Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mankiewicz on Bond, Superman

Back in August I noted the untimely passing of writer Tom Mankiewicz, whose considerable creative contributions helped elevate Superman: The Movie (which I previously discussed here) and who also helped shape some of the most definitive entries in the James Bond series (the latest news of which I discussed here).  Well, Empire had conducted a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with the late wordsmith very shortly before his death in which he offered up more priceless recollections of the immortal franchises, and they offer one more chance to hear the celebrated writer discuss the beloved franchises.

Mankiewicz recalls his first Bond entry, 1970's Diamonds are Forever, and working with star Sean Connery:
Sean wanted to have a meeting when he arrived in Vegas to do Diamonds Are Forever. I was so pleasantly surprised that about half of his notes were for other characters. He would say, “Are you sure she should say this here? Wouldn’t it be stronger if she did something?” I thought, “Good for him. He’s really read the script and he’s thinking about everybody in it.” I’m sure he thought, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve played this part before.” He would say, “Can I get something funnier here?”

When Lana Wood appears at the crap table and says, “Hi, I’m Plenty.” Bond says, “Why, of course you are.” She says, “Plenty O’Toole.” He asked me if he could respond, “‘Named after your father perhaps?’” I said, “It’s a great line.” But the very fact that he asked me – I was (only) 27 years old – shows you the kind of way he goes about his work. He’s totally professional. Any other actor would just have tried it right in the take. I was amazed. It’s a good line, and it’s his line.
He also offers this amusing anecdote when asked about Chris Reeve's early concerns about being typecast as the Man of Steel (concerns that, sadly, were borne out):
It’s amazing that he was thinking about it at the time because (the film had not come out and) he had only been in one (other) movie in a supporting part. His first concern was - and it’s a young actor's concern - “Am I going to be Superman for the rest of my life?” He wanted me to get him in touch with Sean Connery because I had done Diamonds Are Forever with Sean and I knew him pretty well. He said, “Sean Connery will know about typecasting because he doesn’t play Bond anymore. I’ve got to talk to him.” He was so earnest.
One night there was a party. I knew Sean wouldn’t want to talk to him about it in that way; Sean could be a prickly guy too. Well, we were there and there was Sean. Chris said, “Oh, please. I’ve got to talk to him.” I went up to Sean and said, “The kid playing Superman is over there and he wants to talk to you about typecasting.” Sean said, “Ahh, geez, Boy-o.” Sean used to call me “Boy-o”. I was only twenty-seven when I wrote Diamonds Are Forever so I was “Boy-o” to him.
But I persisted, “Do me a favour and just talk to him.” He agreed finally, and then he said to Chris, “In the first place, if Boy-o wrote the script it’s probably not going to be a fucking hit.” He loved to take the mickey out of me. He said, “So, you don’t have to worry about that. Now, if it is a hit, then find yourself something completely different to do right away.” Which I guess was why Chris did Somewhere In Time, a love story. Then Sean added, “By the way, if it is a big hit, get yourself the best fucking lawyer in the world and stick it to them.” Then, the favour granted, he walked away. I said to Chris, “Well, there’s your advice!”
Mankiewicz' death is a real loss to film lovers of any stripe for all the stories and accumulated wisdom he offered from his decades of intimate involvement in some of the most important productions in Hollywood history.  You can read more of his James Bond comments here, and more of his Superman comments here.  For any fan of these series, and movies in general, they're well worth a look.

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