Could both 007 and U.N.C.L.E. end up in Rome?

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Rome is getting to be a popular place for spies.

Bond 24, according to a local film official, is to include a car chase in Rome. The Play 4 Movie website attributed the news to Luciano Sovena, president of the Roma Lazio Film Commission.

There aren’t many details. Sovena says on the website he’s met with the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, about it. “Barbara and Michael really count on it, they’re already excited,” Sovena is quoted as saying. (Thanks to the James Bond Dossier for the heads up.) It should be noted for Skyfall there were reports the producers were looking at India, but the production ended up doing its main location shooting in Turkey.

The 007 film series has been in Italy before, including three stops (From Russia With Love, Moonraker and Casino Royale) in Venice with three different leading men (Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig). The first time viewers see Roger Moore’s 007 in Live And Let Die, he’s back home from a mission M refers to as “the Rome affair.” It’s a passing reference (though we’re told Italian officials were impressed with Bond). It’s mostly to explain for the audience the presence of a woman Italian agent at Bond’s flat. (“They do seem to be missing one of their agents, a Miss Caruso.”)

Last year, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer also filmed in Rome. A fair amount of location shooting time for the film, which is due out in January 2015, was filmed in Rome and elsewhere in Italy. Here’s a video of the U.N.C.L.E. crew during the Rome shoot.

Some critiques from 007’s first Oscar winner

The James Bond Radio website had an interview with Norman Wanstall, the first James Bond movie Oscar winner. The sound effects editor, who won for Goldfinger, had a number of observations of interest.

Here’s a sampling:

– The current leaders of Eon Productions: “I think the biggest problem is, with all respect to the producers, they’re really not what I would call film producers. They’ve inherited the role. So now, they’ll feel because Skyfall was probably the biggest grosser of all time, they’ll feel, fine. They won’t realize the film itself wasn’t up to it. That’s dangerous. They need to be told.”

– Wanstall’s critique of Skyfall: “At one point, I was rather tempted to leave the cinema, which is of unheard of…After (Bond) had hung on to the bottom of the lift, I thought, forget it, it’s getting ridiculous. I knew there was no way for him to get into the building from the lift, so they faked it.”

–The unanswered letter: “Quantum of Solace, of course, is a complete disaster…I’ve often said to people if it was any film other than a Bond film, it would have been shelved. It was unshowable…After Quantum, I did actually write to the producers…I said I was supervising sound editor on six Bond films…we all love them, I said it’s just a terrible shame that you allowed so many things to go on to ruin it…People will always be loyal. But don’t take advantage of it.” Wanstall says he didn’t get a response.

–Wanstall says he can’t watch a Roger Moore 007 film these days. Meanwhile, Sean Connery is his favorite Bond.

The entire interview is embedded below. It runs almost one hour and 47 minutes.

The race to do an Edward Snowden movie

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

There’s a race to see who can do an Edward Snowden movie first.

In one corner is Sony Pictures and 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. In the other, according to various stories (including THIS ONE BY THE GUARDIAN) is director Oliver Stone.

Each project is based on separate books about Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of NSA surveillance programs to reporters. The Sony-Eon Productions project is based on a book by Glenn Greenwald. The Stone project on a book by Luke Harding.

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian about Stone’s project. The newspaper may have a bit of a rooting interest.

Stone’s thriller will focus on the experiences of the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency who leaked thousands of classified documents to the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald back in June 2013. The film is to be produced by Stone’s regular business partner Moritz Borman, with Harding and other Guardian journalists serving as production and story consultants.

“This is one of the greatest stories of our time,” Stone, 67, said in a statement. “A real challenge. I’m glad to have the Guardian working with us.” Stone’s previous films include Platoon, JFK and W. The director has also made documentaries on Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, together with a 2012 TV series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.

The Sony-Eon project was announced in May. Greenwald’s work for The Guardian about Snowden earned that newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for public service, which it shared with The Washington Post. The public service Pulitzer is given only to publications, not to particular individuals. Greenwald left The Guardian to start a website called The Intercept.

For now, the question is which project reaches theater screens first. Wilson and Broccoli have been involved in a number of non-Bond movie projects but haven’t had one become reality yet. Separately, Broccoli has been involved as a producer of a documentary (Stolen Childhoods), a made-for-television movie (Crime of the Century) and a public service short film (James Bond Supports International Women’s Day). Broccoli and Wilson together have also been involved in stage productions.

Wilson and Broccoli also have Bond 24, scheduled to start filming this fall for a 2015 release. Can they handle they handle that and get their Snowden project to theaters ahead of Oliver Stone? We’ll see. The Stone movie is supposed to start filming before the end of 2014.

Wilson and Broccoli to produce Snowden movie

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

The co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, are slated to produce a movie about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, entertainment news websites reported including VARIETY.COM and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony optioned “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State,” a book by journalist Glenn Greenwald, for Wilson and Broccoli to produce, according to the websites.

Several studios were seeking to make the book into a movie, The New York Times reported in October 2013. The Times, at that time, identified Barbara Broccoli as being part of the Sony effort. Sony’s Columbia Pictures has released the last three Bond movies and will do so again with 2015’s Bond 24.

Wilson and Broccoli have pursued a number of non-Bond film projects in recent years. It’s part of a new normal at Eon, where the principals want longer breaks between 007 movies to work on other projects.

Licence to Kill’s 25th: 007 flops in the U.S.

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Licence to Kill, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is mostly known for a series of “lasts” but also for a first.

It was the last of five 007 films directed by John Glen, the most prolific director in the series; the last of 13 Bond films where Richard Maibaum participated in the writing; it was the last with Albert R. Broccoli getting a producer’s credit (he would only “present” 1995’s GoldenEye); it was the last 007 movie with a title sequence designed by Maurice Binder; and the it was last 007 film where Pan Am was the unofficial airline of the James Bond series (it went out of business before GoldenEye).

It was also the first that was an unqualified flop in the U.S. market.

Bond wasn’t on Poverty Row when Licence to Kill began production in 1988. But neither did 007 travel entirely first class.

Under financial pressure from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which acquired half the franchise after buying United Artists earlier in the decade), Eon Productions moved the home base of the production to Mexico from Pinewood Studios.

Joining Timothy Dalton in his second (and last) outing as Bond was a cast mostly known for appearing on U.S. television, including Anthony Zerbe, Don Stroud, David Hedison (his second appearance as Felix Leiter), Pricilla Barnes, Rafer Johnson, Frank McRae as well as Las Vegas performer Wayne Newton.

Meanwhile, character actor Robert Davi snared the role of the film’s villain, with Carey Lowell and Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto as competing Bond women.

Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli’s stepson and co-producer, took the role as lead writer because a 1988 Writers Guild strike made Richard Maibaum unavailable. Maibaum’s participation didn’t extend beyond the plotting stage. The teaser trailer billed Wilson as the sole writer but Maibaum received co-writer billing in the final credits.

Wilson opted for a darker take, up to a point. He included Leiter having a leg chewed off by a shark from the Live And Let Die novel. He also upped the number of swear words compared with previous 007 entries. But Wilson hedged his bets with jokes, such as Newton’s fake preacher and a scene where Q shows off gadgets to Bond.

Licence would be the first Bond film where “this time it’s personal.” Bond goes rogue to avenge Leiter. Since then, it has almost always been personal for 007. Because of budget restrictions, filming was kept to Florida and Mexico.

The end product didn’t go over well in the U.S. Other studios had given the 16th 007 film a wide berth for its opening weekend. The only “new” movie that weekend was a re-release of Walt Disney Co.’s Peter Pan.

Nevertheless, Licence finished an anemic No. 4 during the July 14-16 weekend, coming in behind Lethal Weapon 2 (in its second weekend), Batman (in its fourth weekend) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (also fourth weekend).

Glen and Maibaum were done with Bond, the latter being part of the 007 series since its inception.

Initial pre-production of the next 007 film proceeded without the two series veterans. Wilson wrote a treatment in 1990 for Bond 17 with Alfonse Ruggiero but that story was never made.

That’s because Broccoli would enter into a legal fight with MGM that meant Bond wouldn’t return to movie screens for another six years. By the time production resumed, Eon started over, using a story by Michael France as a beginning point for what would become GoldenEye. Maibaum, meanwhile, died in early 1991.

Today, some fans like to blame MGM’s marketing campaign or other major summer 1989 movies such as Batman or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But Licence came out weeks after either of those blockbusters. In the end, the U.S. audience didn’t care for Licence. The movie’s total U.S. box office of $34.7 million didn’t match Batman’s U.S. opening weekend of $40.5 million. Licence’s U.S. box office was almost a third less than its 007 predecessor, The Living Daylights.

Licence to Kill did better in other markets. Still, Licence’s $156.2 million in worldwide ticket sales represented an 18 percent decline from The Living Daylights.

For Dalton, Glen, Maibaum and even Broccoli (he yielded the producer’s duties on GoldenEye because of ill health), it was the end of the road.

Bond 24 to have new Aston, Wilson tells ITN

Bond 24 will include a new Aston Martin model, Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson told ITN News.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson


ITN covered had a story about the opening of the BOND IN MOTION show in the U.K. featuring vehicles from the 007 film series. Wilson was interviewed along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli.

“The next film by the way, we’re going to have a new Aston that people haven’t seen yet,” Wilson said. He didn’t provide additional details. His comments about Bond 24 start around the 45-second mark of the ITN video.

Skyfall, the most recent Bond film, used an Aston Martin DB5, the same model that debuted in 1964’s Goldfinger. The movie’s main automotive product placement deal was with Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands. Bond 24 is scheduled for release in fall 2015.

Also, here’s a shoutout to the Commander Bond website, which had a story about the ITN report earlier.

A Bond for all seasons; how 007 endures

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming


By Nicolás Suszczyk

Who was the best James Bond? Which is the Best Bond film?

We often ask and we often fight in boards, Facebook groups, Twitter posts, etc. Want to know my answer? Pierce Brosnan and GoldenEye. Still, I get along with every Bond and every film very well, despite those I don’t like very much, i.e. Quantum of Solace.

But besides many people are a child of their generation or relate to their favorite Bond actor/film to his first memories, there are many reasons to consider every 007 film was great and every Bond actor was unique. They represented a particular time in society.

Back in 2005, Daniel Craig was the most “hated” newcomer James Bond -– mainly thanks to the Internet and the famous CraigNotBond.com site. We can remember Daniel wasn’t only criticized for his looks but for representing an opposition to the style set by Pierce Brosnan in four James Bond films, a style reminiscent to the Roger Moore era with typical “save the world” and “get the girl” plots with a pinch of drama.

But Craig promised a grittier and tougher Bond, his muscular body giving us a hint of that, and fans couldn’t really get it.

It is funny to see what happens now, with Daniel Craig being established as a successful 007 after three films: Casino Royale, his follow-up Quantum of Solace and the Academy Award winning Skyfall, also the most successful Bond film to date. Now there are lots of people out there blaming the Pierce Brosnan era calling his Bond “weak”, “without charm” and with “stupid plots”.

This makes me think and evaluate every Bond and Bond film not as standalone plots or just thinking about the actor, but going beyond the film and actor and thinking of the sociopolitical/cultural era they were released. Why does Bond battle a media-tycoon in Tomorrow Never Dies? Why does Bond go to outer space in Moonraker? Why the Miami Vice-style villains and plot in Licence to Kill?

The answer is simple: the era in which the film was released.

It’s perfectly logical Bond has to face a guy like Franz Sánchez: his American friend works with the DEA, he was captured and tortured, his wife killed, Bond seeks revenge on his own –- and obviously, Auric Goldfinger won’t be his villain, he’ll have to face a ruthless drug dealer with his butchers. The same way a man obsessed with increasing his value of gold won’t be a drug dealer in 1964. In 1989, you could obviously expect plots like Miami Vice or Die Hard.

Of course, if Star Wars rings a bell to you, then you’d understand why 007 went to outer space in 1979, the same way in 1997 communications and technology were involving every day and you could create a war using mass media – oh, by the way, remember how the media was involved in the Gulf War from the 1990s?

Ian Fleming began writing his novels in the early ‘50s and the Broccoli-Saltzman duo adapted the plots to the ‘60s, respecting the standards set by the British spy, journalist and author, but making them suitable for the time we were living.

That’s why Goldfinger tries to irradiate Fort Knox and ties the secret agent to a laser beam instead of stealing the gold or using a buzz-saw. The same reason the guano plot from Dr. No the novel is no match for the rocket toppling the evil doctor plans in the 1962 film. And of course, the abundance of girls had to be there (the swinging ‘60s) in the first Bond cinematic adventure, instead of letting Honey Ryder being the only girl in the whole adventure.

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

Fifty years later, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli go straight the same way: they respect the origins of the character, but they also give a look at the times we’re living. Plenty of situations in Casino Royale and Skyfall were lifted from the Fleming books: Bond’s “death” at the end of You Only Live Twice with M’s obit, the Glencoe settings where Fleming tells us Bond was born, and 007’s decadent situation and re-shaped for duty just like at the beginning of The Man With The Golden Gun.

We all have our hearts, people. Mine is, of course, with that first glance at the GoldenEye film and game and the cardboard Tomorrow Never Dies standee I came across at a shopping mall being a kid in the ‘90s. That was “James Bond” for me as today “James Bond” is what people see in Skyfall or what my parents or my uncle watched in the Roger Moore era (some of them still complaining about the few gadgets in Quantum of Solace).

But Bond was made for all seasons. Perhaps that’s why we all get the “James Bond Will Return” credit at the end of every film!

Wilson & Broccoli, an appreciation

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, are scheduled to get an award from the Producers Guild on Jan. 19. The half-siblings this week were featured in a write-up on Variety.com previewing the event.

Evaluations of second-generation business leaders (and running the Bond franchise qualifies as a business) can vary. Occasionally, the second-generation outshines the first (think Thomas Watson Jr. of IBM). Sometimes, the second generation’s ambitions are frustrated by the first (think Edsel Ford). Sometimes, the second generation can make its own mark that’s simply different than the first (think Richard D. Zanuck).

In any case, it can be a balancing act. In the case of the 007 franchise, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was a co-founder and a showman. His stepson and daughter succeeded him in the 1990s but had entirely different styles.

Wilson and Broccoli’s main accomplishment may have been to deal with changing executive regimes at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman initially had the support of a firmly entrenched group of executives at United Artists, including Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin and David Picker. That began to change in the 1970s (and after Saltzman departed the series). MGM acquired UA in the early ’80s and changes in the executive suite accelerated.

Also, Wilson and Broccoli were handed the reins in the midst of a six-year hiatus that might have killed the series. In the 21st century, MGM went through bankruptcy, another time of uncertainty.

Wilson and Broccoli may not have the publicity flair that Albert R. Broccoli had. Wilson has his P.T. Barnum moments, where his statements don’t always square with each other. Barbara Broccoli can rely on a few catch phrases such as “the money’s on the screen.”

Still, the pair remain in charge of the Bond franchise, which will result in the start of production of Bond 24 later this year.

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.

Are cameos in movies worth it?

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo right after his "directed by" credit in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest

This fall, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series wondered if the show’s original stars would have a cameo in a new film version underway. Some fans were vocal, arguing that of course they should.

It’s not known if such a cameo took place for the U.N.C.L.E. movie. (Robert Vaughn said more than once he’d welcome the opportunity; David McCallum made comments suggesting he wouldn’t participate.) The subject though got this blog to thinking: are such cameos worth it, or are they more of a distraction for a finished film?

The king of such cameos was director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in his more than 50 films. They can be something of a mixed bag. In North by Northwest, he appears right after his “directed by” credit as a man missing his bus in New York City. The appearance, in effect, is an extension of the main titles designed by Saul Bass. At this point, the viewer hasn’t been watching the actual story of the film.

In other cases, Hitchcock’s appearance almost draw attention to themselves. In 1969’s Topaz, there’s an airport scene. The viewer is drawn to Hitchock, in a wheelchair, guided by a nurse. Hitchcock meets a man, abruptly stands up and shakes the man hand before walking off. By this point, more than 20 minutes of the story have been told. You could argue it’s a distraction, although it’s over pretty quickly.

In the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been performing cameos for decades. Again, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. In some cases (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough), they’re fleeting, something for the hard-core fans while more casual 007 cinema goers aren’t likely to notice. In others (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale), they draw attention to themselves. Here are some:

The interest among U.N.C.L.E. fans whether the movie has cameos is different. Vaughn and McCallum established the original show’s popularity. There’d be no movie if there hadn’t been a television show in the first place. If one was filmed, would it distract from the Guy Ritchie-directed story? The counter question: do you owe it to the original actors if they’re interested? (Especially since Ritchie appears to have squeezed former soccer star David Beckham into the movie.)

None of these questions have right or wrong answers. Fan tastes vary. Hitchcock fans, for example, take pleasure in trying to spot the director’s cameos. In any case, it’s likely such cameos will continue in movies.

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