When Stevan Riley's new documentary, made as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of James Bond in film, wasn't included as part of the big bumper blu-ray boxset that was released at the same time Skyfall hit cinemas, I was more than a little surprised. As an unabashed Bond nut, I was chomping at the bit to see this doc, which has finally found its way to iTunes. And boy was it worth the wait.
Kicking off with a biography of Ian Fleming, Riley's film painstakingly charts Bond's journey from inception, through the publication of the novels, how Fleming lost the rights to Casino Royale, to the ghastly American TV serial, to Dr. No and then on through all 23 films. It even takes time to discuss the thorn in Fleming's side, Kevin McClory, and his rival Bond movie, Never Say Never Again. The only film that isn't touched on is the awful 1967 comedy version of Casino Royale, starring Peter Sellers, David Niven and Woody Allen among many others.
The film's roll call of interviewees is flat-out incredible, including five Bonds, all the surviving major players, numerous friends and relatives, and even former US President Bill Clinton. The only key piece of the puzzle conspicuously absent is Sean Connery, but anyone familiar with the series, and the proud Scot's notorious demeanour, will understand why. If not now, then certainly by the end of the film.
The interviews with the previous Bonds are particularly enjoyable, not least George Lazenby's meticulous postmortem of his own mindset at the time of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and how a series of bad choices cost him the role of a lifetime. Roger Moore is as charming and affable as ever, while Timothy Dalton gives a compelling insight into how he wanted to toughen up the character during his brief tenure. Brosnan is equally beguiling, and his on-again-off-again relationship with the character is fascinating.
Central to the movie is the relationship between the films' two producers, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman - how they met, formed a winning partnership, only for the dream to slowly crumble. The film's biggest strength in fact, is how beautifully it paints the break-ups, make-ups and shake-ups between those whose lives were shaped by James Bond. On perhaps three or four separate occasions I found myself genuinely choked up, with tears in my eyes, as I learned of the personal dramas that waged behind the scenes of my favourite film franchise.
Made with the full co-operation of MGM/UA and Eon Productions, this is an unflinching portrait of all involved, yet one must be somewhat skeptical of how positively it paints Cubby Broccoli as a lovable family man just trying to keep his dream alive. Fleming is seen as melancholic, tortured and a chronic alcoholic, Connery as stubborn, miserly and petty, McClory as scheming and opportunistic, and Saltzman as greedy and in over his head, all the while Cubby battles on for the good of the franchise, until his death in 1996.
It seems there has always been a steady stream of Bond-related documentaries, but after the vacuous, poorly-judged tribute at the Oscars last week, where it became apparent just how little the Academy truly understands the World of 007, it was a great pleasure to see such a rich, enlightening and entertaining piece of storytelling. Everything or Nothing serves both the fans, film historians and anyone who has ever dreamed of a life populated by beautiful women, exotic locations, state-of-the-art gadgets and being the world's greatest super-spy. Accept no substitutes, Everything of Nothing is the only Bond documentary you will ever need.
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