“No one was more surprised than me to be asked to direct For Your Eyes Only” – John Glen
Released in 1981, it was the first Bond film of the Eighties. The first with a new director who went on to hold the longest tenure helming Bond; the first from a newly promoted production designer, and the first to consciously divert from the story excesses of three decades of 007 supremacy.
We spoke with director John Glen and actors Lynn-Holly Johnson, John Moreno, and Jack Klaff who were happy to look back on the film's ruby anniversary, and the larger than life presence of Sir Roger Moore.
In the closing credits of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), it announced that James Bond would return in For Your Eyes Only, 1979’s next Bond film. However, a man called George Lucas, an early Broccoli in-road into the NASA Space Shuttle programme and a game-changing film called Star Wars revised Bond’s next mission.
Whilst the resulting 1979 adventure Moonraker was a massive hit, Bond’s studio partner United Artists had since suffered major losses with the release of Heaven’s Gate (1980) and ever-complicated corporate takeovers left the company delicate.
Combine that with how Bond had reached his production size limit with the previous The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and ultimately the Broccoli plan decided upon tonally and financially scaling back 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.
Lewis Collins, Ian Ogilvy, Michael Jayston, Michael Billington and Timothy Dalton… As well as looking into a slew of British actors to replace (or possibly barter with) a negotiating Roger Moore, the first new era decision was to find a new Bond director.
Editor and second-unit director John Glen had already proved his Bond mettle by editing the iconic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979) and was already a valued 007 player. “No-one was more surprised than me to be asked to direct For Your Eyes Only”, Glen now recalls. “I was determined to make my mark on the series for better or for worse.”
And with Moore’s return now ensuring a vital continuity the new Bond eras always need, Glen did the franchise proud — because often the best directors are also editors. And that matters on an action movie.
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Figure skater-turned actor Lynn-Holly Johnson plays the film’s vivacious Bibi Dahl. She remembers vividly watching Glen work. “With every shot you could just see his unique vision, how he was actually working backwards, how to edit the scene before it was even shot.”
It is a sentiment echoed by actor John Moreno who plays the ill-fated ally, Luigi Ferrara. He remembers Glen as “a man who knew what he was doing".
"He knew how to direct with the minimal of fuss. The odd word here and the odd word there, and you knew what he wanted.”
Initially nervous at the sheer scale of the For Your Eyes Only shoot, Moreno saw in Glen a director who “knows what he’s got in the can, he knows what he needs, and he knows he’s got it”.
Nobody does it better
With Glen, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson (Cubby Broccoli's stepson and the film’s executive producer) and Ian Fleming’s untapped short stories (For Your Eyes Only and Risico) working as spinal touchstones, the irony of Bond ’81 was that it was rarely a pared down 007 opus.
Designer Peter Lamont may have sidestepped Ken Adam’s previous gargantuan glories, but a sense of opulent scale remains in the novella story of a vengeful daughter, a duplicitous villain in Fred Perry polo shirts, an ice-skating protégé, the Iron Curtain versus the Iron Lady and a new age of Russian/British détente.
The pressure for Glen was palpable. However, his producer had his back — for which he will never forget.
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“After the first week's shooting on the beach in Corfu", Glen remembers, “and under the gaze of the entire United Artists hierarchy, I was a few days behind schedule and I could feel the pressure.”
Moreno recalls that staggering sense of production – even for an allegedly streamlined Bond film. “I got to Cortina d’Ampezzo and suddenly I was given a stand-in, I was given my own caravan, I was given my own chauffeur, and the whole Bond crew were flown out by plane and then bussed up to Cortina.
"On arrival we were each given a pair of winter trousers, thermal vests, a feather-lined overcoat, and boots and gloves. I thought that this a crew of 350 people and they were handing all this out. And then I realised this is bloody big really.”
And wrangling it all with a studious, encouraging eye only was producer Cubby Broccoli on his twelfth spin of the Bond dice. “Cubby was very understanding of the difficulties I faced”, remembers Glen — whose directorial debut was marked by badly behaved beach buggies, a leading lady who medically could not achieve the underwater scenes, a showbiz parrot called Chrome and unruly snowfall for alpine scenes.
But every Bond circus has its challenges. And Glen soon felt a change of luck as “we soon got back on track and had a most enjoyable shoot”.
John Moreno puts that down to the Broccoli sense of family. “I’ve worked on films in which there has never been that kind of connection between the crew behind the camera and the producers”, he notes.
“The atmosphere on set was so familiar and so nice. And that comes from the top – it comes from John Glen, it comes from the Broccolis that were there for the entire shoot in Cortina. It felt like a great big family.”
Part of the camaraderie on set was also down to Moore himself. In the first of three films where Bond becomes an almost guardian to a leading lady defending her father’s legacy, Moore brings an autumnal charm to For Your Eyes Only. Lynn-Holly Johnson remembers his “marvellously protective warmth…the utmost charismatic, hysterically sagacious fellow, and yet always a large kind-hearted gent.”
As villain Apostis, actor Jack Klaff (Star Wars – A New Hope) was tasked with trying to knock Bond off a Greek mountain precipice. “Roger was very unassuming, but he knew his place, he knew that he was the star”, Klaff recalls.
“When we were on Corfu, he would arrive each morning in his own boat with cigar and always say, ‘Never fear, The Saint is here.’ Roger told an awful lot of really, really filthy jokes. His twinkle was Olympic class”.
It is a sentiment shared by John Moreno — whose time with Moore was in an actual Olympic location. “He would say ‘Oh John, don’t turn left. Go clockwise rather than anti-clockwise when you turn around’. Just little hints like that."
Johnson too valued the patriarchal care Moore gave her on set. “We had serious chats and laughed constantly… I miss him so!”
Her majesty's secret agent
On 24 June, 1981 Royal World Premiere was held at Bond’s traditional Odeon Leicester Square home. And Johnson and Moreno both underestimated the scale of the occasion.
“It was only when I drove and parked in Covent Garden and I walked to the venue that suddenly there was the red carpet, there were hundreds of fans and that is when it began to hit home. That was when I thought this is really big”, says Moreno.
Part of the London fever that night was because of one invited guest. No, not Chrome the parrot. It was Lady Diana Spencer and her new fiancé Prince Charles. And all press eyes were only on her and one of her first royal engagements.
Nervously ignoring the royal protocols – having already raced to Harrods to buy silk clothes as touching regal flesh was a no-no – Johnson “simply blew that part when I met Lady Diana, said ‘Hey, how are you?’ and the two of us just chatted and giggled.”
For Your Eyes Only represented a new, repointed era for Bond. New designers, casting directors, the first real change of 007’s Whitehall ensemble, the first time the title song was sung by its performer over the opening credits and the Academy Awards, the first time a trans actress had been cast in a major franchise and the first Bond entry for a while to intelligently delve into the sidebar industries and human cost of espionage.
John Glen went on to direct the next four James Bond films, steered the franchise through a decade of competing blockbusters and introduced Timothy Dalton in the role.
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He remembers For Your Eyes Only and Cubby Broccoli fondly, and how the producer ultimately left him alone to crack on with the job. “I hope I repaid the trust he showed me”. Getting to direct the next four glorious Bond films of the 1980s suggests he did.
Thanks to John Glen, Lynn-Holly Johnson, John Moreno, Anders Frejdh, Jack Klaff and Thomas Bowington.
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