First Bond girl didn’t know her father was a spy
As a child Hilary Saltzman had no clue her life was different.
The daughter of the original producer of the James Bond films didn’t realise her everyday surroundings were atypical until the age of 11, when she invited a school friend over to her country house in Buckinghamshire, UK.
Celebrities like Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Roger Moore, Paul McCartney and Sean Connery were frequent visitors to her home; and when her friend stepped into the living room and spotted a familiar face from the big screen she fainted.
Ms Saltzman will be on Island for the Bermuda International Film Festival screening of ‘Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007’ on Friday. The fundraising event will start with an open reception at 7pm, followed by the documentary screening at the Earl Cameron Theatre in City Hall.
The documentary tells a thrilling and inspiring true story behind the longest running film franchise in cinema history, which began in 1962.
Ms Saltzman, the daughter of film producer Harry Saltzman, will also take part in a Q&A discussion.
The Royal Gazette, she said the films contributed a great deal to her extraordinary upbringing.
“Last year 2012 was the 50th anniversary of the first Bond and my 50th birthday,” she said.
“I was born right at the beginning of it all and growing up it was my life. I didn’t know anything different until I really started going to other schools.
“I didn’t know that other children didn’t live life like I did. We travelled all over the place, there was press everywhere we went and it was a very creative environment because there were always lunches and dinners and people over the house discussing the films.”
She said one of the best parts of the experience was going on set and seeing what everyone was talking about come alive on screen.
Her father lived the kind of life great movies are made of. Born in Canada, he was first exposed to the entertainment industry while working in a vaudeville theatre after school.
He ran away from home at age 15 and later joined a circus that travelled throughout the US. “By the time he was 21, he owned the circus and was the manager,” Ms Saltzman said.
“It wasn’t just animals, but vaudeville acts as well. He started out as a kid just sweeping and then he moved up hiring all the people he worked with.”
When the war broke out, Mr Saltzman returned to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. He was honourably discharged before joining the US Armed Forces and becoming a high-ranking US intelligence officer.
Just seven years ago, when Ms Saltzman’s Canadian passport expired, she learned the truth of her father’s classified wartime activities.
“I didn’t know what my father had been doing in the war until after I moved to Canada. He never talked about it, he talked about being in the war, but we never knew who he served with and in what capacity.”
In order to get more information to assist with her citizenship request, she had to apply to the US State Department for details about her father.
“I found out at that time, then Secretary of State Colin Powell had to sign off the information to me because [my father] had served in the overseas war office. That’s when I found out he hadn’t been from New Brunswick, but in fact from Sherbrooke, Quebec.”
It then became clear to her why her father would make spy films.
“I believe the people that served in the war in that capacity, they were sworn to secrecy and weren’t allowed to talk about their exploits or experiences,” she said. “But many wrote these books that weren’t an autobiography, but a secretive expose on certain things they experienced or wished they had done and they make it a creative outlet.
“That resonated with my father in reading the Ian Fleming books.”
She has heard rumours that her father and Mr Fleming’s paths may have crossed during the war very briefly, but she doesn’t have the proof.
Regardless, she said men who served in that capacity seem to have an “unspoken connection, bond and understanding” with each other.
“[Mr Fleming] knew my father could take these situations and explore them on film without giving away state secrets because my father experienced that himself.”
Her father teamed up with American film producer Albert (Cubby) Broccoli to make nine James Bond films: ‘Dr No’, ‘From Russia with Love’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Thunderball’, ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, ‘Diamonds are Forever’, ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.
Ms Saltzman, who has been an independent film maker for more than 15 years, said her dad inspired her own professional work.
She also understands how incredibly difficult it is to raise money to make films and remembers the stories he told about struggling to break into the business after the war.
“He would go to meet with people for a big deal and be sleeping in his friends’ bathtubs,” she said.
“He knew that one day he would make it and he had already made a few films by the time he had got to meet with Ian Fleming, but it was still a struggle. It was Europe after the war, everything was still healing and coming back to life and the first film he made reflected that — ‘The Iron Petticoat’ in 1956.”
Ms Saltzman admitted she mostly got into the film industry to be closer to her father, but she said: “I loved the process as well.”
“I learned a lot from him, like trust your instincts and your gut. Don’t ever give up and don’t ever be swayed or let people tell you that you are doing things wrong or different. Trust yourself, trust your instincts.”
She was persuaded to come to the Island for the screening by BIFF’s Niklas Traub, a friend of hers.
In addition to seeing Bermuda, she said she was excited to meet film enthusiasts here and see their reaction to the documentary.
“I love documentary film and I worked very closely with the film makers on this one. I archived all my photos for them and flew to New York for interviews and I was very happy with it.
“It’s a great film so I am very honoured to be associated with it and to see the reaction of the audience when we get there.”
Tickets to BIFF’s screening of ‘Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007’ are $50, which includes one speciality James Bond Cocktail. They can be purchased through www.premierticketsglobal.com.