Did you feel that Terence Young or Guy Hamilton had the strongest
influence on the creation of the character of Q?
Oh definitely Guy. For Terence it was a straight ordinary part, I was
just demonstrating the brief case. At the beginning of Goldfinger
I’m working at my desk and Bond comes in. In the rehearsal I got up to
greet him. Guy said “no, no – you take no notice of this man, you
don’t particularly like him, he doesn’t treat your gadgets with any
respect”. I got the script of Goldfinger, and I really must
say I found it a very odd script to read you see, because it had all
these odd remarks, but as soon as he said I don’t really like Bond it
all fell into place. So it was Guy who gave me this idea of this
love/hate I have with Bond, because Q is an old man, and even in those
days I was much older than Bond, so he didn’t really approve of his
way of life at all. Also he didn’t like the way Bond treated his
equipment. He treated it with contempt and just as a joke. Over the
years, naturally, Q has become quite fond of Bond.
During the production of Thunderball you
experienced your first location shoot in the Bahamas.
Oh it was fascinating. I was sent out there as wet-weather cover. I
went down to the studios at Pinewood to do my one scene. I hung about
all day, and Terence was directing a scene with a lot of girls in it,
and it took longer than it should of. About 5 o’clock they said you
can go home, so I said “when am I wanted next”, and they said they
didn’t know because they were going on location to the Bahamas on
Saturday. About a week later, the telephone rang. I was wanted out in
the Bahamas. I thought oh good I have got an extra scene. When I got
out there I found out that I was wet-weather cover. It was a bit
boring, so I used to go out and watch the filming. We had a very fussy
little production manager, and if I wanted to go out, such as down to
Nassau, I would have to go and see him and ask for his permission. He
would look at the weather, and if it wasn't sunny, say okay. After I
had been out there about three weeks he told me I was going home, and
that they were not going to use Pinder’s Store, which was my scene.
They couldn’t get me on the plane right away, so on the Monday I was a
told I would be catching a plane that afternoon. I packed, and then
the telephone rang and I was told I wasn’t going. The first assistant
Gus Agosti, came into the production office and said although it's a
dull day we could do Pinder’s Store, and one of the other chaps said
no we can’t because we are sending Desmond home. So Agosti said does
Cubby know? They rang up Cubby – and Cubby had a fit of course –
because it was much cheaper to keep me out there, because in those
days it was First Class fare home, and I stayed out there and came
home on the charter. Eventually I did my scene a couple of weeks later
– in the studio!
marked the beginning
of Bondmania. Was it around this time the press first started to
recognise you as James Bond’s gadget man?
No it didn’t start with Thunderball. I had my
first publicity in Thunderball, when I was photographed with
all the gadgets – but no one took any notice. I started to become
well known when the films started to be shown on television.
Due to a legal wrangle early in 1964 concerning the
rights to Thunderball, producer Kevin McClory became involved
with the production of the movie. What was the relationship like
between Saltzman, Broccoli, and McClory, who has since spent the
last 20 years battling with EON Productions over the rights to
future remakes of Thunderball?
There was nothing when we were making Thunderball.
Kevin was charming, he’s gone a bit mad now, but there was no
friction amongst them at all. I knew them only in the Bahamas, and I
knew Kevin quite well. It was thanks to Kevin that Thunderball
was my first premiere, which he invited me to. When Thunderball
was an enormous success he started talking about what films he was
going to make, he was going to make a film about Michael Collins,
God knows what he wasn't going to do, but nothing ever happened,
then 10 years after he made Never Say Never Again. Then he
said he was going to make another one, but I think he has sold out
his rights to Sony, I think it's all finished now.
Many argue that Sean Connery’s performance in Thunderball was
his best. What are you fondest recollections of working with Sean?
He was a highly professional actor. He was extremely
good. He was a very good Bond, although he did have the best
scripts, he had Fleming’s stories. He was very nice to work with. A
lot of the irritation I showed in those earlier films are because I
was not an established character in the films, and one had to know
your lines, and I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, and
I had to learn it like a parrot. Sean in character was always
fiddling about, so a lot of the irritation was because it was
distracting my train of thought. But no, he was very good.
Sean Connery received constant harassment from the
media while filming in Japan on You Only Live Twice, and he
became quite miserable because of it.
He did have an awful time in Japan. He was at the
height of his fame really. They just wouldn’t leave him alone. I was
out in Japan for a week and used to go along and watch the filming.
But I had only one scene with Sean and that all went beautifully.
Did you have much contact with Ken Wallis, who built
and designed the autogyro ‘Little Nellie’ which you presented to
You Only Live Twice?
I’ve had quite a lot to do with him over recent
years. When I was out in Japan he was out there naturally. But it’s
only recently that I’ve got to know him quite well, because he
usually presents ‘Little Nellie’ when we do the James Bond fan club
Apparently Sean Connery was displeased that Bernard
Lee and Lois Maxwell appeared in Operation Kid Brother, the
Italian spaghetti Bond film, because he felt that it exploited his
brother Neil. Why didn't you appear in the film?
Have you ever seen the film?
1969 marked the arrival of George Lazenby as 007. Did you meet
Lazenby before you began shooting, and what were your first
impressions of the guy?
I know about George from what he has told me later.
He wasn’t an actor, he was a car salesman. It was jolly bad luck
with him really. When he met Cubby and he asked him to do a test, he
had never met an actor and didn’t know what a test was. He spent a
couple of days looking for actors, to find out what happened. Then
some idiot said ‘you’re a star now behave like one’. He had only
read in the papers how stars behaved off the set, such as getting
drunk and having a good time. What he didn’t realise was on the set
they were highly professional people, they didn’t argue with the
director, they learnt their lines, they were on time. Lazenby just
behaved extremely badly.
Cubby Broccoli wrote in his autobiography that George was difficult
on set by having, “an arms-length relationship with everyone.” In
your preparation for your scene with George in Portugal, do you
remember any evidence of this behaviour?
I do know exactly what happened. He just walked off
the set because he wasn’t allowed to ride a horse. He was fooling
around on a horse, and Bernard (Lee) fell down, the owner said he (Lazenby)
shouldn’t ride it, because it was amongst all the extras. The extras
weren’t just normal film extras, they were people like Colonels and
Generals who were living in Portugal. They were told that if they
wore the right clothes they could all be in the film, and this was
about 11 o’clock in the morning. George Lazenby said that if he
couldn’t ride his horse he was going, and he walked off the set.
Cubby get him back on set?
I don’t think Cubby was even there. They didn’t get
him back on set, they had to shoot round him all day. He was telling
the director how to direct and just behaving abominably, he behaved
badly towards the press, and of course he got bad press coverage. I
think he was a good Bond, he’s extremely good in the death of his
wife at the end.
In 1995 you were the subject of This Is Your Life, when Lois
Maxwell recalled amusing incidents in Portugal during the filming of
OHMSS. Over the years did you build up a friendly
relationship with the regulars such as Lois and Bernard; and in
later years Geoffrey Keen?
Geoffrey I knew well because I was at the Academy
with Geoffrey, and he is my son’s Godfather. I haven’t seen Geoffrey
for ages now, we were great friends, and we still are friends.
Bernard I was a great friend of, I never really saw Lois, I saw her
a little afterwards, she wasn’t really in any scenes with me. I
think the only scenes I have with her are the ones in A View To A
Kill at Ascot. But Bernard was awfully nice, a bloody good actor
Diamonds Are Forever
marked the return of Sean Connery in 1971, with main location
shooting in Las Vegas. Were your scenes shot entirely at Pinewood,
or were you lucky enough to visit Vegas for the shoot?
I went out to Vegas. I was there for a week, I think
it was. I remember Guy Hamilton telling me they went to shoot the
Strip for odd scenes, and the lighting from the Strip was too strong
for the camera. I remember going into ‘Circus Circus’ with Charles
Gray, and there were all these fantastic acrobats flying about, and
no one was taking a blind bit of notice, they were all gambling
underneath. I remember him turning to me and saying “Perhaps the
Russians have something!” I have been out there quite a few times
since doing various things. I stayed in the MGM Hotel, and I think
that’s the hotel in which if you slept in a different hotel room
every night it would take you twenty-five years!
1971 also marked your involvement in the TV series
Follyfoot. How did you become involved in this series?
My agent put me up and I went for a test, and I ended
up playing the Colonel. I had a lovely time. I loved it; I loved
every moment of it. Michael Apted directed me in a couple of the
episodes. I remember him from Follyfoot well. Bernard (Lee)
also did a scene in the series.
Live And Let Die
was your one and only absence from the series since you joined the
I don’t know. I was actually written out of
Follyfoot to be in it. I think Saltzman was getting fed up with
How did you feel about being cut out of the movie?
Bloody annoyed. I know it was probably only one or
two days work, but I was annoyed because I had been cut out of
Follyfoot for it, they had written me out of three episodes so I
could go and do Bond, and then they decided not to use me.
Have you seen the movie since, and what do you think of it compared
to the others in the series?
Yes, I think it's all right, I think it’s a good
film. Everyone has a favourite. I mean a lot of people have written
to me and said what a great film A View To A Kill is, which I
think is not one of the best, and some think it's among the best –
which is incredible.
The Man With The Golden Gun
was probably the least exciting role for you to play as Q, as the
level of gadgets is exceedingly low. Why do you think this was the
Were there no gadgets in it?
You didn’t give Bond any gadgets.
No, I didn’t give him any gadgets did I... I identified
the golden bullet.