Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Nobody Does it Better

The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond

Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross

Forge Books

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

JUST SAY (DOCTOR) NO.…


“Why is it that people who can’t take advice always insist on giving it?”

BY Mark A. Altman

If you’re someone like me who plays “Arrival in Miami” on their iPhone blasting through earbuds as they come in for a landing at Miami International Airport or insists on staying at the Hotel Fontainebleau because that’s where Bond first tangled with Auric Goldfinger and drank Dom Pérignon ’53 at 38 degrees Fahrenheit with golden girl Jill Masterson, then this book is definitely for you.

And it’s decidedly not just “man talk.”

There have been a myriad of truly spectacular books written about the only gentleman secret agent with a license to kill—and thrill—over the years (and my bookshelf is filled with them), but for Ed Gross and me, we wanted to do something different and unique in examining the 007 oeuvre, to not only explore the making of these seminal films but also examine why they have had such an incredible impact and enduring appeal for fans as well as an entire generation of contemporary filmmakers who grew up on these movies.

Full disclosure: the first 007 movie I ever saw in a theater, which inspired my lifelong obsession with James Bond, was quite improbably The Man with the Golden Gun (although you could argue it was North by Northwest, really, which I saw at the wonderful Thalia revival house in Manhattan with my mom, that inspired my obsessive devotion to cinema ever since), which my parents took me to see when I was seven years old. To say it was a life-changing experience would not be an overstatement. Ironically, the film that inspired my passion for 007 is probably now one of my least beloved installments, but I will forever be grateful for its lighting the spark of my imagination as well as immediately sending me to the library, where I began haunting the stacks to check out all the Ian Fleming novels as well.

My story is similar to many of the others you will read about in this book. From then on, it was years of watching the movies, often truncated and out-of-sequence, on the still justly beloved ABC Sunday Night Movie. There was something truly magical about Ernie Anderson’s stentorian voice announcing, “Tonight, Sean Connery is James Bond, 007, in the one that started it all, Dr. No.” To me, the famous star tunnel and opening strains of The ABC Sunday Night Movie theme are as indelibly a part of Bond lore as anything in the films themselves. Strangely enough, I can still remember how they banished On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (or as Bond aficionados and typesetters know it best, OHMSS) to Friday nights and was amazed to see the pre-title teaser of Goldfinger for the first time on VHS (incongruously following a Pink Panther cartoon) since it had been routinely excised on ABC to make the film fit a two-hour time slot with commercials.

Growing up in Brooklyn in the Seventies, there were a few arguments that one routinely had in the schoolyard: Mets or Yankees (Mets!), Star Trek or Star Wars (Trek!), Giants or Jets (I don’t care!), and, most importantly, Sean Connery or Roger Moore. I have to admit, I loved them both. As much as Connery was and always will be the most iconic 007, Roger Moore crafted an equally memorable, albeit far different, take on Bond as a debonair gentleman spy. (Other than me, I don’t think anyone else in middle school actually knew who George Lazenby was, BTW.)

Of course, I was the proud owner of a Corgi DB5 silver Aston Martin and most of the soundtrack albums, some of which I covertly purloined from my parents’ stereo rack, and would religiously buy the Best of Bond LPs, which inevitably would be updated every time a new 007 movie came out with the latest title song. I often wondered what would happen when there would be too many songs to fit on one record, failing to anticipate the arrival of the compact disc or MP3s, which allowed you to have both Sheryl Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” and k.d. lang’s “Surrender” in your Bond songs compilation without ever risking running out of space.

In the following years, I’ve probably spent the equivalent of a small mortgage payment on buying and re-buying all the films on VHS, then laser disc, then laser disc box set, then DVD, then Special Edition DVD, then Ultimate Special Edition DVD, to be followed by Blu-ray, 50th anniversary Blu-ray box set, SVOD, and inevitably 4K UHD.

Watching the opening of any Bond movie is special, its always holding the promise that it will be the best one yet; the strains of the “James Bond Theme,” the gun barrel logo, the hint of nudity in the always spectacular opening credits. But if The Man with the Golden Gun had proven to be my gateway drug into the incredible world of 007, it was seeing The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 at a multiplex in Valley Stream, Long Island, that would make me a lifetime member. In my opinion, the best of Roger Moore’s films, Spy had it all—except anything lifted from the novel, of course. It was the one book that Ian Fleming demanded the producers not adapt (although there are small vestiges of two of the characters in the film that remain). I never missed the arrival of a James Bond film, and I could tell you every theater I ever saw them at. I vividly remember, on my very first book tour, I played hooky from a book signing while in San Francisco to go see GoldenEye opening day at the Castro. As my coauthor Ed Gross once joked in a moment of gallows humor uncharacteristic of him, it’s disappointing to know that one day we’ll be dead, but they’ll still be making James Bond films we’ll never get to see. That said, it kind of bummed us both out.

And speaking of bummers, I recall being particularly agitated over a decade ago when it was first announced Daniel Craig had been cast as James Bond. I just couldn’t square the craggy-faced star of Tomb Raider as my favorite gentleman agent with a license to kill. Sure, I loved him in Layer Cake and Munich, but the rotten son in Road to Perdition was no 007. I remember being so irate, and perhaps a tad inebriated, while attending the Sitges Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain, moments after the announcement had come out that I began to ask every British tourist I could find what they thought in the hopes it would buoy my spirits, only to find they were as flummoxed and gobsmacked as I was about this rather odd casting choice. But leave it to Barbara Broccoli to make us all look like complete fools in what proved to be perhaps the most inspired, original, and savvy casting choice since Sean Connery himself was first hired by Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

It’s a testament that over the course of more than five decades, this unique family business, first under the aegis of the late, great Cubby Broccoli and later daughter Barbara and Michael Wilson, has managed to never miscast a Bond. Sure, there have been better Bonds and worse, but none of them have ever been irredeemably awful or miscast. Every one of them has earned the right to wear that tuxedo and intone, “Bond, James Bond.” They left us both shaken and stirred and it’s comforting to know that they will for many, many years to come.

And the Broccoli family has given my family a great gift as well. In the last few months of finishing this exhaustive tome, I was forced to give up my prized Sideshow James Bond action figures to my ten-year-old son, Isaac, who has become as obsessed with the films as his father. Like my amazing dad, Michael, before me, I am now passing on 007 to the next generation of Bond fan. When he looked up at me after studying a photo of the ornate conference room in Thunderball and said, “Do you notice in the briefing that Bond sits in the seventh seat for 007,” I couldn’t have been more proud. He’d unearthed something even I had never realized. And to listen to him do a mean Donald Pleasence as he returns to his room saying, “We heard you were assassinated in Hong Kong … well, you only live twice, 007,” made it clear he deserved every one of those action figures, from Dr. No to Oddjob to Pussy Galore to, gulp, Jaws, as painful as it might have been for me to part with them.

So this is not a “making of” book you’re now holding in your hands (or tablet). You’re going to read a lot of commentary and opinions that will infuriate you, excite you, and absolutely baffle you. That’s part of the fun of being a Bond fan, and we wanted to bring those conversations to these pages, the same ones you and your friends have over martinis at the local watering hole or over a pint at a nearby pub; we wanted to create a fresh, new take on the 007 films by not only chronicling the making of these movies, but allowing other filmmakers, critics, and fans to share their thoughts about these movies and their impact over the decades.

While you may disagree with a lot of what you read in these pages, we hope the one opinion you will share when all is said and done is that “this is the big one, 007.” It was for us. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Ejector seat not included.

Maybe Christmas does come more than once this year after all.

Mark A. AltmanOctober 29, 2018


TOMORROW NEVER LIES


“I’m putting on a little scientific demonstration in Iceland this weekend. Perhaps you could join us?”

BY Edward Gross

James Bond wielded the knife with obvious skill. He approached, blade barely glinting in the light, and pounced, the knife coming down to join the awaiting fork. “I usually eat fruit,” he said simply, “but today I’m in the mood for a good English breakfast.” And with that, he began his meal.

Admittedly it’s not stopping Ernst Stavro Blofeld from stealing space capsules, weaponizing diamonds, and authoring all of Bond’s pain; preventing Auric Goldfinger from radiating the gold in Fort Knox or having Karl Stromberg and Hugo Drax threaten humanity with extinction, but it was my experience with Agent 007 back in 1994.

At the time, I was senior editor at Cinescape magazine and writing a cover story on the 17th James Bond movie—and the first one to star Pierce Brosnan—GoldenEye. Even more incredibly, I was flown to England to spend a few days on the set at Leavesden Studios, later to be home to the Star Wars prequels and Harry Potter films.


Copyright © 2020 by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross