Sunday 7 October 2012

More on Peter Anthony's screentests for Bond

Fifty years ago, the public was introduced to a man who was set to star as James Bond in Dr No. His name was Peter Anthony, a model who had appeared in the pages the lifestyle and fashion magazine for men, Man About Town, and worked with Terence Donovan, pioneer of the 'Blow-up' school of photography. Peter had won a competition to find an actor to play James Bond, which had been run by the Daily Express and was to be judged by Harry Saltzman, Cubby Broccoli, Ian Fleming, Ken Hughes, and Express journalist, Patricia Lewis.

You can read about the competition in an earlier post. Since posting the article, I was contacted by Andy, a relative of Peter, who told me that Peter had read the article and had been enthralled by it. Naturally, I was excited to hear this, and was keen to continue my correspondence and find out more about Peter's brush with the world of James Bond.

So last year, Andy and I exchanged emails; I asked some questions and Andy passed them on to Peter to answer. One of my questions was about Peter's audition for Dr No. I learnt that Peter received a letter from Eon Productions to arrange the screentest. He was also sent the two-page audition script, which was of the scene set in M's office where M orders Bond to discard the Beretta in favour of the Walther PPK.

Peter's dialogue was a little different to the version that appears in the final film. Bond enters M's office and is quizzed about his last assignment in which his beloved Beretta jammed. M tells Bond that the gun has to go, and Bond reluctantly agrees. There is no armourer and no mention of the Walther PPK.

One of the biggest surprises was learning that Peter had auditioned for the role of Bond a second time, in this case in 1970/1 for Diamonds Are Forever. With the Daily Express having no involvement, Eon Productions approached Peter and sent him once again two pages of the script. At the time, Peter was living in New York and was required to fly to Los Angeles for the screentest. Peter remembers that he performed his test in the morning and was later taken to meet Broccoli and Saltzman and, he thinks, Guy Hamilton.

Peter performed the scene in which Bond introduces himself as Peter Franks to Tiffany Case. The script Peter received again differed from the scene in the final film. There was extra dialogue in Peter's script. For example, Bond asks Tiffany whether he can smoke, and a few lines later is asked to guess what the 'T' in T Case shown on the doorbell stands for. The scene is also conflated with the later scene in which the real Peter Franks arrives at Tiffany's apartment. Franks knocks on the door of the apartment and is then knocked out cold by Bond. The vicious fight in the lift is absent.

Whether the scripts for both films were especially adapted for the screentests, or that they were subsequently rewritten, is uncertain, but both give us insights into the nature of screentests in the early days of the Bond films.

Peter's auditions for the role of James Bond provide a fascinating footnote in the history of the Bond films. Though Peter never won the role, he had clearly impressed Broccoli and Saltzman, and not many actors can say that they lost out to Sean Connery twice. Peter really could have been Bond.

I am immensely grateful to Peter Anthony and Andy for responding to my questions, providing such wonderful information, and generally helping me with my research.

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