This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No.
It’s amazing to think that after all these years the Bond franchise is still going strong. Indeed, the latest 007 flick, Skyfall, hits theaters on November 9.
Tom Mankiewicz, who did a major rewrite of Superman I and II, wrote almost all the ’70’s James Bond films, and in his newly released autobiography, My Life As a Mankiewicz, he recalls working on the Bond films in great detail, and it’s an absolute delight to read.
Interestingly enough, Mankiewicz’s father Joseph penned and directed All About Eve and Cleopatra, while his uncle Herman wrote Citizen Kane.
Tom’s career had stalled when he finally got the call any screenwriter would kill for: “How’d you like to write the next James Bond film?” The series needed a young, hip writer to keep things fresh, and the Diamonds Are Forever script needed work because Sean Connery initially turned it down.
Writing Diamonds Are Forever, Tom had finally broken through at 27, and continued to pen each subsequent 70’s Bond film, including The Spy Who Loved Me uncredited, as well as some consulting help on Moonraker.
Mank traveled the world, living the high life working for 007.
He knew that writing a Bond film was the big time, just as it is today. Back then, “Bond was the only real movie event,” Mankiewicz recalls in his biography. “There was no Raiders yet, no Superman, no Lethal Weapons, no Star Wars, no anything. The world waited for one Bond movie to come out every eighteen months or so.”
Having worked with both Sean Connery and Roger Moore, Mankiewicz also shrewdly points out in the book what makes each Bond different, and what makes them tick.
“Where Sean would throw away the throw away lines, Roger would play with them more,” Mankiewicz writes. “Sean looks, in the best sense of the word, the best movie-star sense of the word, like a bastard. There’s a twinkle in his eye, and there’s violence in his eye. When he comes in the room, you think, look out.
“But Roger was a very sophisticated actor with a presence. The kinds of sadistic things that Sean could do that the audience roared at, Roger couldn’t do. You wrote for them differently. You just got into their rhythm.”