A Welsh film maker has made broadcasting history with a James Bond-themed global television blockbuster.
Father-of-two Julian Jones, 51, who was brought up in Llanrwst and Newtown, is the director of the new big budget Prime Video series 007: Road to a Million that was given glittering launches in London and New York.
The show, that’s available in more than 240 countries, features an epic adventure with nine pairs of everyday people being given a shot at winning a life-changing £1 million prize by completing a series of spectacular Bond-inspired challenges.
Julian teamed up with Golden Globe winning actor Brian Cox, the star of Succession, as The Controller, a villainous mastermind who sets the tasks and watches the pairs as they hunt for the 10 questions he’s hidden at iconic Bond film locations around the world.
It’s the first time ever that Eon Productions, who own the rights to the James Bond brand, have given permission for the 007 name to be linked to any other film or television show.
According to Julian, it’s one of the most thrilling achievements of his career to date which includes winning an Emmy for a documentary series, 9/11: One Day in America.
He was reunited with Brian Cox for a very different television series, Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius, which is currently showing on BBC 2. He’s the director and executive producer of the three-part series which also started last week and features two acting Dames, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, who coincidentally played the character of M, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, in seven of the super charged spy films.
Julian said: “To be honest when we pitched the idea to Eon Productions which is the driving force behind bringing James Bond to cinema screens we weren’t holding our breath.
“They are rightly very protective of the much loved 007 brand. We weren’t at all sure they would agree to our linking the iconic James Bond name to a TV game show, no matter how spectacular. But we had worked extremely hard making a quality pilot episode to fully demonstrate our idea.”
He and executive producer David Glover, both of 72 Films organisation, had been working on the concept for the show for a number of years before refining the script to the point that they could film an adventure-filled pilot episode in remote parts of Snowdonia.
It was then screened for Barbara Broccoli who controls the James Bond film franchise with her brother Michael J Wilson – and she loved it.
Julian explained: “We had known for some time that we wanted to make a TV challenge show that was different than any others, a combination of physical and intellectual tests with a bumper prize at stake.
“In our minds we wanted it to be something that had never been done before, a test of ingenuity and endurance for those who really, really want to be a millionaire!”
They took the idea to Prime Video who keenly backed it. That’s when they came up with the idea of taking it global, using some of the historic Bond film locations in which to set challenges, and even replicating the daring secret agent’s most ambitious stunts.
The series takes the contestants across the globe to confront nerve-wracking physical obstacles and dynamic missions, as they face their biggest fears and replicate stunts from the Bond movies.
Locations vary from the Scottish Highlands and the isolated Atacama Desert in Chile, to the majestic Swiss Alps and streets of Venice.
One competitor who’s afraid of heights is seen climbing a massive crane to retrieve one of the questions. It is reminiscent of the giant crane fight scene featuring Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale.
In another scenario competitors are tasked with climbing Sugar Loaf Mountain in Brazil in 36 degrees heat. The mountain provides an unforgettable backdrop in the Moonraker movie with Roger Moore as agent 007.
Julian emphasised that every precaution is taken to ensure contestants’ safety throughout the series but the challenges are none the less arduous and exhilarating to watch.
Back home after attending the launch in New York, Julian watched the first episode with his wife, Andrea and their two daughters Sofia and Angelica, aged 14 and 10.
His interest in films emerged while he was a pupil at his local high school in Newtown.
“I remember watching the old BBC series Arena and being fascinated by the different stories they would tell. I began to dream of making films myself,” he said
“At school there were one or two old video cameras knocking around and I would often try to use them to make mini films about events at school and locally.
“When I was about 16 my dad bought me a video camera of my own which was a really big and expensive gift at the time. I will be forever grateful for that. It started me on my career path.”
Julian’s father, Mervyn Jones and step-mum Carol Hurst, still live in Mid-Wales and his mum, Lynn Hughes lives in Rhos-on-Sea. He regularly returns to see the family but, as a keen climber, he likes to visit Snowdonia as often as he can.
He laughed: “Unfortunately as of now, there has never been an iconic Welsh location in the James Bond films but maybe I should suggest it as something for the Bond producers to think about for the future!”