MI6 takes a look back at the World Royal Premiere of Die Another Day in 2002 with producer Simon Harries...

Interview - "Premiere Bond" Producer Simon Harries (2)
22nd March 2006

MI6 chatted with Producer Simon Harries to discuss the making of ‘Premiere Bond’ for ITV (UK) in 2002.
Click here to read part 1

What was it like to interview the Bond family?
As it happens we never got too close to them. We never met Barbara Broccoli although I did get the chance to interview Michael G. Wilson for five minutes and he seemed perfectly pleasant in that time scale. It’s all down to the way MGM, and all other film companies, arrange the interviews. You are given a very strict six minute window with each person you meet, you try to get through as many of your questions as you can and then you’re out!

Each actor or producer/director sits in a different suite with a dedicated two-camera crew, and you are whisked in for your questions and then straight out, so the people from Film 2006 or CD:UK can get in after you, or maybe the journos from Germany, France or Spain. You never get a good sense of what the person is really like. I’m sure they must be bored out of their wits sat there all day meeting fifty total strangers, one after the other, being asked practically the same six questions. Our challenge as interviewers is to try to think laterally and be different from other journalists, intriguing them with questions that they may not have heard before or which are a bit quirky.

For example, there’s a scene in Die Another Day which I noticed at the advance screening where Brosnan is breaking into an airfield. His watch gadget has failed to work and the only means he has of getting through the chain-link fence is to squirm around in his pockets and pull out a pair of gardening secateurs. As if this famous secret agent had just been tending to his rose bushes or something! When we got to meet Brosnan we asked him why he had been sent on a top secret mission into North Korea with a pair of secateurs, which made him laugh out loud. This is also the reason why our presenter Julia had the idea of bringing along her rubber ducky! It was purely intended as a means of getting a cheap laugh!


We asked Brosnan how his Bond would use it to kill an enemy if no other objects were handy. He said he’d shove it down their throats. I think Halle Berry said she’d shove it somewhere else, but we didn’t use that clip! I can see why people who saw the interviews think the rubber ducky question was a bit naff – but I stand by it because it just made a change. In fact, Brosnan protested because it didn’t squeak.

The stars seemed to be on good form. Toby Stephens was dry and amusing, Halle Berry seemed to be good fun. Rosemund Pike was a little nervous when Julia asked her about her sex scene. It is an obvious tabloid question and we all probably know what a sex scene must be like to film. But as a journalist you feel you need to ask it just to gain some kind of reaction, so that you can judge the interviewee based on his or her reaction. Experienced, charismatic stars can easily laugh off questions like that or find entertaining ways to answer them, but I don’t think Rosamund Pike cared for that one at all. She became rather edgy and kept looking at the publicist to see if the question could be dropped. But Julia persisted and we eventually got an answer delivered so excruciatingly through gritted teeth that I couldn’t even hear it and I’m not sure we even used it.

Were there any funny moments on the red carpet?
Not really, no! Of the cameras we had working on the red carpet, we had one guy who was shooting steadicam, walking alongside and in front of the stars as they met their fans. When Brosnan arrived, we ended up with several shots of some very young girls who were totally overcome with excitement. It was like watching archive footage of 60s teenage girls when they saw the Beatles in concert, crying and tearing their hair out. Very funny!

There was a company that had arranged a whole wall of fireworks to explode upon Brosnan’s arrival. A sheet of flame was supposed to flash some 12 feet into the air along the whole length of the red carpet. We had filmed their technicians wiring up all the pyro effects, but unfortunately all their efforts had been for nothing. When the police opened up the barriers to let the paparazzi into the compound, and these guys came tearing down the red carpet in order to seize the best vantage points, some of them hit the kerb and ripped out a lot of the pyro cables. The effects didn’t go off properly. Instead of being a wall of flame, it was just a puff, with three or maybe four sparkles. So the paps ruined Brosnan’s big pyrotechnic entrance!

One of the best reactions we got through filming on the red carpet was from John Cleese. He had recorded those voice-over lines about the “Best of Bond” for me and he vaguely remembered doing it. He hadn’t been briefed in advance that he would be asked to do something with us on the red carpet, but he very gamely played along when Julia asked him to look down the camera at his special effects! It was like: “I think there are some gadgets down there John… Are there? Are there really?!”


So what was it like working with the new Q?
It was weird, because I really, really admire John Cleese and always have, mostly because of Fawlty Towers which – again – reminds me fondly of the 70s but still stands up today as hilarious, bittersweet comedy. I think Cleese is brilliant.

The idea that we might have been able to do something specially with him came about very late in our schedule, and it was suggested by the PR from 20th Century Fox, Stephanie Wenbourn. I think her angle was that there would be a cool exclusive video to be played on the big screen outside the Royal Albert Hall, and I agreed because it would mean that I would have a cool exclusive segment to go in my ITV programme, which was my priority all along. So that’s what happened.

I think the original idea from Fox was that they would ask John to think of 20 great clips and write some funny gags to go with them. Well I knew there was no way he was going to do that. Why should he? When would he have time to do that on his junket schedule?! This kept being bounced around as an idea, and there was lots of fretting because Eon Productions insisted on vetting any script before John read it. It got to the afternoon before the shoot with John and I said, “Look, why don’t we just write something and you can get it cleared? Then you can send it to John and see if he likes the script?” So I wrote all that stuff with Debbie, my associate producer, e-mailed it over to Stephanie, who in turn e-mailed it to Eon and at about 7pm we heard back, “yes that’s fine, that’s going to happen.” No comment though about whether John liked it or not!

Finally at about 9pm I got an e-mail from Eon saying that he was fine with it, he had no problem with it at all. His only request was that we should put it on cue cards for him, so that he wouldn’t have to learn it? So I rushed out first thing the next morning to buy some large sheets of card. His sequence started with an in-joke about “Birds of the East Indies” which is the bit we put on cards, and since the rest was voice-over only, he was able to read that straight off the sheet of paper.

When I turned up, I did my interview with him and then we filmed the Best of Bond lines. John was absolutely charming. I think I actually got more value out of that meeting with Cleese, for our programme I mean, than I did from any of the other interviews because I think we got about fifteen minutes with him, instead of just six. Plus, Julia’s schedule meant that she couldn’t be present to interview John, so I did it, and I loved every minute of it. One of the questions I asked him was about being a Bond fan, because when Dr No came out, he would have been at Cambridge. “Oh God yes!” he said. He really went for that answer. But I don’t think I found a way to use it in the show. We did use his Q Girls joke though.

Was Roger Moore straight for every second?
I think we had just 40 seconds with him on the red carpet, one of those occasions when you have just one question and you can’t blow it. Since I had no means of communicating with Julia via an earpiece, I could hardly whisper an idea into her ear while she was in mid-conversation with him. I had to rely on her. When he finally turned up in front of our camera she asked him something like, “So what was your favourite Bond scene?” A question that, frankly, no one should ever ask except in desperation. It isn’t very special!

But he gave us a good answer, bless him. “Well I suppose the one I remember the most was in The Man with the Golden Gun, when I had to say to the man ‘Speak now or forever hold your piece…” Julia replied, “And did he?” Roger giggled back, “Yes he certainly did.” In an American accent for some reason! With that he moved on to the next camera.

We caught up with him after the premiere too. I’d had to leave for the LWT studio to start assembling the programme, because it was due on air in just twenty five hours. So I asked one camera crew to stay back and film vox-pops with people leaving, ideally famous people. They somehow found Roger on his way out and asked him: “10 out of 10, Roger?” He replied: “11 out of 10.” As I said before, I think the man is fantastic. Frankly I could watch him reading aloud the telephone directory.

Not only was it the biggest Bond premiere, it was also attended by The Queen. What was the atmosphere like?
There was a real buzz in the air. Everyone knew that it wouldn’t be just the stars of Die Another Day turning up but also all the old Bonds - except Connery. Even George Lazenby was there. Lots of the old Bond girls were there, Shirley Eaton, Lois Chiles, Maud Adams, and villains like Burt Kwouk.

The Queen had a hard task to follow that lot! So it gave the whole evening a wonderful air of celebration and excitement that I’ve not experienced at a premiere before or since. I think it was Timothy Dalton who compared the evening very favourably with The Oscars, in terms of scale and guest content!


I kept asking the crew, who were rigging the rooms where the Queen would meet the cast, to rig some microphones up so we could hear what the Queen would be saying to the actors. But I was met with looks of horror from all concerned, even from the first meeting at LLN. They had to keep reminding me that such behaviour was forbidden, due to protocol. One is just not allowed to record Her Majesty speaking to anybody. Eventually I gave up mentioning it, for fear of being sent to The Tower!

It ended up with me and Julia sitting with a representative from Fox PR in a small room behind the main presentation room. Julia had a small monitor and a sports mike and had been briefed to deliver a live official voice over to explain to the audience, both inside the hall and members of the public outside, who was meeting the Queen at any given moment. Julia had thought up a comment for each person and it worked quite well. I thought it was all a bit cheesy really, but then I’ve probably seen too much of Armando Iannucci’s comedy to tolerate such deferential voice-overs on footage of celebrities! So it was terrific to be there, standing in my hired dinner suit a matter of yards away from The Queen of England, struggling to make this programme and having the time of my life!

Did Madonna refuse to give you a sound bite or did you not catch her?
Madonna had spent quite a bit of time outside talking with fans and I think she had met Pierce Brosnan on the carpet. We weren’t quite sure which of them was going to walk in first, but it was Madonna and she had quite a pace on her! Julia yelled out from the mike to try and get her attention, something like, “Madonna! Madonna! Did you enjoy learning how to fence for your fencing scene?” Madonna ran past, determined not to speak to any crew if she could help it, but she yelled out, “I already could fence!”

So we couldn’t really use that answer, it was almost spat at us. So I put it to the PR representative from Fox who was accompanying her that perhaps Madonna should come and say something to us, since we were the crew who were covering the event for the big screen inside and fans outside, as well as the official premiere TV programme. I think they persuaded her to come over and wave. Julia tried to get another question in, but asked Guy Richie, “What’s it like having a great Bond star as your wife?” He mumbled, “This is her evening, not mine!” Then they rushed off again.

During the middle of the night did you ever wake up in a cold sweat about the rubber ducky question?
Like I said before, I’m completely unashamed about it. It always makes me laugh when I see it, partly because I know it annoys so many serious Bond fans. It’s just meant for a bit of light relief, and I didn’t intend to annoy people with it. It’s just there.

00-Seven Questions

How were you involved in the Bond series?
1) I was lucky enough to make a program about the premiere and meet some of the people who were in the Bond series.

What was your first ever Bond experience?
2) Watching Bond sometime on ITV in the late 70s when I was probably 8 or 9 and loving Roger Moore because I grew up with him.

What did you think of the last film, "Die Another Day"?
3) I enjoyed it! But I did feel that the middle part sagged a bit. I felt that there were too many villains and I hated the CGI effects. After that great opening surf board stunt, the later one involving Brosnan escaping from a tidal wave looked pretty awful. Like something out of a bad Blake’s Seven episode. You could see the fuzzy lines around him!

What is your favourite Bond film?
4) The Spy Who Loved Me.

Who is your favourite Bond?
5) Roger Moore.

Which Bond girl should come back?
6) I’m not sure. I think Maud Adams perhaps should come back

What is your favourite Bond moment from the series?
7) I like a lot of Sean Connery’s quips and reactions in “Diamonds Are For Ever, like the one where he asks Plenty O’Toole if she’s named after her dad! I also like the classic scene in Goldfinger: “Do you expect me to talk?” Gert Frobe is so easy to imitate down the pub.

Simon Harries - Website
Simon Harries - Personal Premiere Bond Coverage

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Many thanks to Simon Harries