Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a bit of James Bond action so this year our ESP-ionage reporter has downloaded onto the ESP website an interview with Mark O’Connell, author of the brilliant book Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan…
Mark’s grandfather Jimmy use to be Cubby Broccoli’s chauffeur and this is the best book about being a James Bond fan you’ll ever read. It’ll make the perfect present for anyone you know who loves a bit of 007 in their lives, so let’s dispense with the pleasantries and begin our interrogation/interview with Mr O’Connell together with some of his photos from last year’s SPECTRE world premiere.
Congratulations on your brilliant book. Since its release have there been any further stories you’ve discovered or had told to you about your grandfather’s involvement with the Bond films?
“Thank you. Yes, I’ve been told further remembrances and recollections about Jimmy’s time in the backrooms and backseats of Bond. A lot of it has come from various folk – directors, staff old and new at EON Productions and former Bond publicity guru Charles ‘Jerry’ Juroe – who all simply knew him. Barbara Broccoli has been very kind towards the book, and her many memories of Jimmy are an important part of that for her and my family.”
There’s a running joke throughout Catching Bullets about secretly wanting to marry Octopussy actress Maud Adams. Since writing the book you’re now married (but not to her) although there was a Bond theme to your wedding. Can you tell us a bit about that?
“It was less of a Bond themed wedding than expected. Weddings in Bond films tend not to go too well (007’s wife was shot dead on the way from his own big day) so wanting to stand alongside those moments is not really a jinx one would want for your big day. Having Tracy Bond’s murder anthem We Have All the Time In The World as our first dance was not quite the note we wanted to start our married life on! Besides, the Bond wedding theme as such would have been what folk expected. It was more of a Pinewood Studios themed wedding as that was where we were fortunate enough to host it. That and a mix of Bond, our own influences and other movies went into the branding, décor and soundtrack choices. As I always said in the book we did have certain John Barry tracks played live over parts of the ceremony and we were very fortunate to have our speeches hijacked by a surprise telegram from a Bond.”
Everyday on my way to work, I drive past the location where 009 falls into the lock in the post-title sequence in Octopussy. Out of all the more glamorous Bond film locations you’ve visited what’s been your favourite?
“MOD marshland in Aldershot always springs to mind. No, seriously, I would still dearly love to visit Blofeld’s alpine retreat in Switzerland (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and Octopussy’s Palace in Udaipur, India. They are definitely on the list. Though I like to visit film locations if they happen to be where I am. Besides, movie locations tend not to be glamorous – even if the Bond lens suggests otherwise. I of course lapped up all the A View to a Kill locations in San Francisco – including the amazing historical Californian house in Oakland which we once had to ourselves. And Skyfall Lodge was built not far from where I live so we checked that amazing design project out a few times.”
A number of locals from Peterborough appeared as extras in Octopussy, but if you could have been an extra or had a cameo in any of the films which part would you have played?
“I really want to be a guest at a villain’s launch party. I want to be the suited partygoer Bond pushes to the ground as he races past. Or take events and Catching Bullets full circle and play a chauffeur in a Bond film. My grandfather Jimmy would be shocked, but quietly pleased. Yes, a chauffeur. I can do that. The petition starts here!”
I understand you attended the world premiere of SPECTRE last year at the Royal Albert Hall. What was that like as an event and is it true you nearly stood on Shirley Bassey’s foot on the red carpet?
“It was a very special night and one of great privilege. Our tailored wedding suits got a second outing and we met loads of great and well-dressed Bond folk, writers, cast members and creatives from across the globe. It is a most surreal moment to step onto a Bond film red carpet (this time with Bond and Octopussy actress Kristina Wayborn who was accompanying friends of ours) and walk that fevered but excitable tunnel of cheers, press, cameras and lights. And I did that double take at Double-O Seven thing when realising Daniel Craig was alongside me keeping the world’s press happy. I may have accidentally stood on Ms Bassey’s shoes, yes. There are a lot of people on that red carpet at the Albert Hall and space got tight at one point. I don’t think she noticed.”
How will you be spending Christmas 2016 and have you got anything Bond related planned for 2017?
“Christmas for me is spending it with my other half, movies, wine, chocolate, more wine and friends. One of my festive rituals is to watch the Christmas bound Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As for the new year and 2017, I do have a new project in the wings which I am very excited and proud about. All I will say is watch this space…”
Photos: Copyright Mark O’Connell