I make no pretense of knowing much about the film industry. I have never taken any cinema classes at university (my university didn’t even offer any), nor do I have the gall to argue that I’ve spent innumerable hours reading books upon books one the many facets of filmmaking. Some, yes, but certainly not enough to engage in any pretenses of knowing more than any other blogger than takes a couple hours a week to read up on the subject. DVD and blu-ray supplements have also informed me on the process making movies, both large and small. Again, however, not nearly enough for significant bragging rights.
All that said, limited though one’s knowledge may be, one can still understand generalities and trends, among them the casting process. Some scripts are written with certain actors in mind and said actors are successfully hired. Other filmmakers have to make due with second or even third choices despite original intent. In other instances, casting calls are made, followed by a handful, dozens, or in some cases hundreds of hopefuls playing out scenes to strut their stuff. Other times, the producers and director just know who they want in a role and have the requisite clout to woo them, script be damed. Such is the fascinating case of the casting of Bond films in the 1970s and 1980s. Once again, most of the information the following observations is based on derive from Some Kind of Hero (Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, 2015, The History Press) and the James Bond Archives. I know that I’ve been quoting them a lot lately, but I’m a slow reader those are the only two books have had the time to dive into over the past couple months. Other sources will be referenced in due time, I promise.
The early days required a heavy dose of screen tests given that producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and the rest of the creative team were still finding their way with the series. Most of the early Connery films saw a great many names mentioned as potential hires, many of them actually coming in to partake in some role playing. What seems to happen by the 1970s, and especially after Harry Saltzman exits the picture when he sells off his Danjaq shares to United Artists, is a more streamlined process. Not because Cubby and the gang didn’t care to screen test actors and actresses, they still did some of that, but because with the reputation the franchise had earned by then, convincing talented people to take on major and minor roles actually became a relatively simple exercise.
Actors, both male and female, can be fickle, but they can also understand when a potentially good pay day stares them in the face, as well as international recognition, which, if they play their cards right, can lead to many subsequent roles as they become higher in demand. Plus, the series’ aforementioned prestige meant that anyone called into Cubby’s office (with influential wife Dana never far away) knew they were probably going to spend the next few months in exotic, fabulous locations and be treated like royalty. Unless one had very, very specific principles and tastes that didn’t jive with what 007 stood for, not taking the job was a pretty crazy thing to do and still is to this day.
With each subsequent chapter of Some Kind of Hero, I’m continuously amazed at the number of major players that didn’t need to go through a single screen test. Cubby, Dana, Guy Hamilton, John Glen, Michael G. Wilson, and even Barbara (in her very early days operating behind the scenes) all tended to have very specific ideas of who they wanted to see inhabit a given role and rarely, at least as far as my two sources go, were there humungous disagreements. Jill St John, Lana Wood, Lois Chiles (who was talked about for TSWLM but somehow Cubby got word that she had retired from acting), Maud Adams for OP, Julian Glover, Topol, Tanya Roberts, none of these people went to extensive tests to prove their worth for the movies soon to be made. Yaphet Kotto was hired off the street while he shot Across 110th and Street (fine film, by the way). Roger Moore himself never tested. Roger. Moore. The chap playing James Bond. Let that sink in.
Cubby and his team simply knew who they wanted, called them in for a chat, maybe a lunch, maybe met them at an event, and the deal would be done, sometimes mere hours after the conversation began. Even more interesting is that for some of the previously mentioned examples, the conversations did not necessarily revolve around the roles the filmmakers wanted to see them in. Tanya Roberts is very candid about the fact that they never really talked about the role of Stacey Sutton. Sometimes the people running the business already knew very well what they’d get in someone as an actor, but just wanted to feel their vibes as a person.
Again, the people invited for a sit down with Cubby and co. probably knew what the score was. Lots of frivolities with knowledgeable, experienced, respected industry professionals, good money, world travelling, instant global recognition if they weren’t already a household name, and looking just fabulous on the silver screen. Such is the power of the 007 brand. How does that song line go again?
Ah yes: Nobody does it better.