MI6 caught up with author Laurent Bouzereau to talk about the new official book "The Art of James Bond"...

Laurent Bouzereau Interview (1)
4th October 2006

The Art of Bond book was announced in 2002, why has it taken so long for this book to come to fruition?
Well, the question should really be directed to the official Bond group – it was their idea. They had been working on this idea prior to my involvement and the timing of the project had to go along with an event in the Bond world, which may have been one of the reasons. I think the event of a new James Bond picture has allowed us to look back at the overall artistic contribution behind Bond. I think it was definitely a reason of timing.

What was your brief when you came on board the project?
The brief was all in the title ‘The Art of Bond’ and they said to me, we want to pay tribute to everything that is artistic about Bond.

I thought the best way to do it was… I have a huge Bond book collection, and there are the DVD’s, as well, which are very informative. So much has been written, and written well. I felt it was a challenge to find a format that would be different, because some of the stories and anecdotes we were going to cover had already been talked about and discussed.

So I tried to find a format that would make it a first person account – more of a conversation piece. I meet with the people at Eon and the producers as I wanted to find out who was still around from behind the camera, so that when the new Bond movie comes out, this person can speak for the overall artistic merits of the franchise.

Above: Book jacket artwork.
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They immediately liked the idea and I said, ‘if you can guarantee me that you are going to get the likes of Guy Hamilton, Ken Adam and all those people; I think I can create a narrative structure that will take the readers easily from the novels to the release of a film.’

This would cover the entire Bond series in film making steps. From script, to designing a poster, we would do interviews to get an insight into how it happens. I also threw something else in that I quickly regretted, I thought later: ‘what if this does not happen!’

I wanted to add five figures that were not Bond related directors and authors. These were my connections to those two worlds, which had all acknowledged being influenced by James Bond. They could pop in and out of the book in between quotes from people that worked on the films, Eon asked who, so I suggested Ken Follett. I didn’t know him, but he has spoken about Ian Fleming a lot. Peter Robinson who spoke about Bond theories and always has a reference to James Bond and Peter Benchley who unfortunately had passed away – he loved James Bond and the character Jaws. I had worked with Steven Spielberg so I thought way not ask him and Eon got very excited about that, because it would put the book in perspective.

Above: Laurent Bouzereau

The reason why I regretted it was I feared that all those people say ‘NO’ and said ‘I’m not interested in participating in the book.’ However I was very much luck because everybody from my ‘A List’ got onboard.

Can you tell us what the underlying narrative for this book is?
I think narrative of the book is taking the reader through the process of making a Bond film, or even any movie. There is a very unique approach that truly comes out in the interviews. It shows the unique way those movies are produced.

If you make any action movie you start with a script or book and end it with a poster. The way the Bond movies are done there is a huge emphasis on second unit and unique stunts which has started a whole trend in action movies.

It was interesting to create, within the narrative, the story of going from a script to casting, filming stunts, etc – highlighting why Bond is unique in each of those steps and why Bond stands out as the one franchise that started it all or who reinvented the genre.

How long did it take you to complete your work on the book?
It’s hard to say, I was brought in when ‘Die Another Day’ was coming out and even then it was question of finding when will this book come out, we liked the concept of the interviews, but what would the reason for bring out that book, why are we going back to all those people, what are we celebrating and when it became clear that the new movie was going forward and they had a new script and release date then it all became much more clear.

We planned to do the interviews right away. It took just over a year carry out the interviews and deliver the final manuscript. I conducted over 50 hours with everyone. I’m a Bond fan, not a Bond fanatic, I don’t mean this in any negative, way what so ever. I was interested in more of a mainstream approach.

We are trying to appeal to a larger audience and ask a filmmaker, for example a director, ‘Are you a Bond fan?’ like Michael Apted or Lewis Gilbert, ‘did you know anything about Bond before you worked on them?’. You realise that most of them had never read the novels and it was not necessarily for directors to, for that type of movie. If you think of Michael Apted – he is known mainly for movies like, ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ or ‘Coal Miners Daughter’ and of course his documentary work. I wanted the book to be more mainstream, without alienating fans.

I’m a Bond fan and I wanted to talk about the tune from ‘Close Encounters’ that was used in Moonraker, little tidbits and homage’s, which are really fascinating to me. I was trying to be more concerned about the filmmakers. As a filmmaker, if you’ve never directed that type of film, to a franchise like Bond that have over 20 years history what happens do you, freak out?, hesitate?, embrace it?, Watch all the movies? What do you do?

I think this book answers those questions, that’s why I think this book is unique and so is the approach to the material.

Above: Director Lewis Gilbert during the production of "The Spy Who Loved Me".

Why did you not add your now overall commentary to the book?
It was a really strong personal choice, I don’t think anybody cares what I think, I wanted the book to stick to the rule of not having any third party commentary. I don’t want to sound pompous, but I wanted it to be it to be a gift to the people who are the creators of Bond. By bringing my voice in about the movies and trying to link the quotes would betray my loyalty to the interviewees.

Above: Director Guy Hamilton (right) on the set of "Diamonds Are Forever".

Each time I interviewed somebody for this book I would introduce the book as:
‘This is your book, this is you talking. I’m not going to put this into text, it will be a narrative linked by what you are saying. They were so excited that I knew I was on the right track. As I interviewed more people I could see the quotes started to connect together. If I had just interviewed Ken Adam and I was then going to interview Lewis at his house I would be able to connect them immediately from what Ken had said.

Everybody was so excited about it, which confirmed to me that this was about them, not what I think about the movies and my own experience.

I hesitated a one point when I wanted to bring in my own quotes, dealing with my own experience with Bond. But I said ‘no, this book is not about me’. It’s hopefully about asking the questions none of the Bond fans or people who appreciate art and the artistic narrative of filmmaking would have.

I tried to mimic my approach to documentary filmmaking. I’ve made over 150 documentaries for DVD and Laser Disc. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a voiceover, it is very rare, even for example when I was doing a documentary about ‘Rear Window’, where everybody is gone.

For me it’s not about what I think or a critical approach as that’s been done well by others, it was really about those incredible people who do the magic – the people behind the camera. But it was also to acknowledge the talent in front of the camera, there is some great quotes from the directors all about the cast members, girls and villains – but it was always approached through the eye of the director.

Many thanks to Laurent Bouzereau. Stay tuned to MI6 for further coverage of "The Art of James Bond"

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