On James Bond, the man:
I probably wouldn’t like Bond if I met him on the street. I’m referring to the way he was conceived in the novels. I discussed the character with Ian Fleming. You know, he was a terrific snob. And yet, once you got past that, he was really a very nice guy, very intelligent, highly original and most curious. But he had a snobbishness that he wrote into Bond in the novels. It was that lack of humour about himself and his situation which I didn’t like about the character.
On how much he really enjoyed making the Bond movies:
The trouble with them was that they got progressively longer to do, which made it more and more difficult to even consider other work. Due to bad planning and what have you by the producers, I found I was being deprived of the parts I could be doing, which were more interesting for me and, in the end, that’s what the longevity of an actor is about.
On the one that pushed him over the edge:
The final straw was You Only Live Twice, the second-last one I did. That took six months of my time – after two or three postponements, which meant it was almost a year out of my life. It was a very erratic schedule with no consideration for choice of any other subjects for me. I could never give people a firm date of conclusion. Therefore, any other film that would have been more rewarding artistically, I was pushed out of. That was the major fault.
On the film that was meant to be his final Bond, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever:
When I did Diamonds Are Forever, it was mainly on my conditions. It’s interesting that it was the first one I ever started and finished on time, because I imposed such a heavy penalty on delays. I think I’m certainly as intelligent as any businessman I’ve been involved with. Nothing succeeds more than impressing businessmen with a heavy financial penalty. That, they understand.
On the other reasons he fell out of love with the franchise after six films:
For me, what became wrong with the Bond films was that they just got further and further into the technological stuff and science-fiction stuff, which was not very interesting for me. And they kind of lost the plot in terms of having some sort of story.
On the tongue-in-cheek tone shift when Roger Moore took over:
For me, it’s too flippant in the sense of humour. In For Your Eyes Only, they spoiled a lot of very good sequences for the sake of a couple of very cheap jokes. In the beginning there’s a great sequence with Roger going around in a helicopter being remote-controlled by Blofeld. But then to throw it away with a pay-off like picking up Blofeld and dropping him down a chimney gets a cheap laugh – and credibility goes out the window. That’s the direction it’s gone in – one that I don’t appreciate.
On agreeing to return for a seventh time in 1983’s “rogue” Bond, Never Say Never Again:
When they asked me to make another Bond, my wife, Micheline, encouraged me to think about it carefully: “Why not play the role? What would you risk? After all these years, it might be interesting.” The more I thought about it, the more I felt she was right. There was a certain amount of curiosity in me about the role, having been so long away from it. I made it absolutely clear that my major concern was to make a quality film. I said that if we ever felt we’d have to sacrifice quality for expedience, I would rather not do it.
On the reasons behind the franchise’s enduring prosperity:
The basic theme goes back to how one person wins through, however extreme and high the odds are, and whether they’re mechanical, sexual, weather or whatever. The lone person has to resolve it. With the assistance, of course, of lots of hardware...
On stumbling upon his old Bond movies:
I was in my house in Spain and I heard my own voice coming from one of the rooms upstairs. My grandchildren were watching Goldfinger. So I sat down with them and watched for a bit. It was interesting. There was a certain elegance, a certain assurance to it that was quite comforting. There was a leisureliness that made you not want to rush to the next scene. Of course, I also saw things that could have been improved...
On his own favourite Bond film:
From Russia With Love – it was heavy on intrigue and light on technology.
On other actors who have played Bond:
Timothy Dalton has Shakespearean training, but he underestimated the role. The character has to be graceful and move well and have a certain measure of charm as well as be dangerous. Pierce Brosnan’s a good actor. He’s added some new elements to it.
On fighting to break free of James Bond’s shadow:
The problem was that Bond was just so damn popular, the public only wanted to see me doing that. To try and erase the image of Bond is next to impossible. I suppose Bond will follow me wherever I go.
On saying never again to returning one last time:
I can’t see myself playing James Bond again. Of course, if there was an offer, I would entertain it like any other offer. I doubt they could afford me, anyway, but I’d be willing to listen...