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Meet the man billed as Canada’s foremost James Bond expert

James Bond film expert Murray Gillespie is pictured in his apartment in Vancouver on August 3, 2013.

Ben Nelms/For The Globe & Mail

Few movie secret agents have a profile as high as James Bond's. But that visibility rarely extends to big-screen showings of old Bond films.

That makes a festival at the Vancity Theatre art-house cinema unusual. Starting Aug. 23, the theatre, better known for art films and independent cinema, will begin screening 20 Bond films, starting with 1962's Dr. No and running through 2012's Skyfall.

Murray Gillespie, a Vancouver-area website designer and Bond expert who was shaken and stirred when he saw The Spy Who Loved Me as a nine-year-old in Ottawa, will introduce many of the screenings and lend items from a collection of hundreds of posters, albums, toys and models for exhibition.

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Mr. Gillespie, 45, talks about the festival, which begins with an opening gala and fundraiser for the Vancouver International Film Festival Society.

Why does James Bond warrant a film festival in a venue like Vancity Theatre that more regularly specializes in art-house cinema?

It's due to the special nature of the length of the franchise. Whether it's art-house films or studio-made movies, anything that has lasted 50 years is certainly a benchmark in cinema history.

Also, the James Bond films really did, in my opinion, invent the spy genre in film. People had never seen a spy movie like Dr. No.

Also, the expanse of movies from 50 years is why it's warranted at such a prestigious venue.

He's a cultural icon and no film series has lasted so long and is still running. They must be doing something right.

These films are available on video. They screen frequently on television. Why bother to see them, especially the older ones, on the big screen?

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Seeing a Bond movie on the big screen is nothing like watching it on DVD.

First of all, most of them are cut [on the small screen] so you don't get the wide-screen effect. The cinematography, the locations – everything about it is just so epic.

Vancity Theatre promotional material describes you as "Canada's foremost James Bond expert." How did you earn that title?

I developed an online presence to show my collection.

Then I really started doing a lot of events. Then I started doing a lot of media.

I went to the Skyfall premiere, the royal premiere last year in London.

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I have conversed with some other Bond collectors around the world and seem to have earned a place, at least for Canada and possibly in North America, for the size of my collection and encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise.

What was the first Bond film you saw?

The Spy Who Loved Me. 1977. At the drive-in with my sister in Ottawa. I was mesmerized by the exotic locations of Egypt, the beauty of Barbara Bach – Ringo Starr's wife – gadgets. Everything. After that, I waited every two years to see the next one. When VCRs first came out, I found out there were other Bond films from the sixties. I started watching them, saw a couple on the big screen.

The best Bond film?

Goldfinger. It was Connery's third movie so he had comfortably gotten into the character.

The worst Bond film?

Die Another Day. An invisible car and too much ice. It wasn't coherent and was just schlocky and poorly put together. Quantum of Solace wasn't too great. And Tomorrow Never Dies. Those would be the three worst Bond films for me.

The best actor to play Bond?

Sean Connery. He created the role.

The worst actor to play Bond?

Pierce Brosnan. Because he got stuck with two of the worst movies.

The most underrated Bond film?

On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It was a terrific movie. Had Connery done that film, it possibly could have been one of the best films. It had a great plot – the movie where Bond gets married. George Lazenby (as Bond) did a wonderful job. Telly Savalas from Kojak as the villain and Diana Rigg as Bond's wife, Tracy.

The most overrated Bond film?

Probably Moonraker. They were trying to capitalize on Star Wars and the space motif going around at the time.

Will you be wearing a tuxedo at the screenings?

On the opening night, I will certainly be in a tux.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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