Meeting Mr. Kidd – A From Sweden with Love Exclusive
“C’mon in,” says Putter Smith at the door of his cozy California home, flashing the same sly smile he used when gleefully trying to kill James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. Now 74, Putter is a man who has grown extremely comfortable with himself – and has come to terms with the fame being part of a classic Bond film brings with it.
First and foremost, Putter is a musician. “That’s a choice one makes in one’s life. It’s my calling,” he says of the modern, improvised jazz he has played for decades, “it’s art.” Getting cast in Diamonds Are Forever was one of those happy show biz accidents. Director Guy Hamilton, another serious jazz fan, happened to catch one of Putter’s performances with jazz icon Thelonious Monk at a famed LA jazz club called Shelly’s Manne-Hole on North Cahuenga Boulevard. They had a brief conversation which Putter can no longer recall saying, “But it wasn’t about movies or anything like that…”
“About three months later, I get a phone call,” Putter remembers. “They asked if I was the bass player with Thelonious, I said ‘Yes’, so they asked me to come to Universal for a test. I thought it was for music until they said I didn’t need to bring my bass.”
The surreal screen test consisted of Putter and fellow musician, Paul Williams, also under consideration for a villain role, coming out from behind a curtain and laughing. “So I stood there and laughed,” Putter said. It must have been quite a scene – Putter, who is at least 6 feet, next to 5 foot 2 inch Williams, who, despite his small size, boasted a solid acting resume. But once over, Putter put it out of his mind and went back to making music… until he was called back to read with Bruce Glover! He still couldn’t believe he was being considered for an acting role, much less in a major Bond movie. “It was impossible, (acting) was nothing I ever wanted or expected,” Putter says. And suddenly he was offered a contract. The role of “Mr. Kidd” was his! The jazz player panicked – “I didn’t know what to do or how to act.” Fortunately Putter’s wife, VR Smith, was an actress/singer and reminded him, “They hired you, remember that. Just be you.” And then it was off to the Nevada desert for his first scene – with Glover who had also won the plum part of “Mr. Wint.”
Although he wasn’t a professional actor, Putter was a Bond fan. (Favorite movie: From Russia with Love!) What did he think of big Sean? “Aw, man, he was the best.” Putter gushed, “He was everything you could imagine, plus!” He also had kind words for his partner in crime, Bruce Glover. “Bruce was full of great ideas and he’s very serious about what he does.”
Watch Putter and Bruce as Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint in a deleted scene from Diamonds Are Forever:
Putter was also very complimentary about the film’s director, the legendary Guy Hamilton. “There was no BS about him,” Putter recalled, adding the crew respected him and called him “Guv”. (British slang for “Governor”, a term of respect.) Hamilton let Putter be Putter, only offering hints like “stand up straight” when he reflexively stooped under a helicopter’s spinning blades.
Were there ever times he had to pinch himself and say, “I’m IN a James Bond movie!”? “Oh yeah,” Putter recalled with a laugh, “My first scene was pulling Sean Connery out of the trunk of a car and I’m standing there saying to myself, ”MAN, that’s Sean Connery in the trunk of a car!”
More to come including Putter’s epic fire stunt! Stay tuned to FSWL ...
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