Legendary Bond producer Cubby Broccoli’s original hardback 1998 autobiography (published as “When The Snow Melts”) has been updated as an eBook edition by EON Productions and features new introductions by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli as well as a selection of rarely seen images. EON Productions will donate all of the income from the sales of this eBook to Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research. Cubby’s autobiography is a roller-coaster ride through the life of one of Hollywood’s best-loved producers and tells his story from humble beginnings in the farmlands of Long Island, through to becoming the man behind Bond – the most successful franchise in cinema history. He recounts extraordinary and humorous stories of how he created a life in the movies, his unique relationship with Howard Hughes and other friendships with Hollywood greats such as Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra are also portrayed.
You can read an extract from the book here, in which Cubby remembers the moment that Bond’s ultimate adversary was almost a simian Dr.No!
A producer starts out on any picture with the uneasy feeling that he is making a big mistake. I certainly did, as I embarked on the first James Bond film, Dr No. By 1960 I had been a producer for nine years, having worked in Hollywood before coming to Britain to take advantage of the tax breaks for filming. A Canadian named Harry Saltzman held the option on Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories and I offered him a partnership. He considered them ‘a bit of nonsense’. I thought they offered all the basics in screen entertainment: a virile and resourceful hero, exotic locations, the ingenious apparatus of espionage and sex on a sophisticated level. It’s true they had been around for a long time, and none of the leading British and American producers had made a serious pitch for them. Harry and I, with a budget of only $1 million, were rushing in where angels had feared to tread.
Our first problem was the character of Dr No. Since he was going to be 007’s first and most fiendish adversary, the situation called for a character of menacing dimensions. This was the brief which our writers took away with them. Later, as we sat reading the pages, I had a sinking feeling. They had decided to make Dr No a monkey. I repeat – a monkey. This threw Harry and me into some dismay. A million dollars was being invested. We didn’t think that a monkey, even with a high IQ, could in any circumstances be 007’s ‘merciless antagonist’.We had the script rewritten to bring it more in line with Fleming’s original story. Which was just as well, because Ian attended several of our meetings well before the picture started. It was good having him around. His whole persona, the way he held his cigarette, his laid-back style, that certain arrogance, was pure James Bond.
After one of our meetings, Ian sent me a fascinating memorandum, which must be the definitive thesis on the way James Bond should be played. For instance: ‘Atmosphere: To my mind, the greatest danger in this series is too much Englishness. There should, I think, be no monocles, moustaches, bowler hats or bobbies or other “Limey” gimmicks. There should be no blatant English slang, a minimum of public-school ties and accents, and subsidiary characters should, generally speaking, speak with a Scots or Irish accent. James Bond: Bond is a blunt instrument wielded by a government department. He is quiet, hard, ruthless, sardonic, fatalistic. In his relationships with women he shows the same qualities as he does in his job. He likes gambling, golf and fast motor cars.’ So, incidentally, did Ian – and guns, espionage and beautiful women, particularly in the uniform of the WRNS. He’d have given anything, I imagine, to have been James Bond. We also discussed casting with Ian. We still hadn’t got our Dr No. An idea was floated that we get Noël Coward to play the role. It was an intriguing notion. The character required brains, sophistication and a kind of Machiavellian wit. Ian thought it was a brilliant idea. Since I didn’t know Coward and Ian did, I asked him to cable our offer to Noël in Jamaica. He received a swift response by telegram: ‘No… No… No… No! Thank you. Love, Noël.’ Joseph Wiseman eventually took the part.
The toughest problem of all, though, was finding the actor to play James Bond. He had to be British. Patrick McGoohan had been suggested, and might have made a fine Bond, but he was strongly religious and was uneasy about sex and violence. James Fox declined for the same reasons. Roger Moore had been touted, but at that time I thought him slightly too young, perhaps a shade too pretty. Other names entered the reckoning: Michael Redgrave, David Niven, Trevor Howard. But one face kept coming back into my mind. He was Sean Connery, a tall, personable guy, projecting a kind of animal virility and just the right hint of threat behind that hard smile. To be candid, all the British actors lacked the degree of masculinity Bond demanded. I was convinced he was the closest we could get to Fleming’s super-hero. We sent footage to United Artists in New York, who’d put up the $1 million. They sent back a telegram: ‘NO – KEEP TRYING.’ We wired back, insisting that Connery was the man we wanted and we weren’t searching any further.
The production was due to start in mid-January 1962 and we had only two weeks in which to find Honey Ryder, the beauty Fleming saw as ‘Botticelli’s Venus seen from behind’. She is virtually naked in the book, with nothing on except a hunting knife in a leather sheath. Sifting through hundreds of photos, I spotted a shot of Swiss-born actress Ursula Andress emerging from water, her clinging wet T-shirt emphasising the perfect moulding of her breasts. She was tall and sturdily built, with long, fair hair falling around a lovely, oval face. I called the casting director and asked him, ‘Is she as beautiful as she photographs?’
He replied, ‘No photograph can catch the beauty of this girl.’
‘But is she an actress?’
‘Well, put it this way: she has a voice like a Dutch comic. But what do you want her to do?’
I told him, and of course she was perfect. The scene where she strode out of the ocean with a hip knife strapped to her bikini became one of the great entrances in movies. Audiences were stunned by it. It was a great plus for Dr No.
The film opened in England in October 1962 to almost unanimous praise. In America, however, several bookers doubted they could sell a picture with ‘a Limey truck driver playing the lead’. It opened at an Oklahoma drive-in. Fortunately, the Oklahoma audiences were ecstatic. The film had cost $1 million. It took back, worldwide, more than 20 times that. I had to smile. We had proved that Americans, far from not accepting British actors in British pictures, loved everything about Bond. And they were ready for more.
Extracted from ‘The Autobiography of Cubby Broccoli: The Man Who Brought James Bond 007 To The Screen’, by the late Albert R Broccoli and Donald Zec, which will be available from leading eBook retailers from tomorrow, priced at £4.99/$7.70. EON Productions will donate all of the income from the sales of this eBook to Cancer Research UK.
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