There seems to be a never-ending cycle of Bond and Ian Fleming documentaries and docu-dramas but finding a good one can be tough. Many have missed the mark in terms of accuracy and acting. Making this task even more difficult is the availability of some of them. Well, after exhaustive research and picking up the odd DVD on Ebay and Amazon, here is your guide to the best and worst of Ian Fleming on screen.
Ian Fleming – The CBC Interview (1964)
In James Bond, Ian Fleming created one of the immortal action heroes in modern popular culture, but his own life proved more fragile. Five days after his death from a heart attack, CBC-TV’s Explorations offered a recent peek into life at GoldenEye, Fleming’s Jamaican hideaway, where the author defends the sex and violence in his works and discusses how his own life experiences helped shape the character that made him famous. You will learn the unlikely inspiration for James Bond’s name and why tea was the downfall of the British empire in this classic 1964 interview.
Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (1989)
Fact-based biography of James Bond author, Ian Fleming based on John Pearson’s biography. The film focuses on his wartime exploits and romantic adventures which ultimately led to his creation of the super-spy. Directed by quite a distinguished Scottish filmmaker Don Boyd, this film is probably the most accurate of all the ‘fictionalized’ Ian Fleming biopics.
Charles Dance captures Fleming’s look and style more than any that came after him. The cast also includes a very young looking Christoph Waltz (!), Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey and Phyllis Logan one of the stars of Downton Abbey, so lots of fun trivia questions here. It’s a damned shame this film has not been released on DVD. The only copies that remain are either on VHS or on Ebay for a free Region 2 Daily Mail DVD. Incredible that this has not been re-released. Perhaps with enough noise, we can encourage the Anglia Films to release it once more.
Spymaker, The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (1990, released 1993)
A young investigative reporter (Jason Connery) gains recognition by a British intelligence officer (David Warner) for his coverage of a controversial trial in the Soviet Union after thwarting off a KGB attempt on his life. He is hired be MI6 to assist in a high-risk covert operation to find and kidnap German officers at a remote fortified location. The young Ian Fleming character has to contend with his posh widowed mother who disapproves of him and he faces the potential loss of his fiancé (Kristin Scott Thomas).
The casting of Sean Connery’s son probably grabbed attention back in 1990, but the casting was off. Considering Charles Dance that same year had pulled Fleming off, Connery’s version can’t be taken seriously. Nevertheless, it does contain some serious acting talent in a very young and beautiful Kristin Scott Thomas, Joss Ackland and Patricia Hodge.
007’s Creator – Ian Fleming (2000)
John Cork was recruited by MGM to write and direct many of the documentary special features as part of the DVD packages and this one is a gem. Unless you buy the special edition version of The Living Daylights, you won’t find it anywhere. Narrated by friend of Fleming, Patrick Macnee, who also had a part in A View To A Kill, this is jam-packed with great archive footage and genuine Fleming connections including Nuala Pell, Blanche Blackwell, Kate Grimond and Lucy Fleming. Many of the contributors are no longer with us including rare footage of Ann Fleming (wife), Percy Muir, Noel Coward, William Plomer and Peter Fleming (brother).
Fleming biographer Andrew Lycett provides the narrative backbone to this one, while the ‘color’ commentary fills in the gaps.
Ian Fleming: Bondmaker (2005)
A look at the life of Ian Fleming from when he was in Naval Intelligence as a Commander until his death in 1964. This docudrama gives an insight into what Fleming was really like and how he wrote the Bond novels. Ben Daniels plays Fleming in internal-narrative driven vignettes, that lacks real drama and seems a pastiche of Fleming’s life.
James Bond: The True Story (2008)
This doc examines Ian Fleming’s own crucial role in wartime intelligence to reveal how the events that occurred informed and influenced every aspect of James Bond. How author Ian Fleming developed his ideas for his series of novels about spy James Bond, who has featured in a movie franchise spanning 50 years. The programme delves into the war records of two people thought to have inspired the character of 007 – Fleming’s elder brother Peter Fleming, who served with distinction in the Second World War, and Patrick Dalzel-Job, who led commando missions in Norway before working with the novelist in naval intelligence.
Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began (2008)
A 2008 documentary presented by Joanna Lumley which explored the life of the author Ian Fleming and the origin of his character James Bond. Narrated by Bond villain Jonathan Pryce, this documentary can only be found on the special collector’s edition of Casino Royale.
Among the notables interviewees are The Moneypenny Diaries author Samantha Weinberg, young Bond author Charlie Higson and Ben Macintyre, the author of For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond.
Ian Fleming’s Incredible Creation (2008)
Focused primarily on Fleming’s journey to writing Casino Royale, this documentary discusses the autobiographical aspect to the Bond series with Fleming’s wartime escapades in charge of the 30 Assault Unit Commandos, heavily drawn on to make this parallel.
An interesting case is made that Fleming wrote the book as a response to the Cambridge Spy scandal to restore Britain’s image in the West, while of course, the usual line about taking his mind off impending marriage to Ann Fleming is included too. Notable interviews include Peter Janson-Smith, Ken Follett and Jeffrey Deaver.
Ian Fleming: The Secret Road to Paradise (2008)
This one is only found on the Collector’s Edition of Casino Royale and it’s well worth getting. Directed by John Cork again, it contains many relatives of Fleming’s inner circle such as The Hartford clan (Jo and Ivar Bryce’s children), Marion ‘Oatsie’ Leiter and Blanche Blackwell. . Fans of Ivar Bryce and Roald Dahl will love this, as it gets deep into Fleming’s relationships with them, especially during the Jamaica years.
Fleming (2014, miniseries)
Look at the 007 creator, Ian Fleming, and his early life set against the permissive society of war-torn WWII London. FLEMING also stars Annabelle Wallis, Lara Pulver, Samuel West, Lelsley Manville, Rupert Evans and Anna Chancellor and will not be airing until Winter 2014 in the UK. No word if it will air concurrently on BBC America or after a slight delay, but it will appear next year. Leading man Dominic Cooper reveals what it means to be Fleming in this exclusive interview for Sky Atlantic.
Watch a clip of Goldeneye (1989)
Watch the entire The Real Story – James Bond by The Smithsonian Channel
Watch Wall to Wall: Ian Fleming: Bondmaker
Watch a clip of Spymaker, The Secret Life of Ian Fleming
Watch the entire 1964 CBC documentary and interview Ian Fleming: The man with the Golden pen