A new documentary chronicles the stories of real people around the world with the name James Bond, and what it's really like to live in the shadow of the fictitious 007.
Director Matthew Bauer’s The Other Fellow may appear to be a fun-filled adventure film about people with the famous moniker, but he tells Jesse Mulligan the movie takes an unexpected and dark turn.
Bauer was inspired to make this documentary after contemplating what it would be like to live with the name James Bond, having himself joined a Facebook group of people named Matt Bauer.
“I started just by looking for James Bond on Facebook and social media and very quickly something became very apparent, which is that you can’t find James Bond on social media or any of those sites and that’s for a couple of reasons,” Bauer says.
“The main one is that if you try and join Facebook with the name James Bond, you get rejected because it says you have a false name. So anyone named James Bond, as I eventually discovered, all their usernames of the characters in the film are like J B Bond or Bond James.”
Drawing on archives, the documentary explores how writer Ian Fleming chose the name, which is a relatively well-known story to Bond fans, but also what happened to the man Bond was named after.
“[Fleming] says he was after a really flat quiet name for this character and he didn’t know what to call him and he had a book on his bookshelf called Birds of the West Indies which is written by an American ornithologist named James Bond and so he says well I thought James Bond sounded like a really quiet name so I simply stole it and used it.
“What we were able to find was some video that hasn’t been seen since the ‘60s, but as well as archival reporting actually with his wife … and she sort of took up the mantle because it actually really affected this man.
“He was actually a quiet man who was suddenly thrust into the media spotlight because of this.
“[His wife] felt quite bad for him and she actually contacted Ian Fleming on his behalf and said my husband thinks we should sue you for doing this, and I think that part of the story and that part of James Bond has never been told on the screen before.”
The film portrays the David and Goliath battle for others named James Bond in today’s world as they’re constantly overshadowed by “not just the character, but by the entire James Bond phenomena”.
“One of our characters is a gay theatre director from New York who has a million problems with the name and he’s on Facebook as James Alexander Bond, and he’s got a lot of problems with the name.
”But one of his key complaints he says that he’s done theatre shows that have had reviews in the New York Times, and when he goes to google to look up the review, he types in James Bond review or James Bond New York review for instance.
“Of course, any article on that is completely hidden by Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan, and Aston Martins.”
The Other Fellow is also a reference to a line from second Bond actor George Lazenby, who remarked in the 1969 movie “This never happened to the other fella” when the Bond girl runs away after she is saved.
“And very much in this film, all of our characters are a bit like George Lazenby, they are dwarfed by this other James Bond in their lives.”
But the question on most people’s minds is why would you call your child James Bond?
“The answer basically for them is back in the 1960s when a lot of my characters were born, they didn’t know. One of them says sequel was a very new concept at the time, they didn’t believe in the 1960s that it would be this snowballing eternal franchise as one of them calls it," Bauer says.
“This is the 60th anniversary of the James Bond films this year, and you can’t expect some parent in rural Canada in 1965 to be able to predict that.”
While the documentary mostly focuses on those born with the name, he also looks at the life of a Swedish fan who changed his name to Gunnar Bond James Schäfer in 2007 (intentionally choosing that date).
“When we eventually got through to him, he invited me to come stay with him in Sweden for two weeks and so I arrived not knowing what to expect, at a train station in the snow," Bauer says.
“And this Aston Martin pulled up at the train station, this man gets out dressed as James Bond, he walks up to me, he says hello my name is Bond, James bond. And we got in the Aston Martin and we went and had some vodka martinis and I very quickly realised this really is a man who lives every day of his life as James Bond.”
The world premiere of the film is on 22 June at The Civic in Auckland as part of the Doc Edge Festival. It will also show In Christchurch on 23 June at Silky Otter, Wellington on 5 July at The Roxy and online from 23 June - 10 July.
Gunnar Bond James Schäfer is now in New Zealand and will be at the premiere on 22 June.