John Cork is an award-winning screenwriter, penned the civil rights drama, The Long Walk Home, and has written screenplays for many major film studios. Cork is a world-renowned James Bond expert, and sits on the board of directors of The Ian Fleming Foundation. He has appeared on BBC television and radio, NPR's Morning Edition, and TBS's Dinner & A Movie. Cork owns Cloverland, a documentary production company. John lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer and actress Nicole Dillenberg and his son, Jimmy Cork. |
Universal Exports is proud to present our exclusive interview with John Cork, co-author of Bond Girls are Forever and James Bond, The Legacy. Mark Rhodes got in touch with Mr. Cork to ask some questions about Bond girls and his new book.
What was the origin of this book?
This book began life as a wonderful documentary by Maryam d'Abo. She produced that through MGM, and at some point she said to someone at Eon Productions that she thought that it would be a great idea to address the subject in book form. She decided she wanted to work with a co-author, and I was fortunate enough to get the call from Boxtree, the publisher.
Did the idea of the Bond girl evolve directly from Ian Fleming's work or was it a construct of the filmmakers?
The "Bond Girl" certainly evolved from Fleming. Every novel has a "Bond Girl", a woman with that spirit of adventure and that sense of self-assurance that makes the women in Bond's world so alluring. The filmmakers exaggerated and enhanced the elements that made Fleming's writing so exciting. The times wouldn't allow Honey Ryder to emerge from the sea nude, as Fleming's Honeychile did in the novel. Instead, the filmmakers introduced Sylvia Trench and a more intricate sexual relationship with Miss Taro. They knew they only had one film to capture the sense of Bond's world that a reader gets from reading three or four novels.
In general, has the persona of the Bond Girl been consistent, or has it evolved or changed over the series?
The Bond Girls have changed. I actually prefer to call the characters Bond women - not for any political reason, but because they are not girlish. The actresses, they have a girls club - a sense of camaraderie when they are around each other. I think of them as Bond Girls. Anyway, the women have evolved in the films. Personally, I feel some of the women in the 60s (not all) were some of the strongest. They seemed to combine a human sense along with a healthy dose of sensuality and adventure. Part of that came from the fact that the filmmakers were often sticking close to Fleming's plots and characters. When the filmmakers began to move away from Fleming, I personally feel they had a harder time with the female characters. This is true to me in particular with You Only Live Twice, The Man With The Golden Gun and Moonraker. I think in the Eighties you started to see more of an effort to bring back a greater dimensionality to the women. By the Nineties, there is a great deal of confidence in the way the women are written and the way they are played, culminating with Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike in Die Another Day.
In the earlier films, there was one woman who was the love interest each film, as the series evolved there seemed to be a dynamic where two women competed for Bond's affections. How and why did this evolve and how did it affect the Bond character and the series?
Interesting question. Most of the films have included multiple women, but there is an interesting dynamic within Licence To Kill, GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. I think that the impact on Bond depends on the films. Overall, I think Pierce Brosnan has taken the character down a road to greater and greater emotional vulnerability, and these kinds of situations allow him to explore that. I know that fans are sometimes split on whether he and the filmmakers take that vulnerability too far, but I think it is this vulnerability that allows these situations to develop.
Of all the "Bond Girls" which ones have had the most resonance with fans and why?
Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) - She defined the Bond woman, plain and simple. She is the tops. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) - Her character ignited the long fuse of lesbian chic that now seems to permeate our culture. Her name made her one of the most memorable characters ever created. Xenia in GoldenEye (Famke Janssen) - Her exuberance and demented sexuality really hit home with fans. I remember watching the film thinking that Janssen was both seducing and scaring me at the same time. But, you know, all of the Bond women reach different groups of fans in different ways.
On Her Majesties Secret Service is probably the least popular and least well-known of the Bond series, do you think it has to do with the fact that Bond was married in the course of the film? Could the public ever accept Bond in an exclusive relationship even for one film?
I think that the failure of Majesty's to make record-breaking box office had to do with many, many factors. There was an actor that the public had not already accepted as Bond. The film looked different than previous Bonds - longer lenses, shallow focus, more subtle colors. Bond infiltrates Blofeld's compound in disguise, which led to Lazenby being dubbed for a long portion of the film. Bond's masculinity was undercut by having him pretend to be gay, which also made his seductions of the women at Piz Gloria seem somehow disingenuous, although amusing. While the action was great, the film delivered a different experience than many viewers were expecting or prepared for. That included having a downbeat ending and exploring Bond's emotional relationship with Tracy. That said, Bond does have one central relationship in The Living Daylights (and one dalliance if you count the woman on the boat at the beginning). In Majesty's, Bond beds at least three women.
Does the concept of the "Bond Girl" have to evolve in future Bonds?
Absolutely. In James Bond, The Legacy, Bruce Scivally and I write about how Bond films are set "two minutes into the future." The successful women of the series need to also exist on or just beyond the cutting edge. They need to be icons that inspire. Just as it is Bond's sophistication, grace, confidence and sense of self that makes men enjoy watching him, there are qualities we enjoy watching in the Bond women. The way society expresses those qualities changes over time. Certainly the changes for women have been remarkable over the past 41 years. In Dr. No, it was enough that Honey Ryder would strike out on her own, that she would kill a man who raped her. Yet most of the women in the Sixties were being manipulated or they had made a devil's bargain with a wealthy powerful (and evil) man in order to obtain some level of independence -
Tatiana is under the control of SPECTRE, Pussy Galore is working with Goldfinger, Domino is the kept woman of Largo. By the Seventies, the filmmakers were having fun with Bond's sexual irresistibility in the films. Women like Rosie Carver, Mary Goodnight, Anya Amasova and Holly Goodhead would reject Bond's advances only to give in moments later. This gave them some level of power to say no, even if they quickly changed their minds. By the Nineties, the women were sexual and professional equals with Bond in every way. The films were still Bond films, but the women have been portrayed in a dynamic fashion appropriate for the times. As the times change, so must the portrayal of the women.
I also wanted to answer some questions you raise in your review of James Bond, The Legacy, if I can. [This refers to Mark Rhodes' review of the book] First, you mention that the filmmakers seemed to "downsize" Bond for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and tried to avoid direct comparisons with Sean Connery. That actually wasn't the case. As Peter Hunt says in the book, "what we wanted was another Sean Connery." As fans of Majesty's know, despite the "This never happened to the other fellow" line, the film is filled with references to previous Bond films, most very subtle (the way Lazenby's Bond checks the mirror in the bathroom in Piz Gloria with the same hand motion Connery uses on Goldfinger's plane; the way that Nancy repeats Tatiana's line as they embrace, etc.). The film was hugely expensive to make, although I don't think it was marketed as aggressively as Thunderball or You Only Live Twice. On the other hand, there were real budget constraints put in place for the filming of Diamonds Are Forever. The film wasn't cheap, but it was not made with a blank check.
You ask why Roger Moore was so well accepted as Bond. I have my theories. First, the times had changed. The world didn't want serious spies with real licenses to kill. We had real terrorists, Watergate and we had had a glut of spy films and television shows in the previous few years. I think most people had stopped taking Bond seriously, and the films had to strike a balance more towards humor. But Roger Moore had something else going for him in my opinion (and it is the same for Pierce Brosnan) - Moore was already seen as a "James Bond type" by the public. He had been successful in The Saint and the world saw him as a sophisticated, British adventurer. In short, everyone liked the way he looked in the tux. Brosnan had this advantage through Remington Steele.
As for directors, I think that the reputations of all the directors since John Glen left the series are pretty solid. Each has had critical acclaim and commercial success. Speilberg, I don't think, would do a Bond film. But if he did, or if Tarintino did, they would require final cut (which they get on all of their films). The Bond producers have an obligation to move the series from film to film. If they make a bad choice in tone or content, they ultimately will pay the price. They give the directors a lot of freedom, but they are not going to give away final cut. They work in a collaborative environment. Bond films are made by a family of filmmakers, not by autonomous directors. Michael Wilson has spoken about this in press interviews, so this is certainly no secret.
From John Cork: Thanks for the great questions. If any readers want to purchase signed copies of Bond Girls Are Forever, I have them available. Yes, they are signed by both me and Maryam d'Abo, and I sell them for cover price plus shipping. Overseas shipping is very expensive and probably not worth it to be honest. Until I get the Bondlegacy.com website updated, buyers can contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org for details. I also have James Bond, The Legacy available, too.