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Bond Director Speaks
An Interview with John Glen

conducted by Sandy Auden

© Sandy Auden
John Glen
John Glen
John Glen was born in 1932 in Sunbury-on-Thames, England. In addition to his contributions to many of the James Bond films, he also worked on Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992).

James Bond has always shown a great deal of stamina, not only in his relentless pursuit of the ladies -- and the villain, of course -- but also at the box office. The opening of the twentieth movie, Die Another Day, marks the fortieth anniversary of Bond. It has been a long, exhilarating journey and it has taken a lot of hard graft behind the scenes for many producers and directors. One such director is John Glen, the man at the helm for five Bond movies, including Octopussy, The Living Daylights and Licensed to Kill, and he wanted to add his own particular flavour to the big action, girls and gadgets franchise.

'I was keen to get back to the more serious Bond stuff,' he says. 'But with plenty of humour where it's all wrapped up in the action, in the setting. That was my forte and I tried to build on that strength. I think I achieved a good mixture of first rate action and real drama, and my last two films with Timothy Dalton were two of my best. They weren't the most successful of the Bond films but I think they were my better work.'

'I had a lifetime of ideas which came to fruition in the five films that I directed. There was an awful lot of me put into them, including my wartime experiences when I was a kid, which was a very exciting, and very tragic, time for a lot of people. Kids just make the best of it and it was an amazing playground to be born into, with all kinds of frenetic action that you associate with doodle bugs and stuff like that.

As well as drawing on his childhood influences, Glen had a huge repository of experience gathered during his many years as an editor for the Bond movies. 'As an editor you spend your whole time in a darkened room cutting other peoples mistakes together, trying to make the best out of it that you can and you learn from these mistakes. Then there's directing the action scenes, it's a reverse process to the editing. I got so used to editing action sequences, that as a director I could easily break it down into its component parts. And editing also gives you the ability to shoot a film completely out of order, which is a great asset. When you get a bright sunny day, you do all your wide shots; when you get a rotten day, you do your close shots. That saves you time, and time is money and that counts.'

Including this time in the editing room, Glen has chalked up a massive twenty years of involvement with the Bond movies. So he's probably best placed to know why they've maintained their popularity for so long. 'When the Fleming books were originally touted around, no one wanted to make them. When they made Dr No, the critics started to laugh at this new humour that had been discovered. The director, Terrence Young, actually got embarrassed and walked out of the theatre, not realising that they were laughing with the film and not at it. They didn't really know what they had, there's such a unique humour, the British-ness of it, the tongue in cheek. It's just got that magic. I think there's a little bit of Bond in all of us. He has terrific panache and he's a bit of a know-all, quite an arrogant person really -- I mean who would order green figs for breakfast? But the real reason they've been so successful is that they never repeat themselves on location and action. They've kept the series fresh. Occasionally, you'll have an actor/actress in more than one movie (like Maud Adams) but generally, certainly from an action point of view, they've never copied anyone. They're originators and they get copied by everyone else. You see commercials all the time which are blatant copies of the action sequences. I even shot one myself once! It was a complete copy of The Spy Who Loved Me opening sequence, but it was slightly different of course -- I didn't throw anyone off the mountain!'

For the full story of John Glen's life on the Bond films, pick up his book For My Eyes Only: My Life with James Bond at bookshops now.

(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)

Copyright © 2005 by Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

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