How YouOn­lyLiveTwice be­came the cursed Bond helmed by an an­gry Sean Con­nery

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE - By ADAM WHITE

When ac­tors speak of “nearly be­ing killed” on film sets, it’s usu­ally more than a lit­tle ex­ag­ger­ated. “Sleep­ing in that gi­ant dead bear nearly froze me to death”, cer­tain A-lis­ters cry, or “I nearly-but­to­tally-didn’t die cling­ing onto the side of that plane.” But in the case of You Only Live Twice, the 1967 James Bond film that turns 50 last month, “nearly be­ing killed” takes on a far more lit­eral mean­ing.

In Ja­pan to scout lo­ca­tions for the film, nu­mer­ous crew, in­clud­ing di­rec­tor Lewis Gil­bert and pro­duc­ers Al­bert “Cubby” Broc­coli and Harry Saltz­man, were booked to re­turn to Lon­don on Boe­ing Flight 911, un­til they were sud­denly alerted to the of­fer of a Ninja demon­stra­tion that same day. The crew changed their flights at the last minute, and looked on in hor­ror as their orig­i­nal flight crashed into a moun­tain, killing all 124 on board.

While the Bond crew nar­rowly avoided death, the plane crash did op­er­ate as some­thing of a bad omen for the film it­self, which ex­pe­ri­enced ev­ery­thing from an an­gry lead­ing man and a sui­ci­dal lead­ing lady, to am­pu­ta­tions and cul­tural up­roar dur­ing its pro­duc­tion.

An un­happy Sean Con­nery

The af­ter­math of the plane crash only seemed to add to the dark cloud hov­er­ing over the set, am­pli­fied by ten­sions be­tween Sean Con­nery and Broc­coli, and Con­nery’s gen­eral un­hap­pi­ness at play­ing Bond for the fifth time. He be­lieved the char­ac­ter had be­come bor­ing, par­tic­u­larly as Bond hadn’t been de­vel­oped past his sur­face char­ac­ter­is­tics dur­ing his fran­chise ten­ure. The fight­ing be­tween both men got so bad that Con­nery re­fused to leave his trailer if Broc­coli was on the set.

At this point in Bond his­tory, Con­nery had also be­come an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star, but the level of at­ten­tion he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing was driv­ing him to dis­trac­tion. An in­ci­dent in which Ja­panese pho­tog­ra­phers pur­sued him into a pub­lic bath­room left him in­fu­ri­ated, but it was re­peated en­coun­ters with a stalker, who seemed to trail Con­nery through­out film­ing, that ap­peared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Con­nery was also vo­cal about his dis­plea­sure with his salary, which amounted to $750,000 plus 25 per cent of mer­chan­dis­ing prof­its. He made it pub­licly known that he would only re­turn to the fran­chise for a sixth film if Bond rights own­ers Eon Pro­duc­tions paid him a mil­lion dol­lars plus a per­cent­age of the film’s gross. Their dis­missal of his de­mands resulted in the role be­ing briefly as­sumed by the in­fa­mously prob­lem­atic George Lazenby. Con­nery would re­turn for one more “of­fi­cial” bond film in 1971, but only to get two of his pas­sion projects fi­nanced.

Hi­lary Saltz­man, daugh­ter of orig­i­nal Bond pro­ducer Harry Saltz­man, has said that Con­nery’s rifts with her fa­ther and Broc­coli left her feel­ing dis­ap­pointed.

“I felt a lit­tle sad. You cre­ated some­thing and now sud­denly you have these splin­ters and split-offs,” she told Fox411 in 2012. “Yes, he was a great Bond, but he’s had some ex­tra­or­di­nary films and some ex­tra­or­di­nary roles since. It’s sad to me that he can’t fo­cus on the ac­com­plish­ments that he was able to have as a re­sult of be­ing Bond, as op­posed to think­ing he got stumped for some short change.”

The ac­tress that threat­ened to jump out a win­dow

At the same time as Con­nery was prov­ing to be trou­ble, the film was WithLove,

also strug­gling to cast its two lead­ing fe­male roles: a Ja­panese se­cret agent named Aki, to be killed off and clum­sily for­got­ten about part­way through the film, and her im­me­di­ate re­place­ment, an­other se­cret agent named Kissy Suzuki. The pro­duc­tion even­tu­ally ze­roed in on two up-and-com­ing Ja­panese ac­tresses, Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi, both of whom had re­cently starred in the lo­cal hit King Kong vs. Godzilla.

Un­for­tu­nately, nei­ther ac­tress could speak English, forc­ing the pro­duc­tion team to send both of them to Lon­don for six months of lessons. The lessons proved more ef­fec­tive for Wakabayashi than Hama, how­ever. Frus­trated, Lewis Gil­bert con­fided in Hama’s friend and cos­tar Tet­suro Tamba that he was to drop Hama from the film and re­place her with a dif­fer­ent ac­tress, and re­quested Tamba in­form her of the news.

“The next morn­ing I asked Tam- ba ‘How did it go with Mie?’ ” Gil­bert re­vealed in an in­ter­view. “Tamba told me, ‘Mie had lost face, and feels that she is a dis­grace to her fam­ily and will jump out of her ho­tel win­dow tonight.’ ‘You can’t be se­ri­ous,’ I said to Tamba. ‘Oh yes, she is a hun­dred per­cent se­ri­ous. She will jump,’ he said.

“Well, that re­ally scared the hell out of me,” Gil­bert con­tin­ued. “I didn’t want a young woman’s death on my con­science, nor did the pro­duc­ers want that kind of pub­lic­ity. So I told Tamba to tell her to stay and that she would be in the movie.”

Gil­bert’s way around Hama’s sui­cide threat was to have both she and Wakabayashi swap parts, fac­tor­ing in that the Kissy char­ac­ter had sig­nif­i­cantly less lines than Aki. Hama walked back on her threat to leap out of a win­dow and por­trayed the part — awk­wardly, Hama still ended up be­ing dubbed, be­com­ing one of Only Live Twice.

The ca­sual racism

In hind­sight, You Only Live Twice is a road trip through ev­ery Ja­panese stereo­type imag­in­able, from sumo wrestler cameos to Nin­jas and sub­servient women (“I should re­tire here,” Bond quips when he is in­formed that women come sec­ond to men in Ja­panese so­ci­ety). There’s

KEY­STONE-FRANCE / GAMMA-KEY­STONE VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Sean Con­nery (right) and Danielle Bianchi in the James Bond film From 1963.

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