Interview with Matthew Bauer, the Director of “The Other Fellow”: Unexpected Journey About What It Means to Be Named “James Bond”
James Bond is undeniably among the most iconic fictional characters of all time. Famous for his suave and sophisticated demeanor, his expertise in espionage, and his deadly skills in combat, Agent 007 became sort of a synonym for a high-class playboy type of man.
Matthew Bauer, an Australian Filmmaker, was on a journey to explore exactly that, the male identity attached to the name “Jame Bond.” He set off on a mission to gather a diverse group of men, each facing a unique yet common for the group, challenge of bearing the burden of being named after one of the most “alpha-men” in the history of fictional works. His feature documentary “The Other Fellow” brings us a thrilling, sometimes humorous but mostly shocking, experience of what it means to be named “James Bond.”
We had an opportunity to sit down with Matthew and discuss his upcoming documentary. So join us as we dig through the inspiration behind the story and the challenges Mathew faced in bringing this thought-provoking film to life.
FICTION HORIZON: I would like to thank you, Matthew, for joining us here today on behalf of Fiction Horizon and myself. Looking at the premise of your movie, I thought to myself, “man, I would have never thought of this.” So what inspired you to make this documentary?
MATTHEW: At some point, it just came to me, and I typed in James Bond in Facebook and Instagram and things. That’s kind of where the journey started. And from there, I saw that there were real men out there called James Bond. I wrote some of them down and just said, “Hey, I’m thinking of making a film.”
And if you’ve seen the film, you’ll see that there is a James Bond, who you’re only introduced to in the very final scene of the movie. And he was actually the first one who wrote back to me, and he told me his whole story about how he became James Bond. And that story in particular, I went like, “oh, wow, that is absolutely not what I expected.” I was expecting jokes about Aston Martins and Martinis, and you just told me a story about abuse.
When I spoke with a lot of other men named James Bond, his story actually started to make more sense. That’s sort of how the film came together.
This leads us to our next question, what were the initial reactions when you told those men, “hey, I want to make a documentary about you because of your name.” How did they react?
The reactions were very, very good. I was amazed that pretty much, I think, about 95% of the people I asked to be in the film said yes.
In America, people want to be on TV, you know, people tend to say yes, but I think on a deeper level, these men appreciated that I was finally trying to make a film, a feature film about them. James Bond exists in the feature film, and I think if I was just trying to do an article for the internet or something, they might not have been that interested.
In fact, a lot of my characters, as you’ll see in the film, do get asked to do things like TV commercials and that kind of thing. Whereas I think they understood that I was the first person who’d really identified this strange problem that they had and was willing to make an entire movie about them. Now they’ve kind of got their own James Bond movie, and I think a lot of them kind of got that from the beginning.
What about the negative reactions? Were there people that straight-up refused to participate or were rude in some way?
There was one that I couldn’t get, and I’m gonna get a bit of “James Bond” geek with you. But there is the 1987 James Bond film, the Living Daylights, starring Timothy Dawson.
And the opening sequence of that film takes place in Gibraltar. There is a British army base there. And when they were filming, someone from the Army said to the production crew, “you’re not gonna believe this, but we actually have a Sergeant James Bond of the British Army here.”
And so, of course, they got this guy to go meet Timothy Dalton, and they all took photos, you know, and it was like the day when James Bond met James Bond. I heard this story, and I finally, after months, managed to track him down to his house in Wales.
He wouldn’t respond to any of my letters or phone calls. So I finally just drove to his house and knocked on his door. At this point, his wife promptly chased me off the property and told me to stop harassing Her husband and his family.
And then, when she calmed down, she still wouldn’t let me in to actually meet this James Bond. But when she calmed down, she said that the reason was that they’d been kind of harassed by the media ever since this had happened, you know?
Local newspapers and people wanting to do an article on this story about James Bond who met James Bond. He was just quite a private person, and he didn’t want to know about it. And so she just thought I was another person from the media harassing them.
And in a way, I was, even though I think, obviously, we come from a somewhat more sympathetic perspective. You know, we’re not some joke article in the newspaper. But that was the one who I, unfortunately, couldn’t get in the film.
I mean, I can understand the reaction, and one thing from the trailer really stuck with me, Imagine hearing the same jokes over and over again over the course of 30 years. At some point, it stops being funny and quirky and turns into abuse.
Yeah, I mean, his reaction made sense because I know that all of these guys do get harassed by the media. These guys get like prank phone calls and things, you know, probably less these days, but like in the seventies or the 1980s or 1990s, children would make prank phone calls to people in the phone book, and they would get this a lot. So, I understand where they were coming from. Sure.
This seems like a perfect opener to ask you how does The Other Fellow relate to current societal issues and why do you believe it is important to bring attention to them?
I think you have two things, and this is as a filmmaker, you have your intention of going into the film, and then you have the way that people read your film once it’s completed.
And as a filmmaker, I don’t really care about any kind of social cause or anything like that, as a filmmaker as opposed to a person. What I liked about this film is that being named James Bond leads to a lot of cases of identity confusion, Like identity theft and that sort of thing.
And so, you know, there’s this scene in the film where an African American man named James Bond is arrested for murder, but then everyone confuses him with a white Trump-supporting gun nut named James Bond, who lives in the same town. Things like that are something you can make a film around and tell a story around.
We have this selection of men based on them having this random name. It meant that, if I made a film about computer game nerds, then I would obviously have only met lots of computer game nerds, you know what I mean? But because of this name, I’m now friends with truck drivers and doctors and lawyers and theater directors, and here in Sweden, a son of a Nazi who changed his name to James Bond. I’ve ended up getting to meet this very wide variety of people around the world. And I kind of joke about that, you know, if I ever need a lawyer, I have a lawyer called James Bond.
If ever I need a doctor, I have a doctor called James Bond. If ever I need someone murdered; I know some criminals called James Bond. I think that’s kind of been the fun part of it, the people I’ve met along the way.
I’m here in Sweden for our Swedish premiere tomorrow. You know, if you’ve seen the film, there’s this Swedish man who turned himself into James Bond. We have definitely become quite good friends. And what he does is he travels around the world being James Bond.
So as we were filming, he would just call me every few months and be like, “oh, Matt, I have rented James Bond’s house in Lake Como in Italy, you know, why don’t you come down and film me there?”
And so I started almost living as James Bond in the sense that I would travel with him as he was being James Bond. So in the film, you’ll see there’s a scene where we go from like Lake Como to London, to India to Thailand. And so it’s been cool in that sense, kind of seeing a lot of James Bond world through him.
You’ve met a lot of diverse and interesting men, but ironically, no spies named James Bond?
No spies. I would love to have found a spy called James Bond. I’ll tell you a funny story again. British Intelligence, MI6 would sometimes receive fan mail from children, and it would sometimes be addressed to James Bond. MI6 would apparently write back to these children with a note from James Bond, which I think is quite cute. But, No, I never actually met anyone in the intelligence services named James Bond, or indeed even the police.
There was also a point with this film where people started telling me about these other James Bonds. There was a James Bond in Arizona who won like a hundred million in the lottery a couple of years ago. All the headlines were like, James Bond wins the lottery. But I had to get to a point where I said, “we have to stop” We have our characters already. Otherwise, you can keep going forever.
That’s also something I wanted to ask, by how many people were you approached about the documentary, did someone “volunteer” to be in it?
The one who was most keen to be in it was the Swedish James Bond because obviously he really lives that lifestyle. But I don’t think there was any James Bond who really wanted to be in the film, which we kind of said no to for any sort of reason.
There was one who actually traveled to us because we said, look, we’ll do an interview with you, but we don’t have the budget to travel to where you are. And so we said to him, “if you ever happen to be in London, then come into our office, and we’ll interview you.”
And so he and his wife actually ended up with us a year later while they were in London.
We’ve got a Facebook group and an Instagram and all this kind of thing. We now have a lot of James Bonds writing to us. There’s been a man in Germany called James Bond who has been following our film and re-sharing all of our posts. And I think if he had found out about us a few years ago, he would’ve been really campaigning to be in the movie.
Now that you’ve seen the response from James Bonds, how do you think the film will be received by the general audience?
I would say the film is being received really well. All of our reviews have been good reviews. I think. I would be very happy if one reviewer absolutely hated it and said, this is the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen, because Valentina, this film really goes for it. This film does not halfheartedly try and make a film about men named James Bond. It takes what sounds like a kind of funny concept, and for 80 minutes, it doesn’t stop exploring this issue fully.
And it never winks at the camera and says, oh, isn’t this funny that this is a film about men named James Bond? I mean, there are sequences in this film that should be completely ridiculous.
You have an African American man in prison for murder, reading out jokes, people have written on Facebook about him, saying, “I thought James Bond had a license to kill,” and this sort of thing. Whilst he’s awaiting trial for murder, it is completely ridiculous.
And so, even though a lot of people have liked the film. I’d be fine if someone sees this film and goes, that is the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen. Why would anybody wanna watch a movie about men named James Bond?
With everything you’ve said, it doesn’t sound like such a funny movie all of a sudden. With all the problems these men are facing, the abuse, the stale jokes, it really looks like you’ve uncovered the problem that lurked below the surface, the problem of a certain “meaning” attached to the name James Bond.
That’s what I’m saying. We wanted to take it very seriously. There’s a version of this film where we just interview these men named James Bond, and we just have a bit of a laugh. You see it in a lot of fan documentaries. About some famous movie, and everyone just says, “oh, I saw that film, and I enjoyed it.” My characters are on the run from the police because they’re being charged with murder. My characters are being kidnapped and locked in rooms for six months. It’s like they’re going through real hell as you are watching this film. That’s kind of what I’ve wanted, to really go for it with this movie. This movie is not about people just sitting back and casually reflecting on things.
You mentioned the budgeting issues a while back. One thing I’ve wanted to ask with all the action and serious things you’ve encountered, were there any challenges during the filming process, and how did you deal with them?
You’ll see in the film a lot of the film actually takes place at Goldeneye, which is in Fleming’s residence in Jamaica. We always actually wanted to go film there because the film has a lot of reenactments and we always wanted to go film there.
But again, it was that kind of area where it just would’ve cost too much to do an entire shoot in Jamaica. Sometimes those problems solved themselves in the end. What that did is, it forced us to use the archive we had of Jamaica really fully.
I actually quite like those sequences because they do comprise so much of kind of an archive; for sequences that are set in the 1960s, it probably would’ve been easier just to film a reenactment in Jamaica. But we ended up with something amazing in turn.
There were about 10 seconds of film footage of Flemming and Bond meeting in Jamaica, and we managed to find one interview with James Bond’s wife, and we got his biographer to give us a voiceover, and we managed to tell that story in a few minutes without having to fly to Jamaica. Sometimes when you have those budget problems, it actually creates interesting ways of doing things.
What do you believe sets “The Other Fellow” apart from other similar documentaries? What makes it unique and different?
I had a look at Fiction Horizon, and I see the kind of films you guys look at, and I’m a big fan of what you call the fan documentary. So there’s a film called Trekkies that is about Star Trek fans, and then there’s a film called The People Versus George Lucas, which is about all of the fans going angry when the Phantom Menace was released. Interviewing fans about what it was like with the huge buildup for that film and then the disappointment of it. I think, in some ways, our film does fit into that category.
We are a feature documentary that is made about a famous film franchise, but as I said before, what sets it apart is my characters are not sitting back in chairs reflecting on a film they saw once. They’re on the run from the police, and they’re being kidnapped. They are not in a reflective state. They are going through some form of crisis themselves. If that makes sense.
Your subjects were more active, while the subjects in Trekkies and The People Vs. George Lucas were more passive subjects.
Yes. I’m gonna steal the way you just said that, Valentina. Yes. That’s it.
With that said, do you have any plans for similar projects in the future? Do you plan on covering some other similar names?
No. That’s it for my time in this genre. If Netflix wants to give me some money to produce a series about this sort of thing, I’ll happily produce it. The reason for that is someone the other day said, “oh, you know, why don’t you do a film about people named Lara Croft, from Tomb Raider?”
And I just said to them, the thing is that the reason why we chose James Bond is, that it’s a name that comes with so much weight and history and masculinity to it.
This character’s been around for 70 years, and everyone knows James Bond. People also know what car he drives, what alcohol he drinks, and what his views on women and sex are.
And so there’s so much that people can abuse and make jokes to these men about, but if someone was called Lara Croft… What does anyone actually know about Lara Croft except that she has large breasts and raids tombs, you know what I mean?
It’s just not the same thing. And even if your name was like Luke Skywalker, it’s still not the same as being called James Bond. There actually is another film about real men named Adolf Hitler. And I can understand that because the name Adolf Hitler brings with it a completely different kind of weight of history in a completely different way to James Bond.
But I can understand how having that name would have a similar impact to being named James Bond in a way. If your name was Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones, it’s not quite the same thing. So no, I think as a genre, this is my only foray into it.
I would think that our fans know quite a lot about both Luke Skywalker and Lara Croft, but I get what you mean. James Bond is a phenomenon that transcends age, culture, and geographical boundaries.
Everybody knows everything about James Bond. My mother and my father both know that James Bond drives an Aston Martin, and he drinks his martinis, shaken, not stirred, that he says, Bond James Bond.
Whereas my mother and my father wouldn’t know anything about Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones, or Lara Croft. James Bond has this mass appeal that nothing else does. That’s the thing with being called James Bond. You can say you are James Bond to a lovely 80-year-old grandmother, and then she’ll start making shaken, not stirred, jokes at you. Whereas the 80-year-old grandmother wouldn’t know who Luke Skywalker is, you know?
You hear about James Bond in the newspaper, on tv, and all that sort of thing constantly. There’s this TV series Below Deck, and it’s about people who work on like super yachts. And I was watching that last night. They used the term James Bond twice in an episode. They were saying this boat looks very James Bond. You hear about James Bond everywhere. Most of the time, when you hear about James Bond, it’s not because you are watching the movie Goldfinger.
I get what you mean. We actually have a perfect term for that in Croatian. When we want to describe something that is “very James Bond,” we just say “Bondovski.”
You know what? That’s amazing. I did not know that.
Now that we’ve covered just about anything there is about the movie, do you have any last thoughts for the fans? Something to share?
Yes. Well, I would say that the film is being released in selected theaters on February 17th, and also, on February 17th, it will be released on video, on demand. You can pre-order the film now on Apple TV and iTunes. I’m having a “used car salesman” moment.
You know what they say, 50 % of directing is marketing.
I think they’re right. I think a lot of directors forget to be marketers. And I think that’s absolutely correct.
You’ve heard it yourself “The Other Fellow” hits selected theaters soon, and If you don’t have the opportunity to watch it on the big screen, you can check it out on iTunes and AppleTV. Meanwhile, you can check out the trailer for the documentary below.