The Norwegian James Bond Magazine (James Bond-magasinet) speaks with Terry Bamber, Production manager on the last six James Bond films.
Throughout his 40-year career, and despite having worked on other well-known blockbusters such as 101 Dalmatians, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Doom and World War Z, he consider his work on the Bollywood film Ra One as one the most treasured experiences from the business.
Currently, he is working on the upcoming Guy Ritchie film The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the television series of the same name (Ian Fleming originally came with up with the name of Napoleon Solo in the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).
1) As far as I know, your first James Bond film was The Man with the Golden Gun from 1974. Can you tell us about how you got involved with the Bond films, and how is it to be part of the Bond family? Can you also describe what a Unit Runner does?
– My dad and two uncles worked in the film industry and during my school breaks my dad would get me work as a unit runner on set or a production office runner (based in the office). Dad was working at Pinewood Studios on One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing for Walt Disney productions. I had just finished my A levels and dad decided to take me to the studios to find a job. Amazingly, the production runner on The Man with the Golden Gun had just left to start work as a 3rd assistant director and I was hired there and then.
Dad had worked with Albert R. Broccoli in the 1950s and on the first five Bond films as a property man. Dad also worked on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for Mr Broccoli so I met Mr Broccoli many times. In fact, when I injured my eye Mr Broccoli sent his Rolls Royce to take me to the local hospital to get it checked.
A production runner is responsible for lots of tea and coffee and distribution of the call sheet and all paperwork to do with the production. In those days, the call sheet was prepared on a stencil and run off on a Roneo or Gestetner machine. The blooming stencil was always tearing and in those days we used to get the call sheet around 5pm, and we finished filming at the studio at 5.30pm, so I had to print it and get it to the set to the 3rd AD (Assisting Director) and then all around the studio before everyone went home!
It was just brilliant and everyone who worked on Bond films is just the kindest people. During The Man with the Golden Gun, Mr Broccoli and Mr Saltzman were preparing to split and I never met Mr Saltzman.
2) On the last Bond films, you have been a Production Manager (second unit). How would you describe the role of a Production Manager?
– The production manager has to try and control the budget and look after the unit during filming. During recess of each location the production manager discusses all the special equipment required like aerial work, the ultimate arm (a fast tracking vehicle with a crane arm), underwater work, slow motion, additional cameras and crew. The logistics of getting the crew and equipment to each location and oversee the call sheet. The production manage has great team work around him or her including production co-ordinators and location managers. The production office has to generate all the paperwork for every detail. Purchase orders for all equipment. A daily progress report to summarise all the crew and equipment used and stock used and scenes filmed. If you can think of it the production office has to have it covered. From health and safety, risk assessments management to toilets on location.
3) Which of the Bond films you have worked on has been the most challenging?
– Every film has different challenges. Quantum of Solace was difficult as we had two accidents during filming in Italy that put everyone under a lot of pressure
4) How was it working with Sam Mendes on Skyfall? How is Mendes different than the other Bond directors you have worked with?
– I didn’t get to spend much time with Mr Mendes but my wife, who was the script supervisor on the 2nd Unit, worked closely with him in Turkey and enjoyed working with him very much. We approached the filming in much the same way as all films. Recess, storyboards, production meetings and daily checks with Mr Mendes that he was happy with the footage we were achieving.
5) It may be a difficult question, but how do you explain the success of the Bond movies? And why do you think Skyfall became the most successful film in the series?
– I am first and foremost a Bond fan. So I can answer for myself – glamour, excitement, brilliant actors playing Bond, terrific music and a guarantee of two hours of entertainment. Humour is also very important to me (as much as great stunts etc).
6) What are your favorite Bond movies?
– Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale, Diamonds Are Forever, and Tomorrow Never Dies. But I love them all really.
7) Two of my idols are Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson. How would you describe them?
– Quite simply brilliant producers, and brilliant people. Kind and always considerate.
8) What are your personal hopes for the next Bond film?
– I would hope David Arnold comes back for the music. A little less angst maybe.
9) And the last question: Have you ever shot a film and/or been on location in Norway? Do you think a future Bond film could be shot in Norway?
– My dad worked on The Heroes of Telemark and a TV movie about the OSS. He loves Norway. I worked for a Norwegian company in the 1980s filming in London on a film called Sweetwater. I have visited Norway with the film commission and would love to come and shoot there. I know Mr Mendes wants to shoot somewhere that has never been used before for Bond 24. However, I am not sure what the situation is for Bond 24. I keep my fingers crossed that I might get the chance to work on Bond 24 but I have been so lucky to have worked for Eon Productions and am very, very proud. There are very good younger production managers in the industry now, and one must never overstay one’s welcome.
(Special thanks to Anders Frejdh for the introduction and proof reading.)