If this is an April Fool’s gag, it’s a good one

Given this is April 1, 007 fans, like people generally, are taking a skeptical look at items they think may be April Fool’s gags. So it is with A STORY IN THE U.K. SUN NEWSPAPER saying that Daniel Craig filmed a scene in Buckingham Palace that will be part of the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

An excerpt:

JAMES Bond star Daniel Craig is to open the 2012 Olympic Games ceremony after a personal invitation from The Queen.

(snip)
In the film, he arrives by Royal Appointment to be told his latest mission is to launch the Games.

Her Majesty may even make a cameo appearance but the Palace is keeping details a secret.

A billion people watching on TV around the world will see Bond getting his instructions before he is taken by helicopter to parachute into the Olympic stadium in Stratford, East London.

Daniel, 44, and a film crew headed by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle were given unprecedented access to The Queen’s private rooms on Tuesday.

The story was picked up on THE WEB SITE OF FOX SPORTS (both the Sun and Fox Sports are part of the Rupert Murdoch-led News Corp.); the WEB SITE OF PEOPLE MAGAZINE; and a number of NUMBER OF OTHER NEWS WEB SITES gleaned from typing in “Daniel Craig The Sun Buckingham Palace” into Google.

Meanwhile, also on April 1, another U.K. newspaper, the Express, reported that Craig had filmed at the palace for Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film.. Both the Sun and the Express used the same headline, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” (All capital letters for the Express, “secret service” not capitalized in the Sun).

(A tip of the cap to the MI6 James Bond fan Web site, which had THIS STORY about the dueling stories in the Sun and the Express.)

Casino Royale’s 45th anniversary: Oh no, 007!

April Fool’s Day is as good as any occasion to note this month marks the 45th anniversary of Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale, the producer’s 1967 send-up of 007.

Feldman, one-time agent (Albert R. Broccoli was one of his employees) turned producer, was nobody’s fool. He had produced films in a variety of genres such as 1948’s Red River (uncredited), 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 1955’s The Seven Year Itch and 1965’s What’s New Pussycat.

So, when he acquired the film rights to Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel in the early 1960s, Feldman recognized it had commercial potential even as the film series produced by one time associate Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was getting underway in 1962. (CLICK HERE for a post on Jeremy Duns’s Debrief blog for a more detailed history.)

Feldman tried to entice director Howard Hawks, his one-time colleague on Red River. Hawks was interested but the director backed out after seeing an early print of Dr. No with Sean Connery.

Feldman pressed on, signing distinguished screenwriter Ben Hecht to come up with a screenplay. Details of Hecht’s work were reported last year by Jeremy Duns in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper. Hecht died in 1964, while still working on the project.

By now, Eon’s series was reaching its peak of popularity with 1964’s Goldfinger and 1965’s Thunderball. Broccoli and Saltzman agreed to a co-production deal with Kevin McClory, holder of the film rights for Thunderball. James Bond, The Legacy, the 2002 book by John Cork and Bruce Scivally, presents a narrative of on-and-off talks between Feldman, Broccoli, Saltzman and United Artists, the studio releasing the Broccoli-Saltzman movies. In the end, talks broke down. (Behind the scenes, Broccoli and Saltzman had their own tensions to deal with, including Saltzman’s outside ventures such as his Harry Palmer series of films.).

So Feldman opted to go for farce, but not in a small way. His movie had an estimated budget, according to IMDB.com. of $12 million. The Cork-Scivally book put the figure at $10.5 million. Either way, it was more than the $9.5 million budget of You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Broccoli-Saltzman series. Twice’s outlay included $1 million for Ken Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set.

Feldman’s film didn’t have that kind of spectacle. But he did pay money (or Columbia Pictures’ money) for talent such as John Huston (one of five credited directors), David Niven (playing the “original” James Bond, brought out of retirement, who implies the Sean Connery version of the Broccoli-Saltzman series was assigned the James Bond name by MI6), Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress (now famous because of Dr. No), William Holden, Woody Allen and….well CLICK HERE to view the entire cast and crew.

Casino Royale, however, was less than the sum of its impressive parts. The humor is uneven, it doesn’t really have a story, despite employing a number screenwriters, including Wolf Mankowitz, who introduced Broccoli and Saltzman to each other. (For a more sympathetic view, CLICK HERE for a long essay on the subject.)

The’67 Casino managed a reported worldwide gross of $41.7 million. That was good in its day, though less than a third of Thunderball’s $141.7 million global box office.

Much has been written since 1967 about the stressful production, including reported feuds between Sellers and Welles. Perhaps all that took a toll on the film’s producer. Feldman died in May 1968, a little more than 13 months after Casino Royale’s premier, at age 64.

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