John Glen was born in Sunbury-on-Thames, England on May 15th 1932. Legendary producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli noticed his editing work on the Bond films (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker”) and invited him to become the director on “For Your Eyes Only”, starring Roger Moore.
Like the great director Alfred Hitchcock, John Glen put in a special personal mark in four of the five James Bond films he directed between 1981 to 1989; “For Your Eyes Only”, “Octopussy”, “A View To A Kill”, “The Living Daylights” and “Licence To Kill” (This is the record so far, no one else have directed more Bond films than John Glen). Five of his films 007 films feature a scene where James Bond is startled by the sudden flight of one or more pigeons.
Besides working on the James Bond film series John Glen has a long list of credits working with big names like; Catherine Zeta-Jones, Christopher Lambert, Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Ian Holm, Louis Gossett Jr, Lee Marvin, Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Tom Selleck. He has also worked with Roger Moore in non-Bond films like “Gold”, “Shout At The Devil”, “The Wild Geese” and “The Sea Wolves”.
When did you meet Roger Moore for the first time? We think it was when he was doing the TV series “The Saint”…?
Whilst Roger was making “The Saint” at Elstree I was also working at MGM Elstree on “Danger Man”.
Although our careers were running parallel we didn’t meet up until I was editor and second unit director on “Gold”.
From then on it seemed I worked with him on every movie until one day Roger remaked: “Am I in your contract or are you in mine!”
How did you become involved in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” in the first place?
I first met Peter Hunt in 1947 whilst a junior editor at London Films Shepperton. Peter was also an assistant editor. Unknown to me Peter had watched my career unfold as an editor and second unit director on TV series such as “Danger Man”. When he needed a director to film the bob run sequence in Switzerland he contacted me and managed to convince Harry and Cubby that I was the man for the job.
How did you approach the role of director for “For Your Eyes Only” once they choose you? Did you read any of the Fleming novels?
I was a keen Fleming fan and had read most of his novels. The short story of “For Your Eyes Only” had made a lasting impression on me and I found it very easy to develop together with Michael Wilson and Dick Maibaum.
In “For Your Eyes Only”, how did you solve the problems of Roger Moore hating the heights and Carole Bouquet who could not dive because of her inner ear problem?
It is true that Roger did not like heights and who could blame him! The climbing scenes shot in the Meteora region of Greece were scary to say the least. Roger overcame his fears and performed admirably. Rick Sylvester, who doubled for Roger in the ski/parachute jump in “The Spy Who Loved Me” did similar work here particularly the rope drop.
Carole Bouquet had a different problem. Where as Roger was terrific in the water she unfortunately had an inner ear problem which prohibited her to dive. We overcame the problem of filming the extensive underwater sequences by shooting them dry.
Derek Meddings, a very talented visual effects director, came in to his own in achieving this. No CGI in those days! By shooting at 90 frames a second and using a wind machine we were able to simulate the underwater movements. A graph paper was put on the view finder of the Mitchell camera and the positions of their mouths were notated. The undeveloped film was then passed to Derek for superimposing bubbles. Arthur Wooster shot the wide angles in the tank on the 007 stage.
Could you tell us the discussion you had with Roger Moore as he firstly refused the idea of kicking Locque’s car over the edge in “For Your Eyes Only”?
I felt that this was a particularly pivotal scene in the movie.
Roger was concerned about his image seen kicking a man to his death.
Forever the professional Roger bowed to the director and agreed to shoot the scene as written although I did an alternative version where the weight of the dove emblem tipped the balance on the car.
Is it true that Roger Moore didn’t want to be dressed up as a clown in “Octopussy”?
Roger was very apprehensive about being dressed up as a clown and took a lot of persuading by me. But, as ever, he embraced the idea and performed it beautifully. We had a similar situation with the monkey suit on the “Octopussy” train.
In “A View To A Kill”, how was the chemistry between Roger Moore and Grace Jones?
We had a lot of fun in the scenes between Roger and Grace, on and off the screen! Grace is a tremendous character and a bit of a scene stealer. In the flooded mine I forgot to mention to her that I had simulated electrical discharges in the water. The screams you hear are genuine!
What happened at the end of filming “A View To A Kill” knowing it was Roger Moore’s last Bond movie?
It was common knowledge that we had been testing various actors for the role of Bond prior to Roger being signed for “A View To A Kill”. How much of this had to do with negotiating his new contract only Cubby would know. To my relief, Roger got the job. At the end of filming the whole crew gave Roger a huge round of applause for what had been a wonderful portrayal of the role over the years.
How much involved were you in the selection of Timothy Dalton as the new Bond after Roger?
Timothy Dalton had been approached previously when he was a rising young star with films like “Lion In Winter” and “Wuthering Heights”. His acting credentials were impeccable. We invited him to a meeting and convinced him this time to take the role.
Could you describe any differences, if there were any, in working with Roger Moore compared to working with Timothy Dalton? In your eyes, what were the differences between them as actors taking on the role of 007?
It was essential and agreed with Timothy that he would be his own man as Bond. The intention was to bring a harder edge to the character and take full advantage of his considerable acting talents. To be up-to-date and retain the essential Bond humour. Again Tim was a terrific professional.
Could you tell us a bit about your impressions and any special memories from working with the actors and filmmakers that you met during your Bond films, in particular:
Cubby Broccoli : Cubby was a wonderful family man and as such the whole crew were his family. He was much loved and respected.
Harry Saltzman : I only worked briefly with Harry on “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. I remember him as the hard man in the Cubby/Harry double act.
Michael G. Wilson : Michael and I almost grew up together with the Bonds. We had a terrific working relationship sharing a passion for the Fleming character and developing the action sequences together with Dick Maibaum.
Barbara Broccoli : Barbara was a young girl when I first joined the Bonds and I have seen her grow in to a producer in her own right. She served her time as an assistant director on my films and was very instrumental in casting in particular. She shares a lot of Cubby’s qualities.
Roger Moore : Roger was very helpful to me when I first took over the role of director. He knew me from many previous films where I had been editor and action director. He liked to joke that I was always putting his life in danger and we did have a few nervous moments. His humour kept our long shooting schedule in good spirits and he was much loved by the crew.
George Lazenby : Although there have been many stories told about George’s antics on the film in the few days that he worked with my action unit I found him extremely helpful and enthusiastic, to the point that I had to restrict him from donning skis. Had George broken a leg under my charge it would have been the end of a fledgling career for me.
Carole Bouquet : Carole is one of the most beautiful women to appear in a Bond movie. I remember meeting her in Rome for the first time and being struck by her amazing hair and beautiful eyes.
Maud Adams : Unknown to most people Maud actually appeared in three Bond movies. While we were filming on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco she visited the set and walked through the background of a scene. Maud had the most amazing bone structure and was a photographer’s delight. She was a very popular choice with Roger.
Tanya Roberts : Tanya was the original dizzy blond and figured in many amusing incidents during the making of the film. I remember in particular her concern at wearing a miner’s safety helmet. In her dressing room I had to convince her that she looked attractive and it was essential for the scene. Her reply was “I can’t wear this hat for 9 pages” which I though was very amusing.
Maryam d’Abo : Maryam is one of my favourite actresses and I have cast her on three occasions. She did a remarkable job on “The Living Daylights” and fitted the bill perfectly as a cellist.
Carey Lowell : Carey again had all the qualities one looks for in a Bond leading lady – beauty combined with acting talent. She was an absolute joy to work with.
Did you make any promotional tours for the films ?
I did many promotional tours and enjoyed travelling with Roger and various other cast members including the much loved Desmond Llewelyn (Q). I remember after our fifth television interview Desmond turning to me and saying “We are the original mutual admiration society!”. Also Roger taught me how to pack a suitcase and I shared this knowledge on radio in Australia.
Which is your best and most special memory from being involved in the films? (If one is hard to choose, feel free to share others, the more the merrier!)
The success of the ski parachute jump is hard to beat and the safe return of Rick Sylvester and the filming crew.
How many films have you been involved in except the Bond films? (According to IMDB it comes to 47 films and 3 TV series in total but we don’t know if that is correct?)
As I started in the industry in 1945 as a messenger boy the amount of films I have been involved in are almost too numerous to mention. One of my early films as assistant editor was “The Third Man” where I worked with Carol Reed and Anton Karas at Carol’s Chelsea home (Karas couldn’t work in the studio).
Which film or films have you found difficult to make?
“Christopher Columbus – The Discovery” was a challenge. Money was tight and sometimes didn’t turn up on time. My crew were very understanding and I needed all my wits to keep filming at times. We shot the three ships on the Malta tank with a very narrow angle to exclude Valetta on the left and right. The auxiliary sails were very useful to hide encroaching land.
Of all actors and actresses you have worked with, which one/ones do you enjoy working with the most ?
I would have to say Roger Moore was my favourite. His sense of humour may have cost me a few minutes on the set but it was worth it.
In what countries have you been working and which film studios to you consider to be a ‘second home’ because of much work based in them?
Pinewood Studios is really the home of Bond and although I spent my early years at Shepperton working with Sir Alexander Korda Pinewood must rank as my favourite. Steve Jaggs, and before him Cyril Howard, were always extremely helpful. We used to say “Join the Bond and see the world”and that just about sums it up.
Which is your favourite film doing and is it the same one you consider to be the best after you saw the final film?
I think my favourite film is “Octopussy”. It featured all my favourite things – animals, children, exotic locations and beautiful women. However, I consider “Licence To Kill” to be my best film.
Of all films you have done which one do you think have had the biggest impact on your career upon becoming a director?
Without a doubt, “The Spy Who Loved Me” brilliantly directed by Lewis Gilbert who allowed me to shoot the ski parachute jump which had a huge impact on my career.
We suppose you became friends with many of the people you worked with on the Bond films and other films, can you mention a few names you are good friends with and still see today?
Roger of course, Maud Adams, Maryam D’Abo, Robert Davi to name a few.
How was the atmosphere on the set of “Shout At The Devil” with two big stars but with such different personalities?
Lee Marvin was certainly a different character to Roger Moore.
In the limited experience I had working with Lee I found him to be very professional and liked to tell of his experiences during World War II in the Pacific and he even had a wound to prove it. I was rarely on the set being second unit director. They seemed to get on like a house on fire!
Staying on “Shout At The Devil” how did you manage to film the impressive scenes involving the elephants? Wasn’t that very dangerous for the crew?
We had very good cooperation from the parks department in South Africa and for the scenes with the main actors we tranquilised the elephant involved. When the elephant recovered he was not in a very good mood and the unit made a quick exit. The most impressive and dangerous scene for my second unit was when the helicopter herded a group of elephants past our hide. The mother elephants reached in to their stomachs with their trunks and sprayed water on to the young ones to keep them cool whilst in full flight. There was one nasty moment when the matriarch reared up to the rock where we were hiding and only the intervention of the helicopter saved us.
Could you tell us more about the problems you have encountered when filming “Gold” in South Africa?
Most of the filming was done at Bufflesfontain gold mine. I filmed beneath ground for three weeks. This involved a 3,000 ft. descent in a triple cage continually soaked by water and then a further 3,000 ft. on an incline shaft.
Roger, who doesn’t like confined spaces, coped admirably with the dozen crew members in the coffin-like vehicle that wizzed down to 6,000 ft. below ground which incidentally is sea level in this part of the world!
How did Roger Moore and his co-stars cope with the filming conditions?
It was a new experience for all of us and in a lot of ways it was a rough shoot but at the same time most interesting to see how efficient the gold mining operation is. Very heavy machinery and pumps that shift thousands of tons of water in a matter of minutes.
During “The Sea Wolves”, how special was it to work with Roger Moore and two of his best friends, David Niven and Gregory Peck?
I think this was a very enjoyable film for Roger. David Niven was not particularly well at this time and it was good to be able to work with friends. Gregory Peck was a most impressive actor and paid great attention to detail particularly his British accent.
If you would have to choose the best moment on set with Roger Moore, which one would it be?
Probably Grace Jones chasing Roger around the set intent on killing him after he pulled a joke on her.
What are, for you, the essential human qualities of Roger Moore?
Roger is a very caring person and treats everybody on the set with equal respect.
Are you doing any films or TV work at the moment?
Did you ever started your own production company and if yes, how much are you involved in that these days?
I do have my own production company and I have a number of projects I would like to produce if not direct.
Tell us a little bit about yourself i.e. background, hobbies and interest, education, family, where you live now etc. I know you play golf, what is your current handicap and which are your favourite courses?
My wife and I enjoy golf – we play all around the world. I play off 23 and one of my favourite courses is The Vines in Western Australia and Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire. I am also a keen gardener. I also have seven grandchildren which keep me pretty busy at times.
Have you ever been filming and/or privately visiting Belgium/Scandinavia? Please tell us when, where and what you thought about it?
I have visited both Scandinavia and Belgium, mostly through work. I have always been warmly welcomed in these countries and have found the technicians very skilled and enthusiastic.
To know more about John Glen and his career, we encourage you to read his autobiography, For My Eyes Only.