‘It looked effortless on screen… but it took THREE of us to get her dress off!’: After tackling man-eating crocodiles, filming love scenes should be easy for Roger Moore… if only, wrote 007 star in his typically witty Bond Diaries
Today is B-day 36 — the 36th day of filming my first James Bond movie, Live And Let Die.
I am half-asleep as we drive to our new location — a crocodile safari farm in Jamaica. I soon wake up when our car passes a sign that says: ‘Trespassers will be Eaten.’
That is not a bluff — somewhere among the log-like mass of crocodiles in the swamp is Bongus, a 13ft-long 1,500-pounder who once ate four fishermen.
Today is B-day 36 — the 36th day of filming my first James Bond movie, Live And Let Die
The farm is run by the amazing Ross Kananga. He has more than 1,300 crocodiles and alligators and a unique ability to coax them to him by imitating their mating calls. Although his father, a crocodile wrestler, was killed by the creatures, Ross still holds them in some bewildering form of affection.
One of the film unit asks Ross how he can tell the difference between the males and the females. He replies: ‘Oh, that’s easy. The girls have such pretty, petite faces.’
Ross has lent his surname to Live And Let Die. Tom Mankiewicz, the scriptwriter, liked the sound of the name Kananga and has called one of our characters Dr Kananga after him.
Joining us for the first time in this far-from-jolly location today is Julius Harris who plays Tee Hee, the chilling heavy who has a steel snipping claw on his artificial arm.
Today’s scene is where Bond is in captivity and introduced to the crocodiles by Tee Hee, who is casually feeding them chicken with this gadget.
Julius and I watch, sweating and waiting on jelly knees as Ross summons the beasts with his special call. As the crocs slither around, my colleague struggles manfully to claw up the chicken and fling it at their snapping jaws.
Today’s scene is where Bond is in captivity and introduced to the crocodiles by Tee Hee, who is casually feeding them chicken with this gadget
One piece sticks to his hook and a croc seems to have its eye on it, causing Julius to back away somewhat smartly; then another piece of chicken falls to his feet unnoticed by us — but not by an 8ft croc, which is torpedoing towards us to get it until someone kicks the grisly lump of meat into the swamp in the nick of time.
Rather to our relief, Harry Saltzman, the co-producer, says that tomorrow the main unit, including me, will switch to the bus chase sequence, while the second unit stays to get painstaking shots of the crocs crunching their chicken.
B-Day 38. At this stage in the plot, Bond becomes a bus driver. I jump into the driving seat, Jane Seymour — who plays Solitaire — clambers aboard, and we use it to escape from pursuing police. This bus, shipped over from London, is a normal double-decker that has spent the best years of its life on the No 19 run.
In preparation for the scene in which it whizzes under a low bridge, the upper deck has been cut away and placed on rollers so that when the crash comes it will shoot spectacularly backwards, leaving Bond and Solitaire in the bottom half.
In charge of the bus and here to teach me how to handle it is Maurice Patchett, a London Transport driving instructor who has flown in specially.
Rather to our relief, Harry Saltzman, the co-producer, says that tomorrow the main unit, including me, will switch to the bus chase sequence
B-Day 39. A slow day. It looks as if we might all be stuck here for Christmas — efforts to charter a plane back to Britain for December have hit trouble. I would not be too disturbed by the thought as my family is with me, but there would be a revolt among the film crew who would miss their wives, children and Christmas cheer.
B-Day 40. If I never land another film role, I can always get a job on the buses. To qualify as a London bus driver takes ten days’ instruction, and Maurice says that I am doing very nicely indeed.
The cab of a London bus is full of gadgets. Maurice is particularly careful to explain the function of a small red flag that drops down in an emergency.
‘When you see that,’ he warns, ‘put your foot down on the brake and don’t lift it off again because you don’t get a second chance. It means your brakes have gone.’
For the first shot, I have to drive the bus fast for 20ft to where an electrician stands in the road with sun reflector boards to get the proper lighting effect.
The boards are striking the sun right into my eyes and, as I take off as fast as I can, it is difficult to see where to stop. I do it four times, each time getting a little faster, so the electricians with the reflector boards are side-stepping more rapidly each time.
On the last take, I hit the brake and down comes the red flag; I keep my foot down hard and pull on the handbrake. If Maurice hadn’t told me about it, there would have been one electrician as flat as his reflector board, under an AEC Regent London bus.
Amazingly, we get the shots we want, and first time. A tremendous end to B-Day 40.
B-Day 47. Fire and 1,300 ferocious crocodiles make this a day to remember, and I am lucky to have lost no more than the hair on my hands and arms.
We shoot the scene where Bond, encircled by crocodiles, escapes from the island near a shed where the villains’ workers are packing heroin. Bond surrounds it with benzene-soaked rags and rubber, and lays a trail of chicken pieces from the swamp to the shed door.
An alligator slithers from the swamp, follows the trail through a gate and inside the shed. We see workers tumbling over each other to get out of the door on the other side, but Bond has lit the rags and ringed the building in flames.
To escape from the island, Bond makes a death-defying leap over the crocodile-infested water. I am glad we get this shot in the can quickly because I must confess my ‘bottle’ is twitching.
‘Bottle’, for those unfamiliar with rhyming slang, is short for ‘bottle and glass’, which rhymes with what was twitching.
We are moving back to Britain, where most of the rest of the film will be shot at Pinewood Studios, not far from my home
When it comes to the burning building, our special effects have a field day. The shed is circled in a sheet of fire, and before I can dodge back the licking flames have singed all the hair off my hands and arms.
However, the whole thing goes beautifully, and our star alligator, Daisy, crawls on cue through the gate and into the hut.
Ross has had Daisy since she was eight, and she is now 30. From the moment he saw the Live And Let Die script, Ross trained her to walk up the bank at a certain spot, choosing a nice, shady place she fancied, and fed her there.
When Daisy was familiar with her walk, the construction team then moved in and built the hut at the end of it. Daisy is quite a tough lady; she is the alligator who killed two crocodiles and duffed up three more, losing half her teeth in the conflict, which upset Ross because she is unlikely to grow any more.
Personally, I confess that I am not at all perturbed.
B-Day 49. We are moving back to Britain, where most of the rest of the film will be shot at Pinewood Studios, not far from my home.
After a lot of transatlantic telephone talking, a DC-10 charter flight for England has been fixed for December 20, and before then we must have a clear day to pack our ten tons of equipment, plus personal belongings and close the offices.
It’s hard to believe it’s nearly Christmas. The children are looking forward to going home to the pony and the dog; I am looking forward to Sunday papers, English marmalade, frosty mornings and seeing my mother and father.
B-Day 58. My big love scene with Jane. Despite the fact that her father-in-law, Richard Attenborough, is one of my best friends, and her husband, Michael, has had dinner at our house, it is still an enjoyable experience, even if she is wearing thick tights and knickers under her flimsy negligee!
It reminds me of something Joan Collins said when she visited us for lunch on Sunday with her husband, Ron Kass. Doing a love scene with a leading man she detested, she armed herself with tights and the heaviest pair of football socks that she could find. Jane, cuddling a hot water bottle between takes, complains of the cold, but stoically reminds herself that it is all in a good cause.
B-Day 59. I get out of bed, do my work-out, have a shower, shave, brush my teeth, get dressed, eat my breakfast of scrambled eggs, get into the car, drive to the studio, take my clothes off, and get back into bed with Jane Seymour. It’s a hell of a way to earn a living!
B-Day 64. We are having dramas with the première date because the Duke of Edinburgh won’t be available, nor will Princess Anne, nor Prince Charles, who is at sea with the Royal Navy. It looks like the date will have to be changed.
B-Day 66 and I have spent a romantic weekend in Paris with my wife Luisa after an early wrap on Friday.
The weekend isn’t all pleasure, though. Co-producer Harry Saltzman asks me if I will visit the Crazy Horse cabaret, and look the girls over for a likely lass to play a scene in the picture that calls for a busty beauty.
Ever devoted to duty, I stoically sit through two hours of striptease, and Luisa kindly comes along, too.
I pass my opinion to Harry and tell him that, if really necessary, I will go back and have another look with him.
Oh, the burdens of Bond!
We are having dramas with the première date because the Duke of Edinburgh won’t be available, nor will Princess Anne, nor Prince Charles, who is at sea with the Royal Navy
Brenda Arnau, who was such a success on the London stage in Oh! Calcutta!, appears in the movie as a club singer performing the Live And Let Die title song.
Paul McCARTNEY has written it, and I have lunch today with the man who is arranging it, George Martin. It is a tremendous piece of music, and I will stick my neck out and say that three weeks from its release it will be No. 1.
B-Day 75 is the day I bed my third Bond girl: a lovely Italian secret agent played by the voluptuous Madeline Smith. Our pillow appointment is in a bed in Bond’s London mews — in other words an elegantly furnished construction on ‘B’ stage at Pinewood.
First-time visitors to a film studio are always struck by the fact that sets built for interior shots rarely have roofs, so that light can blaze in from above. As a result, Madeline and I are exposed to freezing draughts, and the bed is icy.
Props have not provided hot water bottles, no doubt taking the view that anyone in bed with Madeline will find them superfluous. I bound and rebound in and out of bed all morning, my feet freezing with every leap.
It would tarnish Bond’s image to wear woolly socks, and I envy Madeline, who, though bare from the waist up, can slide under the bed clothes; she squeals every time my cold feet touch her knees.
At this point in the story, Miss Moneypenny — the secretary of secret service boss M — has delivered to Bond an intriguing magnetic watch.
During the preamble to the encounter in bed, James embraces the signorina, then, holding the watch magnet near the back zip on her dress, draws his wrist down her spine without touching her.
The metal zip responds and the dress falls to the floor.
‘What a gentle touch you have, James,’ she whispers.
‘Sheer magnetism,’ I reply.
It may seem money for jam being pressed close to the beautiful Madeline, but on the 20th take, your arm is aching, you’ve got cramp in your left foot and your right knee is going to sleep.
Part of the trouble is that Madeline’s dress just will not fall far enough down. Costume designer Julie Harris has to go on her knees off camera and gently pull the dress down.
As the watch isn’t really magnetic, assistant director Derek Cracknell, nicknamed Crackers, is also on his knees with his hands up Madeline’s skirt, pulling a hidden wire attached to the zip — so the floor around our feet is starting to get pretty crowded.
When I arrive home, the children ask me, as they always do: ‘What did you do today, Daddy?’
I’m not quite sure what to tell them. I can hardly say: ‘I was in bed with a lady this morning, and I made 20 attempts to take her dress off this afternoon.’
After so many months, it is a depleted crowd that flies back to New York to complete the final scenes — it has even crossed my mind that the producers are trying to get out of paying me by having me bumped off in the car chase scenes on Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive expressway.
Be that as it may, I am still not ready for the phone call that comes on the evening of B-Day 84.
It is Crackers, saying with qualifying caution learned from years in the picture business: ‘All being equal, that is, if the rushes are okayed tomorrow afternoon from London, you are finished on the picture.’
This is it, then. The party is over. I feel a terrible sense of anti-climax. Numbed, I mix myself a very stiff drink.
Luisa and I are leaving for California; Bond co-producer Cubby Broccoli and his wife Dana have kindly loaned us their house in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, where I have been asked to present the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’.
Without wishing to sound too partisan, I hope I hand it to my mate, Michael Caine, nominated for his performance in Sleuth.
Later, Joan Collins and husband Ron Kass are bringing our children to join us at the Acapulco house of English songwriter Leslie Bricusse and his wife Evie, where I will recuperate from the rigours of Bond.
After jetting the bayous in boats, whizzing around in a wingless plane, courting bites by crocodiles, and crashing cars, I will always wryly recall my last line in Live And Let Die. Delivered to the driver on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive expressway, it is: ‘Easy, Charlie, let’s get there in one piece.’
Give or take a tooth, I have.