Terry Bamber is one of the luckiest James Bond fans ever as he got to work on 7 James Bond films with 3 actors who played 007. Amazing person with great personality, who agreed to tell fantastic stories behind the scenes of Bond films. It was marvelous experience to talk with Terry Bamber.
PART 1: FROM ‘THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN’ TO ‘DIE ANOTHER DAY’
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): First James Bond movie that you worked on was ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, so it was quite a long time ago.
Terry Bamber: Yes, that was 1974. I just finished my A-Levels and I think, if I remember correctly, my dad was working at a Pinewood Studios on a Walt Disney film ‘One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing’ and he said to me: ‘Right, it is time now you have done your education, let’s get you out and see if we can get you a job’. I was unbelivably lucky. He took me down the old main corridor in the old building and first office we went into was Claude Hudson’s office, who was production manager on ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Dad had known Claude for many years. As luck would have it the young man that had been the unit runner in the office had just received the union ticket which meant he could start next job as 3rd assistant director. So they were looking for a runner to start on the following Monday and I got offered the job. My dad had worked on the earlier Bond films and I’ve adored the Bond films and now I was given a chance to work on one. It was so exciting to meet Sir Roger Moore. Derek Cracknell was the assistant director, he knew dad for years. Very, very kind man. It was a marvelous experience.
Is it right that you were buying sandwiches for Sir Roger Moore?
Yes. On my first day I was told that Sir Roger Moore at that time used to like tap chicken sandwitches on brown bread at the end of the day. My first task that day was to go in queue by the restaurant where they made sandwitches especially for them. In those days we didn’t put anything on them like tissue or cling film or anything. I went alone to his dressing room and I think I was so nervous by the time I got there that my hands were shaking and my knees were knocking. I knocked on the door and I think an assistant opened the door and Sir Roger was at the back of the room. As he looked up everything went to jelly and sandwitches fell out of my hands and of course bread down. He said I supposed to be watching my figure. He was just a wonderful man. My dad had worked with him on lots of files. He worked on ‘The Man Who Haunted Himself‘ which was Sir Roger’s favourite film. Dad was the second assistant director on that. Sir Roger used to get him on various second units on ‘Persuaders’ and programs like that. He was wonderful actor and a great man.
Your dad was working on the first James Bond film, ‘Dr. No’?
Yes. At that time Pinewood Studios was a proper studio that had his own workforce, that was hired out to any film that was going to be made there. Dad was a prop man and worked either as a dressing prop, which was dressing the sets ahead of the unit going into a film or he was a standby prop, which meant that he would standby during the filming and deal with all the props that actors at background were using on a day of filming. I think he was a dressing prop on ‘Dr. No’ and ‘From Russia with Love’. On ‘You Only Live Twice’ I remember him taking my sister and myself to see the volcano set which was just the most amizing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was briliant.
Was it your first contact with the universe of James Bond?
No. My first real memory of it was the music, was hearing the James Bond theme. I think it was in 1965, the year after ‘Goldfinger’ came out. Dad was in Spain making a film called ‘Lost command’. We were in Madrid and we managed to buy Shirley Bassey’s single of ‘Goldfinger’ which we played non stop the whole time we were there. It is the music that blew me away, the James Bond theme that blew me away. The first James Bond film that I saw in a cinema was ‘Thunderball’. Obviously I didn’t catch up with ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘From Russia with Love’ and ‘Dr. No’ on a big screen until later. I think in late 60’s, early 70’s cinemas did like a double bill: ‘Dr. No’ with ‘Goldfinger’, ‘From Russia with Love’ with ‘Thunderball’. Brilliant films.
What were your other tasks on the set of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’?
In those days it was mainly being in charge of getting call sheets round to everybody at the end of the day. Those days the call sheets were typed up on a stencil that was around the printing machine. It was a nightmare because stencils were always ripped somewhere and you had to try to ensure they were lined up, the ink didn’t splash across the page. That was always a nightmare. In those days you had to wrap in the studio by 5.30, so it was always a rush to get the call sheets all printed out by just before 5 and I had half an hour to go all around the studio to the post room, up to the telephone exchange, to make sure that everybody got the call sheet for the next day. Also on ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ I’ve got a chance for the first time on the set helping up second unit with filming part of the opening sequence when Scaramanga was having a duel. I had to give Sir Christopher Lee a cue for him to go through and I was so nervous with that, but luckily Mr Lee said: ‘I don’t think I’m gonna need this cue now, I can see when I’ve got to go’. No matter what I’ve done ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was the thing that ment the most to me because I was only 18 and it was first James Bond film I’ve worked on. At the end of the film I was kept on to help sell off the props and costumes and everything and that was very exciting, but during that I managed to walk into a piece of wood which scratched my eye. Rather than waiting for an ambulance Mr Broccoli had sent his car down to pick me up with Roy, who was the driver, another lovely man. So I was taken to Wexham Park Hospital in Mr Broccoli’s Rolls Royce. And then funny enough I was invited for my first cast and crew screening of the film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ which was in November 1974. I had to pass my driving test so I could go. Luckily I passed it a week before the showing. It was shown in what was then Theater 7 at Pinewood Studios, which is now being renamed to John Barry Theatre in honour of John Barry. In 2014 I did a sort of one man show that was supposed to show how I did teaching and talking about my career to celebrate at that time my 40 years in the film industry and in fact my great love of John Barry’s music and the contribution that he made not just in James Bond films but to films like ‘Dances with Wolves‘, ‘Out of Africa’, ‘The Ipcress File’; marvelous, marvelous music.
I’ve heard a story that you had dinner with John Barry.
It was another ambarassing night. When we were doing ‘Die Another Day’ we were filming down in Rissington. Vic Armstrong was a second unit director. I’ve always wanted to do the gun barrel sequence. We had great standby team, so they built a little gun barrel which was operated on rope to pull down. I could do that opening walking across, turning, aiming, firing and saying: my name is Bond. They’ve arranged with a special effects team to have snow hoses ready, so as soon as I’ve finished saying that, they turned on the snow hoses on me and absolutely covered me in snow. I was wearing my one and only dinner suit and this night was the night that I was gonna go to Stoke Poges, because there was the Variety Club tribute to John Barry and I’ve been invited to that. I had quickly brushed my dinner suite trying to get it ready but it was stiff as a board by the time I got to the party. I am affraid I had rather lot of drink while we were there. We were raising money for the charity. One of the prizes was to have dinner with John and Laurie Barry. I sort of staggered over were Mr Barry was sitting. The first bid went up so I put my hand. It quickly went to 500 pounds so I didn’t bid for that anymore. Barbara Broccoli was sitting next to Mr Barry and everytime the bid went up she kept putting my arm up. So I ended up bidding 1750 pounds and won the dinner. I was thinking how to tell my wife about that when I went home. But it was a marvelous evening and we had a wonderful dinner with him, although Barbara kept calling me John Barry’s stalker. Everytime I went to say something she was stopping me so my wife had a great time with John Barry and I only occasionaly got to say something but he was wonderful man and his wife Laurie was very, very kind. I met them again several times after that because a great friend of mine plays in the English Chamber Orchestra which Mr Barry used to use for recording the soundtracks. So in 1999 when they would do a concert in Royal Albert Hall and also in Birmingham I got a backstage pass so I could go and sit at the rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall. I bumped in Mrs Barry and she was very, very kind. Then my friend in the orchestra introduced me again to John Barry and we got to talking about ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, which Mr Barry didn’t want to talk much about. I think he had very rushed time period trying to get that score together. I think it is a great score, but I don’t think it is one of his favourites. John Barry was just a genius of what he did. ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ has got every piece of music, it is simply magical. It just makes the whole film fantastic experience. It is not just visual, auraly you are having a great time as well.
Your next James Bond film was ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.
Yes. I’ve worked with Callum McDougall on ‘101 Dalmatians’ which we filmed in 1996. When ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ came out the miniatures unit was gonna go to the Rosarito tank in Baja, California. Callum suggested I could meet up with John Richardson, who was going to direct it and maybe go as his assistant director or production manager. I ended up going there as a production manager because there was an assistant director who would work on ‘Titanic’ and knew the studio. That was really exciting, because that was really my first trip across to America and I was having to go up to Los Angeles and doing deals with getting lightning and equipment. The studio manager of Rosarito was a lovely man called Charlie who had been there during ‘Titanic’. I ended up having James Cameron’s office. When they had finished we moved in and I ended using his office as my office, so that was quite nice. When you are doing the model unit or miniature unit you haven’t got the pressure of looking after actors and all the problems that would go with that. You could just really concentrate on the crew and getting the brilliant shots which they did. I think that the miniature work in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ is superb with the stealth boats and sinking of a frigat and everything. I really, really enjoyed it. I have to thank Callum for that. After that there was ‘The World Is Not Enough’ in which Vic Armstrong was second unit director. I’ve been filming out in South Africa on a film with Hugh Hudson called ‘I Dreamed of Africa’ with Kim Basinger. I got a phone call to find out if I would be interested in working on ‘The World Is Not Enough’. I said: ‘Of course, abslolutely I would be interested’. When I got back to England I had an interview with Vic and also Terry Madden who was Vic’s first. I’ve known Terry since 1975. I was his unit runner and he was a third assistant director on film for Walt Disney Productions called ‘Pit Ponies’, which now has became ‘Escape from the Dark’. So I’ve known Terry for long time. He is a great friend. So I worked on ‘The World Is Not Enough’. We had a wonderful sequence up in the Chamonix. We had the amazing chase on the river Thames as well. I think that ‘The World Is Not Enough’ is very underrated film. There are somem great stuff in the film. The boat chase for me is just fantastic.
Have you been working on all these sequences?
Yes. I was in Chamonix and then I was in charge with the second unit on the Thames. I don’t know if you have ever had a chance to see extended version of the boat chase on 2-disc DVD version. That is the one where I am in. I played this French waiter that had to jump up when the boat crashes through the restaurant and impacts into the Thames near the O2 building. Unfortunately the sequence was going so long and my acting was so bad they cut it out in the main film. It was great fun.
I think it was difficult to get permission to film on the Thames.
There were lots of negotiations. We had a wonderful location department and location manager called Richard Sharkey and Simon Marsden. I remember going to lots of, lots of meetings, especially with the O2 as well, because it was coming up to the year 2000 and that was all getting ready for the turn of the millenium. The boat chase was passing by the Houses of Parliament. I remember that one of members of parliament complained about the noise of the boats but he was told not to warry about it because it was James Bond film and he was great representation of the British around the world, so he was told to be quiet.
When you were filming in Chamonix the weather conditions were not good?
Yes, we lost lots of time. I think that sadly nearly 50 people were killed in various avalanches during the time we were filming there. So we had a lot of time that we had to stand the unit down and try to catch up the time afterwards. I think we had to shoot 10 days in a row if the weather stayed well and obviously make sure that the crew got rested and were looked after, but the weather was very ugly when we were there. I don’t know if you remember that the week after we finished filming there was this terrible fire in a Mont Blanc tunnel, which killed many, many people. It was very tiring time, but the French people vere lovely looking after us. I remember that crew were desperate for English sausages, so we had to keep trying to get people to bring sausages with them whenever they came from Pinewood Studios to Chamonix. There was a time I think, that Virgin trains had just started and on the Virgin trains they had this people called Rocket Men that had dispensers that could dispense hot tee or hot coffee or hot chockolate walking around the trains. We thought that we could use it for our skiers. We got a team to help with catering going around with some very good skiers, local skiers with this Rocket Man bags on their backs and they could go to where the different cameras were, where people were set up and make sure that people got hot soup and water. That worked very well. But that were very tiring conditions. We had some very bad weather there, but as always we got lucky when we needed to get lucky.
Your next film was ‘Die Another Day’.
We shot the opening sequence with hoovercrafts on the army training grounds in Aldershot in a very bad weather conditions. I’ve never seen mud like that. In fact it was so, when the main unit were doing close ups with Pierce. It all was supposed to be shot on location, but the weather was so bad that we had to shoot plates for it and then shot it back in the studio. I think that is the great thing, the great art of production designers like Peter Lamont with all the Iceland sequence. He recreated all those icebergs in RAF land base in Rissington. I don’t think you can tell the difference between the real Iceland where we shot and Rissington. Peter Lamont was just briliant man like Ken Adam. Both Ken and Peter Lamont helped my dad in his career so much. They were both geniuses and lovely people to work for. My dad had always wanted to be an assistant director and he was working as prop man on ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ on which Ken was production designer. I think Peter was set decorator or art director. They gave dad a chance to work as an assistant set decorator which ment he got a union card. Once he got his union card that meant that he could work as an assistant director. He did some work on ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ as the assistant set decorator then went in the another film where he worked as an assistant director and then came back onto ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ to work on the opening sequence of the motorcar races which Peter Hunt directed. He was brilliant editor of the early Bonds and of course the director of my favourite all time Bond ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.
There was a funny story with your pass that you got while filming ‘Die Another Day’ on Iceland.
Toby Hefferman who is now a very good first assistant director was a second assistant director when we were doing ‘Die Another Day’ on Iceland. To make sure that everybody was kept safe on the ice we issued passes which gave access on the ice during filming. He put down on my pass that my job was ‘ice cream man’, because they were determined not to let me on the ice because I was always slipping over and falling over. Everybody knows that I love ice creams. I’m always trying to organize ice creams on set. That is why they put me down as the ‘ice cream man’ rather then the production manager. That was a joke from Toby and Terry Madden, who was the first.
Did you have any problems with filming on ice?
We were very lucky with ‘Die Another Day’. When we were due to go to Island to do the chase the lake hadn’t frozen properly. We were all worried that it was not going to freeze enough and be solid for us to actually go there. We had to go to Alaska one weekend to do a recognition to see if we may have to move all shoot there. Luckily the ice did freeze so we were able to go to Iceland, but on the last day of filming on the lake began to melt. We just had enough time to do what we needed.
TERRY BAMBER WILL RETURN IN: Interview with Terry Bamber – production manager on James Bond films. Part 2: From ‘Casino Royale’ to ‘Skyfall’.