Terry O’Neill is one of the world’s most collected photographers – for over six decades he has photographed the frontline of fame, from the icons of the screen and stage to the President of America and many more. Seeing as our shorts will be making a cameo in the upcoming Bond film ‘Skyfall’, we thought we’d speak to the man about his career and exhibition ‘All About Bond’ which coincides with 007’s 50th anniversary and is currently on show at the Proud Gallery in Chelsea.
OB: How did you first get into film photography?
TON: I was a jazz drummer and wanted to go to New York to play with the best. The only way of getting there was to get a job as an air steward. BOAC (BA) offered me a job instead as a technical assistant, which basically meant taking photographs at the airport. The next thing I know I’m taking pictures in the VIP lounge and someone taps me on the shoulder. It’s a national newspaper reporter. I’ve just taken a picture of someone in a bowler hat snoozing and it turns out to be the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rib Butler. They published my picture and offered me a job.
From there it all happened very quickly. Soon I was on film sets, photographing young emerging artists like the Beatles and Stones.
OB: What was your involvement with the Bond franchise?
TON: I was never part of it, which means I had control over what pictures I took and what images I could publish. I knew the Broccolis and a lot of the stars as friends so I was regularly invited onto the sets to do my own thing. I recently found a whole box full of my pictures from Bond movies and decided to do the book “All About Bond” to coincide with an exhibition I was opening at Proud Gallery in Chelsea.
OB: Of all the Bonds, who was your favourite to work with and why?
TON: Sean Connery was the best Bond but they all brought something different to the role. Roger Moore had a great sense of humour, Pierce Brosnan was the most quintessential and stylish, Daniel Craig is the coolest re-incarnation.
OB: How well do you think Daniel Craig fills 007’s shoes?
TON: I photographed him recently for Esquire Magazine. He was charming, professional and respectful unlike a lot of film stars. A guy who puts a lot into the job and the coolest guy I’ve photographed since Steve McQueen.
OB: Having spent so much time with the character, how would you define the look and style of James Bond?
TON: It’s timeless – all great English tailoring is, as are the cars, and that’s what gives the movies their class.
OB: Of all the films you’ve worked on, is there a scene or moment in particular that stands out for you?
TON: The best was meeting Sinatra as he walked onto the set of “The Lady In Cement” in 1967 in Miami. I was walking up the boardwalk with a letter of introduction by Ava Garnder, his ex-wife. He was walking with his entourage. I handed him the letter, he opened it and turned to his minders and said “The kid’s with me” And that was it. We worked together for 30 years after that.
My favourite time was with Connery in Vegas and LA doing “Diamonds Are Forever.” We had a lot of laughs; Sean was a bundle of fun.
OB: What can people expect from your recent book “All About Bond?”
TON: A lot of photographs never seen before – most of them candid, relaxed and un-posed. There are some interesting insights from some Bond girls and finally there’s a great memoir of the real Ian Fleming by his colleague at the Sunday Times Godfrey Smith. In it we learn that Bond was actually the man Ian Fleming wanted to be.
OB: Over the course of your career you have captured some true legends. Do you have any favourites?
TON: Sinatra – always, Mandela, Bardot and Hepburn.
All images appear courtesy of Terry O’Neill and Proud Galleries
All About Bond: Photographs by Terry O’Neill
13th September – 4th November
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