007 and Johns Hopkins share secret connection

November 12, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

Barbara Broccoli, the co-chief of the James Bond moviemaking clan, won't be able to appear at "the East Coast exclusive benefit screening" of the new Bond movie Casino Royale at the Senator Theatre on Wednesday.

The royal (and world) premiere of the movie occurs in London the day before, and she can't jet back in time from her audience with the Queen, she explains over the phone from New York.

"My cousin Jimmy [Dr. James D'Orta] will be at the screening in Baltimore, and he's the real hero of the story," she says. D'Orta has had exciting - and harrowing - adventures as on-set doctor for several James Bond films, but she's referring to the other off-screen story of how doctors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital prolonged her father Cubby's life, which led to the creation of the Dana & Albert "Cubby" Broccoli Center for Aortic Diseases at Hopkins.

"Jimmy's like a brother to me," says Barbara, who co-produced Casino Royale with her half-brother, Michael Wilson. "He's always been there for us. And when my Dad needed cataract surgery, it was Jimmy who said we had to go to Hopkins, because it was the leading medical institution in the world."

During a pre-operative checkup, doctors discovered a large aneurysm of the aortic arch.

"It was a significant problem and required very specific surgery," she said.

Cubby was so grateful that he wrote a $1 million check for the Wilmer Eye Clinic and another $1 million check to create the Center for Aortic Diseases (it was established in 1996). The Broccoli family later endowed the Dana & Albert "Cubby" Broccoli Professorship in Oncology. Dana died of breast cancer in 2004. Cubby died of a stroke in 1996.

`Problem solved'

Cubby was a surrogate father for D'Orta, who has served on the Board of Visitors for Johns Hopkins Medicine and is chairman of the board and CEO of the D.C.-based Consumer Health Services. D'Orta did his surgical training at the Johns Hopkins Community Surgery Program in Baltimore County before studying emergency medicine at Georgetown University. Soon after graduating from Georgetown in 1986, he was dining at the Dorchester Hotel in London with Cubby when a lawyer came to their table and announced a serious problem. Insurance companies would not let Broccoli film The Living Daylights in Morocco unless Broccoli had a doctor from the U.S. overseeing medical care.

"I got this problem solved," Cubby exclaimed. "I sent this kid to medical school to do this!"

"I went to Warzazat in the Atlas Mountains and set up the 007 M*A*S*H unit," D'Orta recalls over the phone. One day, the Crown Prince of Bahrain came to visit the set. While the Crown Prince went hunting for gazelle on the rim of the Sahara, using falcons, his bodyguards protected him on motorcycles. One of them fell off his bike and suffered severe head trauma. A Mercedes limo pulled up to the set and collected D'Orta, who found himself "sitting in the back with a little medical kit, next to an unconscious guy who had one pupil constricted and one pupil dilated."

Aboard the production company's 007 jet, D'Orta stopped the bleeding. In the hospital in Rabat, he drained the blood off the top of the patient's brain. But when he emerged in his splattered scrubs and tried to board the jet back to Warzazat, military officials threw him in jail because he'd left his passport on location.

"A 15-year-old was standing outside my jail cell with an Uzi while two pilots were negotiating for my release," D'Orta recalled.

The 12-hour ordeal ended when the Broccolis figured out how to spring him and Barbara roused the Warzazat airport manager from sleep in his casbah so he could open in the middle of the night. When D'Orta got off the plane in Warzazat, the only person he could see except for Barbara was Vanessa Redgrave, at the time involved with Timothy Dalton, the fourth Bond.

D'Orta had two thoughts: "It was like a scene out of a Bond movie, and ... I'm going home! I've had it!"

The ties that Bond

He didn't, though. He worked on the next three Bond movies and several other pictures. He also helped form the Maryland International Health Task Force to help restore Kuwait after the first Gulf War and chaired a commission that led to reform of Maryland's emergency medical system.

But like the rest of the Broccoli family, he's especially proud of the aortic disease center and its strides in care and research under its founding director, Dr. Vincent Gott. Gott now shares the directorship with Dr. Duke Cameron.

Gott retired from surgery in 1994 and said he was delighted to be asked to direct the Broccoli Center two years later. He never knew Cubby, but he did know Dana, "a remarkable woman" and "a great support" for the previous Bond benefit premieres at the Senator - Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, The World Is Not Enough in 1999 and Die Another Day in 2002.

"With each of those, we raised close to $200,000 for the center," Gott says. "The Broccoli Aortic Center has been great for public relations, helping us to attract interest from all over the country and around the world as we continue to perform major aortic surgeries and do extensive clinical work."

Apparently, once a person becomes part of the extended Bond family, tomorrow never dies. The center's directorship was never meant to be a full-time job, but Gott goes into the center every day. And D'Orta gave the new 007, Daniel Craig, his pre-production physical.

"I can tell you," D'Orta exults, "he's in excellent shape!"

Tickets remain for the benefit screening of Casino Royale Wednesday night at the Senator. A $100 ticket includes a champagne reception at 7:30, a gift bag of Bond or Baltimore Ravens memorabilia and a chance to participate in a silent auction. The movie starts at 8:30. For tickets, e-mail hopkinsheart@jhmi.edu or call 410-516-6609.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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