PART 2 - JAMES BOND EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Director/Editor Peter Hunt

PART 2 - JAMES BOND EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Director/Editor Peter Hunt

In the second of this three part interview with James Bond director/editor Peter Hunt, he discusses the challenges of early James Bond films From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.

Interview conducted by and copyright Edward Gross


From-Russia-With-LoveMEDIA GEEK:
 From your point of view, how did production of From Russia With Love go?

PETER HUNT: It was the third film of the deal made between the producers and United Artists. Dr. No was a big success, even Call Me Bawana wasn't a bad success. Bob Hope once told me that it was the only one of his films at that time that had made him money. We were in great, confident spirits at that time, and while we couldn't go mad, I don't think there was a problem regarding production or money. If we needed another day or some extra shots, we got them and did them. So the production was a far better laid out production, although it was entirely the same crew. I think that's what happened, and that there was a great deal more confidence. We were also much more respected by the studio then. They no longer thought of us doing a little crappy picture [laughs]; suddenly we were the big boys, and demanded all sorts of things.
Terence Young [the director], I think, was a little nervous, because it was the second one and he wasn't sure how it was all going to come out. He soon overrode that, and the confidence came back, helped, in no small way, by one of the definitive fights of all time on the train between Bond and Red Grant [Robert Shaw]. The carriage was built on the set, and we had three cameras filming that scene, which was great. The scene took a lot of manipulating in the cutting, but anything good almost always does.

MEDIA GEEK: The editing in that scene is fantastic.

PETER HUNT: Again, I was much more confident by then. I now knew that what I had done was good and that it had worked, so there was no holding me back.

FRWL Train 1

FRWL Train 2

FRWL Train 3

FRWL Train 4

FRWL Train 5

MEDIA GEEK: The interesting thing about From Russia With Love is that it seems to stick out from the rest of the series, in a good way, while the pacing is just incredible.

PETER HUNT: The pacing was the most important thing. If you analyze the story, it's an impossible one. Why did they go by train? Why didn't they take an airplane? [laughs] It had to move fast in order to hold you. The whole idea of the Bond films--and I don't know if they haven't lost a bit of that now--was that they were paperback films, as it were. They were the sort of thing that the commuters and the average guy working in New York and living outside read on the train. They were his fantasy world because of the way Fleming wrote them. They were all about good wine, well-dressed spies, and all that sort of thing. He brought into the book style great lengths of description regarding the shoes and the cotton shirts, ties, the food that James Bond was eating, and the beautiful girls, and all that--if you analyze it--incredible, but superficial grammar that rubbed off the page onto all of these people, and they were enjoyable because of that. I think we had to get the same thing into the films. My feeling was always that one should make the films seriously, but never take them seriously, if you see what I mean. The humor of the thing has to come out of the film itself. You can't sit down and say, "How can we make this funny?" In other words, it has to be there and work itself out.

MEDIA GEEK: Unlike what Roger Moore so often did.

PETER HUNT: Absolutely. I love Roger, he's a lovely man and I've done three films with him, but he was never my idea of James Bond. In fact, I think that one of the better of the films, and of course I would feel that way, was On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Did you enjoy it?

MEDIA GEEK: I rank it as number two, right behind Goldfinger.

PETER HUNT: [laughs] I'll accept number two. Had George Lazenby been more sensible, and had Broccoli and Saltzman been more sensible with him, I think he would have made a very credible Bond. He was a great looking guy and he moved along very well, although he wasn't really an actor. He was a model who had not done any acting before that. I think if things had gone the other way, he would have gone on to be a very good Bond. I'm sure they're not going to worry. They've made a fortune anyway [laughs].

Goldfinger_posterMEDIA GEEK:
 Before we move on to OHMSS, let's backtrack a little more. What was your view on the production of Goldfinger?

PETER HUNT: I got a little angry with Goldfinger, because I didn't think it was being made properly. In fact, I did quite a lot of work on that insofar as second unit shooting.

MEDIA GEEK: Why did you feel it wasn't being made properly?

PETER HUNT: I just didn't feel that it was coming out the way it should have been coming out. We changed the theme a bit, there was a different director...I just felt it wasn't quite right. I must say that from the producers' point of view, they must have thought the same thing, too. They really let me have a much freer hand on that in every way, and I was able to bang and boost that about. The whole car chase was actually a good lesson in editing. It was cut and edited and made to be entirely different from the way it was shot. It was very interesting, actually, but you wouldn't know, of course. Again, one of my favorite sayings is "Thank goodness the audience hasn't seen the script."

MEDIA GEEK: How was it originally staged that was different from what we saw?

PETER HUNT: It was very poorly done, in my opinion, but eventually it came out right. As I say, that's all a part of filmmaking, I guess. Oh, I remember another reason it was so tough. I had given up smoking, and I was a real bull in a china shop at that time, saying, "No, no, no, no. That's not the way it should be done." I was very autocratic about it all, although in fact it worked in the film. I had to pummel it into the same sort of style that the other two films were; taking what I was given and shaping it like the other two. It was not coming out like them, and my confidence was based on what I had already done. I must say, because it's definitely true, that those two producers always stood behind me very well. They were extremely cooperative and extremely appreciative of all the hard work I did. It is hard work, especially when you consider that the films are ninety percent hard work and ten percent cleverness. They were extremely hard work, and some were more difficult than others. Goldfinger was one of them. But as it worked out, it became one of the better ones. It had a good cast, which I also had in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I insisted on having a very good actress, and got Diana Rigg. Even all the smaller parts were very good actors, and that makes all the difference. Go back to Dr. No, for instance, all the people sitting around debating about everything were all local actors from Jamaica, and when we were cutting it together we had to put in all new voices. It was an amateur acting society, and for economic sakes they were used. Again, that's just to emphasize the point that as the films got more competent, they got bigger budgets and better casts. Using a barometer, Dr. No was such a success, that you simply had to go up with the next film and become more popular. Goldfinger, like On Her Majesty's Secret Service, had a good story.

MEDIA GEEK: I would imagine that something like Thunderball was an editing nightmare.

PETER HUNT: I don't know if it was a nightmare, but it was certainly a challenge. There were moments, I suppose, where I had nightmares [laughs] about what we were going to do with it. It was the biggest film of the lot. Funnily enough, it doesn't matter to the audience. It's whether it captures them or not. It was the most successful at the time, and it was also the most expensive. I think the final negative cost was about eleven million dollars, which was a tremendous amount of money in those days. Of course there was a tremendous amount of underwater material, which is very difficult to edit and to make move along and make a good story out of it. Underwater by its nature is slow and therefore trying to keep a pace going all through it is the difficult thing. Actually, I'd love to do Thunderball again in the future, which, of course, they eventually did [as Never Say Say Never Again].
One thing I said at the time of Thunderball and again later on, was that we had to be careful that we didn't become imitators of our imitators, because by then everybody had gotten on the bandwagon, so we had to be very careful of copying them, because that would have been a disaster. But they seem to have outlived everything and gone on and on and on, although they've changed tremendously. They're not the sort of thing that Ian Fleming wrote.

Thunderball and yoltMEDIA GEEK:
 Although they seem to be trying to get back to it now.

PETER HUNT: They keep trying. They always run On Her Majesty's Secret Service before they begin a new one, and wonder why they can't get back to that.

MEDIA GEEK: Did you enjoy Thunderball?

PETER HUNT: I liked the film, particularly the underwater material, because it was a great challenge to me as editor, and I was out in the Bahamas with them, and a great deal of responsibility was laid on my shoulders by them in the making of the film, and in the finishing of it. I don't think Terence really saw the film until much later on, because he was off doing another film. Then, of course, I went on to became a production associate for Cubby on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which didn't move fast enough for me. I didn't actually edit it, I'm afraid. By that time I was preparing On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and I didn't want to find myself becoming involved in that capacity, because once you get involved with the editing, it takes up a great deal of the time.

MEDIA GEEK: What was your experience on You Only Live Twice like?

PETER HUNT: There were always problems on all of the Bonds for various reasons, because they were tremendously ambitious and it wasn't always possible to do what the written word said; what people imagined. It was a compromise, like most films are.

MEDIA GEEK: I thought the film had one of the most disjointed stories.

A: Yes, it was, I'm afraid. It was great for me, because I spent six months in Japan and did all the second unit on it, all the aerial stuff, the helicopter fight..all of that, which was great to make and get done, and it was a tremendous training ground for me for when I came in for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, so all that worked out. And it was a successful film. The problem with it, however, is that it was difficult to put You Only Live Twice in the same style as all the others, because he got married--you had to make that look beautiful, and it was--you had the settings in Japan, and all that stuff, and you had a whole different culture, so it became a whole different style in a way, which is why I think you felt it was disjointed.

MEDIA GEEK: I also thought that it had gotten a little too big, if you know what I mean. Things like the scene, no matter how funny it may have seemed at the time, when the helicopter picks up the car with a magnet and drops it in the ocean, seem to be a bit too much.

PETER HUNT: [laughs] I shot all of that in Japan. They had a fit when I flew that over the harbor. They wouldn't let me fly it over Tokyo, but they did let me fly over the harbor. They didn't think I was going to get quite so close to all the buildings. It was a little on the fantastic side, and I think that's the thing about the film. It's a merge between the fantastic and the real and the beautiful, like the wedding, which was very realistic and beautiful, and yet we suddenly pushed into the fantasy-action material. It had two different tiers, as it were, and it didn't really juxtapose together quite evenly. So I can understand what you're saying.

Tomorrow, the conversation concludes with On Her Majesty's Secret Service 

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