Running at a touch over an hour and a half, some might suspect Everything Or Nothing to be a glorified DVD extra given undue prominence and a limited UK release due to 2012 being the character’s 50th anniversary year. The unconvincing ‘recreation’ with which the movie starts, featuring a faceless Bond figure getting dressed in black tie and loading a PPK, doesn’t do much to convince otherwise, even with Daniel Craig’s voiceover reminding us how the series has proven to its doubters a nasty habit of surviving against the odds. Then it cuts to a gunbarrel sequence where all six Bonds turn to fire at once in what will surely be the nerdgasm moment of the year, and its cinematic validity is proven beyond a doubt.
If anything, it’s a surprise the documentary hasn’t had greater exposure, given the producer credits for Simon Chinn and John Battsek, two of the most acclaimed figures working in the genre. Whilst largely a collection of talking heads, Everything Or Nothing may not quite be an ‘untold story’ for most serious fans, but extracts candid confessionals from its stars and for more casual Bond viewers will be a fascinating insight into the turbulent development of the longest running movie series in history.
Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007
Director: Stevan Riley
Since the name of the production company which produces the Bond movies is also the documentary’s title (EON = Everything or Nothing, the mantra upon which producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman built the series), don’t go in expecting much impartiality. To call the movie a hagiography would be a gross exaggeration, as there’s no shying away from the moments when the series took a wrong turn or stars went off the rails, but it is very much a celebration of Bond’s fiftieth year on the big screen. There are clear ‘enemies’ in the story, a select few whose actions put the series at risk, who are given little chance to offer their side of the story.
One of these is Kevin McClory, the man who plagued the Bond producers for longer than any other after securing limited rights to the character based on a screenplay he and Ian Fleming developed for Thunderball prior to Dr. No. Unquestionably the Blofeld of the piece, his legal action against Fleming is cited as a cause in the author’s death – although the dependence on industrial quantities of booze and cigarettes are acknowledged as not helping – and not only did he wrangle himself a sole producer’s credit on the official Thunderball movie, but went on to remake it as Never Say Never Again in box-office competition with Octopussy in 1983. His futile efforts to wrestle control of the Bond series, which lasted until the end of his life, are well known to Bond fans, who have long seen him as the boogeyman of their worst nightmares: try to imagine, if you dare, the series lasting more than a single film with another effort as singularly abysmal as Never Say Never Again. Despite his prominent role in the documentary, the closest thing offered to his side of the story comes from a close friend, who seems mostly sad that he wasted so much of his life in the courts.
The second major villain, surprisingly, is Sean Connery, who quickly becomes something of a Frankenstein’s monster as the movies become major successes. Connery is the only Bond not to give new interviews, and the selected archive footage is particularly damning. Despite having built his career on the support of the Bond producers, he’s often showing being dismissive of them and their importance to the series. In one amusingly pointed barb during a Diamonds Are Forever press junket, he offhandedly suggests himself as the main reason for the series’ success. Contributors do little to argue against this perspective of him, and the documentary’s greatest shortcoming is that the man most keenly identified with the character is not around either to give his perspective on where the relationship soured – although Cubby Broccoli made peace with him before his death – or whether he has any regrets over acting the way he did.
Someone who does express serious regret is George Lazenby, who proves the most compelling and sympathetic interviewee for his candour at how his determination to win the part succeeded despite his being a male model with no prior acting experience, and then how his surrender to the vices offered by newfound success led to him falling out with almost everyone on the cast and crew and abandoning the role, on the advice of an agent with his own agenda, after a single movie. It’s one of the many astonishing, small stories adding personal texture to what could have been a very formal history of the movies’ production, and the focus on people allows the documentary to be as moving as it is informative.
It helps that all the Bonds are such compelling interview subjects, even if Lazenby is the only one who has a long, tragic story of his own to tell. Roger Moore hasn’t lost a drop of his charm and gets the movie’s biggest laugh in reference to one particularly naughty scene from The Man With The Golden Gun being performed by the man who is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Pierce Brosnan, in some ways Moore’s natural successor in the role, is similarly funny and expressive, particularly when it comes to showing his delight upon finally securing the gig after heartbreakingly missing out on it in 1987. His bout of hysterics at the awfulness of Die Another Day‘s notorious kite surfing scene is a joy for any serious Bond fans scarred by that particularly egregious instalment, and is a fine example of the honesty and humour with which even the movies’ lowest ebbs are discussed. The passion for the series demonstrated by its leading men is infectious, and Timothy Dalton is wonderfully vehement in defending his back-to-basics, darker interpretation of the character, particularly the grossly underrated Licence To Kill.
Funnily enough, Daniel Craig proves the least memorable of the Bonds, extolling the movies’ history and virtues without showing the same love as his predecessors. Barbara Broccoli’s battle to cast him does show how well the people behind the scenes know the character and have adapted for the times, though, even if poor Pierce was rather hung out to dry. The controversy that surrounded Craig’s appointment is made clear by Skyfall director Sam Mendes, who admits to going on record as believing it a poor choice. As ever, though, Bond cast off his doubters to come back stronger than ever, and Everything Or Nothing is a wonderful record of one of the most beloved, culturally vital institutions in film history. The six-Bond gunbarrel is worth the price of admission alone, perhaps partially compensating for the disgraceful decision to not have Skyfall open with the iconic introduction, but the interviews which follow – featuring a handful of surprise, big-name guests I won’t spoil – more than live up to that early thrill. It’s the documentary a series as important as Bond deserves, and you won’t get a bigger compliment out of me than that.