William A. Graham, first director on The FBI, dies

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

An end titles from the first season of The FBI

William A. Graham, who directed six of the first 11 episodes of The FBI, including the pilot and first broadcast episode, has died, according to obituaries at the Los Angeles Times, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

The various obituaries referenced other Graham credits including the final Elvis Presley movie, Change of Habit, and episodes of The X-Files.

In 1965, producer Quinn Martin tapped Graham to helm the pilot for The FBI (which was the fourth broadcast episode) and the first episode to be shown on ABC. Graham had a variety of television directing credits, according to his his IMDB.com entry.

David Picker, key UA executive, publishes memoir

Picker: Diamonds Are Forever saved the franchise

Picker: Diamonds Are Forever saved the franchise


David Picker, a United Artists executive who helped get the James Bond film franchise off the ground, has come out with a memoir, MUSTS, MAYBES AND NEVERS.

Picker, 82, provided a detailed description to THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE and its editor in chief, Nikki Finke. Here’s an excerpt concerning the 007 series. It begins with how Picker pushed 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to bring Sean Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever:

It’s a book about movies that I was actually part of – from getting Sean Connery to come back and do one more James Bond film and save the franchise…

(snip)

James Bond – briefly: Why did it take years (seven books worth) before James Bond came to the screen? Couldn’t any intelligent studio production executive see that Bond was a franchise waiting to happen? The answer is complex. Sometimes everything has to fall in place…

…Bud Ornstein, the head of UA London production called and said that Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were coming to New York and they wanted to meet with Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin, Arnold Picker and me. I set up the date. Harry, Cubby and Harry’s lawyer, Irving Moskowitz, sat in Arthur Krim’s office with Bob Benjamin, Arnold Picker and me. I usually sat to the left of Arthur’s desk, often with one of my long legs propped on the corner of the desk so I could tilt my chair back. Cubby was the first to speak. “We own the rights to James Bond. Are you interested?”

My leg came down and my chair hit the ground with a thud. And 007 began his screen life.

Picker was one of the biggest backers of the Bond series in the UA executive offices. His description about the book’s contents to Finke is much longer and mentions various films. You can read it BY CLICKING HERE

You can order the book from Amazon BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE (Sept. 28): On Amazon.com, the book’s preview includes the table of contents and part of the index. There’s a chapter devoted to the 007 series and different aspects of the movies are referenced in the index. Non-Bond topics in the book include studios operating as part of larger conglomerates, including flak United Artists executives got from Transamerica Corp. Picker also discusses successful movies he let get away. Finally, Picker discusses people he worked with such as diverse as the Beatles, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kramer.

Sony watch: investor criticizes movie unit

sonylogo

A major Sony Corp. investor has stepped up criticism of the company’s movie unit, Sony Pictures, which releases James Bond films.

The hedge fund, in its SECOND-QUARTER LETTER TO ITS INVESTORS, said Sony Pictures, part of Sony’s entertainment business, this summer had “released 2013’s versions of Waterworld and Ishtar back-to-back” with After Earth and White House Down. “From a creative point of view, we are concerned about Entertainment’s 2014 and 2015 slate, which lacks lucrative `tent pole’ franchises. Anecdotally, we understand that its development pipeline is bleak, despite overspending on numerous projects.”

Sony schedule includes Spider-Man movies for 2014, 2016 and 2018 and Bond 24 for 2015. With the Bond films, Sony splits the take with Eon Productions/Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Sony has released the last three 007 films, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

Third Point wants Sony to sell a piece of the U.S. entertainment business to the public. The company is considering the proposal.

In the latest letter to investors, Third Point said the entertainment unit “remains poorly managed, with a famously bloated corporate structure, generous perk packages, high salaries for underperforming senior executives, and marketing budgets that do not seem to be in line with any sense of return on capital invested.”

You can view Variety’s take on what all this means BY CLICKING HERE. You can CLICK HERE for Deadline Hollywood’s story.

UPDATE: You can also CLICK HERE for a story in the Los Angeles Times.

Forster’s World War Z scores No. 2 at U.S. box office

Marc Forster while directing Quantum of Solace

Marc Forster while directing Quantum of Solace

The Marc Forster-directed World War Z finished No. 2 at the U.S. box office this weekend, with $66 million in ticket sales, according to the Box Office Mojo Web site. It finished behind Monsters University at $82 million and ahead of Man of Steel, on its second U.S. weekend, at $41.2 million.

World War Z, with Brad Pitt as star and producer, shared some things with the Forster-directed Quantum of Solace: script problems and a high budget. Paramount Pictures, however, unlike Sony Pictures with Quantum, was willing to delay its movie so a new ending could be written and filmed.

World War Z, which concerns a mysterious plague that turns people into fast-moving zombies, cost an estimated $190 million to make, less than Quantum even with the reshoots and more elaborate special effects.

Forster and World War Z initially got some bad publicity about the reshoots (which delayed the film’s release from late 2012), including a VANITY FAIR STORY. But as the movie got released and reviewed, the publicity turned positive, including A SYMPATHETIC STORY ABOUT FORSTER on the Deadline: Hollywood site.

An early Bond 24 accuracy checklist

Bond 24 writer John Logan

Bond 24 writer John Logan

Nobody *really* knows when Bond 24, the next 007 film, will come out, but over the last six months, enough has occurred to start an accuracy checklist concerning news reports about the movie.

John Logan hired to write Bond 24: reported by the U.K. Daily Mail on OCT. 25, 2012.

John Logan hired to write both Bond 24 *and* Bond 25: Reported by the Deadline Hollywood Web site on OCT. 26, 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED? Barbara Broccoli in an interview on the Crave Online Web site published NOV. 12, 2012 denied it.

Congratulations on signing John Logan for two more scripts.

Barbara Broccoli: Well, we are working on another film in the future but we actually haven’t announced that we’re going to do two. We don’t know what we’re going to be doing.

Oh, so what was the news that he had a two-story arc?

Barbara Broccoli: That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.

However, the same week, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said on a conference call with investors that Logan had been hired to write the next two Bond films. Check.

Sam Mendes, after saying he wouldn’t direct Bond 24, is considering doing just that: reported by Deadline Hollywood in a story on May 28, 2013.

WHAT HAPPENED. Mendes, in an interview on the Stage News Web site published June 12, 2013 confirms that’s happening.

Mendes, whose Bond debut as director of Skyfall last year turned out to the most commercially successful of all the 007 films, grossing more than £100 million at the domestic UK box office alone and over $1 billion globally, added that he is in discussions to direct the next Bond film.

“But nothing is going to be determined until Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [now previewing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane] has opened,” he said. “I’m literally here from 8.30am to midnight every day, and it occupies every inch of my attention. So we’ll make decisions about that once Charlie has opened.”

Check.

Meanwhile, much less certain, is that actress Penelope Cruz will be in Bond 24, the subject of many stories. To see a sampling, CLICK HERE.

In general, news about Bond 24 is likely to leak out before any official announcements, similar to WHAT HAPPENED WITH SKYFALL. The trick will be to figure which reports are on target (despite denials) and which aren’t.

UPDATE (June 15): Here’s one more. The Oct. 25 Daily Mail story cited above was also the first to report that the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were departing the Bond film series. The writers confirmed that development in a Nov. 19 story on Collider.com. Check.

Sam Mendes’ Hamlet moment

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

To direct Bond 24 or not to direct
That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler to stay with the stage,
Or to have my cake and eat it, too

–With apologies to William Shakespeare

When Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, said he couldn’t direct Bond 24, one of the reasons he cited were stage commitments, including a new production of King Lear. But if A MAY 28 REPORT ON THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT WEB SITE is correct, Mendes will likely direct the next 007 film anyway. It’s as if Mendes were channeling a different Shakespeare character: Hamlet.

Deadline had a number of scoops about Skyfall — including that Mendes was in talks to direct the film — that turned out to be true. So did Baz Bagimboye of the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail who found himself chasing the U.S. entertainment Web site. In THIS STORY, Bagimboye wrote:

Just two weeks ago I was told Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson were in preliminary talks with Batman film-maker Chris Nolan. They well may have talked but he’s not doing it. Mendes is.
(snip)

The situation now is that the Bond family has told Mendes they will wait until all his theatre projects are out of the way and then he can commit to Bond 24 full-time. Mendes, unofficially, has agreed.
(snip)
I was told Mendes was back in talks just as my friends at Deadline Hollywood broke the news tonight.

Sources close to the 007 production confirmed to me tonight that ‘talks have re-opened’ with Mendes to make the next Bond picture.

As a result, it’s hard to pass all this off as mere rumor — especially after Barabra Broccoli DENIED THAT JOHN LOGAN HAD BEEN HIRED TO WRITE BOND 24 AND BOND 25 while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CEO Gary Barber CONFIRMED DAYS LATER THAT LOGAN HAD BEEN HIRED. Various news accounts WERE PROVEN TO BE TRUE despite denials.

Assuming Mendes is in talks to helm Bond 24, what changed? Maybe less than meets the eye. Broccoli and Wilson, in interviews, have consistently said they had wished Mendes would do an encore. Mendes? Despite saying of directing Bond 24 that, “The idea made me physically ill,” it’s hard to walk away when you’ve had a critical *and* box office success. It’s especially hard to walk away when you’ve gotten much of the credit.

What’s more, it would appear if Mendes actually signs a contract to direct Bond 24, he won’t begin until all of his stage commitments have been met. That likely means Bond 24 won’t come out until 2015 at the very earliest, perhaps 2016 given all the elaborate pre-production work. Skyfall was formally announced in January 2011 and didn’t start filming until 10 months later. Seven more months of filming followed.

Meanwhile, if you could do all the stage work you wanted *and* the producers and studios would wait on you, what would you? Have your cake and eat it, too, indeed. The Guardian, another U.K. newspaper, proclaimed, Eon Productions…is absolutely right to wait for British director Sam Mendes to return for a second film in the wake of his spectacularly successful Skyfall last year.

For Sam Mendes, his Hamlet moment may pay off rather handsomely.

Sam Mendes in talks to direct Bond 24, Deadline says

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes, who had said he wouldn’t be back for Bond 24 after directing Skyfall, is in talks with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures to helm the next 007 movie.

An excerpt from THE STORY BY MIKE FLEMING JR.:

EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures and MGM have started talks for Sam Mendes to return and direct Daniel Craig in the next installment
(clip)
Recently, (Mendes) and the producers (Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson) got back in touch. While Mendes’ first love is theater, it became clear that the producers wanted him and he wanted to return, and the only thing standing in the way were these stage commitments that Mendes felt obligated to do. So, they’ve decided to wait for him to work through those other commitments, and he’s now making a deal to start production probably next year.

The stage commitments are Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and King Lear. While Deadline says Bond 24 would probably start next year, Mendes previously TOLD EMPIRE MAGAZINE that his stage productions would “need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.” It’s also not clear from the Deadline story whether a 2014 start would mean a 2014 or 2015 release. Still, Deadline was the first major entertainment site to report that Mendes was involved in Bond 23, which became Skyfall.

The Deadline report came after two entertainment Web sites reported a number of directors, including Ang Lee, who won as Oscar for directing Life of Pi, are under consideration to direct Bond 24.

Ang Lee

Ang Lee

First up was a REPORT IN FIRSTSHOWING.NET saying Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn is in the running. Writer Alex Billington said he had been “tipped from a trustworthy source” (no specifics how the source knows this or if the source has direct knowledge) that the director “Refn has been connected to the new Bond.” Refn didn’t answer when asked by Billington about it at the Cannes Film Festival. A video of Refn not answering was provided with the story.

Next up was A STORY IN VARIETY. It cited the Firstshowing story and went one better by saying Lee; Shane Black, director of Iron Man Three; Tom Hooper, who helmed The King’s Speech and Les Miserables; and David Yates, director of four Harry Potter films, were also on the shopping list of Eon Productions.

The Variety story had this word of caution:

Sources tell Variety it could still be some time until a decision is made — not only because they are still meeting with helmers, but also because the details of (Daniel) Craig’s deal are still being worked out. Given how successful the franchise has been with Craig as the star, especially the last pic, the star’s deal is expected to be very lucrative and probably also involves director approval.

Deadline, meanwhile, had a jab at its competitors. “It is a moot point, because Mendes will be the director of the next Bond.” Mendes brought John Logan aboard to rewrite Skyfall and the scribe got hired to do the screenplays for Bond 24 and Bond 25. If Deadline is right, Mendes already has one trusted associate on board.

Sony watch: studio facing challenges

sonylogo

UPDATE (May 21): The Nikkei news service in Japan has reported that Sony Corp. is considering a spinoff of its entertainment business. Nikkei has an English Web site but to access THE STORY you have to be a subscriber. If you CLICK HERE, you can view a Los Angeles Times story that summarizes the Nikkei piece.

According to a BLOOMBERG.COM STORY, Sony shares climbed to their highest levels in more than two years after the Nikkei report.

ORIGINAL POST: The New York Times, IN THE LEAD STORY IN ITS MAY 19 BUSINESS SECTION has a detailed story about challenging times at Sony Pictures, the entertainment arm of Sony Corp.

One problem: it’s not as profitable as other studios, even with Agent 007 in its portfolio. According to reporters Brook Barnes and Michael Cieply, Sony’s operating margin was 6.5 percent and “figures at Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount and 20th Century Fox were all higher.”

Here’s an excerpt with part of the explanation:

SONY’S $4.4 billion in ticket sales last year was impressive, but shareholders care about profit margins.

The movie studio’s bottom line didn’t look better for several reasons. For one thing, about 75 percent of the “Skyfall” revenue went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after James Bond rights holders took their cut. Revenue from some DVD titles — “Zero Dark Thirty,” for instance — will come in the next fiscal year. But more important, “Men in Black 3” cost an arm and a leg, and when you’re making this many movies some are bound to miss: Sony’s hits were offset by the major flops “Total Recall” and Mr. (Adam) Sandler’s “That’s My Boy.”

Thus, in the case of Skyfall, which Sony distributed, the studio was third in line after the Broccoli-Wilson family and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Another challenge is investor Daniel Loeb, whose Third Point LLC, acquired a 6.5 percent stake and wants Sony Corp. to sell of 20 percent of its entertainment business and focus on its consumer electronics unit. Loeb, according to the Times, “specifically complained” about profitability of the entertainment unit. Sony said the entertainment business wasn’t up for sale.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures has distributed the last three 007 films (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) and is contracted to do so again for Bond 24 whenever it’s made.

For the complete NYT story, CLICK HERE. For more, you can CLICK HERE for a May 16 Bloomberg.com story headlined “Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Brakeup.” You can also CLICK HERE for a May 14 story by the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: the long and the short and the tall

"Who's going to play me?" "Looks like you're getting the short end of it this time, Napoleon."

“Who’s going to play me?”
“Looks like you’re getting the short end, Napoleon.”

There’s the possibility that 5-foot-7 Tom Cruise may be paired with 6-foot-5 Armie Hammer in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., according to a story this week on the DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

You’d think it’d be hard to film the pair together. But it’s actually only the latest twist in a spy property that’s had its ups and downs when it came to the subject of height.

It began with executive producer Norman Felton, who began work on U.N.C.L.E. in 1962. The 1950s and the early 1960s were a period when Westerns, with stars such as 6-foot-7 James Arness and 6-foot-6 Clint Walker, dominated U.S. television. Even in other genres, other stars might be tall. Felton himself had cast 6-foot-1 Richard Chamberlain as the title character in the television version of Dr. Kildare.

Felton, in a 1997 interview (portions of which can be seen on U.N.C.L.E. DVD extras), said he wanted a different type of lead character for U.N.C.L.E. and not “big, ballsy men.” He was looking for heroes who were more average looking.

Eventually, the producer cast 5-foot-10 Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (who had worked on the Felton-produced The Lieutenant) and 5-foot-8 David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. They were hardly runts, but definitely not built like Arness’s Matt Dillon.

Supposedly, according to dossiers held by the evil Thrush organization (in The Thrush Roulette Affair in the show’s FOURTH SEASON), Solo the character was 6-foot while Kuryakin was 5-foot-10 1/2.

Thrush clearly had some faulty information. In the FIRST SEASON episode The Never-Never Affair, 5-foot-8 1/2 guest star Barbara Feldon wears flat shoes to appear shorter than the leads. Even wearing the flat shoes, there is an Act II scene where her Mandy Stevenson character is clearly taller than McCallum’s Kuryakin.

That doesn’t mean McCallum was insecure was his height. The late writer-actor Stanley Ralph Ross, in a 1997 INTERVIEW with THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. EPISODE GUIDE said McCallum used his height to his advantage in a scene where Ross played a thug.

Question: What was it like for you a pretty tall fellow, working with a somewhat shorter David McCallum?

Ross: David asked me to stand on a box. I am already 6-6 and said that he would look like a midget but he replied the taller I was, the stronger and more macho he would seem for having beaten me up.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. began almost 50 years ago but even in the 21st Century, height or the lack of it can still create a stir. In 2005, Amy Pascal, a Sony Pictures executive, told THE NEW YORK TIMES that the newly cast 007 Daniel Craig “is tall. He’s the same size as Sean Connery.” Craig is 5-foot-10 while Connery is 6-foot-2 and change. Eight years later, the subject doesn’t come up that much, at least with Craig.

In any case, U.N.C.L.E. fans have been buzzing about the possibility about a new movie, and are getting worked up whether Cruise and Hammer have the right look, etc. For now, we’ll bide our time and have a cocktail — maybe a short one — while we wait for things to develop.

Armie Hammer may join U.N.C.L.E. film, Deadline says

Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer may join the cast of a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and play Illya Kuryakin, according to A STORY on the Deadline Hollywood Web site.

An excerpt from the story:

EXCLUSIVE: Armie Hammer, who plays the title character opposite Johnny Depp in the Gore Verbinski-directed The Lone Ranger for Disney, is set to star with Tom Cruise in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the remake of the classic TV series that Guy Ritchie will direct for Warner Bros.

(snip)

Hammer would play a version of the role originated by (David) McCallum, an NCIS regular who strangely doesn’t seemed to have aged since the ’60s.

This story raises a few questions. Deadline’s PREVIOUS STORY on the subject said Tom Cruise was in talks but made it sound like nothing had been settled. The new story almost makes it sound like it’s a done deal. Is it? Or are there some more twists in store?

Also, Deadline has never said if Cruise, should he join the project, play Napoleon Solo, the character played by Robert Vaughn in the original television series. The character was co-created by Norman Felton and Ian Fleming with the rest of the series, including the U.N.C.L.E. organization and the Kuryakin character, devised by Sam Rolfe.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 133 other followers