MI6 Confidential features Armstrong, Picker in new issue

David Picker

David Picker

MI Confidential is out with A NEW ISSUE that, among things, includes features on stuntman/second unit director Vic Armstrong and former United Artists executive David V. Picker.

Armstrong worked on the 007 film series in such films as You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was interviewed for John Cork-directed documentaries about those movies, providing some behind-the-scenes perspective about how stunts were performed. From 1997-2002, Armstrong assumed the helm as stunt coordinator and second unit director for three Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan.

Picker was among the UA executives who reached a deal in 1961 with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to get the 007 film series started. His memoirs were published last year, including A CHAPTER ON THE BOND FILM SERIES.

Also included in the issue are stories about Lana Wood and her experiences filming Diamonds Are Forever and Ian Fleming’s taste in cars.

The price for MI Confidential No. 25 is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros. For more information about the contents or to order, CLICK HERE.

2014: numerous big 007 anniversaries

"Order plenty of Bollinger -- '55, of course."

“Order plenty of Bollinger — ’55, of course.”

We were reminded that 2014 will mark a number of significant James Bond film anniversaries. Thus, there’s more reason than normal for 007 fans to dip into their home video copies.

50th anniversary of Goldfinger. The first mega-hit for Agent 007.

45th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. An early attempt to bring 007 back down to earth, but one that wasn’t judged a success by United Artists.

40th anniversary of The Man With The Golden Gun. A box office misstep after Live And Let Die set a worldwide 007 box office record (though not in the U.S. market).

35th annivesary of Moonraker. Producer Albert R. Broccoli’s extragant follow-up to The Spy Wh Loved Me.

25th anniversary of Licence to Kill. A controversial Bond entry that preceded a six-year hiatus for the series.

15th anniversary of The World Is Not Enough. Pierce Brosnan’s third 007 entry and a preview of attempts to bring a more dramatic take to the world of 007.

UPDATE: As reader Stuart Basinger reminds us:

60th anniversary of the CBS television broadcast of Casino Royale. The first, and so far only, adaptation to feature an American (Barry Nelson in this case) playing Bond.

50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s death on Aug. 12. 007′s creator passed away the month before the film version of Goldfinger’s U.K. debut.

And one more that’s related:
50th anniversary of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Debut of the series featuring Ian Fleming’s other spy, Napoleon Solo, co-created with television producer Norman Felton.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from HMSS!

Our annual holiday greeting:

Website ranks the net worth of the screen 007s

With a $300 net worth, Sean Connery could probably afford a better tie today.

Sean Connery could probably afford a better tie today.

The Celebrity Networth website poses the question, “What’s your favorite star got in the bank?” Among other things, the site ranks the net worth of the six actors who’ve played James Bond over the past half-century.

A few caveats are in order. For the six Bonds, the site doesn’t have a lot of detail on the math involved in the estimates. At least one entry (current 007 Daniel Craig) isn’t up to date.

By far the highest ranked is the original screen 007, Sean Connery, at $300 million. Celebrity Networth doesn’t explain how it arrived at that figure.

However, the site says Connery could be even richer. A separate article estimates Connery lost out on $450 million by turning down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In order to convince Connery to sign on to the film, the producers pulled out all the stops. In addition to a $10 million per film salary, they offered Connery 15% of the box office for all three movies. In what would turn out to be a monumentally poor decision, Connery declined the part because he “did not understand the script”.

Meanwhile, perhaps a surprising No. 2 among film Bonds is George Lazenby, who appeared only in 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, at $100 million. Lazenby, the site says, “turned to business and real estate investments that earned him spacious mansions in Hawaii, Brentwood, California, Australia, a ranch estate in Valyermo, California, as well as a port-side penthouse apartment in Hong Kong and an estate home in Maryland.”

No. 3 is Roger Moore, who appeared in seven 007 films from 1973 to 1985, at $90 million.

No. 4 is Pierce Brosnan, star of four Bond movies from 1995 to 2002, at $80 million. As with Moore, no details are provided about how the estimate was made.

No. 5 is the current Bond, Daniel Craig, at $45 million, but that figure was calculated in 2008 based on the text of Craig’s entry on the site.

At No. 6, is two-time 007 Timothy Dalton at $10 million.

Thanks to Gary Firuta for the heads up.

The diminished 007?

Not as big as he used to be?

Not as big as he used to be?

Once upon a time, the makers of James Bond movies wanted to make 007 even bigger.

In the novel Goldfinger, it was Bond’s caddie who figured out how Goldfinger was cheating at golf. When it came time to make the movie version, Bond figured it out while the caddie became an approving Greek chorus.

Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as originally scripted called for Tracy to propose to Bond.

“I didn’t like that idea,” director Peter Hunt said in an interview for the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. “I always thought Bond should be the stronger character and should be the doer.”

In the 21st century, that doesn’t seem true any more.

This week, BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL had a story that said Naomie Harris’s Eve Moneypenney may emerge as a “sidekick” type character to 007 in Bond 24.

In 2012′s Skyfall, a Moneypenny backstory was invented where she was an MI6 field agent who decides she’s no longer up to the rigors of being such an agent. Bond (Daniel Craig), undergoing similar strain, opts to remain out in the field.

Since at least 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond has encountered women secret agents who were his equal. But those characters were one-offs. If Bamigboye is correct (and he had a number of scoops about SKYFALL and BOND 24 that were proven to be true), Harris’s Moneypenny will be a member of the continuing cast to take up more screen time.

This comes after Judi Dench’s M grabbed more screen time over her seven 007 movies. The Eon Productions team cited how she was an Oscar-winning actress. Dench’s M was killed off in Skyfall, replaced by a new M played by Oscar-nominated Ralph Fiennes. If Fiennes returns (which seemed assured with the ending of Skyfall), will he, also, get the Dench treatment by Eon?

James Bond used to be a lone wolf. Going forward, will Bond 24 be the first installment of Team Bond (TM)? Moneypenny comes out from behind her desk, guns blazing? Ditto for Fiennes’s new M?

The latest Bamigboye report obviously hasn’t been confirmed yet. But given the writer’s ability to sniff out Bond news before it’s announced, “Moneypenny as sidekick” angle can’t be dismissed just yet. Neither can the evolution of Bond that occurred before this latest report.

Aaron Sorkin and James Bond

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin

We’re not 100 percent sure, but we’d be willing to bet that Oscar and Emmy-winning writer and producer Aaron Sorkin is a James Bond fan.

This previous Sunday’s episode of The Newsroom concluded with the Atlantis World Media CEO Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) waxing quite rhapsodic over a certain Mr. Daniel Craig. She had just spent $1,000 to see Skyfall and meet the current 007 actor (the reference is based ON A REAL-LIFE EVENT), when she was called away for a crisis at the titular news organization. She’s not entirely happy about it, as you can see in this pretty funny clip:

This isn’t the first time Sorkin has referenced Her Majesty’s Blunt Instrument on one of his shows. Back when The West Wing was on, and DVD players were still a high-end luxury item, presidential aide Charlie Young (Dulé Hill) has to save up to get the machine he’s been lusting after. And for good reason: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is available for purchase! President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), however, is unimpressed with James Bond’s drinking habits, as ye shall see:

While we may disagree with Mr. Bartlett’s opinion in this matter, we’re always happy to see James Bond references in popular culture. And we’re especially pleased to find them in the works of this brilliant showrunner. Thanks, Mr. Sorkin!

Roger Ebert’s last 007 film review

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic, died on April 4 at the age of 70. Many publications and Web sites published obituaries about his life and his commentaries about movies.

His final review for a 007 film was, naturally, 2012′s Skyfall. You can read the entire piece BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

In this 50th year of the James Bond series, with the disappointing “Quantum of Solace” (2008) still in our minds, “Skyfall” triumphantly reinvents 007 in one of the best Bonds ever made. This is a full-blooded, joyous, intelligent celebration of a beloved cultural icon, with Daniel Craig taking full possession of a role he earlier played well in “Casino Royale,” not so well in “Quantum”–although it may not have been entirely his fault. I don’t know what I expected in Bond #23, but certainly not an experience this invigorating.

(snip)

M is not quite ready to retire, and “Skyfall” at last provides a role worthy of Judi Dench, one of the best actors of her generation. She is all but the co-star of the film, with a lot of screen time, poignant dialogue, and a character who is far more complex and sympathetic than we expect in this series.

(snip again)

During the early Bonds, did we ever ask ourselves about 007′s origins in life? The movie even produces a moment designed to inspire love in lifetime Bond fans: A reappearance of the Aston Martin DB5 from “Goldfinger,” which remains in good operating condition, if you can guess what I mean.

Ebert had been the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and a lover of movies long before that. For years, he and his rival critic, the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel, had hosted television shows devoted to movies.

Here’s the opening the Siskel-Ebert At the Movies programs in 1983, 30 years ago, devoted to 007:

Siskel died in 1999 and Ebert penned A TRIBUTE to his long-running adversary in 2009. They may not have been exactly friends but nor were they enemies. Their “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” verdicts on films were the dreams of the marketing departments of film studios. You can read the Sun-Times’s obituary of its long-time film critic by CLICKING HERE.

The balcony is now closed. It’s two thumbs down because we’re not likely to see the likes of either critic again.

Skyfall breaks 007′s 47-year Oscar drought

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image


RECAP (11:55 p.m.): Skyfall won two Oscars, the first 007 film to win more than one. Goldfinger and Thunderball won one apiece. It broke a 47-year Oscar drought for the Bond series. The highest profile win was Best Song by Adele and Paul Epworth, finally giving the series a win after three previous Best Song nominations.

UPDATE IV (11:20 p.m.): Skyfall finally broke the 007 Best Song jinx, winning the Oscar for Adele and Paul Epworth (Best Song Oscars go to the songwriters, not the performer). Adele thanked producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

007 films had been nominated for Best Song three times with no wins: Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. Classic Bond songs such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever were never nominated.

A few minutes earlier, Skyfall’s Thomas Newman lost to Life of Pi’s Mychael Danna. Skyfall ends the evening with two wins out of five categories.

UPDATE III (11:03 p.m.): Earlier Adele performed Skyfall. Reaction was mixed in our quick survey of social media. Some fans felt she nailed it, others felt there were too many backup singers or other flaws. Afterwards, two musicians with ties to the 007 series made the “In Memoriam” segment: Hal David, who wrote lyrics for the 1967 Casino Royale spoof, 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1979′s Moonraker; and Marvin Hamlisch, who scored 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me. Hamlisch was nominated twice for Spy (score and for “Nobody Does It Better”) but didn’t pick up any wins that night.

UPDATE II (10:20 p.m.): Skyfall broke 007′s 47-year Oscar drought by tying with Zero Dark Thirty for sound editing. Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers picked up Oscars, though they started to get shooed off the stage as the orchestra played the theme from Jaws.

It was the first win for a Bond movie since John Stears won for special effects for 1965′s Thunderball. Just before that, film lost the sound award to Les Miserables.

UPDATE I (9:28 p.m.): Halle Berry introduced the James Bond tribute segment, comprised of clips from the movies accompanied by the James Bond Theme and an instrumental of Live And Let Die.

Immediately after, Shirley Bassey appeared and did a rendition of Goldfinger, with a very traditional sounding arrangement. It was the Bond highlight so far after Roger Deakins’s loss. Twitter lit up with users commenting about Dame Shirley’s performance.

However, Ezra Klein, a political commentator, wasn’t impressed with the 007 tribute part. He wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations, Oscars, you managed to make the Bond franchise look unexciting.”

ORIGINAL POST: Roger Deakins, nominated for his cinematography in Skyfall, lost to Life of Pi’s Claudio Moranda.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, has been nominated for five awards, the most in the history of the Bond film series. The previous 007 record was held by The Spy Who Loved Me with three nominations (and no wins).

Still to come as of 9:12 p.m. are the best song, best score and two sound categories where Skyfall has been nominated. For now, 007′s 47-year Oscar drought continues. The last Bond movie to get an Oscar was 1965′s Thunderball for special effects. A tribute to James Bond movies is coming up.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from HMSS!

Our annual holiday greeting:

Purvis & Wade: who loves ya, baby?

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, having concluding a run of working on five James Bond movies, have been hired to script a Kojak film starring Vin Diesel, according to the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Here’s an excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is getting serious about Kojak, hiring the scribe team of Neal Purvis & Robert Wade to script a movie around the tough-talking, smooth scalped cop played by Telly Savalas on the CBS series. Vin Diesel, who just wrapped Fast And Furious 6 for the studio, will play the chrome-domed cop in the film, which he’s producing with Samantha Vincent for their Universal-based One Race Films.

The original 1973-78 series originated with a made-for-TV movie called The Marcus-Nelson Murders that first aired in March 1973. That original project was scripted by Abby Mann, an Oscar winning screenwriter, and directed by Joseph Sargent. It gave Telly Savalas, normally cast as villains (including 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), a chance to play a sympathetic role. The story was based on the Wylie-Hoffert murders, also known as the Career Girls Murders, which led to to Miranda warnings.

Director Sargent won an Emmy and a Directors Guild of America award for The Marcus-Nelson Murders while Mann was nominated for an Emmy.

The CBS series made Savalas a big star and, for a time, a sex symbol (starting in the second season he doffed neckties a lot and didn’t button the first button or two of his dress shirts). Kojak’s catchphrase was, “Who loves ya, baby?” Kojak, trying to quit smoking, frequently sucked lollipops. The cast included the star’s brother George as one of the New York City detectives that worked with Kojak. The first season of the series included Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel as guest stars. Richard Donner directed some episodes.

Savalas reprised the role in a some TV movies on ABC (part of a Mystery Movie revival that included Peter Falk as Columbo). There was also a brief revival series on cable television in 2005, starring Ving Rhames as Kojak.

To read the entire Deadline story, just CLICK HERE.

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