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Question Time – In conversation with James Roberts

James Bond might have never gone Downunder on one of his missions, but the franchise has always been a big hit in Australia. Speaking to James Roberts, founder of James Bond Downunder, we wanted to find out how his Australian 007 fan site came into being, what ingredients a Bond film must have and whether a black James Bond would make him lose interest in the franchise altogether.

The Bond Bulletin: James, you gave agent 007 an online home in Australia with founding ‘James Bond Downunder’ in 2015. What sparked your love for Bond and what led to the decision to run a website on the topic?

James Roberts

James Roberts: Having been a Bond fan and aficionado for as long as I could remember, I felt there was not much for Australian fans and I basically wanted a site that I would want to follow myself as a fan. Key inspirations I’d like to name would be Tom and Chris from JBR (James Bond Radio) and my following of other sites like James Bond Brazil.

As well, I felt my friends were a bit tired of me posting everything Bond on my personal social media, particularly in the lead up to Spectre. So, I decided to establish ‘James Bond Downunder’ to share my love of Bond with like minded people from not just Australia but around the world.

The Bond Bulletin: Apart from the website which covers the latest news on everything 007, you are quite active on Instagram and have an impressive 16.400 followers. Are you more of a visual storyteller or do you try to always find a healthy balance between blogging and posting photos?

James Roberts: Yes, I’m very much a visual person but when I can get the time to, I like to add a blog or two. I do wish I had more time to develop my website, with a little more followers than I ever thought I would get. I have expanded to media like Facebook, and my own website in recent years (originally thought I’d be happy with 1000 followers by Bond 25). At the end of the day follower numbers are not a key driver, it is more everyones passion for Bond, and I hope that is reflected on my page.

“For both Spectre and Skyfall, Australia was actually the 6th largest market in the world for both films, and traditionally had been fifth before the emergence of the films in China.”

The Bond Bulletin: Surprisingly, James Bond has never been to Australia yet. Given you were in charge of a script for Bond, how would you embed the continent in the plot? Are there any particular places, cities or buildings where you could envisage that plot unfolding?

James Roberts: I’ve never been a fan of including a location for the sake of it, and unfortunately I feel Australia would be one of these. I think it would be hard to include it in a plot due to geography etc. and politics, however we do have a strong relationship and history with the UK.

Although we have some beautiful locations in far North Queensland that could be a sort of replacement for the usual Caribbean locale, I’ve always thought certain parts of Sydney could be ideal. I would love the Sydney Opera House to be used somehow, think the Tosca scene from Quantum of Solace or opera scene in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation. Some stunt work on her famous sails would not go a miss. Nor would a chase up the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the options are many.

The Bond Bulletin: Do you by any chance have any box office statistics on how the Bond films performed in Australia?

James Roberts: James Bond is always a big event in Australia. Daniel Craig has come Downunder on three occasions for the Sydney hosted Australian premieres of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. Pierce Brosnan was last here in Melbourne in 2002 for the Australasian Premiere of Die Another Day.

Generally The Australian Box Office is a consistent one for studios and Bond is always a draw card, even going back to the 60’s and 70’s with some big openings. Skyfall and Casino Royale were the most successful films of late at the Australian box office. For both Spectre and Skyfall, Australia was actually the 6th largest market in the world for both films, and traditionally had been fifth before the emergence of the films in China.

The Bond Bulletin: How big is the hype when a new Bond opens in Australian theatres?

James Roberts: The hype is quite high with Bond films – very much a family tradition and usually a summer opening here in Australia. Bond 25 will be interesting to see how it performs, but being Daniel Craig’s supposed final film, I think it will be a great success.

Sony have always gone all out in the advertising of the films here and I think Universal will also do a great job. The cast and crew’s visits assist in this. Unfortunately, the cast and crew were in Mexico for the Central American Premiere at the same time as The Australian Premiere Screenings of Spectre in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney for which I was lucky enough to receive an invite to from Sony Pictures Australia. I am hoping Universal Australia can replicate the favour.

James Roberts

The Bond Bulletin: In summer 2017 you visited Europe and its Bond locations in Paris, London and Amsterdam. What city left a lasting impression on you?

James Roberts: Yes, it was a great trip. Having been to both Paris and London several times before, this was actually the first time I set time aside to pursue Bond locations and I loved it. For me, the visit to Chateau D’Anet was my favourite location. To be where they filmed such an iconic scene from Thunderball was brilliant. It hasn’t changed much since the film was made there and I would recommend every Bond fan to go there.

The Bond Bulletin: Was there a Bond location on your trip that sent shivers down your spine?

James Roberts: A location that sent a shiver down my spine was on my first trip to Italy in 2010 in Venice when, by chance, I came across  the lane way and bridge both Eva Green and Daniel Craig use in Casino Royale – Calle Barcaroli.

The Bond Bulletin: What location would you say is the ultimate one to see before you die for every Bond fan, regardless if you have visited it or not?

James Roberts: I think the ultimate location would have to be Ian Fleming’s house Goldeneye and Jamaica as well as Piz Gloria. I am hoping to do a lot more locations in Europe and Japan next year.

“I don’t think anything would stop me from watching the films, as I trust the producers to make the right decisions to honour the character Ian Fleming created.”

The Bond Bulletin: Looking at the Bond films: What is/are the must-have ingredient/s for you to like the film? Are there any films of the series you absolutely dislike and if so, why?

James Roberts: The must have ingredients are that the film feels, looks and sounds like a Bond film. This can come in many ways, but for me it has to be exciting, good looking and have a pace that keeps your heart racing. I have to say there are no films in the series I dislike (there is a song however: All time High, that I dislike as a theme song).

A View to a Kill is the only one that comes close, but when I sit down and watch it, it still is an enjoyable caper. The only reason why I don’t particularly like the U.S. based location in the last part of the film is that it just doesn’t seem Bondian enough for me.

The Bond Bulletin: Living in a time of excessive political correctness, gender identity and diversity, do you find it unjust when a significant number of fans insists on the fact, that James Bond must always remain a white British male? Deriving from the rumours that have circulated the yellow press for years now, could you imagine a female or black James Bond or would that make you stop watching the films?

James Roberts: I feel he should be two things, British and Male. I’m not averse to a black James Bond. If it’s the right actor that could display the suave and sophisticated look, carrying himself on screen, why not. I know many wish for Idris Elba but I’ve never been a big fan of his acting and think age would rule him out, which he has acknowledged.

I don’t think anything would stop me from watching the films, as I trust the producers to make the right decisions to honour the character Ian Fleming created. They have a pretty good record of doing this – excluding the final third of Die Another Day.

The Bond Bulletin: Looking ahead to Bond 25 which starts filming shortly and assuming it should indeed turn out to be Daniel Craig’s final appearance as 007, what are you hoping to see on the big screen? Would you wish for a gloomy end or going out with a bang?

James Roberts: I think its been said a lot by a lot of fans, but Bond on a pure mission would be great. I’d also like to see some sort of time gap within the film like GoldenEye’s “Nine Years Later”. Perhaps it could be something that happens a few years earlier etc, adding some intrigue into the story. I have been very happy with the rumoured locations, they sound perfect. For me the Gunbarrel at the start of the film is must, I loved that in Spectre. Funnily enough I would like to see a bit less of the MI6 team, as good as they are.

In regards to a gloomy end or out with a bang, I’d be ok with both, but prefer the film going out with a bang. Not concerned if they kill 007 off in this film, given Daniel Craig’s Bond is on a cycle, why not see the end off 007’s career? Bond 26 would just pickup Bond on another mission during his career. I’m not a fan of the code number thing though.

The Bond Bulletin: Let’s assume you’re planning a Bond party and could invite four actors or actresses who have appeared in the Bond franchise. Who would you pick? Who would be the most fun to hang out with? Who could drink the most shots?

James Roberts: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Desmond Llewelyn, and Sir Roger Moore. I think Sir Roger would be the most fun and Daniel would be able to handle the drinks well, even though George Lazenby could probably do more if he was invited.

The Bond Bulletin: If you could choose one track from any of the Bond soundtracks to resemble your character, which one would you pick?

James Roberts: Interesting question. I’m going to go with “Exercise at Gibraltar” from The Living Daylights – it has a great build up and a consistent edgy flow of which I’d like to think that this resembles my character a bit. Such a great score by John Barry.

An excellent choice indeed. The Bond Bulletin would like to thank James for his time in answering our questions and we wish him and ‘James Bond Downunder’ continuing success.

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