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Before 007, there's 'Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond'.

By InCinemas  /  04 Jun 2014 (Wednesday)

There’s no questioning the iconic status of the man they call 007, but before his thrilling adventures hit page or screen, they were experienced first-hand by their author-to-be, Ian Fleming.

In this exciting four-part drama, Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger) stars as the cunning creator of one of the most famous fictional heroes in history. While Bond fans will spot many a nod to the legendary agent, the series is ultimately a gripping account of a playboy spy and the woman who won his heart.

Read the interview below with main leads of the show, Dominic Cooper and Lara Pulver!

Interview transcripts from KIX & KIX HD

[About the Show]
Untroubled by the spectre of impending war, roguish playboy Ian Fleming chases women, collects rare books and lives off the family fortune. Forever in the shadow of his brother Peter (Rupert Evans) and an eternal disappointment to his formidable mother Eve (Lesley Manville), Ian is finally given some direction in his life when he’s recruited by Admiral John Godfrey (Samuel West) to help in the effort against the Nazis. With the somewhat skeptical support of tough-cookie Second Officer Monday (Anna Chancellor), Ian’s extraordinary imagination and ability to spin a yarn makes him a perfect fit for espionage.

In tandem, the stakes increase as Ian’s chance encounter with the captivating Lady Ann O’Neill (Lara Pulver) becomes a passionate affair that shapes both their lives. Directed by Mat Whitecross (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and the BAFTA®-nominated Road to Guantanamo) and written by John Brownlow and Don Macpherson, Fleming captures both the opulence of high society London and the suspense and intrigue behind enemy lines.

Qn: What was your initial reaction to being cast as Fleming and why did you want to take the role on?

Dominic Cooper: I was terribly excited by Fleming’s life more than anything. I read the script and I was immediately drawn into his world and who he was, and actually how he was a more complex man than I’d ever thought him to be.

I always love fighting for the role and auditioning and having to show your take on who this person is. I know that I’m a very different person in terms of looks, so I always questioned whether I’d be their choice, but I thought the best way to approach his was to have an understanding of who that man saw himself as being, rather than who he was.

I had this terribly chaotic audition process where I had bunch of friends around who were all hopelessly difficult and all rather drunk, and who were trying to direct me, shouting abuse while I was trying to act. But it was a great script and it was so well- written.

Sometimes there’s just a real ease in portraying someone and you can feel yourself very easily get into their skin and you do things that are quite unexpected. It’s a very fun role to play: it’s layered and there’s an element of darkness about him, which I think very few people knew about.

Qn: What’s the relationship like between Ian and Ann?

DC: They do have an extraordinarily volatile relationship throughout. Their relationship is dangerously, intensely physical. I think she adored him, but they'd never admit it. Their defences were always up with one another: it was like a little battle and we get that really well here, in that each scene they're determined not to lose to the other one.They won' t give anything away and it's very energetic and sexual and fiery. I've had great fun with Lara Pulver playing out all those scenes.There needs to be a very specific energy between the two of them.

Qn: Can you talk us through the period of time in which Fleming is placed?

DC: It's funny, because I think we have a warped idea of what it was like living through the Second World War, which we enter at the end of episode one. We hear what it was like on the front fighting and we read  the letters, but I think in a situation like that people lived in the moment. I think for many it was the discovery of themselves. People were really living their lives to the full, so it’s a wonderful place to have a story unfolding: carefree but terrified at the same time.

Qn: Tell us about the changes that Ian goes through within the series.

DC: It seems as though he'd had quite a troubled youth, although it had been very privileged: he’d been to Eton and he was asked to leave Sandhurst for bad behaviour. He was ultimately an artist who had a chaotic and inspired mind, but didn't know what direction to go in.

His family connections finally managed to get him a job with the secret service and suddenly his vivid imagination came to life and he had a very different take on how to win the war. where, I think it becomes quite apparent, no one really had a clue. I meet various people whohave some sort of connection to the spying world and they talk of Ian and say he was the real deal.

Qn: What are some of the characteristics Fleming shares with Bond?

DC: You can see where Bond has come from.. and what we have done is create someone slightly darker and nastier than the man who Bond has become now. The only huge difference is that our man is flawed and that he fails.

Qn: What sort of research did you do to prepare?

DC: Well. I love doing this for the reason that you are immersed in the wealth of background information about this person. For me, starting from zero or creating a character from nowhere apart from a script is always the challenge because you have to be very self-assured in your decision making. So with this you can always refer back to it. I try not to feel the pressure of portraying someone and getting them exactly right, and I know that if someone knew Ian and watched what I'm doing with him, they might just go: 'Well, it's nothing like him”. So I've taken what I can, the riches and wealth of this person, and the research, and, I suppose, created someone I think he would have liked to have been seen as.

Mat Whitecross, ourdirector, has been so magnificent in achieving the amount we've had to shoot in such a short space of time, and when performance was important or when there was a very delicate scene, he never ever let that moment be rushed, he always nailed it which is wonderful. But it's not until you're in the situation, on the day, in the environment. that things really come to life and you truly understand them and you just have to jump in. It was terrifying to be honest, but it's been good fun.

Qn: And finally, why is Ian’s story worth telling?

DC: Anyone’s life can be compelling if portrayed in the right way, but this man had a story unlike anyone else really: from where he came from and the failure he thought he was to the war. discovering his genius and then writing the books that became the films which are the biggest franchise we've ever known.

Even if you're not a Bond fan, it’s certainly compelling. You see all those references and where the inspiration comes from, but actually, just as a love story it's quite beautiful, touching and very sad. A story about war and loss, and a man who was a genuine failure in many ways, who had a dark side but at the same time was a very special artist who made a big impact.

Lara Pulver, who stars as Mrs Fleming about playing future the ultimate Bond girl and getting physical on screen with co-star Dominic Cooper.

Qn: What was it that attracted you to the series?

Lara Pulver: Initially the writing. It was based on John Pearson's biography and Don (Macpherson), our writer, had just done a real lovely job of creating this world of this man and this 'Good-Time Annie', who we know as Ann O’Neill. Added to the fact that Mat Whitecross was directing, who I’d known of but not worked with before, and Dominic (Cooper), and I was on a plane over to do the job.

Qn: Were you a fan of James Bond?

LP: I've always been proud of Bond films because they're from the UK. They're British-made and it's aBritish-made franchise.

Qn: How  much research did you do into Ann's life?

LP: Quite a bit because her diaries were available to us, which were really informative. What was lovely is that obviously in a movie that's going to be cut into four parts there’s only so much you can include, but what was brilliant is piecing the missing bits of the puzzle together in my head and being able to layer that in.

Qn: And how much of your characterisation was based on the real Ann O'Neill?

LP: Well, I remember reading it thinking. oh God, why’s she going back for more with this man?

She's insane. It’s doomed. And you then read in her diary that her mother died when she was young and she married her childhood sweetheart at 19,  she had two children, she was brought up and passed around like an aristocratic waif - she vomited the first time she’d ever been kissed because she'd never been shown physical affection- and you think: no wonder this women craved being in the arms of a man who she feels loves her and desires her, because I don't think she ever really felt wanted.

Qn: How would you describe your character and her relationship with Ian?

LP: It’s completely dysfunctional. She’s known as Good-Time Annie and I think at the time, her spirit and her life and her passion for life were hugely admired. Her family's motto  was: fashionable to be dull. Against the background of a war and people struggling, fearing her mortality just isn’t  a possibility so she would put on this big show and this big front and I think that's the basis of both of them.They had this big bravado and when you see them behind dosed doors they’re vey dysfunctional, painful, lost people who are both searching for their identities. and I think that’s what they find very attractive about each other -that their wounds are probably very similar.

Qn: Some of your scenes with Dominic are quite intense. What was it like filming them?

LP: It's harsh sometimes when you're in each other's faces, especially when you're being physically abusive with each other, which they were. It's really disturbing and yet you understand on some level why they functioned in that way, because that constant search for the high, for the adrenaline, is very evident in this kind of portrayal of these two people.

Qn: And what can people expect from this series?

LP: It's a really beautiful piece of storytelling about the life of a man who we know little of, but don't really know his backstory. So, it's hugely interesting. It's a historical drama in a sense and it’s a love story at its heart. It's a really satisfying four-part drama.

Qn: Why do you think the Bond stories have such a lasting appeal?

LP: They’re dangerous yet sexy. I guess.

Qn: And would you ever fancy playing a Bond girl?

LP: I feel like right now I’m playing the ultimate Bond girl: becoming Ann Fleming on screen. It’s been a lot of fun.

Fleming - The Man Who Would Be Bond will be aired first and exclusively on KIX (StarHub Cable TV Channel 518) and KIX HD (SingTel mioTV Channel 309) starting from Thursday, 5 June, at 10pm.
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