Monday, 18 June 2018

Becoming a Hybrid Author, a guest post by Jane Isaac

To mark the publication of her latest novel, After He's Gone, here's a guest post from my friend Jane Isaac.
Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog, Mark! This marks the publication of not only a new book for me, but also the start of a new crime series and a slight change of course in my publishing journey.

Those who’ve read my previous work will know that I currently write the DCI Helen Lavery series and the DI Will Jackman series, both published by Legend Press. While I will still be working with Legend on my backlist, as well as possibly more titles in future, I decided to dip my toe in the water of self-publishing this year to see if I could follow the process myself and become a hybrid author (a term used for those who mix traditional and self-publishing, although it conjures up pictures of roses and horticulture more than books to me!). For that purpose, I wrote a new crime series introducing Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain.

It can be a difficult decision to change series, especially when readers have invested so much in your characters, but I see it more as a break. I’d love to work with both Helen and Will again in the future, but wanted to try something different for the moment, to keep the stories fresh.

This new series has been an interesting one to research and write as it offers a different perspective on murder investigations, focusing on and around the victim’s family. Family Liaison Officers are deployed to support families of victims of serious crime like homicide, road death and other critical incidents. They spend a lot of time updating them on the investigation and feeding back information and often get very close. And since most people are killed by someone they know or someone close to them, it affords the opportunity to unravel some really intriguing secrets!

Self-publishing has certainly presented a huge learning curve – now I really know what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing world! I followed the same process I’ve been through many a time in traditional publishing, but this time I had to hire my own help along the way. Like many self-published authors, I spent a long time choosing the right structural editor, copy editor, proofer and formatter for my book so that the end product was a quality piece of work. I also had great fun working directly with the cover artists!

For me, it seems it’s all about the team you have around you and the timetabling. As long as you source good recommended people to work with and stick to a rigid timetable it seems that everything falls into place. I’m not saying there weren’t any nail-biting or pulling-your-hair-out moments, because there definitely were(!), but it’s like learning anything new – you have to do the training. I think next time I embark on a self-published title I will feel certainly feel more experienced and more organised, although I’m the first to admit that I still have a lot to learn.

I’ve just completed the first draft of the second DC Beth Chamberlain novel which is scheduled for release at the end of this year. One of the joys of writing a series is that, by the end of the first book, you know the character implicitly and it’s wonderful to challenge and stretch them in other directions. Plus, I get the chance to follow my self-publishing journey again as I start to prepare it for release. Watch this space there!


‘The safety catch on the Glock snapped as it was released. Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve. Listened to the words drip from his mouth, ‘Right. Let’s begin, shall we?’ 

You think you know him. Until he’s dead.

When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them. 
As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. 

Even the dead…

If you'd like to know more about Jane, you can read an interview I conducted with her on the blog here.

Jane Isaac lives with her detective husband (very helpful for research!) and her daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the 'eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.' The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.

After He’s Gone is Jane’s sixth novel and the first in a new series featuring Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain. The second DC Beth Chamberlain novel will be released later in 2018.


Connect with Jane at www.janeisaac.co.uk

Monday, 11 June 2018

Star Wars At 40 (pop-up 5) - An Appreciation of Ralph McQuarrie


Ralph Angus McQuarrie (13th June 1929 - 3rd March 2012) was born in Gary, Indiana and began art classes at the age of ten.  After graduation and active service in the Korean War (where he survived a shot to the head thanks to his helmet lining), he studied at the Art Centre College of Design in California - alongside ‘visual futurist’ (to be) Syd Mead - and in 1950 began working at the Boeing Company in Seattle as a technical illustrator.  Moving to California, he worked for Reel Three which produced illustrations for NASA that were used on CBS News’ live coverage of the Apollo space program and that led to a call from Hal Barwood & Matthew Robbins who needed illustrations to help sell a film they were planning.  Whilst Ralph wasn't particularly interested in sci-fi, he “was in love with airplanes and spacecraft" and working on the illustrations “felt like that was really the place I should be. I had found what I should be doing.”

Though Barwood & Robbins, Ralph was contacted by their friend George Lucas for help with his own sci-fi project.  "He was interested in talking to me...about a big space-fantasy film.  A couple [of] years went by and George did American Graffiti…then one day he called to see if I'd be interested in doing something for Star Wars.”

with George Lucas
The script was complicated and Lucas knew he needed something to sell it, without having to rely on the imaginations of the studio executives.  “George said, I’ll give you this script, read it, and when you come to something you like, make a little pencil drawing and we’ll look at it later.”  They met every couple of weeks with Ralph doing his “best to depict what I thought the film should look like. I didn't think the film would ever get made. My impression was it was too expensive. There wouldn't be enough of an audience. It's just too complicated. But George knew a lot of things that I didn't."

On the strength of the paintings and the pitch, Lucas was given funding to start pre-production.  One of the most famous pictures was one of the first - C3PO and R2-D2 in front of a cliff on Tatooine.  “George wanted Tatooine to be a desert planet with twin suns...so I was thinking, 'Desert, extreme heat, no plants, just rocks and dust”.  C3PO came from a “photograph of the female robot from Metropolis (1927), [George] said he’d like Threepio to look like that, except to make him a boy.”  Anthony Daniels saw the painting (which you can see at the end of this post) when he went to audition and was touched by the image.  “Without his inspirational art,” Daniels says in Empire Of Dreams, “I would not be C-3PO. I once said to him, ‘This is all YOUR fault!’ Then I thanked him.”

Concept sketch of the heroes
As well as the sets and ships, Ralph also designed R2-D2, Chewbacca and Darth Vader.  In the script, Vader had flowing black robes “that would flutter in the wind” but as the Sith Lord had to cross between his Star Destroyer and the Rebel Blockade Runner in the vacuum of space, Ralph suggested he needed a breathing mask.  Lucas agreed, suggested adding a samurai helmet “and Darth Vader was born. Simple as that.”

“Working on Star Wars was a special opportunity to start from the ground up,” Ralph later said.  “Being able to create new characters, vehicles and different worlds ... and since when I started it wasn’t even clear that the film would be made, I didn’t have to limit myself.”

As part of the newly created Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) - “there was some sort of a rumour going around that [nobody] over thirty worked on Star Wars and I was 45” - he also produced several key matte paintings, his first foray into the artform.

Following his work on Star Wars, he produced designs for the Mothership in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) and worked on a planned Star Trek film (Planet Of The Titans) which never happened.  Ralph moved on to the Battlestar Galactica TV series (1978), designing the craft (his original version of the Viper was re-worked for Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (1979)), the aliens and Cylons, producing 24 paintings in total to help sell the project.

Working on the Cloud City landing platform matte painting
from "The Empire Strikes Back"
Back in the ILM fold, Ralph was concept designer for the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), which notably featured the debut of Boba Fett, arguably one of his most popular character designs.  For The Empire Strikes Back, he produced concept art and production paintings - including the first glimpse of the AT-ATs - as well as several matte paintings.  He also played the uncredited role of General Pharl McQuarrie at the Hoth base (of which an action figure was made for the Star Wars 30th anniversary) before leaving ILM to go freelance.

He worked on two back-to-back Steven Spielberg films, creating on-screen artwork for Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and the spaceship from E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982).  “Steven was at ILM one day and I talked with him for about five minutes - he said he [wanted] ET’s space ship to look like Dr. Suess designed it. I thought that was kind of interesting, very off the wall.”
top left - artwork of "the power of the ark" as seen in Raiders Of The Lost Ark - right - ET's ship
bottom - concept design for the Mothership in
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Ralph went back to ILM as conceptual artist for Return Of The Jedi and after his work on the project was finished, George Lucas made a point of thanking him in front of everyone.  Nilo Rodis-Jamero, also a designer on the film, said in interview, “Ralph stood up and said, ‘I was one of the first people that George hired,’ because Ralph is an unbelievably humble man. George got up and said, ‘No, you were the first one.’”

from left - Ken Ralston, Ralph McQuarrie,
Molly Ringwald (presenter), Scott Farrar and David Berry
He was the concept artist on Cocoon (1985) for which ILM won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.  Supervisor Ken Ralston said, “Ralph is a big reason why we were honoured. Simply stated Ralph McQuarrie has the ability to paint dreams.”

After working on Masters Of The Universe he finally got his Star Trek chance when, working at ILM, he produced concept designs for  23rd century San Francisco, Starfleet Headquarters, shuttlecrafts, whale tanks, and storyboards for the fourth film The Voyage Home.  He reunited with Matthew Robbins to work on *batteries not included (1987) and his last credit was for Nightbreed (1990) where he painted the history of the breed as a sixty-foot long mural which features heavily in the opening credits.

He was offered the design role for the Star Wars prequel trilogy but felt he’d “run out of steam” and retired, though his Star Wars concept paintings were subsequently displayed in art exhibitions, including the acclaimed 1999 show Star Wars: The Magic Of Myth.  As it is, his original designs and unused concept art are still influencing the saga, both with the animated TV shows, the sequels and the stand-alone films.

McQuarrie died at his Berkeley, California home from complications of Parkinson's disease and is survived by his wife Joan.

Following his passing, George Lucas said, "His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'do it like this'.  We will all be benefiting from his oeuvre for generations to come. Beyond that, I will always remember him as a kind, patient and wonderfully talented friend and collaborator.”


Filmography
Star Wars (1977) (production illustrator)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (spaceship designer)
Battlestar Galactica (1978) (production and concept illustrator)
Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) (production illustrator)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (design consultant and conceptual artist)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (illustrator)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (scenic artist/spaceship design)
Return of the Jedi (1983) (conceptual artist)
Cocoon (1985) (conceptual artist) Oscar for Best Visual Effects
Masters of the Universe (1987) (conceptual artist)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) (visual consultant)
*batteries not included (1987) (conceptual artist)
Nightbreed (1990) (conceptual artist)


On holiday in Torquay in 1989, I picked up a copy of Ralph's Star Wars portfolio from a second-hand bookshop (and thankfully kept hold of it as they're worth a fortune now).  Having been a big Star Wars fan from the off, I'd seen his work a lot (that little RMcQ was a real guarantee of quality) and I've always been impressed with the scope and vitality of the images.  Here are a few of my favourites...




Concept art for Battlestar Galactica
The Empire Strikes Back Bounty Hunters
 You can read my post on the matte paintings from Star Wars (including several by Ralph) here

2017 marked the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, which was released in the US on 25th May though it didn't hit the UK until 29th January 1978 (following a 27th December release in London).  I was lucky enough to see it in early 1978 and it remains my favourite film to this day.

To mark the anniversary, I ran a year-long blog thread about the film with new entries posted on the first Monday of each month.

May The Force Be With You!

Find all the entries in the thread here

Monday, 4 June 2018

Octopussy, at 35

Octopussy, the thirteenth James Bond film in the official EON series (and the sixth to feature Roger Moore in the lead role), opened in the UK on 7th June 1983 (following its premiere on the 6th).  It was directed by John Glen (the second in his eventual five-film run), produced by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and written by George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson.  Peter Lamont was the production designer, John Richardson supervised the visual effects and John Barry wrote the score.  
“We stuck closely to the books in the very beginning - but then the basic material began to wear thin,” Michael Wilson told Richard Hollis in an interview for Marvel. 

Octopussy was a short story in Ian Fleming’s 1966 collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights, though the plot (as was the case with The Spy Who Loved Me) is original.  The film does include elements of the story - namely the fate of Major Dexter Smythe, who Octopussy in the film mentions was her father - and also a sequence inspired from the short The Property Of A Lady (which was published in later editions of the collection).  Kamal Khan’s reaction to Bond winning the backgammon game is taken from the novel Moonraker, which hadn't been used in the film.  Octopussy was written in early 1962 (and serialised in the Daily Express in October 1965), while Property Of A Lady was written in 1963, commissioned by Sotheby’s for inclusion in their annual journal, The Ivory Hammer. 

George MacDonald Fraser, best known for the Flashman novels, was hired to work on early drafts of the script.  He asked producer Cubby Broccoli for a list of all the locations Bond had already visited in the films and, realising that India (a country the writer had a lot of affection for) didn’t feature, he lobbied for it to be the main setting.  Although his script was eventually reworked by Bond regulars Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum, a lot of his contributions remained - according to his memoir, Fraser came up with the gorilla suit and clown outfit and he also created the character of Kamal Khan (in the first book in the series, Flashman is taken hostage by the Afghan prince Akbar Khan during the Anglo-Afghan War).

After completing For Your Eyes Only (which I wrote about here), Roger Moore had expressed his desire to retire from the role of James Bond.  Since he now negotiated on a film-by-film basis and Broccoli didn’t want to push his old friend, a semi-public search was launched to find the new Bond, with both Timothy Dalton and James Brolin being early favourites.  Brolin got as far as screen-testing (alongside Maud Adams, standing in as a favour to Broccoli) three times (they can be seen on the Octopussy Special Edition DVD) before news broke that Kevin McClory was mounting a rival production, Never Say Never Again, featuring the original Bond, Sean Connery.  Unsure of how the public would accept the American Brolin, Broccoli contacted Roger Moore again, firm in his belief that the already established star of the films would fare better against Connery.  For a higher salary - and profit points - Moore agreed to return and the newspapers had a field day, with this so-called Battle Of The Bonds.
Maud Adams’ help with the screentests led to her being considered for the lead role, though Broccoli was initially reluctant since she’d already appeared in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), where her character is killed.  Sybill Danning was announced (but apparently never cast), Faye Dunaway was deemed too expensive and Barbara Carrera turned down the role as she wanted to work with Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again.  Broccoli eventually re-considered and Adams was cast, though she wasn’t sure about the Octopussy name until the producer explained it was a real title and not rude (a controversy that would rumble on for some time).  Personally, I think she’s the perfect choice - a good actress who gives the character much more strength than the usual Bond girl, even if she doesn’t appear until a good way into the film.  The other significant female role, Magda, went to Kristina Wayborn, a former Miss Sweden.  Broccoli and Moore had seen her play Greta Garbo in The Silent Lovers (1980) and she had the agility and physicality to perform her role to perfection.  In a neat twist, Adams’ female co-star in Golden Gun, Britt Ekland, was also a Swede.

Following Bernard Lee’s death in 1981, Octopussy was the first film to feature Robert Brown as M (the character didn’t appear in For Your Eyes Only) and, along with Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, Desmond Llewellyn returned as Q and enjoyed an expanded role, taking part in a key action sequence.

Roger Moore and Louis Jourdan relax between takes on location in India
Louis Jourdan, a respected French actor and friend of both Moore and Broccoli, was offered the role of Kamal Khan after a party he gave in Beverly Hills that the producer attended (he’d previously turned down the role of Hugo Drax in Moonraker).  John Glen felt Jourdan had “the necessary authority to make an arresting villain” but noted the actor was often thrown by the British crew’s penchant for practical jokes between takes.  On the Inside Octopussy documentary on the Ultimate Edition DVD, Moore comments on how Jourdan’s delivery of Octopussy amused the cast and crew.  Steven Berkoff, the charismatic English actor, was cast as General Orlov and imbued him with a sense of mania that works perfectly.  Better known at the time for his stage work, Berkoff and Moore had known one another for years, having appeared in an episode of The Saint together.

The role of Gobinda, Kamal Khan’s henchman, was taken by respected Indian actor Kabir Bedi, while one of Bond’s allies, Vijay, was played by the tennis player Vijay Amritraj.  In a scene that should be silly but actually works, he uses a tennis racket as a weapon during the Tuk Tuk chase, though the onlookers turning their heads as if watching a match pushes things too far.  
Roger Moore and his leading ladies - Maud Adams (left) and Kristina Wayborn (right)
Filming began on 10th August 1982 in West Berlin, for the sequence where Bond arrives at Checkpoint Charlie with M before the production moved to Pinewood Studios, for interiors work, on 16th August.

Exterior scenes at the circus (set in Germany) were filmed at the American Air Force base at Upper Heyford in England while RAF Northholt, near London, stood in for Cuba (Peter Lamont supplied palm trees to help sell the illusion) for the pre-credits sequence.  Colonel Toro, who Bond impersonates, was played by Ken Norris, Roger Moore’s stand-in.

John Richardson and his customised XJS
This sequence was built around the Bede BD-5J Acrostar mini-jet, which was originally going to be used in Moonraker (1979).  At 12 feet long, the single engine jet could fly at 160mph and reach 30,000 feet, with a climb rate of 2,500 feet per minute.  Owned and piloted by J. W. ‘Corkey’ Fornof, from Louisiana, he later returned to the series to work as a pilot on Licence To Kill (1989).  Various versions were used - Fornoff piloted the real one (he apparently offered to fly it through Hanger 311 but it was felt to be too dangerous), a 3rd scale model was used when the jet is seen entering and leaving while a larger model was used for aerial shots with the missile (a prop that was actually attached to the model).  Foreground miniatures were used for the closing doors, which I wrote about in detail here.  To show the full-size jet flying through the hanger, it was mounted on a pole attached to a cut-down Jaguar XJS, engineered and driven by John Richardson.  By positioning the wing in front of the pole, as well as careful placement of foreground elements and people, the pole and car were both hidden from view.  Roger Moore was at the controls on the fly-through, though he’s barely visible.

For the explosion, Richardson and model unit art director Michael Lamont built a tenth-scale miniature of the hanger and its surrounding area and the pieces of debris that fly off were four inch long plastic tiles, individually attached.  It’s a terrific effect, which stands up well today.  The final quip of the sequence - “Fill her up” - was initially removed by Glen who felt it was silly, but after watching an early trailer that contained the line, he realised how well it went down with the audience and kept it in.

While the first unit was in London, the aerial unit was busy in Utah, in the US.  Supervised by B. J. Worth and performed by him (as Gobinda) and Jake Lombard (as Bond) - both of whom had worked on the opening sequence in Moonraker - they were filmed climbing on and around the aircraft and staging a mock fight, parachutes carefully concealed under their clothes.
BJ Worth (left) and Jake Lombard filming the aerial sequences above Utah
In September, the production moved to the Nene Valley railway museum near Peterborough, which doubled for Germany.  Part of the action involved Bond using a stolen Mercedes to pursue Octopussy’s train, an effect engineered by John Richardson who altered the cars wheel base to allow it to run on the tracks.  He and a stuntman did most of the driving, though Roger Moore also took the controls.  Richardson was also responsible for the scene where the Mercedes is hit by another train and shunted into a lake.  “It was actually fired out over the water with an air cannon,” he told Cinefex magazine.  “We had to fire it from the other side of the track so that it came across in front of the train and looked like it was being hit.”  A local amateur film enthusiast, Ken Burns, worked as an extra on the film and shot six minutes worth of Super-8 footage, which is available on the Ultimate Edition DVD.  Well liked by the crew, Burns, who played an East German Border guard, was known on set as the ‘3rd Unit’.
Kristina Wayborn, Roger Moore and Maud Adams on location at Nene Valley
The second unit stayed on at Nene Valley for several weeks, filming stunt co-ordinator Martin Grace (as Bond) on top of the train.  They had a helicopter for two days and, with time running out, the train went onto an area of track Grace hadn’t checked beforehand.  Hanging off the side of a carriage, he hit a concrete stanchion which caused serious injuries, breaking his hip and leg and hospitalising him for several months.  Although he made a full recovery, the accident cast a cloud over the production, though he was apparently a very popular patient, as Roger Moore was a frequent visitor to his bedside. 
The villainous trio - Louis Jourdan, Maud Adams, Steven Berkoff, on location at Nene Valley
The first unit moved to India and filming began at Udaipur on 21st September, lasting for three weeks.  Permission to shoot in the region was granted by the reigning Royal Maharana Bagwat Singh, who frequently entertained the cast and crew at dinners during production.  At one such cocktail party, John Glen saw a stuffed tiger in the palace and asked if the production could borrow it.  Mounted onto a wheel-barrow, this is the tiger that springs out of the bushes at Bond (and it was Moore who suggested the “sit!” line).  The elephant hunt, lifted from The Most Dangerous Game according to Michael G. Wilson, was filmed in the Maharani’s vast garden, which had become overgrown.

The first sequence filmed was the meeting of Bond and Vijay where the ‘fourth wall’ is broken - MI6’s man in India plays the James Bond theme on his recorder as Bond disembarks from the boat.  Amritraj, playing a snake charmer was, in real life, terrified of them and his line, “This is the wrong cover, I hate snakes” was written especially for him.
In Q's lab - Vijay Amritraj, Roger Moore, Desmond Llewellyn
The Monsoon Palace served as the exterior of Khan’s palace (the interiors were built at Pinewood), Octopussy’s home base was filmed at the Lake Palace and Bond’s hotel, the Shiv Niwas Palace, also housed key cast and crew members.  

Remy Julienne, who devised the Citroen chase in For Your Eyes Only, supervised the Tuk Tuk sequence and the “company taxi” was modified by the production, “adding bigger engines and beefing up the brakes” - it was capable of achieving 70mph.  Filming the sequence was difficult, due to the huge crowds that turned up to watch filming (according to Glen they one day asked for 5,000 extras and 10,000 people turned up) and Kabir Bedi said it was impossible to predict what would happen.  This is highlighted by the shot when a cyclist passes between the Tuk Tuk’s during the sword fight.  It wasn’t a stunt, but a bystander who hadn’t realised filming was going on.  Since he wasn’t injured and the shot was caught by two cameras, the scene was left in the film.
Udaipur itself was a sweltering location and difficult to film in.  With temperatures ranging between 48 and 65 degrees celsius, Moore needed a new shirt and suit-jacket for almost every take to ensure Bond looked cool and collected at all times.  Most of the crew suffered stomach upsets while on location and the first unit was reportedly very happy to return to the UK.

Production began at Pinewood in mid-October and ran through to January 1983.  Kamal Khan’s palace took up the entirety of Stage B, the Indian street was built on Stage C and the courtyard of the Monsoon Palace was built on the 007 stage.  The circus bigtop was also filmed at Pinewood, over three days, with a crowd made up of local school children and their families.  Octopussy’s team was filled with professional dancers, acrobats and members of the British Gymnastics team with Suzanne Dando acting as supervisor.  The fight scenes between Bond and Gobinda, using Roger Moore and Kabir Bedi, were also filmed and the last sequences shot were miniatures, including Q’s balloon advancing on the Monsoon Palace.
Louis Jourdan and Kabir Bedi with the buzz-saw
John Barry composed the soundtrack and the theme song, All Time High, with lyrics by Tim Rice and sung by Rita Coolidge, was the first Bond theme not to feature the title of the movie in the lyrics (the second was Casino Royale (2006)).

Octopussy opened with a Royal Premiere attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana at the Odeon, Leicester Square on 6 June 1983, moving to the rest of the UK the next day.  Within five months of its premiere, it had been released in 16 countries worldwide.
from left - Kabir Bedi, Maud Adams, Cubby Broccoli, Roger Moore, Lois Maxwell, Vijay Amritraj, Desmond Llewellyn
Critical reaction was mixed, with some reviewers especially disliking the clown costume (Roger Moore apparently wasn’t a fan of it either), the gorilla outfit and the Tarzan yell (which I whole-heartedly agree with, it’s terrible).  On the other hand, Moore, Louis Jourdan and Steven Berkoff were all praised, as was the idea of going “back-to-basics, [with] less gadgets [and] more hand-to-hand combat”.

Corgi Toys produced a set centred around the Acrostar jet and its attendant Range Rover and horsebox.  I wasn’t aware of them at the time and they’re now so expensive on the collectors market, I’ll probably never own one.  Marvel published a special annual, featuring an adaption of the film (written by Steve Moore, with art by Paul Neary) and a behind the scenes essay by Richard Hollis.
Octopussy is the last Bond film to reveal the title of the next one during the end credits (in this case, “From A View To Kill” - the “From” was later dropped).

The film was nominated for an Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Award, won the Golden Screen Award in Germany and also the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing.  Maud Adams was nominated for the Best Fantasy Supporting Actress Saturn Award and Entertainment Weekly later ranked her as the best Bond girl of the Roger Moore James Bond films.

On its $27.5m budget it has, to date, grossed over $187.5m (taking $67.8m in the US alone) and comfortably beat Never Say Never Again (which took $160m on a higher budget) in the so-called Battle Of The Bonds.
“There was no animosity between Sean and me,” Roger Moore wrote in his memoir, My Word Is My Bond.  “We didn’t react to the press speculation that we had become competitors in the part.  In fact we often had dinner together and compared notes about how much we’d each shot and how our respective producers were trying to kill us with all the action scenes they expected us to do.”

He also wrote “Octopussy was a joy to film.  The cast were wonderful, as were the crew.  It was a fitting farewell to my tenure, in my mind I was preparing to bid farewell to Bond.” 



Happy birthday, Octopussy!

Sources:
My Word Is My Bond, by Roger Moore
For My Eyes Only, by John Glen
Cinefex 33
Inside Octopussy DVD documentary
Wikipedia

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Return Of The Jedi: Models, Matte Paintings & A Big Set

This week marks the 35th anniversary of Return Of The Jedi and, although I've already written a retrospective on the film (at 30, which you can read here), I wanted to do something to mark the milestone.  As regular readers of the blog will know, I'm endlessly fascinated by the behind-the-scenes process on films, especially special effects work with miniatures and/or matte paintings and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little bit more by taking one item - the Imperial Shuttle - and showing how all of these various disciplines can combine to visually sell the story...
Vader's shuttle, en route to the Death Star
Return Of The Jedi, a Lucasfilm Ltd production, opened in the UK on 2nd June 1983.  It was directed by Richard Marquand, produced by Howard Kazanjian, Robert Watts & Jim Bloom and written by Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas (from a story by Lucas).  Alan Hume was the director of photography, Norman Reynolds was the production designer, John Williams composed the music and Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren and Ken Ralston supervised the special effects.  The film was edited by Sean Barton, Marcia Lucas and Duwayne Dunham.

According to Wookieepedia, the "Lambda-class T-4a shuttle, or Imperial Shuttle, was a multi-purpose transport...considered an elegant departure from the standards of brutish Imperial engineering. The shuttles were often used by high-ranking Imperial officers and dignitaries such as Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, but were more commonly found ferrying stormtroopers or cargo."

In real life, the Imperial Shuttle was a combination of full-size prop, miniature and matte painting.



Norman Reynolds was the production designer and his department built a partial, full-size mock-up of the Shuttle - The Tydirium, in this case - which was extended with the use of matte paintings (see below).  The mock-up stayed on the same stage at Elstree Studios, with the Death Star hanger set and then the Rebel Fleet set built around it.
At Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Bill George (standing) and Charlie Bailey begin work on the model (prior to kitbashing).  According to J. W. Rinzler's The Making Of Return Of The Jedi, Bailey "made the bulk of the craft [while] Bill George built the wings."
Bill George paints the wing





Don Dow, effects cameraman at ILM, sets up a shot of the Shuttle
Matte painting by Frank Ordaz - the only "live" elements are the guards in the foreground
Chris Evans' excellent matte painting of the Death Star hanger for Palpatine's arrival.
top image - the painting / bottom image - screengrab
Han Solo: Keep your distance though, Chewie... but don't look like you're trying to keep your distance.  I don't know, fly casual...
The Imperial Shuttle, as it appears in the finished film

I wrote extensively about the various matte paintings in Return Of The Jedi on the occasion of the 30th anniversary and you can read that blog post here