The Bond of the 1990s

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Does anyone remember the 1990s?

Beverly Hills 90210, the Backstreet Boys, the fall of Communism, Claudia Schiffer everywhere, the rise of the Nintendo and Sega videogames, Windows, Internet… so much stuff to make us all feel a little nostalgic and perhaps a bit old, too.

Now we can watch once again on YouTube, in that standard VHS quality, we might now consider bad footage of a long haired and beardy man in a dark suit being surrounded by thousands of cameras and photographers, next to producers Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and a director called Martin Campbell.

It was 20 years ago. The man was Pierce Brosnan. And this moment was the return of James Bond.

The franchise had its weak moments before, but in the longest gap in the franchise history between 1989 and 1994, Bond seemed really dead, without a chance to survive the post Cold War era or the legal troubles surrounding Danjaq and MGM.

Even with the necessary reboot in 2006 with Casino Royale after the somewhat exaggerated Die Another Day, there was probably no bigger buzz about Bond being outdated than in these five years, for many reasons: (a) Agent 007 was a product of the Cold War, and there was no more Cold War, (b) Licence to Kill was a commercial failure and had weak reviews, and (c) too many years were passing without Bond.

By no means was the return of 007 in the form of Daniel Craig unimportant. It certainly was, but it was expected James Bond would return. By the early 1990s, with only the TV cartoon James Bond Jr. and some telefilm Ian Fleming biopics, the “man on the street” would have many doubts of watching our hero back in the silver screen. Some headlines even called Licence to Kill “007’s final mission.”

This is why June 8, 1994, will be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of the cinematic agent 007.

With a thousand journalists and photographers from all over the world, Brosnan promised to show us “what is beneath the surface of this man, what makes him a killer,” but also maintain the elements that made him famous: “He’s still a ladies man, yes.”

(Essay continues below the videos)

From that day on, the name of James Bond, sentenced to be part of a retro club subject of conversations years before, was being heard again everywhere, including in Papua New Guinea, where Brosnan, shooting Robinson Crusoe, was recognized by a group of children as the secret agent.

The Brosnan era firmly represented the ‘90s, in the humor, the costumes, the music and the scripts.

GoldenEye (1995) offered us a classic story with some twists. The old Communists were back –- in jokes included –- but also with explicit sex scenes; a metallic and modern score by Eric Serra; and, of course, the inclusion of something that was starting to change our lives, the Internet (Natalya asks for an IBM Computer with 650 MB hard drive, basically one-sixteenth the capacity of our iPad;), the 007 vs 006 rivalty, first time a 00 agent –- a friend of Bond — goes rogue.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) opted for a more pragmatic and less brainy idea by having media tycoon Elliott Carver using his empire to make a war between China and Britain (action, action, action everywhere).

The World Is Not Enough (1999), being the last Bond of the 20th century, provided a twist by having as a villain a woman he fell for, with Sophie Marceau having the distinction of being the first female mastermind in a 007 film.

The 40th anniversary adventure, 2002′s Die Another Day, might have been a weak film in many aspects, but it also had its dosage of drama and violence (i.e. a depiction of torture as part of the main titles).

Even when nowadays Pierce says his Bond wasn’t “good enough” and that he doesn’t dare to watch his own Bond movies, his contribution to the franchise was more than memorable and needed.

Brosnan not only resurrected Bond but also brought a new generation of fans. The end of Cold War couldn’t kill James Bond.

The 21st century 007 meme: a Bond who isn’t Bond (yet)

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

In the 21st century, there have been four James Bond films, two Bond actors and four directors. But there has been one thing in common over a decade: Bond either has lost his Bond mojo (and needs to get it back) or he’s not really Bond yet.

The trend began with 2002′s Die Another Day. Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is captured during a mission in North Korea and is tortured over the next 14 months. He’s eventually returned to the U.K. authorities, but not under good circumstances. He’s suspected of having spilled his guts and a prisoner exchange was set up. 007 proceeds on a mission of personal revenge.

In the DVD extras, writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade describe the storyline as how Bond becomes Bond again. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, in his last film mission, succeeds.

Four years later, Eon Productions rebooted the franchise with Casino Royale and new star Daniel Craig. The film’s publicity stressed how this wasn’t a smooth, fully formed Bond. The James Bond Theme wasn’t heard until the very end of the movie after Craig’s 007 has endured a betrayal at the hands of Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Now, he’s supposed to be a fully formed Bond.

Not so fast. With 2008′s Quantum of Solace, Bond still isn’t fully formed. During filming, Eon Productions stressed how the Casino storyline was so engrossing, it needed another film to play out. Thus, no James Bond gunbarrel at the start of the movie. That doesn’t appear until the end of the film, which implies Bond now is fully formed.

Four years later, with Skyfall, Bond is, more or less, where he was at the start of Die Another Day, i.e. a fully formed 007. Except, by the end of the pre-titles sequence, he has been shot by another MI6 operative and presumed dead.

He goes into a period of depression and alcohol dependence. In other words, he’s no longer a fully formed 007. At this point, the Craig Bond is, more or less, at the same point, that Brosnan/Bond was after the prisoner exchange in Die Another Day.

Craig/Bond rallies after seeing MI6 has been attacked but still has a lot of issues to deal with. Judi Dench’s M clears him for duty despite being told he’s nowhere near ready. He wears a scruffy beard until well into his mission. By the end of the film, he’s again a fully formed 007 (symbolized by the gunbarrel again being used at the end of the movie).

As Bond 24 begins production later this year (for a 2015 release), the question is whether we have a fully formed Bond (think, among other films, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, The Living Daylights) all the way through the story or will 007 again have a mojo crisis.

Writers Purvis and Wade, who’ve been involved in the various versions of the incomplete 007/007 who has lost his mojo aren’t scheduled to be part of this production. So we’ll see.

Daniel Kleinman discusses his influences

Jack Kirby self portrait

Jack Kirby (1917-1994) self portrait


Daniel Kleinman, who has designed the main titles for six James Bond movies, did an interview in April with the ART OF THE TITLE Web site. Kleinman discussed the titles and what has influenced his work. A few excerpts:

Bond title sequences obviously carry a huge legacy and they often present the themes and settings of the film they precede. What’s the starting point for a new Bond sequence? The script? A cut of the film?

The starting point for me is always the script; I am usually brought into the process before the film has started shooting or at least in very early stages of production. I read the script and get a sense of the main themes of the movie, perhaps start to have a few ideas, brainstorm with myself a bit, write lists, get excited, look for reference, and start sketching. Next I meet with the producers and the director of the film to get a clear idea of the vibe of the film and be aware of any input or requirements for the title sequence. Then, I explain how I see the tone of the titles perhaps with rough sketches and reference. I rarely see a cut of the film until quite late in the process but I do see some individual scenes particularly the ones that lead into and out of the title sequence. There is a back and forth process.

What were some of your stylistic influences?

I have very eclectic tastes! I trained as an artist and designer, so I love painting and film. I collected comics as a boy and was drawn to Aubrey Beardsley, Gustave Doré, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Blake, Saul Bass, Windsor McKay, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Magritte, Bosh, Géricault, George Grosz, Hokusai, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Holbein, Dürer, Arthur Rackham, Heath and Charles Robinson — actually the list is fairly endless!

One of Kleinman's influences

One of Kleinman’s influences

What are some of your favorite title sequences in general, whether film or television?

As a child I loved the opening to The Man From Uncle. The way Napoleon Solo stands behind the bulletproof glass being shot at perhaps subliminally influenced my mirror scene in Skyfall. Get Smart was a good one. Man with the Golden Arm was a great visual. Oddly, I’ve never really taken a great deal of notice of title sequences. I didn’t set out to do them and I don’t do any other than Bond, which I do for fun. I’m really an advertising director and therefore shoot a lot of disparate types of things. I suppose I don’t think of myself as a title sequence director.

To read the entire interview, CLICK HERE.

To view the Jack Kirby entry on Wikipedia, CLICK HERE.

To view the Steve Ditko entry on Wikipedia, CLICK HERE.

Hawaii Five-0′s fixation with Die Another Day

DADposter

Goldfinger said, “Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: `Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”‘

We’re way beyond coincidence now. Clearly, the makers of CBS’s Hawaii Five-0, a remake of the 1968-80 television series, have a thing for Die Another Day, the 20th James Bond movie, released in 2002.

The April 15 installment featured an episode where the setting, for the second time in consecutive seasons, was set in North Korea. One of the villains was played by Rick Yune, who played Zao, the “physical villain” of Die Another Day.

Well, that could be happenstance, you say. Except, the show previously has had Will Yun Lee, who played North Korean Colonel Moon (who transforms himself into Gustav Graves, played by Toby Stephens), from the same movie. Lee has had a recurring role since the start of the show.

More tellingly, a November 2011 episode borrowed even more from Die Another Day. In that episode, scenes set in North Korea are photographed so they’re all dark while scenes set in other locales have bright colors. Also, there’s a scene where McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) is tortured much the same way that Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tortured in the 2002 Bond movie.

We’re definitely passed coincidence. Die Another Day these days tends to get mixed reviews among 007 fans. But it seems clear that it has fans among the Five-0 crew.

EARLIER POSTS:
McGarrett 2.0 clearly has never watched Die Another Day (Nov. 21, 2011)

Compare Die Another Day vs. Hawaii Five-0 (Nov. 24, 2011)

Raymond Benson starts a blog

Raymond Benson's Die Another Day remains the most recent 007 film novelization. Photo copyright © Paul Baack

Raymond Benson


UPDATE: Benson deleted a Dr. No post and put up another one titled IN PRAISE OF STANLEY KUBRICK is in its place.

ORIGINAL POST (with appropriate deletions): Raymond Benson, the former James Bond continuation novel author, has started a blog, Blog Benson.

The author describes Blog Benson it as a “storehouse of random and useless thoughts, usually about various Baby Boomer ‘things’ with regard to movies, music, books, theatre, and whatever strikes my fancy.”

Benson wrote six Bond continuation novels that were published between 1997 and 2002 as well as novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

MI6 Confidential’s new issue looks at Skyfall

mi6no19

MI6 Confidential’s new issue with a look at Skyfall that includes an interviews with two of its screenwriters as well as the son of Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson.

Here’s an excerpt from the magazine’s WEB SITE:

Whilst pundits’ predictions of Skyfall’s success definitely rang true, the 23rd Bond adventure surely surpassed even the most optimistic auspices, both in terms of substance, and box office success. This issue celebrates that success, with a look at the global promotion and Royal World Premiere, and we turn back the clock to pre-production as screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade describe the genesis of the Skyfall screenplay in an exclusive interview.

Purvis and Wade, after a five-film 007 run, have said they’re departing the series. From The World Is Not Enough through Skyfall, they’ve done the early drafts of Bond scripts with (for the most part) other writers revising their work.

Also interviewed is Gregg Wilson, whose first name matches his father’s middle name. The younger Wilson has been working his way up the Eon chain. His named appeared as a byline of a magazine story that Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is reading about Gustav Graves in 2002′s Die Another Day. By Quantum of Solace, he had a real credit in the main titles as assistant producer. For Skyfall, he carried the title of associate producer.

The new issue also has a story about Judi Dench, who concluded a 17-year as M and a feature about Naomie Harris, whose agent Eve turned out to be the new Miss Moneypenny at the end of Skyfall.

For more information about contents and ordering, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros depending on where you live.

Purvis & Wade, an appreciation

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, 007 screenwriters in residence for 15 years, confirmed this week to Collider.com that THEY’RE DEPARTING THE 007 FRANCHISE. That ends a run of five films, tying them for second among credited screenwriters in the 23-film series produced by Eon Productions.

The writing duo stir mixed reactions among fans. The thing is, it’s difficult to exactly measure the contributions they made to their five Bond films. They shared the screenplay credit with other writers on four of their five films. Some of those other scribes (in particular, Paul Haggis on Casino Royale) won praise. Stories SUCH AS THIS ONE mentioned Haggis and his Oscars without mentioning Purvis and Wade who wrote the early drafts of the script. Meanwhile, late drafts referred to Haggis’ contributions as revisions of Purvis and Wade’s work.

It does appear Purvis and Wade worked hard to evoke Ian Fleming without always having a lot of Ian Fleming material to work with aside from Casino Royale. They managed to rework story elements from Moonraker that had been dropped while the 11th 007 movie was being developed for 2002′s Die Another Day. For Skyfall, they used parts of the You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun novels as a springboard for the story.

Writing a James Bond movie is undoubtedly a lot harder than it looks, something Paul Haggis found out when he returned to write a second 007 film, Quantum of Solace. Still, Eon kept bringing the duo back, even if they hired others to revamp their work.

We noted Purvis and Wade are tied for second among credited Eon-Bond screenwriters. The person they’re tied with is Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss who had a bit of inside track to co-write his five 007 movies from 1981 through 1989 given that Albert R. Broccoli was his stepfather. No. 1, of course, is Richard Maibaum, whose 13 Bond script credits between 1962 and 1989 aren’t likely to be surpassed.

Purvis and Wade can say they’re going out on a high. Skyfall, their finale, is now the No. 1 movie in 007 ticket sales unadjusted for inflation. John Logan, the latest scribe hired to revamp a Purvis-Wade script with Skyfall, has been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

You can CLICK HERE to view the Collider.com story on Purvis and Wade. You can CLICK HERE to read a 2002 interview HMSS’s Tom Zielinski had with the writers. You can CLICK HERE to view a 2007 interview HMSS had with Purvis and Wade.

Die Another Day’s 10th anniversary: an abrupt end

A decade ago this month, the 20th James Bond movie, Die Another Day premiered. In hindsight, what was going on behind the scenes was more interesting than the movie itself.

The film turned out to be actor Pierce Brosnan’s final turn as 007. The actor, in publicizing the movie, indicated that producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli wanted him back for a fifth appearance. The co-bosses of Eon Productions, however, may have been undergoing a creative mid-life crisis.

In interviews years after Die Another Day came out, Wilson and Broccoli described the early 2000s as personally frustrating. “I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” Wilson TOLD THE NEW YORK TIMES IN OCTOBER 2005. Apparently, the duo felt at this point they were still carrying the flame for Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves,” Wilson told the Times in ’05.

In any case, Die Another Day was the end not only of Brosnan’s run but of the series that had begun 40 years earlier. When Bond next appeared onscreen, in 2006′s Casino Royale, Eon would start over with an entirely different continuity and a new Bond, Daniel Craig.

Die Another Day contained numerous references to the 007 series, including a sequence where Brosnan-Bond and Q (John Cleese) are in a storage area of gadgets, including the Thunderball jet pack. Q gives Bond a watch with a laser beam (Bond’s 20th watch, we’re told). Halle Berry as Jinx, a U.S. operative, made an entrance in a bikini, modeled after Ursula Andress’s first appearance in Dr. No.

The movie also suffers from personality disorder. The first half is more or less serious (with bits of humor) and a de facto adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker novel. The second half veers into fantasy with an invisible car and Bond barely staying ahead of a tidal wave.

At the box office, Die Another Day was a hit, with almost $432 million in worldwide ticket sales, a 19 percent jump from 1999′s The World Is Not Enough. In the U.S. and Canada, the 20th 007 film sold $167.4 million in tickets, a 27 percent increase from the previous 007 entry. But that didn’t prevent the abrupt end of the Brosnan era.

John Logan hired to write Bond 24, Daily Mail says

Skyfall co-scripter John Logan

And so it begins. Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, opens in the U.K. on Oct. 26 (Nov. 9 in the U.S.) and we’ve already had the first major report about Bond 24. The Daily Mail in a story you can read BY CLICKING HERE says Eon Productions has hired John Logan to write Bond 24.

An excerpt:

Bond 24 is already in pre-pre-production and the plan is for it to start shooting at Pinewood Studios around this time next year and be ready for cinemas in the autumn of 2014.

Screenwriter John Logan has been hired to write Bond 24…(snip) On Skyfall, he was brought in by director Sam Mendes and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to re-write the existing Skyfall screenplay that had been created by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The writer is Baz Bamigboye, who has had a number of scoops about Skyfall that panned out. The Daily Mail has a trashy reputation in general but Bamigboye had a decent track record for accuracy for Skyfall. We’ll see if it’s true.

If the Daily Mail writer is accurate, that would indicate there is a serious effort to get Bond 24 out in two years’ time. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wants it (the studio said in court papers filed during a 2010 bankruptcy it wanted to get the 007 series back on an every-other-year schedule). Sony Pictures wants it (an executive has already told theater executives it plans to release Bond 24 in 2014). Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t publicly committed to it.

Meanwhile, 007 movies have a bit of mixed history with screenwriters delivering late drafts who won acclaim along the way.

Bruce Feirstein did the final drafts of 1995′s Goldeneye but had a rough time with 1997′s Tomorrow Never Dies. Feirstein was the only credited writer on Tomorrow but his first draft was drastically revamped by a number of other writers before Feirstein was brought back. Feirstein’s final 007 film credit was 1998′s The World Is Not Enough, where he rewrote the initial Purvis-Wade effort.

Paul Haggis got a lot of good press for 2006′s Casino Royale, where he revised a Purvis-Wade script. Haggis’s follow up effort for 2008′s Quantum of Solace (where he shared credit with Purvis and Wade) weren’t nearly as well received.

Meanwhile, if you CLICK HERE you can read a 2002 interview Purvis and Wade gave to HMSS about Die Another Day, one of the five 007 movies they’ve worked on.

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