THE photographer Terry O’Neill’s longevity has seen him build lasting relationships with many icons, most notably Frank Sinatra. But his career has also tracked that of a particularly English fictional icon — James Bond.
O’Neill has been photographing the various interpreters of that role across six decades, ever since shooting on the set of Goldfinger in 1963.
O’Neill’s years of access to Bond film sets produced a huge archive, which has now been harvested by him and his manager, Robin Morgan, for a book, All About Bond.
“The book,” says Morgan, who acted as editor, “very simply came about when Terry and I were organising an exhibition in LA for the Oscars about 18 months ago. I was going through his archive when I realised he’d got a considerable number of Bond girls, going back to Honor Blackman. Then I realised he’d also got a substantial number of Bond films documented. We discovered hundreds of photographs of Seán Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan. Many of these Terry had completely forgotten about, of course, so we started to dig and dig.”
What the pair found were a great many candid, off-the-cuff and off-camera moments, the kind that had no publicity use, but which now stand as a pictorial history of six decades of film-making, and five actors’ takes on a role that has been reinvented several times.
Daniel Craig, had escaped O’Neill’s camera, but that lapse was soon remedied for the book. “We asked Daniel and he jumped at the chance,” says Morgan. “Terry is the only photographer to have taken all the Bonds.”
Craig’s particular take on Bond is very much post-Jason Bourne — he exudes not nonchalant cool, but gritty determination and effort. He raises a fist instead of an eyebrow, and when asked, in Casino Royale, whether or not he’d like his martini shaken or stirred, replies, ““Do I look like I give a damn?”.
According to Morgan, O’Neill’s approach was aimed very much at bringing out that “more tangible” Bond. “He felt that this was someone you could bump into in the pub. And that’s exactly how we portrayed him — in a pub close to his home in north London.”
Morgan is, like O’Neill, a Fleet Street veteran. He joined the Sunday Times as a reporter in 1979, was editor of the Sunday Express in the 1980s and editor of the Sunday Times Magazine from the early 1990s up to 2009. The paper has its own direct links to Bond, Ian Fleming having been its foreign editor.
“In the late 1990s I did a special bond issue, because Ian Fleming had been foreign editor of the Times,” says Morgan. “We went into our archives and included a piece Fleming had written for the Times on how to make the perfect martini. You can find that edition now on eBay selling for hundreds of pounds.”
That, for Morgan, underlines the appeal of Bond. “It’s a very clever franchise, the way it refreshes itself for every generation. The character is always recreated. So you have Connery, he was a bit of a rough-trade James Bond. Not exactly the suave naval commander. Brosnan was probably the most classic one in terms of his style, and Moore brought something comical, that raised eyebrow, those cheesy one-liners. Each was a Bond of his time. When Moore made his films, the western world was in a depression. In England you had Ted Heath and the three-day week, so you needed that escapism, that cheering up.”
The magazine editor in Morgan helped turn All About Bond into something more expansive that merely a picture book. He set about commissioning various experts in all areas of Bond.
The results include a memoir of Fleming’s years at the Times and afterwards by his former colleague Godfrey Smith; a note on Bond’s ever-changing sense of style by GQ editor Dylan Jones; and, in an interview with Roger Moore’s daughter Deborah, Ken Adam, the art director who was integral to Bond’s leap from page to screen, gives his insider knowledge.
“Getting Ken Adam was remarkable,” says Morgan, “He kind of created Bond. He’s the one who had the brainwave of having Blofeld in a volcano for instance. We got to him and he had remarkable stories to tell. He was a Second World War fighter pilot, and that’s where he got the idea of the machine guns in the Austin Martin. He told us about how he was in his Rolls Royce, stuck in traffic one time, and he began hammering away at his steering wheel, imagining he was blowing away the car in front of him.”
What sets All About Bond apart are the moments O’Neill captures of the actors being, not Bond, but themselves: off-set moments that would be of no use for publicity purposes.
“I think the plan was to produce something very candid,” says Morgan. “Most of the Bond books out there have images that are publicity stills. That’s what you get. They’re for marketing the movies. What was great about Terry’s stuff was that he was friendly with Seán Connery, Honor Blackman, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan. It meant that when he went to photograph them, he was photographing his pals in very candid situations.
“You would never find a publicity still of Connery posing with a Vegas showgirl, but when Terry was on the set of Diamonds are Forever, he suggested it would be fun to play the slots, down on the floor of the Circus Circus casino. Suddenly all the showgirls come out and want to be photographed with James Bond. The book is like that, a record of what’s happening when the cameras aren’t rolling.”
O’Neill’s is an extensive record, says Morgan. “I can see us revisiting this, we’re finding so many pictures. I had to hold up the printing because we found a set of photographs of Seán Connery playing golf on the moon.”
Those shots came from some larking about on the set of Diamonds Are Forever. During the filming, the Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard took out a six iron and hit some balls on the surface of the moon. O’Neill persuaded Connery to appear in an homage, shot during lunch hour at Universal Studios. “That’s a classic image,” says Morgan, “and we found it in a cardboard box, three months before the book was published.”
It’s those kinds of unearthed gems that make All About Bond a book for casual fans and diehards, says Morgan.
“There is an awful lot of information here that will tell most people things they didn’t know. And there’s over 100 photographs that have never been published before.”
*Terry O’Neill’s exhibition of iconic photographs opens at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery at 7pm, Jan 24, and runs there and at the Atrium, Cork City Hall, until Feb 22.
*Terry O’Neill will sign copies of All About Bond at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery at 1pm, Friday, Jan 25.
All About Bond is published by Evans Mitchell Books