You Only Live Twice
40th Anniversary

Cast and crew members from the production of You Only Live Twice look back on the film on its 40th anniversary...


Opinion - And Twice Is The Only Way To Live! (4)
20th June 2007

In the fourth part of the special "And Twice Is The Only Way To Live" series, cast and crew members from the production look back on the film on its 40th anniversary.

Vic Armstrong - On His First 007 Adventure...
I received a phone call from a mate of mine, Bill Weston. “I’ve got a contract you can have, Vic”, he said. “I can’t do it.” Bill was doubling for Keir Dullea in 2001 and it was going on forever. Meanwhile, this movie was under way at Pinewood Studios called You Only Live Twice. “Just tell them you’re replacing me.” I couldn’t believe it. I tore up to Pinewood and was directed to the backlot, where the famous “007 Stage” stands today. Back then it was just barren ground, out of which had temporarily sprouted a mass of scaffolding. Inside was a marvel of set design – a volcano rocket base, the new headquarters of SPECTRE. I was gobsmacked. I haven’t seen a set to this day as big as that. I met the film’s action coordinator, the legendary Bob Simmons. Pointing up to the roof Bob said, “We want somebody to slide down there on a rope firing a gun –think you can do that?” I said, “Yeah, piece of cake.”

  Virtually every stunt man in England had been brought in for this battle sequence and others besides. There were mini cab drivers, strong-arm men, drug dealers, spivs, everyone you could think of – real tearaways, but fantastic characters. They brought in girls by pretending they were holding auditions for the next Bond movie and filmed them doing the most outrageous things. And they got away with it. You’d be locked up and they’d throw away the key these days. And you could buy anything you wanted on that set. Smoked salmon, sherry, toys, anything – it was all in the back of their cars. All these things were going on. It was hysterical.

The first thing everyone had to learn was how to slide down from the roof ninja-style, using a piece of rubber hose that we could squeeze on the rope to break the fall. At the top it was scary as hell – 125 feet between you and the studio floor. If you let go of the rope, you were a goner. On one take this guy came hurtling down, whoosh, straight into the ground. The director yelled “Cut!” and everyone ran back to their starting positions except this one guy who was still moaning “Aarghhh!” I thought, “He’s a good actor!” We walked over and he had broken both ankles. He was in agony.

On that movie, I caught my first sighting of a star I’d work with many times in the future, Sean Connery. But I was a nobody in those days and the stars walked on rarified air way from the workers. So I never met Sean back then. He was just God, brought in and out of the set, a bit like the Pope arriving at the Vatican for a service. He came in on his little cart and went out again, stopping only for a few Hail Marys.

By far my biggest job in movies to date, You Only Live Twice was a massive learning curve for me, just being around so many stunt men, soaking up their experiences. And I learned so much from Bob Simmons. Even today when I see that volcano sequence I get a huge kick out of knowing that I’m the fist ninja coming down, guns blazing. -- Vic Armstrong, 2005


(Excerpted from Vic Armstrong’s column in Cinema Retro magazine #4. Reprinted with permission. The magazine covers Bond-related stories in every issue. Visit

Vic Armstrong's first James Bond film was You Only Live Twice where he was an uncredited stuntman. He went to work on a further XX 007 adventures, culminating in an Second Unit Director role for 2002's Die Another Day. He is the world's most prolific stuntman according to The Guinness Book of World Records.


Shane Rimmer - On The Acting Challenges..
I was right in the middle of a lot of work with Gerry Anderson, mostly writing for him at that point – Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and that sort of thing. Occasionally I would provide the voices for guest characters. All of the sudden I had to act visually again – of course on the other projects I was doing voice work and I didn’t have to present myself in front of the camera.

The tough thing about You Only Live Twice was that the control console was staggering. It was huge! Every bit of space on it was occupied by a dial or a button or a gage. So, you could go through the sequence once but there were going to be retakes. You’d either do it all again, or just bits and pieces of it.

Remembering what button did what, on top of the fact that it had to coincide with whatever you were talking about, was a challenger. It was a tracking device – trying to keep track of this run-away rocket. That was tough, your heart was in your mouth! I’m sure a couple of times I did it, the sequence wasn’t quite the same. You just had to have blind faith and hope to God that it made sense. It was quite a staggering piece of machinery to get used to. That was about the most memorable experience from my point of view. -- Shane Rimmer, 2007

Shane Rimmer was born in Toronto, Canada. After a successful career in Canadian Radio & T.V. he was brought to England in the late 50’s by Director Richard Lester to appear in an ITV Network Special. He stayed on to appear in 50 films in the U.K. & Europe.

Wing Commander Ken Wallis - On Flying Little Nellie...

I hadn't been in a James Bond film before in fact, I knew of them, but I hadn't even seen one. I didn't realize what the long term effect that it would have. It was absolutely wonderful and I must say that I got on with everyone well. It was a bit like typical filmmaking where you have to do the same shot time and time again it was some interesting flying. I had been to Japan before but that was with the atom bomb but obviously this was after the war. So very different…

It was wonderful I didn't realize the long term effect that it would have, when I talk about Autogyro’s people aren’t to sure what but then if you say well did you ever see the James Bond film You Only Live Twice they know exactly what you're talking about.

Little Nellie is still a big girl it took me a while to remember why she was called Little Nellie, it was because of my nickname early in the war, from the musical star Nellie Wallace not Wallis but nearly the same. So the name Nellie stuck with me. -- Wing Commander Ken Wallis, 2007

Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis MBE, DEng (hc), CEng, FRAeS, FSETP, PhD (hc), RAF (Ret'd), is one of the leading exponents of autogyros. He has held 34 records relating to them. He provided and flew Little Nellie in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. and is President of the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum.

Nancy Sinatra - On Performing The Theme...
I was panic stricken from the very beginning of the whole procedure. I would rather have root canal surgery than go through that again!

You Only Live Twice was difficult in a lot of ways. The fact that is was quite rangey, and I wasn't used to that, I was used to my little octave and a half. I even asked John [Barry], are you sure you want me to do this, because maybe you need Shirley Bassey? But they said no, we want you, we want your sound.

There were bad notes, they just editted it together. They didn't want to embarrass me. I tried my best - I was 26 years old and really scared. But there is a sweetness to it that the other Bond songs just don't have. -- Nancy Sinatra, 2007

Nancy Sinatra is an American singer and actress, best known for her 1966 signature hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'". She is the daughter of popular singer Frank Sinatra, and performed the title song for "You Only Live Twice".

Above: Singer Nancy Sinatra and composer John Barry at CTS studios recording the theme song in 1967

The views of these columnists and those expressed in this article are not necessarily those of or its owners.

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You Only Live Twice - 40th Anniversary

MI6 would like to thank everyone for their kind contributions to the You Only Live Twice 40th Anniversary celebration features.