Mark Edlitz recently appeared on an episode of the JBR podcast. Before I knew he was scheduled to appear on the podcast, however, I decided to conduct a print interview with Mark to chat about his new book The Lost Adventures of James Bond. Although some of these topics were covered during the podcast episode which I also participated in, I thought our JBR followers might find this print interview an interesting addendum to the interview Tom and I did with Mark. In the interests of full disclosure, the author and I have become good friends. In 2019, I was sent early drafts of various sections of this new book in exchange for my feedback. My name appears in the acknowledgements, and Mark kindly sent me a copy of his new book. My personal alliance with the author aside, I believe that The Lost Adventures of James Bond will delight just about every stripe of Bond fan from the most hardcore dedicated fan who has committed to memory the combination of Gumbold’s safe to the casual fan just starting to take an interest in the Bond franchise. If you haven’t yet checked out Mark’s contributions to Bond scholarship with this book and his first book The Many Lives of James Bond, I highly encourage you to do so.
Jack Lugo: Your first book – The Many Lives of James Bond – pleasantly surprised a great many readers within the Bond fan community including yours truly. What was fascinating about it was just how much there was to learn about various portrayals of Bond throughout the years, many of which don’t immediately spring to mind even to hardcore fans. It was refreshing to find a well-researched nonfiction book with so many things to learn about this iconic character. What made you decide to dive back into the world of Bond? Why did you decide to do a book on lost 007 adventures?
Mark Edlitz: It was never my goal to write two books on James Bond. I figured one would be enough. But when I was writing The Many Lives of James Bond, I realized my research fell into two different categories. Category one was a book of interviews with actors who have played Bond and interviews with creators of Bond films, books, comics, video games, and radio dramas. That book was also an investigation into Bond’s character, as told by the artists who interpreted him. Category two was Bond’s lost adventures. Each category was worthy of its own volume. So after I finished The Many Lives of James Bond, I kept on writing and researching for more lost adventures. That research became The Lost Adventures of James Bond.
JL: What criteria did you use to consider whether a lost or forgotten Bond story qualified for your book? Some fans may not immediately know what you mean when you refer to “lost adventures.” Tell us how your new book dives into Bond history and what kind of approach you’ve decided to take with it.
ME: A “lost” Bond adventure is a Bond story that was unmade, forgotten, or unavailable. I’ll give some examples from each category. Unmade: I investigate Dalton’s unmade third Bond film and the Casino Royale stage play by Raymond Benson. I also look at Dynamite’s unmade sequel to James Bond Origins. Forgotten: I explore four Choose Your Own Adventure-style Bond books, in which Bond repeatedly dies. Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine wrote one of them and I had a brief interview with him about it. Unavailable: There are many unavailable Bond stories, such as James Bond Jr, the errant cartoon about 007’s nephew.
JL: Now a lot of fans may be aware of some tentative plans for a 3rd Dalton movie, but your book specifically mentions plans for a 4th Dalton film. Without giving too much away, can you elaborate a little more on this mythical 4th Dalton film?
ME: Happy to share details about both subjects. I tracked down Alfonse Ruggiero, who co-wrote the treatment for Dalton’s third film. It took me years to find him. He spoke to me about the writing process and I asked him if the third film would have actually been called Property of a Lady. The answer may surprise some fans. He also clears up information about the Bond vs the Terminator rumor that has been circulating.
There was a 1993 Variety article that said that Richard Smith and John Cork were each separately writing a fourth Dalton film. Cork has already publicly said that his stories didn’t get traction. was curious to learn more about the Smith version. So I tried to track him down. The Variety referred to Smith as an actor, producer, and make-up artist. I contacted all the actors, producers, and makeup artists with the name Richard Smith. As you can imagine, that took me down a lot of wrong paths. Anyway, it was called Reunion with Death and it would have been set in Japan and Tiger Tanaka’s son is a character.. Bond fans know that Fleming gave Bond a secretary named Loelia Ponsonby. She would have appeared in the film.
JL: Throughout the history of the cinematic franchise there have been turning points where creative decisions were considered and for whatever reason history took the franchise down a different path. In your book, you interview several people who at various points were involved in the franchise but fate took a different path. What are your favorite “what if” moments in Bond cinematic franchise history? Why do you think it’s important to uncover some of these stories that never came to fruition?
ME: I interviewed John Landis (American Werewolf in London), Cary Bates (comic book writer), and Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II) about their unused ideas for The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, and Tomorrow Never Dies, respectively. Incidentally, some accounts suggest that Bates was writing for The Spy Who Loved Me. But he told me he was writing Moonraker.
John Landis wanted to have a pre-credit sequence where Roger Moore shows up bloody and bruised. The third Dalton Bond film could have had Bond in disguise – as a cowboy – at a rodeo. Pat Carbajal created illustrations to help readers imagine what these scenes would have been like. Speaking of Bond art, I also want to give heaps of praise to Sean Longmore, who created the covers of the book.
I also found out the story behind the unused Never Say Never theme-song. It’s a good song and there is a touching story about the making of it.
I also discovered a little more information about two unmade spin-off movies from the Brosnan era.
JL: Your book doesn’t just focus on the Bond films. Famously (or infamously for some people), there is the James Bond Jr. cartoon series. While there are some diehard fans of the cartoon series, many Bond fans tend to be dismissive of it. Why do you think it’s important to find out more about James Bond Jr. Is there a reason Bond fans should re-evaluate their thoughts on the cartoon’s legacy?
ME: There are 65 episodes of James Bond Jr. the animated series about Bond’s nephew. However, the cartoon is not available on DVD, Blu-ray, or on any streaming service. I interviewed the show’s co-creator, co-director, many of the writers, and the songwriter who wrote the theme song. The Bond producers put a lot of thought, care, and attention into the show. While it’s not everyone’s favorite, it is a fascinating experiment.
JL: The new book has a section on lost Bond productions such as a Casino Royale play by Raymond Benson and even a theme park ride. Tell us a little about what readers can learn about those lost productions in your book.
ME: Raymond Benson is one of my James Bond heroes. Benson wrote six original Bond novels, three novelizations, three short stories, and The James Bond Bedside Companion, his seminal work on the movies, novels, and Fleming’s life. But he also turned Casino Royale into a play. He pointed out that it is the only Bond novel that could work as a play. Benson spoke to me about his vision for the play and the production.
The theme-park attraction is also fascinating. It was called License to Thrill and it had two interesting components. The first part was a little film that was written by three-time Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein and it starred Desmond Llewlyn as Q and Judi Dench as M. The second part is the attraction itself, which includes an elaborate first-person movie. The viewer would have seen the world through Bond’s eyes and joined him on a mission. I interviewed the director and he supplied me with some great behind-the-scenes photos.
JL: As the host of JBR’s Comics of Bond episodes, I was excited to see that would be even more information to learn about Bond comics in your book. Why do you believe the Bond comics should be important to Bond fans? Tell us a little bit about what we can learn about the Bond comics from your book.
ME: As Alan J Porter has observed, there are more Bond stories in comic book form than in all other media combined. Dynamite has done a great job of providing comic book readers with plenty of Bond stories. But other comic book companies weren’t as successful or as consistent. Their stories would often be canceled mid-story. For instance, only two of the four planned issues of A Silent Armageddon were published. I really wanted to find out what happened next. So I contacted the writer and artist and found out. I also interviewed Das Petrou about his incomplete and unmade Bond comics for Dark Horse.
Zig-Zag also published 59 really interesting Bond comics. Most were written by German Gabler. Some of the stories are faithful adaptations of the novels and short stories. Other comics are original and take Bond on unexpected adventures. In various issues, Bond battled a big-foot-like creature, infiltrates a group of flower children who strip him down and bathe with him, and he joins a gang of thieves who dress in bee costumes and fly around in jet packs. Bond purists might not readily embrace some of the more outlandish adventures but they are incredibly fun and written with abundant love for the character.
JL: Some frequent questions you asked your subjects in your first book involved how they chose to define Bond. What motivates him? What do you imagine his personal life to be like? Who is James Bond in your mind? How would you – Mark Edlitz – answer those questions?
ME: That’s a really tough question, Jack. Makes my brain hurt a bit. It’s also the question that I wrote a book (The Many Lives of James Bond) trying to explore. I think it depends on which artist is interpreting the character and what the needs are for the story. The Bond in video games is, for instance, much more deadly than the Bond of a children’s book. The Bond of the novels is a hopeless romantic who is always falling in love. But the Bond of the films is often portrayed as a man who is not interested in a romantic attachment. However, even then the answer changes from Bond actor to Bond actor. I think he’s probably wounded but committed to his job. He’s in service to his country and its citizens. But he’s often seeking that adrenaline rush and the danger that comes with the responsibilities to his job.
JL: What are you most hoping to convey to Bond fans who dive into your books? Is there a common theme or message you are trying to communicate to fans when conducting your research and interviews?
ME: There is a lot I was hoping to accomplish. I’ve had a thirty plus year obsession with Dalton’s third Bond film. So I wanted to better understand that. But I also wanted to underscore that the Bond universe isn’t just the twenty-five Eon Bond films and the twelve Ian Fleming books and two collections of short stories.
There are many Bond novelizations, children’s books, comic books, comic strips, audio dramas, and video games. But even more interesting, is that many of those stories are no longer easily available to fans. There are many instances where the novel or comic book, for instance, seems hard to get a hold of or isn’t on our radar. I also went to shed some light on some of these wonderful but overlooked Bond stories and pay tribute to the artists who created them.
JL: Is there one interview from your books that stands out the most for you that you are the most proud of?
ME: The Lost Adventures of James Bond is probably the most comprehensive look at James Bond Jr, the cartoon series! I’m also really happy proud of the Dalton material and tracking down Alfonse Rugeriero, the co-writer of Bond 17. It took me years to find him. Once I did, it took me months and months to arrange for an interview. When I called him, he picked up the phone and joked, “Are you surprised I answered?” For years, it was thought that Dalton’s third film would have been called Property of a Lady. His answer might surprise some Bond fans.
I was also able to solve a long-standing Bond mystery. In my first book THE MANY LIVES OF JAMES BOND, I was able to learn the actual date of the live production of the 1950’s radio adaptin of Moonraker starring Bob Holness. For this book, I was able to find out the identity of the author of the 1960s book The Adventure of James Bond Junior: 003 ½. The author is credited as R.D. Mascott but that’s a pseudonym. There’s been a lot of fun conjecture about the author and I was able to find out the truth.
I was also thrilled to speak to Raymond Benson about his work on the Casino Royale stage play and Toby Stephens about playing 007 in the radio dramas.
Finally, if you were to ask the average person on the street, “How many people have played James Bond?” they’d probably say seven. In the book, I identity about 34 actors.
JL: What kind of Bond film are you hoping we get when we finally see the release of No Time To Die? Where would you like the Bond franchise to go after No Time To Die? What would the Bond franchise look like if you were miraculously given the reigns?
ME: No Time to Die appears to have been made with the notion that this was Daniel Craig’s last performance as Bond. So I suspect and hope that it’s a fitting conclusion to her tenure. I suspect that there will be one line where Bond says, “I never thought of you as my brother.” But I don’t watch the trailers. Instead, like a lunatic, I run out of the movie theaters when the trailers come on. If they gave me the reigns to the franchise, I’d keep it as film only experience. Part of the series success is keeping the release of each film as a special event.
One last thought. I love James Bond Radio and the work that Tom, Chris, Dan, and you do. JBR and the JBR community has been so supportive of my books. I hope this book gives them a little bit of pleasure and provides a glimpse into what might have been.
Interview conducted by Jack Lugo