Mark O’ Connell, as debonair as JB himself.
We here at FBC HQ love to share all things film and beyond with you, our lovely readers. One such delightful discovery of recent times has been Mark O’ Connell’s book Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan. The book details the journey of discovery through each of the films within the James Bond franchise during the 1980s with the added perspective of having a family link to the series.
After many majorly nerdy Bond chats via Twitter, we are very pleased to not only call Mark a fully fledged ‘Friend of the show’ but our very first interviewee to appear on the website. But enough from us, let’s get to the good stuff:
We’re big fans of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan here at FBC HQ. How did the idea of the book come about?
Thank s guys. And thanks too for that lovely, accidental photo moment with Barbara Broccoli and the book in Liverpool that you posted recently. That was a sweet moment.
(Left) When co-host Gary (with the worst hair day of his life) met Barbara Broccoli & of course got Catching Bullets signed
Catching Bullets was the crossroads of a few approaches and ideas about doing a book. The initial spur was after seeing the traffic hits I got for reviewing some of the earlier Craig movies on fan forums. There was a big audience it seemed, folk were being kind and wanting more writing so I wondered if there was a book there…. But then I couldn’t not to a Bond book without bringing in my family links to the 007 and the Broccoli families. So those two avenues became a memoir through cinema in a way that I knew hadn’t been done before in that way.
From start to finish, how long did it take to complete and what was the writing process like?
It was about 18 months, with the second half of that being more intense as the publication date loomed.
We [Gary & Jamie] love the personal narrative of your Bond adventure in the book, it was very similar to our own experiences. Have you found this to be common amongst other fans?
I appreciate that. Cheers. Yes, very much so. I still get Tweets and messages saying “oh my – I did that and thought no-one else did”, “I would nervously record my Bond films off our old VHS recorder” and “thank God it wasn’t just me that did that really Bond fanboy thing….and maybe still does”. It was almost like a shared tour of movie childhood duty – where the generations who remember pre internet, pre Netflix, pre countless set reports, stills and teasers have all come out of the Bond fan woodwork to share their “yes, I remember that” etc. That has been lovely and totally unexpected. When writing you do want readers to chime with the work, of course you do. But you don’t expect other people’s narratives to echo yours so much. And it has been a joy to see that…as well as supply me with some sort of “you’re not alone” closure (!).
Were some Bond films more difficult to write about than others?
The traps are the films and beats that a wider fan consensus have written off as lacklustre. There is a little bit of following the herd when it comes to movie fandom, and Bond is no exception. So there are the usual films and even Bond actors that it are easy to knock and scorn. I never set out to do that. What would be the point? I also firmly believe that it is bloody hard work to make a movie, let alone 24 of them. It is easy to scorn and pick apart a movie from our Blu-ray surrounded sofas. With Catching Bullets I set out to celebrate and herald the Bond movie making traditions. Yes, I have my less favourite Bond films (*coughs The World is Not Enough*) but when discussing the elements that were less successful it is wrong not to remember how similar glitches are there in other Bond movies and other forms of cinema. I always try to put a context on things, especially my movie writing. These are James Bond movies. They are [increasingly] unique and forever escapist works of art with various entertainment, literary and cinematic cogs working at once.
I [Gary] think the book would make a great film. Who would you like to be cast as the child/adult you?
That’s such a Smash Hits question! Cate Blanchett. In both roles. Very Buñuel. Or Ryan Gosling as the younger me, struggling to be noticed for who he really is. Oh, I don’t know. I have always liked Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) and a whole raft of the new Team GB of young actors. But the younger versions of older characters always suit unknowns. What I would push for is quietly populating the supporting cast with real Bond names and actors. I think Maud Adams would make a great head nun from my primary school!
Film franchise universes are all the rage at the moment in Hollywood. Would you ever like to see a film featuring other 00’s/Bond characters?
No. Not for Bond. It doesn’t need it. These extended film universes may be “all the rage” but I am not sure the history of good cinema will agree in years to come. With the exception of the X-Men film project (which still remember they have to work as movies not just visual re-enactments of comic books not everyone has read) and some – though ever fewer – bursts of freshness coming from the house of Marvel (Ant Man, Iron Man III) I think there is a really lacklustre tradition in big budget franchises that is replacing the industry of making a decent ish movie for the industry of teaser peaks, first photo in costume, first logo clamouring etc etc. The fever has shifted from wanting a decent movie that works as a piece of cinema to damning or praising something from its pre-release exclusives. Ghostbusters will forever be a dud because its teaser didn’t take flight – never mind that the film is doing good business and is a fine piece of summer fluff. Suicide Squad is a perfect example of a film whose work was done when the fans liked the trailer or first character pics. Likewise, Captain America – Civil War and Deadpool. I call them stepping stone films where the titbits and Easter eggs of a next chapter outweigh the peaks and successes of the current one. The films end up being two hour trailers for each other. The Godfather didn’t win Best Picture because it teased a three movie story arc over the end-credits for only those had only read Puzo’s book. All that could and would happen with an extended Bond universe would be Moneypenny or Q or Mallory or whoever having to live in a story world where they are just a projection of Bond himself and other Bond movies. It would dilute the vodka Martini rather than build up a thirst for the real thing. And I don’t know about others… but twenty four films in one series is not a bad extended universe in itself.
(Below) Mark O’ Connell & Maud Adams at the Catching
Bullets book launch
What is your favourite film franchise other than James Bond?
Star Wars. Superman. Indiana Jones. I have rediscovered the Mission : Impossible recently and think they have never been better. Likewise the Pixar ouput. But I also love the inadvertent film franchises, connections and companion movies of the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson. I would say the likes of Dazed and Confused, Boyhood and Everybody Wants Some!! can be held up as a franchise of sorts – ones that other audiences pin as much hope and anticipation on as the queue at Comic-Con.
Which Bond theme is your shower song?
The Man with the Golden Gun is a dirty pole-dance of a Bond song and perfect for the shower. Though Bond songs in the shower always make me think of Roger Moore and that any moment a gun will slide past that carefully placed frosted glass.
Which henchman/woman would you hire to protect you?
May Day. She’d look amazing, kick-box some backsides, can deal with unwelcome visitors, is good with horses, has access to an airship, can slip into a car effortlessly (perfect for quick airport pick ups) and almost single-handedly saved San Francisco – my favourite city in the world. What’s not to like?! Besides, Grace Jones can regale stories of Studio 54, Warhol and hula hooping for The Queen. It’s win win.
Which decade contains the best Bond films?
All of them.
Who would be your dream band/artist to perform a future Bond theme?
In no order…. Lady Gaga, Kylie, Depeche Mode, Stevie Nicks, Daft Punk, London Grammar and Adele.
Are you a fan of a Vodka Martini?
Not if I haven’t eaten first. I must admit I wasn’t a natural fan until I had the folk at Belvedere Vodka kindly furnish me with a proper mixology session – where drinking the subtle and different variations of Bond’s vodka Martini laid bare how I had just been having bad ones all these years. I’m more of a Peach Bellini kind of butch drinker.
What is your favourite non-Bond film featuring one of the 007 actors?
Does Boat Trip count? (!). Oh, I don’t know. The Cannonball Run is always good value for Mr Moore and co. The Name of The Rose was such a good movie. Layer Cake was such a freshly fired bullet of a movie when it came out. And whilst I haven’t seen everything, Pierce Brosnan is doing really interesting work now.
Which Bond vehicle/gadget would you most like to own?
Octopussy’s Barge. I would take that up the Thames to meetings in town and imagine I can step off it with the same grace and poise Kristina Wayborn manages in Octopussy. I am ever wanting a DB5 though. They are like a sexy Spitfire on wheels.
We love a good lightening round. We’ll let you get back to reality now, but before you leave, what does the future have in store? Will Catching Bullets return?
As it promises at the closing credits of Catching Bullets – ‘Mark O’Connell Will Return’. Watch this space.
Thanks a bunch!
You’re most welcome!
Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan is available on amazon here:
You can also follow Mark on Twitter or visit his website for more content on the links below: