MI6 caught up with photographer Terry O'Neill, who has the distinction of having worked with all six James Bond actors...

Terry O'Neill Interview

26th July 2012

Legendary photographer Terry O'Neill has photographed some of the biggest celebrities and cultural icons of our time - from The Beatles to the Queen, he has shot them all. He also holds the rare distinction of being one of the only photographers to have officially photographed every actor to portray James Bond. To mark the 50th anniversary of the first cinematic appearance of James Bond, Terry O'Neill is launching a retrospective book - "All About Bond" - that will go on sale in September. MI6 caught up with Terry to ask him a little bit about his experiences working on the greatest film franchise of all time.

Was being a photographer something you'd always wanted to do?
No, no. I was just doing it to get to New York! I was a jazz drummer and I wanted to get to New York, so I took the job with British Airways to get taken in as an air steward. They'd just done one intake and there was six months before the next intake and they said if I took the job with British Airways (in the photographic unit) I'd stand a better chance of getting accepted. So, I did.

That's a bit of a departure from jazz drumming!
Yes!

Still, it's good because it enabled you to meet a lot of iconic musicians through the years, including The Beatles.
One of the first jobs I did was photographing The Beatles. They weren't famous then. They'd just recorded "Please, Please Me" and it hadn't come out yet, so I was ahead of the game.

One would imagine that if you're getting gigs photographing The Beatles, it's a pretty good indication that you're doing well. Is this when you realised you'd made it as a photographer?
Well, no! To be honest, we all thought it was going to grind to a halt. We used to meet in this club, The Beatles and The Stones, and we all used to talk about what job we were gonna get when all this was over! We did! We never thought it would last.

 


Above: Sean Connery on location in Nevada for "Diamonds Are Forever" photographed by Terry O'Neill.

Happily, you were proven wrong.
I was! When I got to America and I used to meet people like Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire, and they used to ask me about The Beatles, The Stones, Jean Shripmton and Mary Quant - all these names of the 60s - and I realised that it was for real! Of course, by the time I got back to England, The Beatles had packed up. At least The Stones are still knocking it out.


Above: Honor Blackman poses for a publicity photo.

Tell us, how did you get involved with shooting pictures for the James Bond films?
Well, when I was on "The Daily Sketch", they were a very keen show business paper and I used to go down on to the film sets to take pictures of certain scenes that they needed publicity on. And then I ended up working on a lot of the films. I left the "Sketch" when I was twenty-four and then I was employed as a special photographer to work on pictures. I was one of the youngest doing it, so it was all very good for me.

So, of the Bond films that you worked on, which would you say was the most memorable?
Well, they were all very interesting in their way. And all of the Bonds were interesting in their way, too. They all brought something to each of the films. Sean Connery was the original and he was great. And then there was Roger, Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby. Pierce Brosnan was excellent. They all brought something else to [the films]. I've just photographed Daniel Craig, and he's excellent.


Above: A candid picture of George Lazenby on location for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", photographed by Terry O'Neill.

What do you think of the incumbent 007, Daniel Craig?
Well, he's got the hardest job. I mean, when Sean was starting it, nobody knew anything about spies, but now everybody knows everything about [Bond], and Daniel's trying to fulfil that role and I think he's doing it brilliantly.

Obviously, Sean Connery set that benchmark. What was it like working with him as the Bond phenomenon was just starting to take off?
Oh, he was such a great guy! He was a fabulous Bond, I thought. But they're all good in their own way.


Above: Roger Moore and his leading ladies.

 

Roger Moore has got something of a reputation as a bon vivant and a practical joker. Have you got any stories from when you worked with him on his first picture, Live and Let Die?
Oh, not really. But Roger was always fun with it and it was always a lot of laughs.

You've photographed all the 007 actors in their time. What is it that remains so special for you about Bond, and is it something that you're still proud to have been involved in?
Of course! I mean I'm knocked out! I mean, I've photographed every Bond and that's quite something to have done in a lifetime, so it's incredible.

So, what can we to expect to see in "All About Bond"?
Oh, it's all behind the scenes photographs and some great stuff in there. It was very hard to limit it all, but I did it in the end.

You've also got an exhibition of photographs at the Proud Galleries. Is that tied into the launch of the book?
Yes, that'll be in September, when the book comes out. And to promote the 50th anniversary, when the film ["Skyfall"] comes out. It's the 50th year of Bond! It's excellent!


Above: Terry O'Neill.

Pre-Order "All About Bond"

Many thanks to Terry O'Neill and Ben Williams.

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