MI6 caught up with underwater engineer Jordan Klein
to talk about and his work on "Thunderball", "Live
and Let Die" and "Never
Say Never Again"...
Klein Interview (1)
Jordan Klein Interview (2)
14th January 2009
"Thunderball" is noted for its
large-scale underwater sequences. How were these in pioneering
and how is such a big production handled underwater?
It was amazing. We had 40 divers in one scene, plus camera
and safety personnel. It was the
good guys (in white) and the bad guys (in red and black) and the
camera crew. That was truly incredible.
We had trouble finding
divers that understood quarter inch wet suits and their
compressibility. Most would weight themselves to sink at
the surface, as they went down they became heavier and
went down rapidly, some with dire results like blown eardrums.
So divers would jump in the water and we'd tell them, "OK
trim yourself out and go to the bottom." We
had safety divers in the water watching them. All these
hot-shot divers from up and down Miami and the coast
of Florida came over and jumped in the water and ended
with about six blown ear drums and all kinds of problems.
The rubber in the new suits was monocellular, so the water just compressed the bubbles it didn't squeeze the air out. When you went down you would get less and less buoyant because the bubbles were being compressed in the wetsuit. The weight you put on the surface was about four times what you needed to stay at the bottom. Once they started down the suits provided less and less buoyancy which made the diver descend more rapidly, crashing to the bottom. It became a nightmare to get enough people. It took us over a week to get enough divers for the fight scene.
What were you responsible
for on the Thunderball shoot?
My job as 'Director of Underwater Engineering' was
to provide workable underwater props. The Bomb Carrier, as
well as the Sleds, had to work almost every day. This required
all 28 batteries to be charged, spears reloaded into the Bomb
Carrier, all air ballast tanks had to be filled and any repairs
had to be made. This took four technicians all night to accomplish.
Right: Jordan Klein
on location in the Bahamas.
You were back with the Bond team for "Live
And Let Die" where you were responsible for shark wrangling.
What aspect does this add to the production?
I was involved with the shark wrangling, yes. I did filming on that. In one scene there was a good guy and a bad guy and they were fighting away and I see a shark in the background. I think, "I don't believe this!" The
shark is coming and coming and I kept the camera running. Then
the fighting guys both look and see the shark and they both stop
fighting, watch the shark and then the shark swims by and they
continue fighting. You couldn't have set up that scene.
What goes into guiding
the sharks and keeping the actors safe?
We had a pretty good system on shark wrangling that
we started, I think, it was in that picture. After that there
were a lot of pictures with sharks and we figured it out pretty
quick. Ricou Browning was the Underwater Director on that,
and he also wrote "Flipper" - he's a true
animal lover and likes to train them.
We ended up having a pretty good system.
We knew how to release them to come toward the camera,
to go away from the camera, to go up or down. It was very
We understood the psychology of a specific shark
after working with him for just a few minutes. The psychology
was different for almost every one of them. Fortunately, we could
out think them.
Having worked on both "Never Say Never
Again" and "Thunderball", which share plot elements
and sequences, from your perspective and role, how did they
"Thunderball" would have to
be my overall favourite. I did the exact same
thing on both of them. I built the underwater
hardware and props and some of the sets. I started out doing filming
and ended up operating the Bomb Carrier. As far as the excitement
of shooting those particular scenes, and being involved, there
were some of the scenes of "Never
Say Never Again" that I enjoyed doing a lot more than "Thunderball" and
vice-versa. The funny part that I remember during the shooting
of "Thunderball" was that the word got out
but I don't remember how, was that "Thunderball" was
going to be the first $100 million gross production! You
can do that in a weekend now. Of course, $100 million won't buy
what it did back then.
Above: Jordan Klein and his team work
with the bomb sled from "Never
Say Never Again"...
How much did you work with the actors versus
We worked with the actors - with Sean Connery and a lot of the girls. They had training but not too much time to get serious training. Connery really didn't like diving all that much, but he was there for the important shots. The best part of the day was heading back to the dock after a day working with the girls. They would change out on deck as if they were one of the guys!
On the Bond productions, who is responsible for the direction or the over-all vision of an underwater sequence?
Ricou was the director - and he is the best wet director ever to do underwater - he's not the kind of director to sit up there in a chair in the sunshine and talk about it. He'll be the first in the water and the last out. He knows what he wants to see and then he'll discuss it with the camera crew as to how it can be done. I did most of the rigging with a crew, pretty much at his direction.
Right: Sean Connery
and Claudine Auger shoot a sequence in the shallows.
What are some of the technical challenges filming a portion of a picture underwater compared with regular filmmaking?
What most Producers and Directors don't consider when working on an underwater project - they don't put themselves in an underwater environment. That's a deadly sin for a director. The underwater camera is omni-directional, it can move in any direction, you can go backwards, forwards, do a 360-degree roll or invert yourself or all of the above at once. In production people don't think that way. This makes production more costly and without the action they are seeking. The underwater camera can produce shots that can only be dreamed about on land.
I think the camera underwater should be moving all the time to enhance the action. You can always enhance the action by moving away or back of following or passing by. The cameraman has to understand the physics of the whole thing, what he can and can't do and the amount of time the scene is going to take. I feel very comfortable under these circumstances.
Are you currently involved in any film or television productions and if so what are your responsibilities?
I wrote a script while working on another picture in 1993.
The name of it is "Whiskers" - which
is a working title. It's about a Sea Lion that is a "Fugitive".
None of the three S's is involved - no sex, shooting, swearing
- so it probably can't be successful with what is going on in today's
market, but we'll give it a hard try. I have interested parties
saying that they've got the money and we can go to production very
soon. That should be an interesting show and it's ideal for a TV
Jordan Klein Interview (1)
Live And Let Die Coverage
Never Say Never Again Coverage
Many thanks to Jordan Klein. All pictures,
unless otherwise stated, courtesy Jordan Klein.