In this new book by Mark Edlitz, The Many Lives of James Bond offers the largest ever collection of original interviews with actors who have played Bond in different media, as well as in-depth interviews with many of the diverse artists who have contributed their talents to the making of James Bond movies, television shows, novels, radio dramas, comic books, and video games.
ALR readers will be especially interested in the literary aspects of this book, including in-depth interviews with Anthony Horowitz, John McLusky and Mike Grell. We caught up with Mark on the eve of the UK publication.
1. What led you to want to write this book?
I’ve been a Bond fan since my parents took me to see Moonraker in 1979. I was about eight years old when I first saw it and I thought that James Bond was the coolest, most accomplished, bravest, wittiest, and most knowledgeable person on the planet. Now that I’m older, I realize that Moonraker is one of the more outrageous movies in the series, but I loved every moment of it. Then I saw For Your Eyes Only, which was a grittier and more hard-edged Bond movie, and I was hooked. Incidentally, the Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only double punch introduced me to the concept that there is no one way to tell a Bond story. Bond movies could be over-the-top like Moonraker or down-to-earth like For Your Eyes Only. But either way, I was completely enthralled by the character.
From there, I read all of Ian Fleming’s books and tracked down all the movies. I religiously taped the films when they aired in their butchered form on ABC’s Sunday Night Movie. I also subscribed to Richard Schenkman’s Bondage and Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine. Before the internet, Bondage and 007 Magazine felt like the only way to stay connected to Bond between the release of new films.
I’ve been a Bond fan all my life. I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the character of Bond. But he’s an opaque character. There’s always been a mystery to him. But I wanted to solve it. I wanted to see what makes Bond tick and what drives him. To that end, I interviewed many of the artists who interpret the character in films, books, comics, video games, and radio shows. The Many Lives of James Bond is my attempt to unravel the mystery of his character.
2. How did your collaboration with illustrator Pat Carbajal come about?
I’m a huge fan of Pat Carabal’s work. He’s an incredible artist. I’m also a fan of Bond fan art. There are many really talented illustrators who come up with fantastic art. I’ve been an admirer of Pat’s work for years. Of course, he always accurately draws the Bond actors. But he does more than just that. He also brings out their essence and spirit. Pat really evokes all the different qualities that each actor brings to the role. So I was extremely lucky and grateful that Pat allowed me to share some of his wonderful artwork with other Bond fans. Also, I think including “fan” artwork is something unique for a Bond book.
3. What did you learn most from putting this book together?
I interviewed two different groups of Bond artists and creators. I interviewed a lot of actors who played James Bond in different media. But it’s not always the actors that most people would guess. I did interview two legendary movie Bonds — Roger Moore and George Lazenby. But I also spoke to Bond actors from television, video games, audiobooks, and radio dramas. I interviewed Corey Burton, the voice actor who played James Bond Junior in the animated series. I also tracked down the performer who played Bond at the Oscar salute to the franchise. He gives all the inside information of how he became the dancing Double-O Seven.
I also spoke to directors, screenwriters, novelists, producers, comic book writers, and lyricists and get their expert opinion on Bond. The artists all spoke about the challenges they faced while interpreting Ian Fleming’s enduring creation. I love Bruce Feirstein’s observation that anyone who has ever put on a tux thinks he’s James Bond. I think that’s true. Martin Campbell reveals that he thought of Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s Bond as two separate characters.
4. Are there aspects of the Bond universe, as yet, unexplored?
Yes, surprisingly many. I think that one way to write a good book on Bond is to focus exclusively on one aspect of the franchise. Once you do that, you can write an in-depth exploration. Some excellent books explore the films, politics, music, women, or even what Bond drinks. The Many Lives of James Bond looks almost exclusively at the character of Bond.
5. What are some of your highlights from the book?
One of my favorite parts of the book is how I was able to learn more about the live radio production of Moonraker, which starred Bob Holness as 007. Because the South African Broadcasting Corporation production was never recorded there is very little information known about it. Even the year that it was performed is unknown. Among other things, I was able to learn the year and even the day and month of the production. I also discovered how much Holness was paid, how many rehearsals he had, and how long the show was. I also was able to track down the contract that he signed, and I included it in the book. It’s a wonderful Bond artefact.
Bob Holness passed away years ago, so I couldn’t interview him for the book. However, Brian McKaig of the Bondologist Blog wrote Holness and he asked him all the questions you want to know. Holness wrote back a roughly three-page response. Brian generously allowed me to quote from it. So between the revealing letter from Holness and his contract, I was able to include a lot of previously unknown information about the production of Moonraker. One of the highlights of The Many Lives of James Bond is that I was able to help solve a long-standing Bond mystery!
Mark Edlitz’s writings have appeared in The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex, Moviefone, Sirius/XM Radio’s Slice of SciFi and Empire magazine online.
Mark’s first book HOW TO BE A SUPERHERO is about superheroes and the actors who play them. His second book THE MANY LIVES OF JAMES is about how 007 has been depicted in different media.
Mark lives in New York City with his superhero wife and two villainous children.