Commander James Bond France

006 questions to Sean Longmore about his Japanese inspired Bond artwork

On Commander007.net, we love fans who show their passion to the 007 franchise with creative new contents. So when Sean Longmore shared his James Bond posters, inspired by the Japanese 007 artworks of the 1960s, we got in touch to know more about his approach to the world of visual madness of the James Bond movie posters !

You can have a look at his creation in Twitter and on Instagram;

001: Hello Sean, can you introduce yourself, and tell us how you came to the idea of doing this series of James Bond posters?

Hello there! Of course, my name’s Sean Longmore, I’m a UK based graphic designer and I’ve been a designer for around seven years now and currently work in theatre and the arts.

I’m a huge James Bond fan, I have been ever since I was young, it’s hard to imagine my life without Bond and I think it’s safe to say that Bond posters are one of the reasons I became a designer. When I was a kid I got a copy of Tony Nourmand’s JB Movie Poster books and I was instantly captivated by the rich and exciting imagery. It might sound silly but I’ve always felt drawn to them in the same way one might be drawn to a Renoir or a Picasso, they’re an art form to themselves. A Bond poster is as much a part of a Bond film’s identity as the cinematography or the set design, people remember them long after release and that’s so special, I can’t think of any other franchise that makes such an impact with something outside of the content of the film itself, I don’t even think Star Wars has that particular piece of magic. A creative need inside me to make that kind of magic is what inspired me to become a designer. Maybe someone should start a petition to hang Gouzee’s Moonraker poster in The Louvre, I’d sign that.

So that admiration and love for Bond posters has always been inside me, and when the COVID lockdown started I wanted a personal project just to practice some skills and to keep myself busy. No Time to Die was very much on everyone’s lips and an image of Ana De Armas was on the cover of Total Film. She was the starting point of that first poster for me, the dress, the make-up, the jewellery, those images scream Bond and I wanted to work with them. So that first poster started around her, I only ever imagined it as a one off, but it got such a great reaction I made Skyfall and Spectre and then it just grew and grew from there. I never intended to make prints, it was as all just for a bit of fun and that’s the reason I make more. I’m incredibly grateful for the reaction from the Bond community and feel so lucky to have been accepted into it.

002: Among all the posters of the James Bond series, what attracted you to the Japanese artwork and their approach to 007 film? Are you trying to mimic some posters exactly, or just drawing inspiration from them?

The attraction came from growing up with Bond and how those posters have inspired me as a designer over the years. I can’t draw at all. I’ll never be an illustrator, it’s a skill far beyond my capabilities but I admire it so much. My design career began in designing print (flyers, booklets etc.) but I knew I needed to adapt to being able to create and visualise brand new key art if I was going to be successful. As someone who can’t draw that felt (and sometimes still feels) like an impossible task.

It’s the 60s Japanese Bond posters that taught me there’s an alternative to illustration, you can make something exciting and compelling through photo montage. Each of those classic films has it’s own and they’re bloody brilliant even though they’re often quite far removed from their illustrated Western counterparts.

You can tell from looking at them, the original Japanese designer was probably someone who’d hadn’t seen the film in advance, just had a series of reference photos they needed to compile together to sell the product, even colourising black and white photographs would’ve been complete guesswork, the bright red DB5 on the Thunderball poster springs to mind. I have canvas versions of Goldfinger, YOLT and OHMSS and I can stare at them all day and never get bored; they’re just fucking bonkers. In one corner a helicopter is dangling a car over an open volcano with an exploding rocket while a water cannon (I don’t think that’s even in the film) goes off underneath and in another Sean Connery is snogging Kissy Suzuki in a bright yellow bikini you’ve never seen before. Could you even imagine being in the pitch meeting for that design?

They’re visual madness and I guess through osmosis over the years, that madness has become my creative style too. I wanted to make a modern version of that madness for No Time to Die.

I’m definitely not trying to mimic the posters exactly, I could never achieve that. I think they’re also very much a product of their time, that kind of design just wouldn’t appeal to a modern mass filmgoing audience. The challenge I set myself was to modernise that style but also make it instantly recognisable as matching those original poster designs.

I give each design a loud and bright colour palette, often blowing out the colours and deliberately altering a few of the colours in some places so they look sort of “wrong” to match that dodgy colourisation feel of the originals. I recreated the 007 type which was a motif across all the Connery posters. For Quantum of Solace I semi-recreated how the original Japanese Goldfinger poster presented Shirley Eaton in gold, with Strawberry Fields in oil, covering her back and bum with the same rocket-shaped rip in the canvas. That seemed a natural thing to do. I also took a similar rip shape that popped up a few times in those classic posters and applied it to my TND and TWINE designs. They’re nods and suggestions back to the original designs.

003: Can you tell us about the production of these artwork? How much time does it take you to create them? Any particular challenge, or one poster which ended up being very challenging?

Yes, so I create the designs in Photoshop working with reference photos. The production of each poster is progressively taking a little bit longer, especially as I run into challenges of having to clean up and restore some older photos for the designs. For comparison I think Skyfall took around eight hours, the Bond design I’ve most recently completed has taken about twice that.

For my normal job I manage a design time integrated alongside a full marketing department. So part of the process for me is to use marketing experience I’ve gained and think what imagery those original Japanese designers would’ve used for these films to sell the film. Some posters I’ve known right from the start what I want to do with them, for example I love the cinematography in Skyfall and I knew I wanted the design to work around that beautiful shot of the golden dragon from Macau and the stag’s outside Skyfall itself. No Time to Die and TWINE were pretty similar.

The layouts for Spectre and Quantum of Solace were particularly challenging and Casino Royale was a challenge because I had to a lot of digital painting which I was learning as I went along.

With Spectre I knew straight away I wanted to use a blue colour palette but absolutely nothing else. I wanted to do something different with it and I didn’t know how to present Spectre itself as an entity. I embraced the weird bonkers style and ended up taking inspiration from the Thai Octopussy poster which features a massive purple octopus looming over the whole design. I used giant black tentacles which slithered around Bond and Madeline and interfered with scenes pictured in the design. It felt like a nice visual metaphor for Spectre’s manipulation in the film and also worked as a nice call-back to that Octopussy design.

Quantum of Solace took three different attempts, one of which I lost when a file corrupted so that poster definitely took the longest of them all. The colour palette was dictated by the film, it couldn’t be anything else other than gold and sandy, it wouldn’t feel right. I’d spent a whole day working on the original version but something just wasn’t clicking, it felt dark and depressed and Camille looked pretty bored. So I went back to the drawing board with it, introduced some blue as a nice contrast to the orange of the sand and the fire in Perla de las Dunas, sourced an image of Camille to draw from that felt a little more stylish and suiting of her kick-ass character (the original image is from a Heineken promotion) and also started the little motif of including the gunbarrel circles inspired by the Dr No titles, as a way of including inset images that match the style of the design. They’re going to crop up in a few other pieces.

Both Spectre and Quantum were super hard work but I’m really proud of them both. From the original three one of my best friends bought the Spectre print to support me, without knowing anything about the project. That was the moment I knew I’d succeeded with that one.

004: As a graphic designer, what do you think of the James Bond posters of these last few years which have gone very minimalistic?

I know they’re a different style to my own work and older Bond posters, but the work Gary Dalton has done hits the mark for what these films need to be. I think EoN quite rightly aren’t trying to sell Bond as just an action superhero anymore, the contemporary market for that is too oversaturated already. The new posters ground the character tonally in the same way the films did with Casino Royale. They also help to position Bond as a “luxury brand.” They have a certain class about them that suits the character of Bond perfectly. Expensive feeling without being patronising.

The black and white Greg William’s No Time to Die poster with Bond and Madeline up close is fantastic. It instantly sets a moody tone, evokes a dash of OHMSS for the hardcore fans and calls-back to Terry O’Neil’s work on Live and Let Die too. It’s minimalistic but it does a lot subconsciously. Would I like to see EoN move to a more action-packed bombastic art style like the old days? Of course. But what’s right for the fans isn’t always right for the general audience. My work is for the fans.

005: Do you have a favourite Bond film? Do you consider yourself nostalgic of the Bond of the 60s, or do you enjoy equally the most recent ones?

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s my favourite movie of all time along with one of my favourite books. I hold in such high calibre that I think it almost sits outside the Bond franchise so I kinda don’t count it. It’s special.

Beyond that my favourites are constantly changing, it’s whatever I’m in the mood for really. But Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, Licence to Kill and Goldeneye are go-to favourites. But then I love Moonraker and Tomorrow Never Dies too for different reasons. Even the ’67 Casino Royale is good fun. To me a “rubbish” Bond film is still a film I enjoy more than most other films. It’s too hard to choose.

No I wouldn’t call myself nostalgic for the 60s films. Moore was my first Bond so if I’m nostalgic it’s probably for those, but I genuinely love them all. I know a lot of fans are calling for Bond to move back to the 1960s setting and that Bond should always be Connery in essence. But as great as that would be from a fan point of view, it would only work temporarily. Bond needs to grow and evolve and I think Bond should always be a reflection of contemporary society, Fleming’s novels are littered with his, often pessimistic, commentary on the modern day, that’s part of the character’s lasting appeal.

006: Can we expect more Bond posters in this series? Do you have other passions outside of the Bond franchise?

I’m a massive film fan in general, I’m super proud of my blu-ray collection so I’m hoping to tackle creations for more of the films I love. In terms of franchises I’m a massive Doctor Who fan, it’s always fun to spot where Bond and Doctor Who crossover particularly with the reuse of props and vehicles in the 1970s. I’m a big sci-fi fan in general so I love Star Wars and Trek too and I also try and keep up with gaming too when I’m not glued to Photoshop.

You can absolutely expect more! And Moore! I’ve recently published Die Another Day, completed work now on Goldeneye, and I’m working on a couple more surprises. I’m going to be jumping around a little more in the catalogue of older films. I’m not sure I’ll tackle them all, but as long as they’re successful I’ll try and keep going.

Thanks to Sean for doing this interview! You can see more of his work on his Etsy Shop and official website.

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