The slick James Bond site MI6 is celebrating the 20th anniversary of A VIEW TO A KILL and has posted my interview with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson as part of the celebration
Meeting Richard Maibaum was a very big deal for me and had an enormous impact on my life.
I was (and am) a big James Bond fan. At the time, I was an 18-year-old kid on his way to UCLA to attend college…and putting himself through school as a freelance journalist (mostly doing phone interviews so no one would know how old I was). I chose UCLA because it was near the film and TV industry and I wanted to learn as much as I could about both.
As soon as I arrived in L.A, I made up a target list of writer, producers and directors I admired and wanted to interview for articless (I know I could do them for the UCLA Daily Bruin if no where else). The two names at the top of the list were Richard Maibaum and Steve Cannell.
I don’t remember how I tracked Maibaum down, but with my heart pounding with fear, I called him at home and asked if I could interview him for the UCLA Daily Bruin. Not only did he agree, he insisted that I come over for lunch. I nearly fainted.
Richard was a sweet, lovely man…and so was his wife. He showed me around his house (including a closet decorated with James Bond wallpaper) and shared some momentos he’d collected doing the films. He was delighted that someone was taking an interest in how the 007 films were written (in fact, I would later discover that my interview…not the one reprinted at MI6… was the first significant, detailed discussion with him any journalist had ever done. To this day, I see quotes from the lengthy article have been lifted without attribution books about the movies).
We spent six hours together that first day…and many hours together after that in person and on the phone. He became my friend and an unofficial mentor. Not only did Richard give me the confidence to approach other artists I admired (snagging the interview with him gave me the confidence to go after everybody else on my list…and I nearly all of them!), but he encouraged me to try screenwriting myself.
The article itself was a financial and professional success for me — it won a college journalism award from Rolling Stone magazine (that came with a $1000 check, a HUGE amount of money for me at the time), a Society of Professional Journalists award for college journalism, and I sold it to STARLOG magazine as a two-part interview. That story led to many other freelance assignments, for STARLOG and other publications, writing about the Bond films…including an all-expenses-paid trip to London (my first!) to cover the opening of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and interview the film-makers.
I remember how proud I was…and Richard, too… that years later we were able to walk the picket line together during the 1988 WGA Strike as fellow professional screenwriters. It was a big moment for me…and one I will never forget. I like to think, in some small way, it was a special moment for him, too.
I don’t think Richard Maibaum ever got the appreciation and recognition he deserved for writing a dozen 007 movies. It wasn’t in his nature to seek the attention… but consider his achievement: How many screenwriters today have been nearly as successful or stuck with a single franchise for as long as he did? He was a terrific writer and very nice man. I miss him.