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CUTTING THE MUSTARD An interview with John Grover

John Grover worked in the editing department for six of the seven James Bond films released between 1977 and 1989, graduating from assistant editor on The Spy Who Loved Me, to assembly editor on Moonraker and then ‘lead’ editor on For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill as well as ‘supervising editor’ for Octopussy.

007 MAGAZINE chief writer LUKE G. WILLIAMS spent an extended afternoon in John’s entertaining and warm company at his Buckinghamshire home in 2011, and we are now delighted to publish their full and frank conversation for the first time…

MGM Borehamwood Studioes Casino Royale (1967)

ABOVE: (left) The MGM Studios Borehamwood clock tower demolished in 1973. The 1967 spoof James Bond film Casino Royale was filmed partly at MGM Studios in 1966. Among those sequences filmed at the studio were the Ken Hughes directed Mata Bond scenes in East/West Berlin (top right & bottom centre [with Joanna Pettet and Bernard Cribbins]). Filmed partly on the largest exterior standing set at MGM, which had originally been constructed in 1964 as a Parisian suburb for the second Pink Panther film A Shot in the Dark, starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. (bottom right) Woody Allen's firing squad scene was filmed on the French village standing set originally constructed for Eye of the Devil (1966), which had co-starred Deborah Kerr and David Niven. The same set would also later appear in the classic TV series The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan, and can be seen in the episodes ‘The Schizoid Man’, ‘A. B. and C.’ and ‘Living in Harmony’.

Can you explain how you got involved in the movie business?
I had to do National Service when I left school, and when I came out, I did not want to follow my family into a profession. I was quite well-educated but I wanted to do something that was more interesting. I’d enjoyed taking black and white photographs, processing, and that sort of thing, and I had an uncle whose name was Frank Clark, who was supervising editor at MGM at Borehamwood. Well, I lived in Norwich, but I had a grandmother who lived in Palmers Green, so I went and stayed there and got a job at MGM. From there I was a numbering boy for two years. Numbering is the lowest grade in the cutting room, it’s where you get the film in and you put rubber numbers on, it doesn’t happen nowadays.

Then I became a second assistant, with Frank and then later with Ernie Walter, then I became a first [assistant] and then assembly editor. I did a lot of pictures with Ernie and travelled the world with him. Had a lot of fun, went to Israel during the war, which was very interesting. I was never really or very rarely out of work and got in with John Glen on a picture that was shot in South America, Murphy’s War (1971). I got on quite well with him and that’s how I started on the Bonds – which is what you’re really interested in!

John Grover, Norman Savage, Winston Ryder and John Glen

ABOVE: (left) John Grover. (top centre) Doctor Zhivago editor Norman Savage (1930-1973). (bottom centre) Sound Editor Winston Ryder (1915-1999). (right) Editor John Glen at work on Murphy's War (1971). 

What are your memories of working on David Lean’s classic Doctor Zhivago as an assistant editor?
That was when I had just got married, we’d bought a house, so we joined the picture in Spain. I was on the sound with Win Ryder, Norman Savage was the editor; Norman has died unfortunately and Win too so, unfortunately, I’m the only one left. There are very few people left from Zhivago now. That was a fantastic experience working with David Lean, of course it was, but it was bloody hard work! He didn’t suffer fools gladly; we did all the work in Spain and then we were shipped to America where we did the post-production at MGM in Culver City. That was the start of my period working either in England or Los Angeles. I got on very well with Mel Chamberlain who was head of post over there. In fact they tried to get me to stay over there, they poached people all the time, like they normally do, the Americans! But my wife was very pregnant by then with my son and she wanted him to be born over here, so we didn’t take that option up.

So I came back to England and finished Zhivago. We went to the premiere. It was fantastic but it was hard work, every day, seven days a week and we were in Los Angeles for probably seven months. The film was much too long at the first opening, so we then had to re-cut, and shorten the whole thing. After the premiere we had Christmas over there, we then cut the picture again, or Norman did, and we had to re-dub it, of course, so we stayed out there. It was very exciting, a terrific time.

What was next for you after Doctor Zhivago?
We came back here, and immediately I went on to… was it 2001 or Grand Prix? I can’t remember which one. Let’s see – 1966 was Grand Prix with John Frankenheimer, that was exciting, because of all the motor racing with miles and miles of 65mm film, so that was a really big logistical problem in the cutting rooms, with all the numbering and the labs. I was once again taken back to Los Angeles to finish the picture over there and dub it. I was on the picture with Fritz Steinkamp and Stu Linder who got Oscars, I didn’t but they did, which was terrific for us, and we got an Oscar for our sound editor [Franklin Milton] too.

Doctor Zhivago, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Grand Prix, Murphy's War UK Quad posters

What was Stanley Kubrick like to work with on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)?
I’ve been asked that question many times! What did I think of Stanley Kubrick? Well, the only time you were allowed to talk to him was when he invited you into his inner sanctum. He would always be wearing his blue suit. I was called in there one day because I was doing all the breathing in the space suits. He would call me into the office and say: “this is what I want you to do, I want you to wear the helmet and see what you come up with”. So it would take two or three days in the theatre to shoot it, then I’d go back, and synchronise it all. We shot on two lots of 35mm so I could take the noises out because every time you moved you’d be hitting the microphone, and you’d have to take out all the wheezing and sniffles and all that sort of junk had to come out because it was just breathing he wanted. Then I’d have to go with Win Ryder, who oversaw the sound, and sit there with Kubrick in the theatre and run it. And he would never tell you what he wanted – at the end of it he’d just say: “thank you John, OK, let’s try it again”.

My theory is what he was doing was playing for time, for ever and ever. I mean for six months I did this and each time I tried to make it different! In the end it was a mixture of bits and pieces from each version. Everybody says he was brilliant, of course. To me he was a very private person. I’m not sure he always knew what he wanted, but if he had enough things shown to him, he knew what he liked. He was clever. His death was another loss we’ve had.

How did you first meet John Glen and work on the Bond films?
I’d done some assembly work for John and he liked me or liked what I’d done. So he asked if I would like to come on The Spy Who Loved Me. It was the opening sequence he was doing; he was going to be in Canada on Baffin Island, and he wanted me in England to look at all the stuff and report to him. After he’d shot it, he came back and he’d got that absolutely wonderful shot of the parachute opening. I was his first assistant. I didn’t go to Sardinia, but I went to some of the locations, where he took the cutting rooms, locations where we normally had three or four weeks. I did more locations on Moonraker, it was shot in France, so we were in France all the time and I went to Venice. And on the other Bond films I went to Corfu and Mexico – all over the world! Absolutely terrific it was too!

Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli (1909-1996)

Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli (1909-1996)

What was your opinion of ‘Cubby’ Broccoli?
The first time I met him, he was a very impressive man, very big, very large, very friendly, very jovial and – like most Americans – very good with names! He always remembered my name which is flattering. He evidently thought I was okay because I stayed with him and his family for a long time. He was a lovely man and his wife was superb and very, very kind to my wife. They got on well.

Cubby would usually come in every day to see the rushes. He was very much a hands-on producer. If there was a problem, you could go to him. He was unwell when we were in Mexico working on Licence To Kill – it was a hard place to be. He had chest problems. So we used to send rushes up to him In Los Angeles. If he didn’t like something, he’d tell us. He was very direct, a good producer, a proper producer. There’s a lack of them now!

Cubby had a good sense of humour and would often deliberately sit me next to the most controversial person at dinner in the green room at Pinewood. There was this one American feminist I sat next to once. She challenged me as the editor of Licence To Kill. She started talking to me about what I thought about women in Bond films and why was it all ‘tits and bums’ and I said because tits and bums are lovely! It was difficult sitting with her! She was complaining about the sequence when Bond was fondling for Pam’s gun, she was saying it was a sexist thing that you’re showing her knickers! But that scene was fun! It was a good sequence! They were good together there Tim and Carey!

Your view of John Glen? And what was he like to work with?
He’s a superb second unit and action director, sometimes not terribly good with people, artists were put on the picture and they played themselves… Actually, maybe that’s a bit unfair to John, because Bond films were very difficult because of time schedules. I mean they’re huge productions. Massive. He delegated a lot, which was good, sometimes he upset people on the set, which he’s allowed to do – he’s the boss!

John would come into the cutting room, not every night but whenever he had time – purely because we needed to get stuff approved because we had such a tight schedule. His favourite question was: “what else have you got?” That’s what happens with most directors. Today working [on computers] it’s soul destroying because you keep every single version you do and, in the end… you don’t know what’s good! “Put it back the way it was” is a good expression, because the first assembly that anybody makes is always the most difficult. To try and tell a story as it was written in the script, to try and get it grammatically correct and running comfortably is the challenge, but after you’ve done that, then it’s easier to speed it up. The key is to show everything in a dialogue scene and then start deleting stuff. Don’t ever delete stuff before the director sees it though! That’s not my job – that’s his job!

Moonraker (1979) - Director Lewis Gilbert, Desmond Llewelyn (playing gadget master Q) and Roger Moore as James Bond rehearse a scene on the M's office set that was shipped to Paris for filming.

ABOVE: (left) Moonraker (1979) - Director Lewis Gilbert, Desmond Llewelyn (playing gadget master Q) and Roger Moore as James Bond rehearse a scene on the M's office set that was shipped to Paris for filming. (right) Founded in Germany in 1931, Steenbeck is a brand name that has become synonymous with a type of flatbed film editing suite which is usable with both 16mm and 35mm optical sound and magnetic sound film.

How about Lewis Gilbert?
Lewis was terrific. He’d come into the cutting room with a glass of wine and sit down. We had Steenbecks [a flatbed film editing suite] in those days and we’d just run stuff. And he’d say: “well I don’t like that”, or ”do we have anything else for that?” But as long as the story was working, he’d leave it to John [Glen] or myself. We had a lot of fun with him in the cutting room. I saw him not very long ago. He got very involved – one time when we were watching one sequence, he lent forward and said, “and that’s where I wanted to go!”, put his glass of wine down and it shot all over the film. It was very funny. We had to take it all off, dry it and clean it. That was Lewis. Lovely. A lovely man.

How did it feel when you were offered the role of editor on For Your Eyes Only?
It seemed like a natural progression but, of course, I was very flattered. To sit in front of Cubby in the office with all the other heads of department there and hear him say: “John, how do you feel… would you like to do the job?” Of course I’d like to do the bloody job! It was a big responsibility, but I had good assistants and John [Glen] was backing me up all the time, so it was a very good arrangement – time consuming though!

What are some of the biggest challenges of working on a Bond film?
What happens on a Bond film is they set the date that it’s going to be released, and then they say, right, we’re going to release on this date so if we’re going to shoot by this date, we’ve got to get a script by this date. But they never had the script ready, or they hadn’t cast it fully in time, so it always started late! So if shooting ran over, as an editor or a post-production team we had no period we could over-run! We had to be ready!

It was the same with Maurice Binder, he had to be ready for the opening of the film! That became the difficult thing so then you would sometimes need to take on more people. In that instance [on Octopussy] they called me supervising editor because we had two or three editors on it, that helped me out. It was a great learning stage for Peter [Davies] and for Matthew Glen.

We always had problems with Maurice and the titles. We had one once with pubic hair in the shot and that had to be taken out! Maurice was a naughty boy! One Bond premiere I went to – Princess Diana was there – the titles print arrived that day! I had to go to Rank, cut it in, make sure John was OK with it and then take it back to London, that was quite frightening!

Sheena Easton and Maud Adams with James Bond title designer Maurice Binder

ABOVE: (left) Maurice Binder filming the For Your Eyes Only (1981) main title with singer Sheena Easton. (right) Binder with Maud Adams who starred in Octopussy (1983). Maurice Binder's provocative opening titles from the James Bond films often got him into trouble with both censors and editors, due to their risqué content and last-minute delivery!

How did it compare working with Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton?
Loved Roger! Terrific. Absolutely. Such a happy person to be with. If there was any aggravation anywhere, he’d go out and buy 10 pounds of sweets and throw them on the set. A terrific guy. I mean I don’t see him very often but he’s another one who always remembers my name, always takes the piss out of me! I loved him, and I still do. He was my favourite Bond. I mean I didn’t work with Sean; I did a lot with Roger and with Tim. Tim was a good actor but didn’t have a very good sense of humour. You don’t feel as comfortable with him, he’s his own person. I think that would be fair to say, but a very good actor. Roger was good at throwaway lines; Tim wasn’t as good at that as Roger was or Sean was.

Can you explain the role of an editor and what the job involves on a day-to-day basis?
It’s extremely different today to 20 years ago. A day in the life of a film editor 20 years ago… For one thing the editor was on the payroll from either a week before or certainly from the start of a main unit shooting. He would be responsible with a team. I’d have an assembler, a first assistant, a second assistant. The second assistant would do the basic stuff such as synchronising the rushes, because everything was on film then.

The film would come in from the labs and there’d be a lab report which I would take to the set. The rushes would come in at about eight in the morning and the sound would come off at nine or something like that. The assistant would synchronise the rushes and if it was an action sequence with a lot of gun shots we’d put a millstone round our necks because we used to dub the rushes, temp dub them, because if you see a gun shot on the rushes it just goes, pfft, there’s nothing! So we’d put a real gun shot in, sometimes we’d put a flash in if the flash didn’t record. We’d do that because when we ran rushes for Cubby, which was the most important rushes for us of the day, the presentation, for me, was all important. Cubby would come into rushes probably at half past 11. There’d always be about half an hour of rushes, so he’d sit there and hopefully we’d dubbed it and put some gun shots in.

We didn’t always run the second unit for him, because some of that, especially with Derek Meddings’ stuff, was all high-speed stuff which meant there was miles of run-up. We’d try to do that earlier in the cutting room by taking all that run-up off, but that was very time consuming and we didn’t often have the time for that. So we’d possibly send him a selection of stuff to see at another time.

the Spy Who Loved Me (1977) / Moonraker (1979)

ABOVE: (left) The spectacular pre-credit sequence for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) was filmed by editor and second-unit director John Glen on Baffin Island in Canada, and in Switzerland by ski-chase co-ordinator Willy Bogner. (top left) Derek Meddings [standing centre left) on the miniature of the Liparus Supertanker, which was filmed at high speed when moving in water so that the waves appeared more realistic when projected at normal speed – this was a technique Meddings pioneered on the groundbreaking TV puppet series Thunderbirds (1965-66), which also worked well with explosions and fire effects. (bottom right) Derek Meddings was Oscar-nominated for his special effects work on Moonraker (1979), which again utilised high-speed filming for the model work, including the destruction of the Drax space station, which was achieved by firing a shotgun at the large-scale miniature filmed inside the vast ‘007 Stage’ at Pinewood Studios.

The next running would be the crew running in the evening when they’d finished shooting. The artists didn’t normally come to that, I mean John didn’t like them there because they would change their performances. But we would try to get make-up and hairdressing there so that the main unit were looking like the doubles and the doubles were looking like the main unit, so at least we didn’t have wardrobe malfunctions and wardrobe that looked wrong. That could go wrong and did go wrong, on one film we had someone who was meant to have a red hat on and when it came out of the process it was a blue one!

The rest of the day you’d be assembling stuff. And everything had to be numbered. Once they’d been synchronised, once everything was in synch, it would be put on to a machine which would put rubber numbers on it. The second assistant would then have a logbook and mark down what the numbers were, and he would also key number it, which is what’s on the film stock itself, so you knew what was in the laboratories later.

It’s so different today. Completely different. Then the film would be broken down into small sections of film. Each would be a slate, you know 221 take 1, 2 and 3, you know whatever had got printed. Then I as the editor I would have marked up my script . I’ve seen the rushes and I’d marked my script. Sometimes if I was sitting with the director, I’d get a nudge from John which means that’s the take he likes, or he liked that bit. So I’d scribble something down and try to slot it in later. That’s how we communicated.

Then I would put it together. I’d run it on a Moviola, which was a machine that had a picture screen on the right and a sound head on there. So you’d have the film coming off my hand. I’d be running it through, feeding it through. I’d have bits that I liked which I would stop, look at, go backwards and forwards… It’s difficult to explain! I could show you how to do it – I could still do it today without any trouble! I’d mark it with wax pencil where I wanted to start and stop. I’d take it out of there and go onto a pic synch or a synchroniser and put it in there, so you keep it in synch. You’ve got the numbers that are on the film and the soundtrack which holds it in synch, that shows you it’s in synch.

Then you’d just wind it in and join it up with a tape joiner. When I first started it was with a joiner where you had to do it with acetate and scrape it and you lost two sprockets, but you didn’t 20 years ago, you just joined it with a piece of tape.

For  Your Eyes Only (1981) / Octopussy (1983)

ABOVE: (left) For Your Eyes Only (1981) One of Roger Moore's standout scenes as James Bond is his ruthless killing of Locque (Michael Gothard) as he kicks his car off a cliff in Corfu. The shot was achieved via a combination of practical action, (inset) brute force, and clever editing by John Grover and his team. (right) Similar techniques were used in Octopussy (1983) for the culmination of the fight on top of a speeding train. Pictured are Stuntmen Reg Harding (doubling for Kabir Bedi as Gobinda), Paul Weston as James Bond, and Wayne Michaels doubling Anthony Meyer (Grischka), on location at the Nene Valley Railway in Cambridgeshire standing in for West Germany.

The film would gradually be built up that way. So you’d have sequences – you’d label a sequence, say sequence 22, and that would be in a can – well there’d be a can of picture and a can of sound. So when John came in in the evening or somebody else wanted to see it or the sound boys wanted to get hold of it, they would take the sequence out and run it on a Steenbeck because you didn’t get so much wear on a film that way. And you could go backwards and forwards and see it in reasonable conditions, not like in a theatre but in reasonable conditions. And you could stop and start it, and you could wax it and say that’s incorrect or it’s uncomfortable because it’s jerky or whatever. Editing is all about trimming and tightening. It’s a hands-on thing.

If you were waiting for special effects shots, or whatever else, you’d assemble and put it together and put a piece of blank film with ‘scene missing’ where the special effects shots were going to go. In the end I would have them shoot on a rostrum camera either a picture from the storyboard, so you could then cut the sequence with a little bit of film of the storyboard so that you could still show it and you could start timing it.

The Bond films, when I was on them, they all had to be two hours and six minutes! Ten doubles! You couldn’t go over that! Nowadays they’re shorter – the last one was too short! To me you haven’t got enough story then.

Peter Hunt laid it all down originally. The philosophy is action, action, action. It’s all go! Fast cutting. Enough cover so even if you have a slow dialogue scene it doesn’t seem slow! Americans have an extremely low attention span! No attention span at all! It must be bang bang! It’s like MTV – moving wallpaper! But if you’re trying to tell a story you must balance it… action sequences you can go faster and faster.

I’m not sure if it’s the case now, but on the Bonds the editor was always taken out on location a week before shooting to set up. On The Living Daylights I went out even earlier because we had to do playbacks. I went to Vienna to do music playbacks and set that up. You’d normally start about a week before although sometimes the film might have shot miles of stuff before, specialist footage. On Moonraker we’d had all this stuff shot in Brazil, so there was already a mass of film. And you’d get the library material if you needed that, back projection shots and so on. Those are so much better now with green screen and digital photography. I mean some of the back-projection stuff we had on the Bonds was awful! I shouldn’t say that, but they were!

James Bond composer John Barry in The Living Daylights (1987)

ABOVE: In addition to composing the score for The Living Daylights (1987), John Barry (1933-2011) also appears in the film as the conductor of the Vienna Orchestra during the World Tour of Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo). John Barry arranged Monty Norman's ‘The James Bond Theme’ for Dr. No (1962) and then went on to compose the music for eleven James Bond films from 1963 to 1987.

Did you often have to delete whole sequences from a final cut of a Bond film?
We rarely lost complete sequences, what we’d often do is make them shorter. The great thing about John Glen is that, having been an editor, nothing was ever very long! You never have very many long cuts in a Bond or long sequences because you can’t cut them. You do enough cover so the film goes bang, bang, bang – and if a scene’s not working you can cut your way out of it. Which sometimes can be annoying but sometimes can be a great blessing, ok cut it there – bang it’s gone!

And your memories of the great John Barry?

I’d been with John Barry on other pictures, so I knew him. We were in Vienna together for The Living Daylights. I got rather drunk with John one day, that was Cubby’s fault because they were shooting a big scene where he was supposed to conduct. It was being lit, it was a big scene to light, the opera hall or whatever it was. We’d had lunch and Cubby said to me: “you go and have lunch with John, and chat and look after him for a while”. His wife had gone shopping I think, with Barbara [Broccoli]. So they weren’t there. She used to look after him because he liked his drink! He was a lovely man, very talented. Then John was called on [set] and he couldn’t stand still! The story is, I don’t know if it’s true because I wasn’t there, but somebody said that they nailed his shoes to the floor so that he didn’t move. That’s possible! I don’t know if it’s true but it’s a lovely story! He was terrific and he could conduct it whether he was drunk or not!

Normally on a Bond film you’d have a music editor. I would always use music from other Bond films, and we’d track the picture to it and cut the picture to it because it creates a good rhythm. With John Barry you’d leave the music in because most of it was his anyway and he’d use it and adapt it. His music was very much part of the picture and made it work. The music drove it.

How closely did you work with Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli?
The first Bond I was on; Barbara was just a pretty little girl who came on the set with mum and dad. Michael was always around, and he was basically a writer and a lawyer. As the pictures went on, they became more and more involved. Michael would like his little acting bit where he’d get into each film. Cubby was in one of them too in Venice. Barbara and Michael aren’t my close friends but if I see them, we talk with no problem at all. I respect them very much and love the family.

Tmothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) | Second Unit director Arthur Wooster

ABOVE: (left) The Living Daylights (1987) New James Bond Timothy Dalton throws himself into the action for the pre-credit sequence. (right) Second unit director Arthur Wooster also gets in on the action in order to capture the scenes filmed on the Rock of Gibraltar.

Any other memories of The Living Daylights?
We had a delay of course. We were going to have Pierce Brosnan as Bond, and he would have been terrific. We’d done the artist test for him. I liked him and thought he’d be a terrific Bond. Roger was too old, which was sad. Tim got the job but unfortunately only did two. Early on we sent Pete Davies out to Gibraltar – so he was working with the unit. When we saw the footage back in England the insurers immediately tried to stop it because Tim was doing the action, which you don’t allow really! He was very hands-on. It was the start of the picture and he was trying to put himself out there as a new Bond.

Timothy Dalton’s second Bond film Licence To Kill, was very controversial in terms of its violence. I imagine that presented you with many problems. What are your memories of the film and the challenges of editing it?
They said they’d got to be more violent because all the other films that were making money were violent. And not quite so much comedy. Tim didn’t have that sense of humour, if things went wrong, he didn’t burst into laughter. He was a very serious actor. I thought (that there’d be censorship problems) I thought my goodness – it’s so graphic! I mean the body going through the grinder and that sort of thing. Violence on screen is incredibly easy to shoot, and to show violence off screen it’s got to be done with sound, for which you need a good sound team, which we had.

We had troubles with the censor, which was a problem because it’s family entertainment a Bond, and the kids are half the box-office. The censor made us take a lot out and soften it. Cubby was really upset about that because of other violent films that were being shown. I mean how did Spielberg get away with some of his stuff? He got away with murder in the Indiana Jones films.

When the baddie Robert Davi gets his comeuppance, I mean he deserved it! He’d killed all these other people, completely ruthlessly! But anyhow, I went to the censor, and physically re-cut it in front of him, you know frame by frame. I said: ‘you’ve got to show the guy catching fire otherwise it doesn’t mean anything!’

In the end it was a compromise and Cubby backed down, I think. We didn’t have any bad language, but it was violent. With the mechanical shark, blood and meat, it was rather gory. It was never real sharks, just pretend ones. It was the blood they were worried about, too much red upsets people! And of course the noise, the sound was equally responsible for the violence. That was Vernon Messenger – blame him for that!  The grinder scene – that was the most violent. And that was violent in the script, it had all been set up with all the blocks of drugs going through. That was violent. And it was extremely violent when it was shot because of all the gore and gunge they shot through, so we did cut most of that out. But we had to show the threat, what would happen to Bond if he went into it! They hadn’t had this extreme violence in a Bond film before. I didn’t think it would disturb children, it might frighten them, but during Doctor Who for goodness sake, children used to hide behind the settee.

So yes, we set out to make a more violent Bond, which we did. I suppose it disappointed some of the older Bond people because they wanted us to continue with the tongue-in-cheek humour, which we didn’t have. The Bond story was becoming more up to date, not necessarily better but more up to date. We did a lot of things the censor wanted. There was no terribly violent sex stuff in it – there was a little bit of titillation but not very much, there were just beautiful girls for goodness sake! They were lovely. Carey Lowell was the most beautiful girl you can imagine!

Licence To Kill (1989) Timothy Dalton, Benicio Del Toro, David Hedison

What was it like being in Mexico? Any challenges?
Staying well! The food was okay, but you were always a bit sick, with an upset tummy or something like that. It was extremely hot; we weren’t allowed to drive. We had to have a chauffeur car or something because of the danger. We were in a lovely hotel, but Churubusco Studios were terribly run down. I think they probably ripped Cubby off… I remember a lady coming out to paint an enormous backdrop, a huge backdrop, black with stars, little bits of countryside, this that and the other. It was lovely. Then Tim was in the boat with Carey Lowell in the romantic scene – it was done on a big set. I remember how good that painted backdrop was.

What are your memories of the Kenworth truck sequence?

[Second unit director] Arthur Wooster had this enormous storyboard and huge budget and just presented stuff wonderfully. He was very clever, and it was very dangerous. How they got the authority to make explosions of that size I’ll never know! Today you’d have major environmental problems doing that. You’d do it miniaturised or with CGI, but they were all for real!

Arthur used to come into the cutting room about once a week. He was at Cancun, shooting up there and we were in Mexico City. He’d come in and I’d work for a day with him there so he could see some of the stuff that he’d done, and some of the stuff that we’d put together. I nicknamed him ‘Which way Wooster’, because he’d always come in and say: “well, I’m going to shoot this scene. Which way do you want to shoot it?” And I’d say: “Arthur, I don’t know, we haven’t got the main unit yet. So I don’t know if it’s left to right or right to left!” It depended on his storyboards, but half the time because he had the money, the picture had the money, they’d do it both ways so we could cut it left to right or right to left. That’s why the sequence was so good, we had a mass of material. It still looks good today; I don’t know whether it would be done for real today!

Carey Lowell | Kenworth Truck Licence To Kill (1989)

What work on Licence To Kill are you most proud of?
Trying to make the Barrelhead bar-room sequence work… because it was the first scene to be shot and, to be fair to the director, getting the crew and all the artists to work together [at the beginning] is difficult. We made it work in the end but I’m sure John Glen would agree it wasn’t the best sequence. We had dancers, we had playback, villains, new characters. It was a difficult scene to light… There were just too many things in there. It just wasn’t a very good sequence. So to get that to work, I was proud of that because that’s what an editor’s job is! You’ve got to tell the story with the material you have. It’s no use saying, if I had a close shot, I could have done that!

Sometimes on a Bond, if it really didn’t work, if you’re up to date, you could go and see John and say, it’s really difficult, can you re-shoot that? And he’d call Arthur in and he’d go and get a close-up and you could get out of it. That was a privilege that we did have on the Bonds because we had enough money. That’s also a good thing about having an editor on location. It’s no use having him back in England and you’re on the other side of the world!

And of all your Bonds, what was your best work do you think?
Working with Arthur Wooster’s material for the sequence with the train for Octopussy. The chase. There was so much film to try and sort through. John and Arthur loved it if you could get everything in that they’d shot – even if it was just a three-foot cut! So to try to integrate all this film and have the viewer still follow what’s happening, that’s one that I was probably most pleased with. It was good – a lot of cuts!

What do you make of the most recent Bond films?
I enjoyed Casino Royale, but I didn’t like Quantum of Solace. It was completely and utterly over-cut. It destroyed it. I’m sure there was wonderful material and terrific action stuff, huge amounts of money, which were destroyed in the cutting room. Although that’s perhaps being unfair to the editors – the director just wanted to go faster and faster. But it was not a computer game, it was a film! Watching it, you were completely lost, if you hadn’t seen the film before you wouldn’t have known what the hell was happening! No establishing shots, no tension!

©007 MAGAZINE April 2024




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