Her Majesty's Secret Servant / Summer 1997
Tom Mankiewicz Interview Continued

B: When you were younger, were you a Bond fan?

M: I was a tremendous fan. I, like everyone else, started to read the books after Kennedy mentioned them; he was probably the greatest press agent the Bond books ever had. I went to see Dr. No... I remember I was at Yale, at the time, in college. I went to see it in New Haven, I think, six times. It was sensational. When Ursula Andress came out of the water... we were 1500 Yale students in a movie theatre, and you could have heard a pin drop.

B: How do you account for the failure, to use your word, of Golden Gun?

M: I don t really know. It was a strange project, from the beginning. I had always envisioned it as a classic shootout; as Shane, if you will. There was Jack Palance, who, by the way, I thought would have made a great Scaramanga. It was going to be Roger versus Jack Palance, but by the end we got mired down in all kinds of story problems. Guy Hamilton and I, despite our great friendship and respect, didn t get along at the time. We were very short tempered with each other, and I resigned from the project after the first draft.

B: What were the sources of the conflicts?

M: It was a lot of personal things, and also just the way everything was going at the time. It was an unhappy time in my life, and in his. Dick came on the script, and then I was going to go back on the script but I was doing another picture (Mother, Jugs, and Speed) at the time, and I couldn't. Everything just never fell into place. I must say I wanted to make the picture, and I m not saying anything against Guy Hamilton, but I wanted to make it a little more serious, a little harder than it was. But that wasn't the source of the conflict; it was a lot of personal conflict.

B: Did you make up the story?

M: Yes; I made up the story, Cubby made up the story, Harry made up the story, Guy made up the story. It's always been a committee in the beginning; there s always been a writer there to make up the story, but so many people have ideas, and especially when they're old hands at Bond, they know how to write a Bond story correctly. Writing a Bond story correctly is a trick like riding a unicycle, or mixing together a perfect cake; you need this ingredient, that ingredient, and people work at it. Ken Adam can come up with a wonderful idea; and people send in stuff from all over, saying I can balance by one finger on ... whatever, and suddenly there's Blofeld balancing by one finger! But it's always been a committee, in a strange way. Live and Let Die is a largely original script, even though the bare bones are there. That was done principally by Guy and me, with Cubby and with Harry ... everybody chips in ideas. A good example in that is the crocodile farm sequence where we just happened to run across it. In that exact place in the script Bond was thrown into a coffee granulator. There was a coffee plantation on the island, and there was a big fight over the top of this granulator and so on. When we were location hunting, we went by this place, and there was this sign, which really was there, saying Trespassers will be eaten , and we said wait a minute! Boy, did we find something better than coffee!

B: How did Bond get out of the coffee?

M: I can't remember... he hung onto something... all the stuff started coming out. I know his jacket was in there, there were bits of clothing that flew out and all of that sort of thing, but I can't really remember how he got out. That's one of the problems for a writer, getting Bond into the traps is easy... That crocodile trick, stepping on their backs, was the idea of the guy who owned the crocodile farm. I got Bond onto that island, and I couldn't get him off, and we were down in Jamaica, and we were shooting. Guy kept coming up to me and saying, By the way, how does Bond get off the island? I said, Don t worry Guy, have I ever let you down before? Harry Saltzman was saying How about a helicopter comes over... ? I said, No Harry, that's too easy. He had that cockamamie watch, but Guy and I wanted to use that as a red herring; that he would use that and the audience would go, Oh, he's going to use that and get the boat and then you'd see it was tied,so we could tease them. But Kananga, which was the name of the man who owned the farm said, Why the hell doesn't he jump over across their backs? And we said, Who would do that? and he said, I would, if you tied them down under the water. So that's how a lot of these things happen.

B: In a situation like that, too often they depend on the gadgets...

M: Well as I say, the mass audience (I'm not talking about the people who subscribe to your magazine, or Bond purists, because I read letters in the paper saying, What have they done to Bond? and I must say I agree with them as well) is as much at fault. If you present people with a certain thing, and they present you back with a hundred million dollars, it's very difficult not to try and do it again. For every Bond purist around, and I use the term with respect (those people who really love Bond, and the essence of the character} there are three or four who say, Gimme some more... I really loved it when that car went underwater and became a boat; gimme some more, I love that stuff! So there's that constant battle. Also, Fleming's material is gone now; it's been used, so if you want somebody else to write exactly like Fleming, you're going to have a very tough job.

B: When I met you last year at the screening of Spy you mentioned that you had written some uncredited lines; that you had not so much written scenes or plot structure, but the one-liners.

M: Well, I sort of did a dialogue rewrite in general on the picture, and by the time I got on it it was still a little flabby; there were some structural problems. Basically, it was what the trade calls a polish . I wrote some lines... but after my version Lewis Gilbert went to work on it. It happens that way, but I enjoyed Spy very much; I thought it was a terrific picture.

B: Were you involved with Moonraker at all?

M: I wrote the original story for Moonraker, with Cubby, Michael Wilson, and Lewis; I mean we all got together, and flew to New York, and then met Christopher Wood, who took over from there. The story underwent a lot of changes. Basically what it was was the idea, which Cubby had, of using the space shuttle. I think the story for Moonraker as it exists right now is fairly flabby, and it s difficult to follow.

B: What do you think of the film?

M: I enjoyed the film; I think it s time for Bond to get tougher and harder and leaner, as a movie, only because of what I said. I don't think Bond can go into head to head competition in special effects, and wind up being anything more than a special effects movie, and I think the essence of the character is a great plus that Bond has over any and all other films that have large productions in them, and I think it should be used more.

B: Can you think of anything you really wanted to do that hasn t been used; any lines you wanted to use, or any scenes you wanted to do?

M: Well, there's a film I always wanted to do... Guy and I always wanted to do it with Sean. This was when we were doing Diamonds Are Forever we had this idea. One could do it with Roger... whenever it's decided that the Bond films will come to an end, this will be the last film; whenever that is, 1980, 1990, however long they keep running. The idea of a James Bond who is one step too slow, and realizes it at the beginning of the film; a Bond who escapes from a few things by sheer luck and realizes he was a second too late, and that he ought to get out of the business, is a very intriguing idea for me that I ve always wanted to do. Whenever there's a final Bond, I think that's what it should be about; he should have a perfectly smashing co-star, and he should wind up retiring and marrying a mature, in the best sense of the word, woman.

B: How about Pearson's idea of going back and having Honey Rider come back into his life?

M: We thought, at one point, about bringing Ursula Andress back as Honeychile Rider and as a matter of fact, looking back on it now, it was a perfectly dreadful idea. We thought about bringing her back in Live and Let Die, but then we thought it would just be too jarring to have somebody who had a relationship with Sean on the screen, suddenly be lying in bed with another James Bond, you know, talk about the face isn t familiar , but there have been discussions. No Bond girl has returned as herself, I mean, no heroine has returned the way villains have. Blofeld is a recurring thing; Jaws has come back..... Looking back, the audience loved Jaws so much, that s why he's in Moonraker, unfortunately he's playing for comedy instead of menace. What was really wonderful in Spy, the first time he opened his mouth and you saw those teeth... even the lovable quality had in Spy came part and parcel with the feeling that he could kill somebody. When he grabbed Roger at the end and they had that fight you still thought there was some menace there.

B: Not much, but some.

M: Again, Spy, and I'm probably going contrary to the readers of your magazine, is wonderful Bond to me; it's terrific and enjoyable. I found it very exciting...

B: No, I agree, it's really Moonraker that's the tremendous disappointment. Aside from the fact that it s a complete remake of Spy, even in Lewis Gilbert's opinion... I m sorry... I'm right here with you: why did you use the same story? Isn't it really the same?

M: It may be; I never really thought of it that way. I must say when I was watching the movie I wasn' t thinking about that...

B: And the story probably changed so much since you wrote it...

M: Yes, it has. The story that I left was really about the kidnapping of a space shuttle. There was a girl killer in it, with a bow and arrow, and some of it was in the Himalayas.

B: I presume you took the girl with the bow and arrow from the Fleming short story...

M: No. I had a girl called The Archer . In the story that I left with them there was a sequence where she got killed at the Taj Mahal, there was a scene in Bombay; there was a wonderful sequence which I hope they use, in which Bond got in a fight with three fakirs in India. One with a rope trick, one lying on a bed of nails, whatever. The rope lashed out, got him around the neck, and the guys started beating him up; these three beggars. . I think it would be a lot of fun.