007 Travelers interview: Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross

Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross have written a wonderful book of Bond: “Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond” (Forge Books / Tom Doherty Associates). You can read a review by 007 Travelers here and in Finnish (suomeksi) here

Mark A. Altman
Edward Gross

How long did it take to collect all these comments? How many of these are interviews and how many have you collected from somewhere else?

Mark A. Altman:

While it took us about two years to write the book itself, Ed and I had both covered Bond on and off over the decades so we had amassed quite a treasure trove of material even before starting work on the book.

Edward Gross:

Like Mark said, about two years — unless you count the road from falling in love with the Bond films and writing the book, which would be about 50 years for me.

What are your personal favorites of James Bond films and novels. Why?

Mark A. Altman:

My favorite novels are “Casino Royale” (1953) and “Thunderball” (1961). My favorite films are “From Russia With Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) and “Casino Royale” (2006). What’s interesting is that they span every genre of 007 film from grounded spionage thriller to fanciful sci-fi action and edgy drama. What I love about the Bond’s is how they transcend genre and how elastic the format is and yet they all remain consistently and definitively Bond.

Edward Gross:

For novels, I would say “Casino Royale” (1953), “From Russia With Love” (1957) and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1963). I really do feel that they represent Fleming at his best. As to the films, in chronological order: “From Russia with Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964) (especially), “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) and “Casino Royale” (2006). Insofar as changing styles and Bond actors, I tend to go with the flow rather than being locked with one particular type of Bond.

Sean Connery as James Bond in “Goldfinger” (1964)
Photo © EON, United Artists, Danjaq, LLC

What are your expectations for the film “No Time to Die (2020)?

Mark A. Altman:

Despite all the troubles shepherding the film to the screen, I can’t wait. The trailer is fantastic and “Casino Royale” remains a triumph in the series so I’m looking forward to Daniel Craig going out on an all time high so to speak. My only regret is I really wish they had brought back David Arnold as a composer, the true heir to John Barry.

Edward Gross:

To be honest, I was feeling rather cynical about it with all the delays and reported problems, and especially the fact that it’s been nearly five years between Bonds (c’mon, people, I’ve only got so many Bonds left in me), but all of that being said: the minute I saw the trailer, all of that just dissipated away and I *cannot wait*. Hopeful that it will bring with it the power of “Casino Royale” and I can honestly say I’m going to miss Daniel Craig in the role. Connery gets the edge for me, mostly because he’s the Bond I grew up with, but Craig is *this* close.

Daniel Craig in “No Time to Die” poster

You have written something also about Ian Fleming. What do you think of continuation authors (John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Anthony Horowitz etc.) Is it still worth it to write new James Bond novels?

Mark A. Altman:

Like the movies, these novels run the gamut from great to god-awful. I think they’re valuable in filling the time between movies and are often quite entertaining.

Edward Gross:

Overall the novels are entertaining, but for the most part they don’t quite nail that indescribable Fleming style. That being said, it’s important that Bond as a character and a franchise continue to appear in different mediums beyond the movies, whether it be video games, novels or comic books. The more Bond, the better.

We travel to 007 filming locations and book locations. Do you have the experience of going to some of the locations? If yes, what are your favorite destinations?

Mark A. Altman:

Regrettably, I’ve only been to few Bond locations including the house in Palm Springs that was Willard Whyte’s house in “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) and the exterior of the Voodoo Store in “Live And Let Die” (1973) which  stumbled onto by accident in Manhattan. And, of course, ridden on the FDR Freeway. I also visited Circus Circus just to see where “Diamonds Are Forever” was filmed. Many years ago I was invited by tourism Jamaica to a Bond celebration and got to visit Goldeneye which was a thrill as well as spend some time in Ocho Rios where “Dr. No” (1962) was shot. I’d love to do that again one day.

Edward Gross:

Unfortunately I haven’t hit any of the Bond filming locations — unless you count Leavesden Studios, which I was at for the filming of “GoldenEye (1995) (a genuine highlight of my journalism career) and again many years later for the filming of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (2010).

GoldenEye resort in Jamaica
Photo: © goldeneye.com

How about traveling otherwise? What are your favorite holiday destinations you have been to? What is the one that you would like to visit?

Mark A. Altman:

I spend a lot of time in Sofia as that’s where I film my CW TV series, “Pandora” (2019). Last season we used Maryam D’Abo which was a lot of fun and I hope to have a few more Bond actors this season. In general, I love visiting Barcelona, Paris, New York and Cannes and hope to visit some more European capitals in the coming year.

Edward Gross:

Not a big traveler, though I have enjoyed Britain, Ireland and California (I’m a New Yorker).

Maryam d’Abo (Kara Milovy) and Timothy Dalton (James Bond) in “The Living Daylights” (1987)
Photo © EON, United Artists, Danjaq, LLC

What is your next book project? Do you already have some kind of schedule for it? 

Mark A. Altman:

We have one more book on our contract, but I’m sworn to secrecy. For our eyes only, darlings. For the moment.

Also, thank you for the very kind review of our book. We really appreciate your support and love for all things Bond.

Edward Gross:

Do you expect us to talk?

Appreciate the kind words regarding “Nobody Does It Better” and thanks for your interest in Mark and myself.

Thank you so much for the interview Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross!

The authors:

Mark A. Altman is a film and television writer / producer who most recently was co-executive of TNT’s hit series “The Librarians“. He previously coauthored “The Fifty-Year Mission“, “Slayers & Vampires” and “So We Say All” with Edward Gross.

Edward Gross is an author and journalist, currently executive editor of “Empire” magazine online and coauthor of the bestselling “The Fifty-Year Mission“, the definitive oral history of Star Trek, from St. Martin’s Press.

Nobody Does It Better The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond” Forge-books, on sale now!

Buy the book here


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