him come back in a future movie (recast)?
An emphatic NO! to Jaws coming back. Something original please.

Was your absence from the "For Your Eyes Only" movie production the reason why you didn't get to create a novelisation?
Yes, it would have been fun to have had the opportunity to create an original James Bond novel - but I wasn’t asked.

Your filmography often includes an "uncredited" role with the production of "James Bond Jnr". Does this just refer to your Jaws character?
As far as I know, I had nothing to do with ‘James Bond Junior’.

Both screenplays and novels are challenging - but you have more control over your work as a novelist. Hence my pleasure in writing "Sincere Male Seeks Love And Someone To Wash His Underpants" and "California, Here I Am" which describes, in part, a Hollywood considerably less agreeable than the one I encountered whilst working on 007.

Advice to any writer? Never lose faith in yourself. Never quit. Really enjoy what you are doing - it is the only reward you are guaranteed.

Can you tell us a bit about "Sincere Male..."?
The idea came to me when I thought about my own life. What would it be like to go out on the pull again? Not as a young man but as a mature, divorced male who has decided that he would like to settle down - again. I thought of my women friends - and how many I could afford to lose if they read the book, my children, my elderly mother and-and I couldn’t wait to start. The book is, in the main, I hope, a comedy.
Sincere Male Seeks Love And Someone To Wash His Underpants

What is the storyline to your latest novel "California, Here I Am"?
The book is based on a time I was writing screenplays in Hollywood and my son, fresh down from university and considering a career in the movies, came to stay with me. The story is told by a young man lodging with his ageing, boozing, womanising screenwriter father in Los Angeles, and moves around Hollywood, Santa Barbara, Sun Valley and a Virgin isle. Any resemblance between the characters and real people and events is regrettable.
California, Here I Am

00-Seven Questions

What was your first ever Bond experience?
Being rung up by Lewis Gilbert and asked if I wanted to write a Bond movie. I thought he was joking.

What is your favourite Bond novel?
Don’t have one.

What is your favourite Bond film?
The Spy Who Love Me (surprise, surprise)

What did you think of the last film, "Die Another Day"?
I would like to see some glamorous locations - as in above. Also, it is vital that stunts do not look as they have been created by a SX technician rather than by someone actually skiing off a precipice (see above). That iceberg-fall, tidal wave, wind surfer sequence in DID - pur-le-e-e-a-se!!

Who is your favourite Bond?
Sean was great and I am very fond of Roger.

What is your favourite Bond moment from the series?
The moment when the parachute opens in ‘Spy’ - and it is the Union Jack. Great to hear audiences all over the world cheering.

Would you like to come back to the Bond series?
I would love to do a polish on a Bond script with particular emphasis on injecting the maximum amount of wit and style. The high-tech aspects of Bond enthuse me rather less than his social life.

Related Articles
The Spy Who Loved Me - Movie Coverage
Moonraker - Movie Coverage

Many thanks to Christopher Wood and 21st Century Publishers