Why did you decide to make a movie about real men named ‘James Bond’?
“When I contacted these James Bonds, they came back to me with really unexpected stories and that’s the real reason I did it. I expected all kinds of Martini, womanising and Aston Martin jokes, but it was more about the dramatic situations in their lives which you wouldn’t expect – legal problems and being arrested to name just a couple. In the film, one of the characters is arrested for murder, another one is dealing with a stalker. That’s what I found interesting – how having the most famous name in the world came into those dramatic situations.”
How many of these James Bonds did you talk to?
“In the end, probably about a hundred. Some of them came to us because they found out about our project. Then we did a pre-interview with about thirty of them and that’s how we narrowed it down to ten that we have in the movie. There are five who are the main characters, and the others play the part of the chorus – they come in and share their opinions.”
Which James Bond was your first one? Is he in the movie?
“I want to avoid spoilers but the James Bond you meet in the final scene was the first one who wrote back to me, telling me a story of domestic violence and dealing with a stalker. It was not something that I was expecting to hear. It was his story that convinced me to do the movie. It had a way of framing the other ones, so we worked back with it through the other stories. We wanted his to make sense to the audience in the end.”
Did any of the James Bonds refuse to be part of this experience?
“These guys are hounded by the media a lot. I’m the first person to make a movie about them, but often journalists will write an article about real people called James Bond, especially when a new movie is about to come out. There was one man in particular. On the set of The Living Daylights in 1987, there was a British army officer called James Bond stationed in Gibraltar. They had him take a picture with Timothy Dalton. I had this photo, so of course I wanted to meet the James Bond who met James Bond. However, he didn’t respond to my emails, so I got his address and drove to his house. His wife answered the door and sternly requested to stop harassing them because her husband didn’t want to be in ‘my stupid movie’. She then went on explaining that he had to deal with people like me over the years. Their privacy came in ahead of participation in a documentary.”
When it comes to viewers’ expectations, what reactions were you aiming for?
“As you will see in the movie, some situations were quite ridiculous but at the same time tragic, especially with the Swedish James Bond and the gay James Bond in New York. As the film progresses, the tragedy really takes over. Our goal was to get the audience in with comedy which makes the tragic elements from the second half even more surprising. Suddenly, there’s a murder and by the time you get to the most gripping part you are left wandering where the funny bits have gone.”
How long did it take you to make this movie?
“The movie starts at the release of Skyfall and ends at the release of No Time to Die and that’s when we filmed it. The reason why we centered it around these premieres was that it was the best time for our characters. That’s when the James Bond phenomenon is at its strongest and the stress and pressure of being one is at its highest. We also had to wait for one child to become of age to even film what we had to film. Also, one of our characters is in prison and we had to wait for his legal things to take place.”
What inspired you to use The Other Fellow as the title?
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery, who at that point was the only actor to play James Bond and probably the most famous man in the world. In the first scene of the film, James Bond saves a woman who instead of kissing him chooses to drive off. He then says ‘This never happened to the other fellow’, which is obviously in reference to Sean Connery’s James Bond. These are the situations that our characters face – continuously being in the shadow of this movie icon. For me, it’s the 007 who is ‘the other fellow’ – the fictional character.”
What is the stigma that comes with the name ‘James Bond’?
“It is everything that resonates with the male identity. He’s not just a character, he’s a lifestyle brand. He is the aspirational male figure, whether you agree with it or not. He may even be a symbol of toxic masculinity. My characters live in the shadow of that. There are always these unconfirmed reports that the next James Bond will be black, gay, or a woman. These discussions always lead to talks about who James Bond is and who he isn’t. We made sure that the movie has a variety of various James Bonds to emphasise it.”
What is the message that you’re trying to get across?
“Not to give out any spoilers, but in the final act you realise that the characters are far more connected. We put them in a kind of ‘James Bond Anonymous’ meeting. One of them told us that the experience of meeting others with the same name was therapeutic for him, because he had finally met others with the same problem that most people don’t really get. There is a reason why people come together in support groups, because you can speak openly and from the heart in a way that you may not in another environment. I think that this film is a very specific example of it.”
The Other Fellow streams on digital platforms from December 10, 2022