Stevan Riley is back in the director’s chair for his new movie Everything or Nothing; The Untold Story of 007 - a film that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the franchise.
We caught up with the director to chat about the film, the research he did for the project and the people involved in the franchise that he got to chat to.
- Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 is about to be released on DVD but for anyone who hasn't seen the documentary yet can you tell me a little bit about it?
It’s a piece for the 50th anniversary and it is the first cinema documentary on James Bond. It tells the real story of the people behind Bond who have protected it over the ages.
I was asking myself this question when I was making the film 'while James Bond was saving the world on the big screen who behind the scenes was saving James Bond?’
- So where did this movie start for you? And what sparked your interest in the history of James Bond and Ian Fleming himself?
The opportunity to direct this movie came first and, as I mentioned, there was a desire to make a cinema documentary to commemorate the 50th anniversary. Then it was just about what take I had on the fifty years and what sort of film I wanted to make.
I just looked into the history with the survival story in mind. I did all of my reading and covered lots of moments in that period where Bond could have been derailed or come a cropper.
It’s a small miracle that Ian Fleming kept churning out his books and that there was a film in the first place and that Bond managed to survive all of the decades and the changing generations and all the threats to franchise - it is the longest running franchise in world history.
I was just fascinated by the number of threats and challenges that were overcome in that time.
- This is a warts and all look at the history of Bond so how open to this idea were the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson - you do cover some rather delicate issues?
Those chats were had at a very early stage and there was definitely a degree of caution initially about ’how do we approach this?’ I said ’ I think that we have got to go to these places if you are going to tell this story honestly and you have to deal with these more troubled periods of the producer’s lives as well as the ups.
At the end of that conversation both Barbara and Michael committed to make it the best piece possible. There were no issues at all on that front and I have got to say that I was really left to my own devices to get on with stuff - they were also super busy with Skyfall.
But it did take a lot of thought and there were a lot of people with legacies to incorporate and there were big personalities, big egos and big personalities to pay attention and to involve in the actual storytelling.
So a lot of that thinking of that was done beforehand and there really was no intervention at all.
- So how much did you know about the problems that Bond has faced over the years such as Connery’s fallout with Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman? Did you uncover anything in the filming of this movie that you didn’t know?
Oh plenty, I didn’t know anything about the Bond history really - I had seen the films but I didn’t know all of the ins and outs.
So it really was a journey of discovery for me and I made sure that I read every book and spoke to as many people as I could in the prep phase and the interview phase to be able to speak as confidently on these things as possible as they are incendiary issues.
All of that was really news to me but I had to make sure that when you are dealing with issues that are that serious that you approach them with a degree of rigour.
Everyone has their different viewpoints - when you are dealing with something that is so successful it is an inevitable thing really when you have got money and egos involved.
- The film features interviews from the actors who have played Bond as well as people who knew Fleming personally so how difficult a task was it getting all these people together? Where they quite open to getting involved?
Yeah they were luckily. It was a lot of research because there was such a cast of potential interviewees for the film - we weren’t short of people to approach.
When people knew that it was a commemoration piece and it was the first cinema documentary and they knew that we were going to approach it in a thorough way people did get on board.
It was a case of finding the people that we really wanted to speak to and who were going to tell the story properly.
- One person that the film doesn’t feature is Sean Connery - despite being a huge part of Bond history - so did you try and get him involved?
Yeah, I was very keen to interview Sean and I tried to approach him on several occasions. You get a sense of his wariness with the franchise as he did have his fallouts.
He had a mixed relationship with the character of Bond - I am sure that he does look back fondly on it but then I think his mind swings to the less enjoyable aspects of the fallout.
There were times when we thought that he might respond and we were waiting on the response, that happened a few times, but he wasn’t up for it.
- Bill Clinton also pops up to talk about his love of the Bond film so where did you learn about his enthusiasm for the franchise?
There was a presidential aspect to the film where we found the JFK was a big fan, Regan was a fan and George Bush Sr was a fan.
Then there was a sniff that Bill Clinton was a fan and so we approached him through one of his campaign organisers, someone one of the producers knew, and he got back straight away and said yes.
Normally you would expect a President to be a bit wary about talking about their love of a superhero but he didn’t whole back.
I think the Americans are more keen to say that then even the English are - we are a little more reserved about that - but they take Bond at its rightful face value and as a symbol of freedom and good.
- The film also features some great footage of Fleming himself so how did you go about getting you hands on that?
Lots of digging around as we had access to the archives and there was just reams and reams of it. I had a thousand hours of that kind of hours to wade through.
- Given the fact that is was the 50th anniversary of Bond last year how have you found the response to the film so far?
It has been really good, I am pleased to say. When I say that I am talking about the hardcore fans because these are the guys that I thought would be the most critical - they just live and breathe Bond.
I was definitely cautious about how they would respond because they are quite opinionated.
I got nervous at certain points of the project because I felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew because it was such a big project and we were covering so much of it and at time. I was worried that I would fall on my face or open myself up for a bashing. But so far the response has been very encouraging and it has been a huge relief.
- Bond is the most enduring franchise in film history so what do you think has made the franchise so popular and last so long?
I think a lot of it goes back to the original character by Ian Fleming as he is an archetypal classical hero. He always use to say that he was writing fairytale for adults and that it was a retelling of the tale of George and the Dragon.
He put him in a tux and made him embody all of these contradictions; he is a murderer and a lover and a saviour and an assassin.
All of these contradictory elements make for a complex character; he seems quite simple but he is complex.
Speaking more pragmatically you have the owners and producers of Bond who have made it their life’s work to protect the franchise and make the next movie and that has taken a lot of care and affection.
I was talking to Daniel Craig and he said that it so easily could have died a death had it become another commodity in Hollywood.
But the fact that it is this family concern - someone called it the most successful cornershop in the world - and that has had a played a big part in it’s success as well.
- You have made a string of documentaries now so what is it about this genre of film that interests you so much?
Paying the bills (laughs). No I love documentaries because I enjoy the real life aspect of the stories - I love fiction and I would love to do drama down the line.
But for the moment I can quite happily lose myself in these great tales and just knowing that they took place.
You get to research and you get to live the life of your subjects for a while while you are in touch with them and in their space filming them.
- Finally what is next for you - do you have any plans to tackle a dramatic feature?
Yeah I would do for sure. There are a couple of documentaries that will probably keep me occupied until then; there is a Hollywood piece that I am doing that I hoping to get off the ground in the next few weeks and there is also an environmental film.