007: The Alabama connection

For much of his life, Bruce Scivally has had a special bond with one of the greatest spy heroes in movie history.

When he was 6, growing up in the small North Alabama community of Plevna (near New Market), Scivally’s mother, Aileen Scivally, bought him an Oddjob hand puppet. It had the trademark hat used in the movies as a flying projectile, this one a bright plastic green.

43653015Then, in the early ’70s, he came across a Sean Connery 007 doll from the movie ”Thunderball” in a Fayetteville store. It came with a little metal cap pistol, and if you pressed a button on his back, his arm would shoot up and produce a pop.

”In retrospect, I’d have to say it didn’t really look like Sean Connery,” Scivally said. ”I remember that if you mashed its head down, it bore a striking resemblance to Richard Nixon.”

Yet, despite all that Bond paraphernalia, it was Sept. 17, 1972, that made the biggest impact on Scivally. When ABC-TV aired the network premiere of ”Goldfinger,” the 10-year-old was officially hooked on Bond . . . James Bond.

”The scenes from the Aston Martin and its smokescreen and oil slick and ejector seat were just the most exciting thing I’d ever seen,” Scivally said. ”From that point on, I never missed a Bond film.”

As fate, destiny, whatever, would have it, after graduating from Buckhorn High School, he attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and ran into another Alabamian, John Cork from Montgomery. The two became friends and started working together on ”Goldeneye,” the official James Bond publication for the Ian Fleming Foundation (Fleming, of course, wrote the early Bond stories), then other Bond documentaries that came out on laserdisc, CD-ROM and DVD.

Now, the two have collaborated on the ultimate Bond coffee-table book – ”James Bond: The Legacy.” It coincides with the 40th anniversary Bond film, ”Die Another Day” starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, which opens Friday. The 320-page book, priced at $49.95, is loaded with 550 illustrations, never-before-revealed anecdotes, facts and information. Scivally will sign copies of the book Dec. 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Waldenbooks at Madison Square Mall.

”I don’t know if it’s been my destiny,” Scivally, 40, said by phone from his home in L.A. when asked about his long-time bond with Bond. ”Every time I think I’m going to get out of it, something else pulls me back in.

”I think people aspire to the things Bond represents – elegance, glamour, adventure and sex appeal. He’s what every man wants to be and who every woman wants to be with.”

The fascination with Bond and 007 and the gadgets and the gals isn’t that unusual, especially for guys. But Scivally’s road to success, going from tiny Plevna, near the Alabama-Tennessee line, to L.A. certainly must make for interesting conversation among the Hollywood types.

”Plevna was a good place to grow up,” Scivally said. ”There were lots of farms and fields and streams. I just remember having a lot of wide-open spaces.

”Actually, people thought I’d be an artist because I did a lot of drawing, but by the age of 13 I got a Super 8 camera and wanted to get into movies. Buckhorn didn’t have a visual arts program, but I had a teacher, Grace Whitfield, who encouraged me to become a writer.”

After reading in the magazine American Film that USC was one of the top film schools, Scivally applied, was accepted in 1980, and has been in L.A. ever since. Since hooking up with Cork, he’s worked on various OO7 projects and met Bond actors Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby.

He planned to attend the Los Angeles premiere of ”Die Another Day” and hopes to meet Pierce Brosnan, the current James Bond. So who, in his mind, has been the best James Bond?

”One of the things the book addresses is that, as the characters progress, the films also change from decade to decade,” Scivally said. ”The ’60s had it just right – the era of Cold War and Connery, the Cold War spy who kills in cold blood and it doesn’t bother him and has sex with as many women as he wants. It’s hedonism without guilt.

”In the ’70s, we get to Roger Moore. It was after Watergate and people were very distrustful of spies. That whole era had a lot of jokiness, and with Roger Moore, they took more of a campy approach to doing Bond. In the mid-’80s, with Timothy Dalton, they got back to the Ian Fleming Bond, even though it wasn’t as successful for them. I really appreciated that time because after the jokiness, it brought some dignity to the character.

”What Dalton lacked was charm, and that’s what Pierce Brosnan brings to the character. He also shows a vulnerable side.”

His favorite Bond movies? ”Goldfinger,” ”From Russia with Love” and ”His Majesty’s Secret Service,” which by the way, featured the one-film Bond, Lazenby. He had the unenviable task of being the first successor to perhaps the best Bond – Connery.

”I thought he (Lazenby) made a good Bond,” Scivally said. ”But he was sort of a clay pigeon that everyone could shoot at. He showed producers that people came to see the character, not the actor.”

Scivally swore he’d never see another Bond movie after doing all the documentaries for the DVD, but of course, he was easily talked into doing the coffee-table book.

”I suppose it’s a bit unusual that two boys from Alabama would end up being considered the authorities on the world’s most famous, sophisticated, elegant and sexy superspy,” Scivally said. ”No one seeing me at my computer in jeans and T-shirt would ever apply any of those adjectives to me.”