Stevan Riley, director of the Bond documentary Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007, is sanguine about having Bill Clinton among his talking heads, but no Big Tam.
"On quite a few occasions we tried to get him involved in the film, just because it was an anniversary piece about the history and we wanted to tell it properly," says Riley. "We had three or four attempts, but I just don't think he was interested. I can't speak for him but I think his relationship to the franchise is quite mixed."
So the show had to go on without Connery, but with access to other Bonds past and present, directors, family and friends of the franchise's creators, producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and a wealth of archive material.
Despite the absence of Connery, the fans have approved, with The James Bond International Fan Club giving the film two thumbs up. "It was almost as big an event as Skyfall among the fan community," said one member. After a successful cinema release, the documentary is out on DVD.
Riley, 37, whose previous films include Fire in Babylon, a portrait of the legendary West Indies cricket team of the 1970s, made the film as part of the celebrations to mark 50 years since the franchise began with Dr No in 1962. Describing himself as "a Bond fan, like everybody", the Londoner realised he had a lot of research to do before he caught up with the cognoscenti. "The question I found most interesting was how the franchise had survived so long."
As the documentary shows, it was frequently touch and go for Mr Bond as to whether he would make it into published book form, and turning it into a film was another gamble for Broccoli and Saltzman. Then there were the later legal wrangles over who owned the Bond identity.
All of this is gone through in the film. It was important, says Riley, to give as full a picture as possible. He was expecting some trepidation at the first meeting with EON Productions, makers of the Bond films, when he put forward his initial proposal. "There were questions asked, like do we want to go there, is this right, are people going to find this interesting."
After that it was green lights all the way. "There was minimal interference in terms of the filmmaking process. They were busy enough with Skyfall so we just cracked on and were given free rein. At some points I thought, is that going to fly, is this going to be a political situation but it wasn't and full credit to them, they were really supportive and there was nothing but encouragement."
Access to some interviewees was easier than others. Riley had a two-page list of potential interviewees for Fleming, but many were not around any more. Covering the Fleming part of the story presented another problem. Though everything started with him, Riley knew Bond fans coming to see the documentary would not want to wait a long time before seeing the first Bond clip. The solution was to illustrate the colourful life of the former naval intelligence officer with clips from the Bond films.
Then there was Connery, who, as it happens, is Riley's favourite Bond. "Sean was always captivating on so many levels." Approaches were made but without success, and it wasn't a question of money. "There was a moment when he thought about it and we were waiting on a response for a few weeks, till we heard back and it was no."
Archive material was used to cover Connery's parting company with the franchise. In the documentary, it is left to others to argue that he should have been paid more and looked after better. "There was a camp that agreed with Sean and they had to have a right of reply," says Riley.
The other five Bonds were interviewed, including current incumbent Daniel Craig. Taking in directors, actors, crew and producers, 200 hours of interviews were done.
As for Mr President, Riley knew the British secret agent had been a favourite of commanders-in-chief from JFK to Ronald Reagan. He wondered if Bill Clinton was part of the fan club. After contact was made through an intermediary, a delighted Riley found himself heading to the Harlem offices of the Clinton Foundation for an audience with Mr Clinton. He watched the films in the White House movie theatre and knew every one, said Riley. "It was clearly a pet topic and he loved it. I was expecting him to be a bit shy about his fascination with Bond but he wore it very comfortably."
Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 is available on DVD from January 28.