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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Who is Monica van der Zyl? You've Heard Her All Your Life.

Nikki van der Zyl jamesbondreview.filminspector.com
Sean Connery and Jill Eaton in "Goldfinger"

Monica van der Zyl.

Unless you are a real film pro, you've never heard of her.

But you have heard her repeatedly through the years, without knowing it.

The 50th anniversary of "Goldfinger" is 17 September 2014, and that is a good time to reminisce about perhaps the most enduring film in the entire canon. Miss van der Zyl is 79, and was a key player in that film. She is one of the most rehired James Bond actors in the entire series, up there with Lois Maxwell and ahead of any of the actors who actually played James Bond himself.

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Monica van der Zyl, pretty enough to be a Bond girl herself

The answer: German actress Monica van der Zyl (stage name Nikki van der Zyl) has been one of the top voice actresses in the business, and an obscure one at that even in a profession with extremely few household names like Mel Blanc.

She was dubbed over 13 of James Bond's conquests in ten movies throughout the sixties and seventies.

Her voiced included:

  • Goldfinger's Bonita, played by Nadja Regin
  • Goldfinger's Shirley Eaton, who played Jill Masterson.
  • Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench in 1963's From Russia with Love)
  • Claudine Auger (Domino Derval in 1965's Thunderball)
  • Mie Hama (Kissy Suzuki in 1967's You Only Live Twice)
  • Francoise Therry (Chew Mee in 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun).
Nikki van der Zyl jamesbondreview.filminspector.com
Nikki on 15 July 2010 with "Antiques Roadshow" host Fiona Bruce

Miss van der Zyl was known as "One-take Nikki" and was highly respected by everyone. She did dubbing for dozens of other films, too, including "The Battle of Britain" - with a rare instance of actually getting credited in that film.

I'm a big believer that the "little people" who do so much in the world behind the scenes should get credit for their contributions. That is not to belittle Miss van der Zyl, but to acknowledge that she never once was mentioned by the production staff to the media, never once appeared in any credits, never once spoke up about herself to the media about what she was doing at the time - but she was a fixture behind the scenes on just about every Bond film from "Dr. No" in 1962 through "Moonraker" in 1979.

Nikki van der Zyl jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

Yes, she got paid (a whopping £150 for "Dr. No")  and that was her reward, and she was entitled contractually to nothing further. And that is precisely what she received: nothing further. However, voice talent should be recognized, just like it is with all the other actresses and actors and producers and the Key Grips and even the Best Boy. All too often, voice actors fall through the cracks. Like what happened to Miss van der Zyl.

Nowadays, a ballerina who fills in for an actress in one movie will go blabbing all over the media about what a big fake and phony the star is in order to get her 15 minutes. Times have changed. I think we can excuse a 79-year-old lady who was part of ten James Bond films for wanting just a smidgen of recognition after all these years. I also think it is terrific that both Sean and Miss van der Zyl are still around to bask in the light of the work they did together - and, as you will see below, they actually were great friends off-screen. The Bond film productions always have a kind of party atmosphere off-screen, kind of a roving band of friends who remain involved and part of what is happening when the cameras are off even when they are not actually in the film under production.

There is a recounting by Miss van der Zyl herself here in an article by Sandy Rashty from early 2013. In case that link gets taken down, here is the relevant part:
"People know my voice, they just don’t know me.When people see Ursula Andress in Dr No, or Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger, they don’t know that I revoiced them, and a lot of other Bond girls too. 
I was asked to revoice Ursula because the Bond movie producers thought she had a very strong Swiss-German accent that an American audience wouldn’t understand. When you see her coming out of the sea singing — that’s me. Shirley Eaton had a cockney accent, which was unsuitable and very unsexy, so I was asked to revoice her.
In Dr No, I also revoiced the character Sylvia Trench, played by Eunice Gayson. The scene at the gambling table at the Le Cercle Club in London is the first time you hear a female voice addressing 007. You hear me say: “I admire your luck, Mr…?”. He responds with the famous line: “Bond… James Bond." 
I had a natural talent and became known in the industry for my revoicing skills. I would stand in the sound studio, with the sound director and sometimes the director of the film, and try out different accents for different characters. It depended on what I liked and didn’t like — I’m the artist. The voice has got to be part of the acting. I was there to do a job and took pride in my work, using breathing techniques, singing and acting. 
I wanted to be an actress from a very young age. I trained as a stage actress and changed my name from Monica to Nikki because I thought it sounded nicer. I was not curvaceous and didn’t have much on top — if I had a big bosom I might have got a lead role. I was once offered a “casting couch” role, but rejected it. I wasn’t going to take any role unless I got it for my acting skills. 
While I was working on Dr No, I went up to Terence Young, the director, and asked for an on-screen part as well as revoicing. He just said: “No, you wouldn’t stop traffic, Nikki”. Someone in the corner heard us and said: “I’d stop traffic for you any day of the week”. I looked round and it was Sean Connery
From then on, if I ever had any problems I would go to Sean. I knew Sean well. He was very straightforward. I liked him and between filming scenes, he taught me to play golf. 
When they started shooting Goldfinger, I was asked to be dialogue coach to Gert Fröbe, who played the villain Auric Goldfinger, as we were both from Germany and I spoke German. Of course, half of my family had been killed in the Holocaust and the other half had had to leave, so I wanted to know what he and his family did during the war before I agreed. Gert told me that they helped hide a Jewish family, at great risk. After that, I thought, fair enough, and agreed to coach him for three months on the set. 
Goldfinger’s my favourite Bond film. In the famous scene where Bond is tied to the table with a laser about to cut him in two, Bond says: Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger replies: No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.” Gert delivered the line fairly dramatically at first, but I told him it would be more effective if he said it in a throwaway manner, which he does in the film. 
Sometimes we would speak in English and other times in German. Gert was a very quick learner but they ended up revoicing him. In my opinion, he didn’t need it.
He was absolutely hilarious and good friends with Sean. The three of us would often go to lunch in the restaurant at Pinewood Studios and Gert always made us laugh — he could have been a comedian. One of the nicest memories I have was when they were filming the final scene in Goldfinger, when Gert and Sean were fighting on the plane.
I was taking photos and the director suddenly yelled: “Cut! Nikki’s taking photos of you”. So Sean said: “Let’s take a nice photo”, and they stopped in the middle of the scene and posed for me. 
Frankly, I was one of the major contributors to the James Bond films and that has never been acknowledged. I got paid but was never invited to the film premieres or parties. I’ve certainly never understood why they never credited me. 
I haven’t seen Skyfall in the cinema but might see it when it comes out on TV. The way I’ve been treated doesn’t make me want to spend any money on the films.
I have no regrets apart from being sorry they never gave me a better part after I became known for my revoicing skills. I was going to be a very good actress. But I don’t look back, I look forward."

Nikki van der Zyl was born in Berlin and fled to the UK with her family in 1939. She lost many family members in the Holocaust. After leaving show business following "Moonraker," she became a barrister and a research assistant in the House of Commons. Her autobiography, "For Your Ears Only," is published by Indepenpress, at £12.99.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Richard "Jaws" Kiel was the Man


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Richard Kiel in his signature role as "Jaws" in the Bond films

Actor Richard Kiel, who played "Jaws" in the James Bond films "Moonraker" and "The Spy Who Loved Me," passed away on 10 September 2014. He will be missed. I wrote up an entry on him a long time ago, he was a major part of the Bond franchise and always will be.

Richard Kiel jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

Kiel was scheduled to attend an autograph convention in early September 2014, but reports were that he had to cancel because he had broken his leg. I actually heard about that circuitously through the grapevine long before it became news around the world, because Lana Wood replaced him at the convention. That sounded a bit like a standard celebrity excuse for not attending an event they weren't feeling up to, and perhaps it was - in a very sad way. Apparently Kiel actually did break his leg, though whether that was related to his passing is uncertain and, now, kind of pointless to find out.

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Kiel and Roger Moore actually were great friends

He had a long career in show business. As he sometimes pointed out himself in wry fashion, he had been a working actor for 17 years when he became an "overnight star" in his first Bond film - which I always have said is my choice for best in the entire series, and remains so today. He reprised the role in "Moonraker," and came close to appearing in the next film as well until the producers decided at the last minute to go in another direction.

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Yes, that is Richard Kiel with the bulbous head. Patty: [SPOILER] Mr. Chambers! Don't get on that ship! The rest of the book, "To Serve Man", it's - it's a cookbook!

While audiences tend to remember Kiel best from his appearances in the Bond films, his best role may have been in "The Twilight Zone." Everybody who is a fan of that show, or just likes classic old tv series, remembers the famous episode, "To Serve Man," in which an alien ship visits earth and promises all sorts of wonderful things if humans will travel to their home planet. Scenes of Kiel raising his head and laughing from that episode were heavily used in promotions for "The Twilight Zone" both during its initial run and later, when it went into heavy syndication during the 1970s and 1980s (I watched it on WPIX-11 in the NYC area, it was on every night when I was a kid it seemed). Well, wouldn't you know it - Richard Kiel played the aliens, including the principal Kanamit. His character had one famous line that has stood the test of time: "Please, Mr. Chambers, eat. We wouldn't want you to lose weight."

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The end of Jaws in "Moonraker"

Reports from fans who saw Kiel at conventions always seemed to be positive. He was just a good, happy guy who understood how lucky he was to have played some of the iconic roles in television and film history - even if he constantly got confused with the characters he played. But that is a happy problem to have.

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The fight scene on the funicular in "Moonraker" remains a classic

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Kiel had various physical difficulties during his later years, including a car accident. He wrote a biography in 2002, "Making it Big in the Movies, in which he revealed that his tall stature of 7’2” tall was due to acromegaly. He also had memorable roles in "Happy Gilmore" and "Tangled."

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Kiel said that putting the metal teeth in was like swallowing a car bumper

Kiel was happily married to Diane Rogers for forty years at the time of his passing and the father of four children.

Richard Kiel jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

In any event, we will always remember one of the great villains, one that current Bond producers are furiously trying to equal in terms of enduring impact. Fat chance, good luck with that. Richard Kiel was one of a kind and a credit to the franchise.

Richard Kiel jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

So long, Richard.

















2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pierce Brosnan Reflects on Meeting Robin Williams

Pierce Brosnan





Pierce Brosnan talks about meeting Robin Williams on the set of "Mrs. Doubtfire." It's great to hear Pierce's memories and also just to catch up on how he himself is doing - which appears to be great. To be truthful, he looks like he could step back into the James Bond role at any time.




Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Little Nellie" for Sale


Little Nellie jamesbondreview.filminspector.com


"Little Nellie" was the autogyro featured in the 1968 James Bond film that many enthusiasts consider the cream of the crop of the entire series, "You Only Live Twice."

In the film, Sean Connery as James Bond does some reconnaissance and fighting in Little Nellie, which is brought to him in Japan personally by Q.

It is one of the highlights of the film and, indeed, the entire James Bond series.

The autogyro was very real. It was not a Hollywood illusion. The autogyro was capable of doing exactly what was shown - though it wasn't actually armed - and operated in the same fashion.

The autogyro was designed and built to exacting standards by Wing Cdr Ken Wallis, a World War II hero who flew 28 bomber missions over Europe. It was a special design, not available to the public. Commander Wallis himself flew the machine in place of Sean Connery in "You Only Live Twice." He passed away at age 97 last fall, having lived a full life. He last flew the one-seat Little Nellie in 2008 at the incredible age of 92.

There is no way to gauge how much Little Nellie is worth - it's a one-off, and this is the only one available for sale (there are other copies held in a trust and which are shown at exhibitions). It flies. It's Little Nellie. That's all bidders need to know.

Real James Bond artifacts like Little Nellie aren't usually sold to ordinary people on the street. A beaten-up copy of an underwater Lotus was sold last year, and the buyer was Elon Musk of Tesla and Paypal fame. So, this is an opportunity that big names are sure to follow. One can only imagine what it ultimately will bring, but it is absolutely dead certain that it will bring a worthy price. The buyer, should she or (more likely, this is an ultimate Big Boys toy) he wish to disclose their identity, is almost certain to be a household name.

Inquiries about the aircraft are being handled by Old Buckenham Airfield in Norfolk, with Commander Wallis' son handling the sale.




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bond Cars at the Dezer Museum



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The iconic Aston Martin

If you are really into the James Bond aura and want to see what it's really like to stand by and touch some of the most iconic cars in history, consider visiting The Miami Auto Museum at The Dezer Collection in Miami. Or, if you are in England or the rest of Europe, there is a temporary exhibit going on now in London where you can experience some of this good stuff. "Bond in Motion" is at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden from 21 March, running throughout 2014.

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The famous Toyota 2000GT from "You Only Live Twice"

The Dezer has one of the largest collections of James Bond props and vehicles in the world. The Miami Auto Museum at the Dezer Collection’s James Bond Exhibit includes a fascinating array of automobiles, motorcycles, submarines, airplanes, helicopters, boats, and snow mobiles. In other words, if it moves in a Bond film and doesn't drink martinis shaken not stirred, it's probably found its way into the Dezer.


Jaguar XKR James Bond Martin jamesbondreview.filminspector.com
The Jaguar XKR's ordnance includes rockets in the door. The XKR also has ramming spikes for getting up close and personal when pursuing Bond.

The collection is home to the golden gun itself, a T-55 Soviet tank featured in the 1995 Bond film Goldeneye, a BD-5 Microjet, and six Aston Martins, among many other props.  The James Bond Exhibit will also showcase vehicles from The Ian Fleming Foundation.






Friday, March 7, 2014

Dr. No - Behind The Scenes

Sean and Ursula Look as if They Were Having a Ball!


Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com
Ursula played a local conch diver

While filming "Dr. No" in 1961, stars Sean Connery and Ursula Andress took full advantage of the lovely Nassau, Bahamas surroundings - and each other.

As these behind-the-scenes shots taken by United Artists of the two show, Sean and Ursula were having a lot of fun both on and off the camera. We see them cuddling, playing with wild birds, Sean crashing after a night of drinking - all the sorts of things you would expect from young rising stars. Even director Terence Young gets into one of the shots, apparently reviewing Ursula's dialog with her.

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An Irish 1962 poster for the first James Bond movie, Dr No, with a dress hand-painted over the original bikini-clad image of Ursula Andress. Note the strategic placement of Jamess Bond's gun and his impish grin, they were not trying to be subtle. 

Naturally, there are all sorts of shots of Ursula in her iconic white bikini and Sean showing off his fine physique. They each perform handstands, Sean helping Ursula, and there are candids of them lolling on the beach. Somewhat surprisingly, Ursula is shown sunbathing topless in one shot, which would have been quite daring in those days. Anything for her art!

Sean later retired to the Bahamas. Perhaps it was partly because of his good memories of these days.

These are great shots. The studio photographer must have taken several rolls, saved only the best, and then filed them away for fifty years. Some of these have been just rediscovered and scanned in from the original prints. They may give you a whole new appreciation for "Dr. No."


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This didn't make it into the film

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com
Sean was a former Mr. Universe runner-up

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Ursula looks much less exotic here than made out to be in the film
Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com



Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com
Sean giving Ursula his trademark raised eyebrows look

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com
I wonder if this local girl still remembers this?

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Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com

Clearly, Sean and Ursula spent more time together than absolutely required for filming

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Director Terence Young going through the script with the stars



Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com


Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com
The studio insurers probably would have had a stroke if they saw this


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Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com

Sean Connery Ursula Andress Dr. No animatedfilmreviews.filminspector.com
This appears to have been whilst rehearsing their scene



















Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eva Green Becomes a Villainess in "300: Rise of an Empire"

The Lovely Eva Green is Back!


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Eva Green as Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire

Eva Green is back!

Vesper Lynd from "Casino Royale" is appearing in "300: Rise of an Empire," based on a Frank Miller graphic novel. Zack Snyder co-wrote the screenplay, while Noam Murro directs. Snyder directed the original "300," but his "Man of Steel" film got in the way. “There was no way I could do it,” the writer-director said of the 300 sequel. There is complete continuity between the two films, though, so if you liked the first one, this sequel should feel right at home.




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Eva Green trained hard for the role

"300: Rise of an Empire" picks up where "300" left off. In the original film, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his unit of 300 Spartans fought the massive Persian army at Thermopylae circa 480 B.C. In this sequel, Artemisia (Eva Green) leads the vast Persian armada against the small, outmaned Greek fleet, led by Admiral Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton).


Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com


Describing her role, Eva says:
“She is like a man in a woman’s body.She’s very ballsy and very brave, and she was traumatized as a child, so she builds this armour around her to survive. And she’s obsessed with revenge and, yes, she’s bonkers.”
We all loved Eva Green in "Casino Royale," so it is great to see her back in another high-profile adventure.


Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com
Eva Green

Eva trained for weeks in Sofia, Bulgaria before filming began to learn how to wield a sword. It was very physically demanding.
“You feel very powerful actually, but not straight away. The squats and the lunges were, oh my god, very painful. But after you get through it, you feel very proud of yourself.”
Eva Green rose to stardom in "The Dreamers," and that film is well worth checking out if you like Eva and want to see more - a lot more - of her.

Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com
Artemisia bows before her king

I have a separate page devoted to Eva, with a lot of really good shots of her in and out of her previous high-profile roles, here.


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Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

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Eva Green with costar Lena Headey


Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com

Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire jamesbondreview.filminspector.com