BARROW-IN-FURNESS – Former bit part player Max Gash on how he helped make David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

Eraserhead. What the fuck was that about? I mean, I remember going to the first showing of the film which was held somewhere in Culver City. sitting next to David, I could tell he was nervous. I said to him, “How are you feeling David?” He turned back to me and I’ll never forget his words. He said, “Max, I’m fucking nervous.” It wasn’t hard to read between the lines. There is no doubt the screening couldn’t have gone worse. The sound mix didn’t work. And the audience had all bought tickets to see The Spy Who Loved Me. Eraserhead was many things, but a Bond movie is not one of them.

I had worked intermittently on the film. What you have to understand is that David was making that film for four years. At one stage Jack Nance, his many actor, accidentally got a haircut and the production closed down for six months while he grew it back. I already knew David from Philadelphia where we both attended the art school. Everyone already knew David was weird. He used to wear three shirts and two ties at the same time. Once he wore one of those bow ties that when you press a button twirls around. He made short films and I had a role in A Man Being Sick on a Baby. It’s since disappeared but at the time it was a hot controversial piece of work, leading in part to Eraserhead.

“You’re my mascot,” David said when he offered me a major part in the film. “What do you say Max?”

I hadn’t even considered acting but I thought it would turn out fun. Plus David was just one of those people it was great to be around.


David had a way of getting everyone involved in what he was doing. Not only did I act, I drove him around while he delivered newspapers to earn extra money. Then I sold my house to buy film stock. He was so happy. My then pregnant wife, Ilsa, less so. But we were crazy for art and we had a tent. Jack and I would always be the first on set, except for David of course, who was basically living there. We worked for years. Occasionally I went off to make other films, but David was very supportive and ready for me when I came back.

My role was secret and complicated. The costume took five hours to put on and five hours to take off and then we filmed for sixteen hours. This meant that I only ever got halfway through taking the costume off before I had to start putting it back on again.

Of course when I finally saw the film, I couldn’t believe I received no credit. “I don’t want to ruin the mystery,” David said. You see he was getting a lot of praise about how he managed to do the baby that is at the center of the film. And he believed that if everyone knew it was just Max Gash in a suit they would no longer be impressed. Years later, I’d talk to John Hurt and hear that David had tried to pull the same trick with him on The Elephant Man. At a party in 1986 I bumped into Burt Reynolds and he confided in me a similar story about the making of Dune in which he played a giant Sand Worm.

But I can’t be mad at David long. Originally the film was called Flat Fred, but then at the end of the shoot I was taking a photograph and I couldn’t see David’s face because he was looking down. “Raise your head, David,” I shouted. A light went on in his eyes and the rest is history.


Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. You’re welcome. This week Chinatown.

Jack Nicholson plays a private detective in Los Angeles in the thirties. He is investigating the death of a man connected to city corruption and a water shortage. Faye Dunaway stars as the femme fatale with a mysterious secret. And John Huston plays a landowner and politician who seems to have his fingers in all the pies.

It has all the ingredients of a great success, but alas resides now in a pile of dust topped with mouse droppings and orange peel. Why?

Well, Polish director Roman Polanski was arrested and charged with rape after the film’s release and everyone decided not to ever mention the film again. So that didn’t help matters. On its original release, the film had met with some confusion as Chinatown itself doesn’t really feature in the film – except for a brief final mention. 

Roger Ebert wrote: 

“Where’s the f*cking Chinatown? I hear a film is called Chinatown, I buy a ticket on the basis of that information and I spend all my time in orange groves and in the Los Angeles river and no f*cking Chinatown.”

Jack Nicholson however was pleased with his work. So much so that he directed a sequel called The Two Jakes. It was hugely famous and popular but very few people realize it was actually a sequel to the now neglected Chinatown. 

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HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall the director they called the ‘whiskey fountain’: Sam Peckinpah.

Slow motion violence. Blood ballet. Poorly prepared chicken salad sandwiches. Those are the first things that come into anybody’s mind when they hear the two words Sam Peckinpah. Of course when I first met dear Samuel, my Western days were far behind me. I’d appeared in Dastardly Denis and The Fop with the Winchester in the early 30s, but times had changed since then and violence was all the rage. Apparently, Sam was a fan and he called my agent and asked if I’d be prepared to work for scale on a little film he called ‘The Wild Bunch of Bananas’. I read the script and feeling within my rights sent him a note – something us veterans are occasionally allowed to do.

It read simply ‘Cut the fruit’. 

Following the success of the film, I believe Samuel saw me as something of a lucky mascot and cast me in all his productions from then on.

I’d heard that Sam was a terror to work for, but I found him absolutely darling. It is true that while filming Pat Garret and Billy the Kid with Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn he had thrown knives at young Bobby Dylan. But having heard him warbling in his trailer one morning accompanied by an inexpertly played guitar, my sympathies were entirely with Sam.

Samuel’s most famous trademark was his ‘slow motion’. Many people believed this effect was created in the editing suite by simply slowing down the speed of the film. Not so, gentle reader. The effect was created ‘in camera’ – that is to say when we were shot we had to fall slowly to the ground. It was hell, but Sam promised every actor a chicken sandwich at the end of the day. Unfortunately,  they were not very well made. 

Poor William Holden ate three and… well, that’s another story.

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Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. You’re welcome. This week Lord of the Rings.

JRR Tolkien’s mammoth fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has for a long time been considered unfilmable. Ralph Bakshi tried in 1978 but that was a cartoon and so doesn’t really count as a movie. John Boorman wanted to adapt the film but made Excalibur instead. Finally, at the end of the century Peter Jackson, a New Zealand filmmaker famous for gore fests like Bad Taste, decided the time had come. He gathered Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Salah from Raiders, the guy who married the hot gal from Lost and Viggo Mortensen and together embarked on an epic adventure.

They would brave orcs, trolls and big spiders as they sought to return the ring of power to Mordor where they would destroy it.

‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’ a meme once said, and so it proved. Many problems beset the making of the film, but are now shrouded in mystery because mysteriously no interviews or behind the scene footage survives. Famously Andy Serkis’ Gollum character didn’t work at all and his performance was so poor, CGI was used for the first time to replace him. Similarly, Orlando Bloom’s Elf Legolas required digital enhancement to add vitality.

Only one ring to rule them all?

It is a miracle what came out is so good. Jackson grounds the fantasy in a realistic setting and uses his kinetic storytelling to push Tolkien’s tale on. He also manages to imbue it with some emotional content. Also, he does well to get rid of the songs. Though it is regrettable that Jeff Bridges as Tom Bombadil hit the cutting room floor, this moves the quest on at a clip. The special effects are amazing and the music by Howard Shore recalls a classical Hollywood orchestral score.

Unfortunately, Harvey Weinstein pulled the plug on the projected sequels. And so like the Bakshi cartoon the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring is an anti-climax. The road goes ever on apparently. There are reports that Jackson would like to complete the trilogy, but more recently he has renounced the whole idea of returning to Middle Earth, saying ‘Why would you need more than one film?’

For more Hidden Gems CLICK HERE.


Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. You’re welcome.

An obscure Western, The Searchers brings together cult director John Ford with little known B-actor John Wayne. Wayne actually started his career as a full time squinter, but started appearing in films when it was discovered he could drawl as well. Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, who following a murderous attack on his brother’s ranch sets off to ‘seek’ his kidnapped niece, accompanied by young part Indian Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter).

Beginning as a revenger’s tale, The Searchers soon swells into something more epic – a road movie of sorts that traces a map of the American West, of racism, guilt and violence, driven by Ethan’s relentless obsession. The landscapes of Monument Valley are suitably ludicrous and low comedy mixes with the sublime. There’s a richness to life here that Ethan’s narrow frontier outlook can’t hope to comprehend. He is a man who is vanishing into his own hatreds. Useful to break a land – but a liability to civilization.

It is unclear why the film didn’t become a part of the Western canon. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Jeffrey Hunter became hugely famous as the captain of the Starship Enterprise, making his presence a distraction. Or maybe it was that by 1956 the Western had outstayed its welcome. Hundreds of westerns plagued the screens every week and almost every single one of them, directed by John Ford. As Ethan might have said, ‘Put an amen to it!’

Whatever the reason, The Searchers is actually a great film, a masterpiece even. So if you can dig up an copy somewhere, I highly recommend it.

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Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week David Lean’s rarely seen Lawrence of Arabia. You’re welcome.

When David Lean’s adaptation of T.E.Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom came out, no one went to see it. Everyone said: ‘why isn’t it called the Seven Pillars of Wisdom? That’s a doozy of a title!’ It isn’t like David Lean doesn’t know how to adapt books. He made Great Expectations.  Or Dickens of London to give the originally title. Set in Tatooine, Lawrence of Arabia stars Michael Fassbender’s android from Prometheus and Alien Covenant as Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence. It shows how the young British officer managed to win the trust of the Bedouin tribes – led by the finest Arabic actors Anthony Quin and Alec Guinness, along with Egyptian Omar Sharif – to engage in a tribal war against the occupying Turks.

As the war progresses, Lawrence’s single-handed determination and ascetic self-sacrifice leads to a kind of megalomania and fanaticism. It is a cunning psychological study of a man who wishes to deny his own humanity and escape himself. Within lies also the glamour and the brutality of war. At once a stirring adventure film and a keenly observed study of how a powerful personality can manipulate history to his own ends for a limited period. The politics of the situation are also sadly relevant as superpowers use the middle east as nothing more than a conveniently distant battleground and then divide the spoils with scant attention to the locals.

The imagery is beautiful – never before or since have landscapes been imbued with such meaning, beauty and terror. And the score by Maurice Jarre is so good it’s become a cliché. But the film roots itself in the Peter O’Toole’s performance. Lawrence’s sexuality, vulnerability and almost otherworldly way of seeing things come over amazingly. Which could be why it was never heard of again. Until now.

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HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the man Hollywood used to call ‘the transvestite’s favorite cowboy’: John Wayne.

I had just finished the hilarious musical ‘Those Toots Are Not for Tooting’ with Sammy Davis Sr. Sammy Davis Jr.’s criminally underrated father, when I got a call from my agent to report tout suite to bungalow 13 on the Warner Bros back lot and to bring a ladder.

I blinked, but in those days the studios were to be feared and for a jobbing actor such as I, no request seemed too ridiculous, if you didn’t wish to share the fate of poor William Holden. Holden had refused to paint his bottom orange during a pool party run by the famed and feared columnist Louella Penis. As punishment, he was forced to eat three fat rats.

At bungalow 13, I was met by my Teutonic pal Hardy Kreuger. Although we’d had a sticky argument sometime back about which of the two of was responsible for breaking Charles Laughton’s diet, myself and Hardy were wonderful friends, partly due to our shared passion for Tess of the D’Ubervilles. Though he was far more committed than me, having changed his name by deed poll to signal his admiration for the novelist. He greeted me civilly and – as was our habit – we launched into a discussion of the relative merits of Anthony Trollope.

‘What ho, Fluffer!’ said a voice from inside the bungalow affecting a ridiculous British accent. I only realized then that it must be ‘The Duke’. ‘I say did you bring the ladder?’

‘Right here,’ I said. And angled my way into the bungalow, ahead of the Duke.

John Wayne, the star of a hundred horse operas and everyone’s idea of the ideal American Male, was actually the son of Baron Chauncy of Devon, England. The Duke was no mere nickname, but a hereditary title. He was an actual Duke. Off camera, he spoke in the most clipped polished accent I’ve ever heard. I entered the presence where I was gifted with a spectacular sight. A giraffe from the set of the film Hitari was folded in the small confines of the sitting room. I handed over the ladder and up he went.

It later turned out that the whole idea was a dare by Errol Flynn. The Duke and Errol – who by the way was the most charming Nazi I’d ever met – had been playing pinochle when conversation turned to the wildest beast either had had. In those days bestiality was easily the done thing.  Cary Grant lived for several years with a goat called Terry. And Audrey Hepburn had a lama. But that’s another story…

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Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week the Viennese thriller ‘The Third Man’. You’re welcome.

The end of the Second World War and Europe is in a state this is the setting for Carol Reed’s 1949 noir The Third Man, one of the finest films directed by a woman. Joseph Cotton stars as Holly Martins, an American crime novelist out of his depth in war time Vienna. He arrives hoping for a job from his old pal Harry Lime only to find that someone has murdered Lime and the authorities suspect Lime of criminal racketeering. He has also left behind a girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) who Martins begins to fall for.

Suspecting that not all is as it seems, Martins decides to investigate. But the murky reality is not what he banked on.

Scripted by Graham Greene and with a scene stealing supporting role by Orson Welles, The Third Man deserves to be much better known than it is. However, sexism meant that Carol Reed’s film found only a small audience and was critically mauled. She even tried pretending to be a Hungarian man, a subterfuge referenced by the lead characters sexually ambiguous first name, but to no avail. Some have claimed that the interminable zither music also played a part in the film’s lack of popularity.

However, The Third Man is truly a gem. The brilliant impressionistic photography and the shadow play links thematically with a world of mixed loyalties and betrayal. This is a Europe that is at once gorgeous but doomed and uncertain. The victory of the Second World War marks the end of moral certainty. The characters find themselves lost in a maze they don’t even recognise.

So if you’ve never heard of it – and few have – do yourself a cinematic favor and get a copy. With whip smart writing,superb acting and a supporting cast – Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee and Wilfrid Hyde-White – of truly memorable magnificence, The Third Man deserves belated recognition. Also you don’t need to see the prequels The First Man or The Second Man, which are inferior.

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Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week science fiction horror ‘Alien’. You’re welcome.

Science Fiction and Horror? Together? Crazy I know, but that’s the premise behind Ridley Scott’s little known science fiction horror film Alien. The story was simplicity itself. The crew of an intergalactic truck awake from hyper-sleep to investigate a distress signal on a remote planet. Here they encounter a new life-form which attaches itself to a crew member. On board the ship, the crew member (John Hurt) seems to recover, only to get the worst indigestion of his entire life. And before you know it an alien creature with acid for blood is running around the ship killing crew members one at a time.

It’s easy to see why it wasn’t a great success. Gory and dark and all the backstory was to do with company bonuses instead of the characters endlessly talking about what they want out of life. The Alien itself looked like a penis mouthed bone cage with a cycling helmet on.  And that tag line ‘In Space, no one can hear you scream’!? We can hear spaceships explode and what not. Why not a scream?

Still, Ridley Scott’s second film deserves a re-watch – if you can dig up a copy. The performances are amazing – Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Koto and Harry Dean Stanton all deserved to be name-checked. Scott in collaboration with Swiss nutcase H.R. Giger gives the film a nightmarish strobed look. The blue collar industrial spaces of the space ship take on a dripping lost in the woods and down the rabbit hole feel.

Scott went on to a highly successful career. And yet I can’t help but wonder if he ever feels like returning to this early work, what marvellous possibilities there might be.

For more Hidden Gems CLICK HERE.



LONDON – Warcraft director, Duncan Jones, will dip his wick into the world of online games once again after signing on to direct the long-awaited Minecraft movie. But judging by this leaked synopsis of the script, those expecting a faithful adaptation of the global phenomenon better prepare themselves for bitter disappointment:


Minecraft: The Movie


Jan 2017

Luke is 6 years old. A few months ago, his naive parents, in a bid to get half an hour of peace and quiet allowed him to download Minecraft pocket edition on their iPhone. Little did they know that this simple act of kindness would plunge their child and their world, into madness.

Now Luke wakes up every morning in his Minecraft pyjamas, puts on his Minecraft hat and demands to play Minecraft surrounded by his Minecraft toys whilst watching Minecraft videos on youtube.

His parents, quickly realising their child has become obsessed attempt to wean him off the game by offering alternatives such as reading, colouring books and outdoor sporting activities but these options are hastily dismissed as being ‘boring’ in comparison. All attempts to remove the iPhone from the clutches of the child are met with wails and screams and cries of ‘I hate you’. Faced with living with this irate monster in their midst, the parents consider persuading their child to take up less addictive pastimes such as smoking cigarettes and mainlining heroin, but to no avail.

Finally, for the sake of their beloved son they decide they have no choice but to wait until he is sleeping, creep out into the garden and throw their phones into a makeshift bonfire. Unfortunately, just as they about to cast their devices into the flames, Luke appears from behind and pushes them into the pyre. He is found the next day beside their charred bodies by a neighbour silently playing Minecraft on an ashy iPhone. The authorities declare it a tragic accident and Luke is sent to foster parents. His nominated psychologist suggests Luke should be allowed to play Minecraft as much as he wants ,for the time being, because he has created an emotional connection between the game and his recently deceased family. His unsuspecting and naive foster parents agree to give him a few months before attempting to wean him off it.

Luke is sitting on a bed in his new bedroom, alone, playing on the iPhone, expressionless, emotionless. The camera moves closer to him, a little closer, closer, closer, CLOSER.

He smiles.

The screen goes black.


HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer uses his super-stardom to recall the Hollywood Super Stars of yesteryear. Tonight: Madeline Kahn.

Mel Brooks may well be one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. It pains me to say he is one of the least able chefs. When dining at the Brooks residence one is well-advised to go with biscuits in your pockets. This way, you can nibble them for sustenance while you try stealthily to deposit whatever slop is put on your plate anywhere but the lower front hole of the face, known popularly as the mouth.

I was in the middle of one such depository, sliding what had once been a young lamb when I realized to my horror that instead of the potted plant at my side I was actually shovelling said refuse into a rather elegant pill box hat. The owner looked at me for one second and then smiled, with dazzling intensity: ‘You owe me a lid, boy-o!’ she said. It was the one and only Madeline Kahn.

At that time Mel had hired her to play Lili von Schtüpp in Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. She’d appear in a number of his movies as well as with Gene Wilder in Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. She was perhaps the most comically gifted actress of her generation, although I’ll also remember what a belter of a voice she had. I’d seen it knock the feathers off a parrot at sixty yards. In her early life, she’d sang opera, though she insisted this was just for the bucks and she refused to take credit for her many talents.

In the end, I bought her a new hat. The next time I saw her at Mel’s place, she recognized me and asked ‘What’s that in your pocket?’

Alas! It was a packet of digestive biscuits.

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HOLLYWOOD – Sir Edwin Fluffer uses his super-stardom to recall the Hollywood Super Stars of yesteryear. Tonight: John Vernon.

When I first met John Vernon I didn’t know I was meeting John Vernon. A handsome man, like a hungover Richard Burton – which is to say like Richard Burton – came up to me and said in a light Canadian accent: ‘Hello! I’m Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz.’ As quick as lightning I told him: ‘That won’t do. You’ll have to change it.’ ‘Any suggestions,’ he gamely replied. ‘Adolphus Agopsowicz of course,’ was my immediate response.

Cooler heads prevailed alas and the world knew him as John Vernon. If you’ve ever seen a film made from 1965-1995 you will have seen John. Prolific and often – unfairly in my view – cast as the villain. From Dirty Harry to Animal House, Outlaw Josey Wales to Herbie Goes Bananas, John showed up, purring like villainy itself had been mixed with ginger and gravel, popped into a blender with something feline and poured over ice.

His leonine head and steely blue eyes made him perfect for the crafty official, the charmer who would stab you in the heart while caressing your nether regions. And he was good at playing villains too.

He amassed years of TV work as well. I remember when he got his first job in Bonanza, he was so happy he actually bought me a drink. An earl grey laced with Armagnac. I had it framed. Of course we had a lot in common. Both RADA trained, as a party trick we would have ourselves blind folded and still find our way back to Los Angeles from places as far afield as Las Vegas or Seattle.

John died, as we all must, but I’m sure when he got to meet the big Executive Producer in the Sky he said with a twinkle in his eye: ‘I was a Cuban in Topaz’.

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HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the going to the man Hollywood insiders once called the Toothy Arse: Burt Lancaster.

Whenever you wake up next to Burt Lancaster you know it must’ve been one of those nights. Then when you roll over and see Tony Curtis lying there it soon becomes apparent that that you’ve been the salami in a spectacular Hollywood sandwich. 

We’d just finished filming Trapeze in which we all three attempted to woo Gina Lollobrigida with fairly mixed results and art had come to imitate life at the wrap party. Of course, darling Gina was having none of it, so Burt, Tony and I decided to bat on at a little jazz club I knew. 

The martinis were flowing like Gina’s hair, and then Curtis suggested a game of Twister. I’d never played it before, but once they’d explained the rules I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and flicked the spinner… 

Left foot red was easy enough, Burt got left hand yellow and Tony had right foot green. There are no prizes for guessing what happened next!  

Fast forward to the end credits and Burt won the Academy Award for his fine performance in Elmer Gantry, Tony had a huge hit with Spartacus, and to this day I still can’t walk past a Corby Trouser Press without shuddering. But that’s another story…

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 HOLLYWOOD – Survivor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir Edwin Fluffer, reflects on the man Hollywood used to call ‘the intellectual’s Fatty Artbuckle’: Orson Welles.

It was an unusually warm night in the Hollywood hills. Decent folks were at home in their beds, indecent folks like yours truly were in somebody else’s. Outside you could hear the crickets on the lawn. In the distance a Dorothy Lamour was barking.

I’d just finished filming Three Cheers For Charlie so a few drinks seemed in order, one thing led to another, and I passed out with my head in one of the Gabor sisters, maybe Zsa Zsa, but most probably Eva. Dear Noel Coward gave me a fireman’s lift, carried me back to his mansion, threw me down on the bed, and apparently was back at the bar before the ice in his drink had melted.

I lay there, the room spinning, wondering what on earth my life had come to… It didn’t take long for me to realise that it probably wouldn’t get any better than this, so I vowed there and then never to regret a single moment. In retrospect that was the worst decision I ever made, but at the time shimmying down the drain pipe, hailing a cab, getting driven to Cary Grant’s house, breaking in through the bathroom window and pinching his entire collection of Faberge eggs seemed like a good idea. Noel was furious when I turned up back at his place with my pockets stuffed full of stolen priceless Russian antiquities, but it was already too late. Cary had called the police, and we had to hide them somewhere, so poor Noel had no choice but to force feed them to Erich von Stroheim. 

It was a good twenty four hours before we got them back again, but by then the trail had gone cold, the cops has called off the search and we were in the clear. The eggs were rinsed off under the cold tap, but beautiful as they were I must admit that some of their sparkle had worn off for me. After that Noel always called Erich ‘the goose who laid the golden egg’.  

I did ask Ian Fleming if that was where he got the idea for The Man With The Golden Gun, but he said no. I know for a fact that he got the idea for Thunderball when he saw Charlie Chaplin slip over trying to get out of the pool, but that’s another story…

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