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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Happy 86th birthday, Roger Moore

rogermoore1

Oct. 14 is the 86th birthday of Roger Moore. It has been 28 years since his last James Bond movie, A View To a Kill. The mere mention of his name still can spur a spirited argument among 007 fans.

Moore starred in seven James Bond films from 1973 to 1985. To his admirers, he kept the series going at a time some people wondered if it survive the departure of Sean Connery. To his detractors, he’s the embodiment of an era that where the Ian Fleming source material was often dispensed with and the tone became much too light.

To this day, you will hear some people say things like, “I’m not sure you can count Roger Moore as James Bond.”

Moore’s 007 film debut, Live And Let Die had worldwide box office of $161.8 million. It was the first Bond movie to exceed 1965′s Thunderball and represented a 39 percent jump from 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever, the final Connery entry in the series produced by Eon Productions.

Live And Let Die wasn’t as big a hit in the U.S., where Diamonds still had bigger box office. What’s more, the 007 box office took a big dip with the second Moore entry, The Man With the Golden Gun. But things rebounded with 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me, and the series got back onto a regular schedule.

Almost three decades after hanging up his shoulder holster, Moore remains one of the best ambassadors for the Bond franchise. At various times, he has sung the praises of Connery, Pierce Brosnan and, most recently, Daniel Craig. None of this, of course, means anything to the intense fan debates, which continue.

Meanwhile, in his public appearances, Moore comes across as a guy who’s still having a good time, particularly when the discussion turns to James Bond. It was once said that twice is the only way to live. Moore seems content to live well.

Happy birthday, Sir Roger.

June 2013 post: LIVE AND LET DIE’S 40TH: THE POST-CONNERY ERA TRULY BEGINS

May 2012 post: A VIEW TO A KILL, A REAPPRAISAL

2010 HMSS article: ROGER MOORE: A BOND FAN’S APPRECIATION

From Russia With Love’s 50th Part III: Desmond Llewelyn

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Audiences of the initial release of From Russia With Love didn’t realize it at the time, but they witnessed the start of a character actor’s 17-film, 36-year run.

Desmond Llewelyn took over the role of Major Boothroyd from Peter Burton, who played the part in Dr. No. In the initial 007 outing, Boothroyd presented Bond with his new gun, a Walther PPK. Llewelyn’s Boothroyd gave Sean Connery’s James Bond something more elaborate: a briefcase, if not opened properly, that would emit tear gas. It was also equipped with a sniper’s rifle, 50 gold pieces and a knife.

At this point, the character wasn’t referred to as Q. M mentions “Q branch” and its “smart-looking piece of luggage.” Boothroyd doesn’t reveal much of his feelings toward Bond either.

No matter. The actor’s appearance in From Russia With Love set the stage for his long run in the part. The Guy Hamilton-directed Goldfinger established Boothroyd’s annoyance at Bond regarding the agent’s disrespect of Q-branch equipment. In the 1965 television special The Incredible World of James Bond, the character would be referred to as “the fussy Major Boothroyd.”

Eventually, Llewelyn’s character would just be called Q, though Soviet agent Triple-X reminded viewers of the Boothroyd name in 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Llewelyn would play opposite five Bond actors. In the 1990s, the question was how long would the actor continue. Bruce Feirstein’s first-draft screenplay of Tomorrow Never Dies, includes a character named Malcolm Saunders, who is “Q’s successor.”

In his first appearance in the script, Saunders is “looking like a mummy – plaster casts on his left leg, left arm; neck-brace, crutch.” Saunders explains how he received his injuries: “Q’s retirement party. I’d just put the knife into the cake, and – ” However, the retired Q shows up later in the story. In the much-revised final story, we get a standard Bond-Q scene with Llewelyn opposite Pierce Brosnan, except it takes place in Germany instead of MI6 headquarters.

In Llewelyn’s finale, 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, Q/Boothroyd is talking retirement. Brosnan’s Bond doesn’t believe it — or doesn’t want to believe it. Q gives Bond some advice (always have an escape route) and makes his exit.

Llewelyn died in December 1999 of injuries from a car accident.

NEXT: Legacy

Bond 24′s Rorschach test

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig

“Hopefully we’ll reclaim some of the old irony…and make sure it doesn’t become pastiche. I can’t do shtick, I’m not very good at it. Unless it kind of suddenly makes sense. Does that make sense? I sometimes wish I hammed it up more, but I just can’t do it very well, so I don’t do it.”

Daniel Craig AS QUOTED BY THE VULTURE BLOG of New York Magazine About Bond 24.

That’s not a lot of detail, but since that interview was posted Aug. 23, various publications and Web Sites have been interpreting it. Those interpretations vary a bit, somewhat like a 007 Rorschach test. Some examples:

Yahoo!: 007 TO CRACK WISE IN `SKYFALL’ SEQUEL.

The U.K. Telegraph: DANIEL CRAIG WANTS TO LIGHTEN UP BOND 24.

IGN: DANIEL CRAIG: BOND 24 WON’T BE CAMPY.

Entertainmentwise: DANIEL CRAIG WANTS TO SEE MORE DRY HUMOR IN BOND 24.

Dark Horizons: CRAIG WANTS IRONY, NOT CAMP, IN “BOND 24.”

Not much is known about 2014, scheduled for a fall 2015 release. Even some of what is known, such as the fact Skyfall co-scribe John Logan will pen the scripts for Bond 24 and Bond 25, was initially denied by one 007 partner (Eon Productions) before being confirmed by another (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer).

Thus, any word about Bond 24 — especially coming directly from the movie’s star — is going to be analyzed.

Irony is defined as “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” Or: “a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.”

But which “old irony” did Craig mean? It’s not detailed explicitly in the Vulture article. The quote about irony comes after a passage where it’s described how Skyfall was “lifted by a late ‘humor pass’ on the script.” The actor also says it was his idea to have Bond straighten his cuffs amid mayhem in Skyfall’s pre-credits sequence. It’s a Bondian moment, similar to Pierce Brosnan’s Bond straightening his tie in the middle of GoldenEye’s tank chase and The World Is Not Enough’s pre-credits sequence.

Presumably Craig’s irony comment wasn’t referring to the Roger Moore era (1973-1985), known for an expansion of humor relative to earlier 007 films. But even the Sean Connery era of the Eon movies (1962-67, 1971) had quips such as “She should have kept her mouth shut,” and “Shocking, positively shocking,” not necessarily the most subtle bits of humor. Connery’s non-Eon 007 film, Never Say Never Again, had a slapstick British diplomat, Nigel Small-Fawcett, and jokes about urine samples.

So perhaps Bond 24 will have a lighter tone. But there are other signs that humor may still be limited. John Logan was quoted in March by the Financial Times as saying words he “hopes to build on Skyfall in examining the complexities of Bond’s character.” We’ll see.

Earlier posts:
NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT BOND 24

AN EARLY BOND 24 ACCURACY CHECKLIST

MGM MAY BEND ON BOND 24′S SCHEDULE

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)

Comparing 1982 and 2013 Oscars from a 007 view

oscar

The Oscars on Oct. 24 had the biggest 007 presence since 1982. So how did the two nights compare?

For 007 fans, this year’s Oscars were a mixed bag. Skyfall won two Oscars, breaking a 47-year Oscar drought. But a promised Bond tribute seemed rushed and some fans grumbled that Skyfall should have come away with more awards.

Skyfall came away with the Oscar for Best Song after three previous 007 tries (Live And Let Die, Nobody Does it Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only) as well as best sound editing in a tie with Zero Dark Thirty. But neither director of photography Roger Deakins or composer Thomas Newman scored an award, continuing their personal Oscar losing streaks.

Anyway, the 1982 and 2013 Oscars shows had one thing in common: Each had a montage of James Bond clips. In ’82, it was presented just before Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli received the Irving R. Thalberg Award, given to a producer for his or her body of work. That montage included dialogue, including different actors getting to say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.”

Thirty-one years later, there was another montage, a little snappier but clips still familiar to most 007 fans. The clips were accompanied by The James Bond Theme and an instrumental version of Live And Let Die.

The 1982 show had a big production, with Sheena Easton performing For Your Eyes Only (nominated for Best Song, but which lost) along with a Moonraker-themed dance number that included appearances by Richard Kiel as Jaws and Harold Sakata as Oddjob. In 2013, the clip montage led to Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger and drawing a standing ovation. And then….well, the 007 tribute was over. Adele performed Skyfall separately as one of the Best Song nominees.

In 1982, Roger Moore introduced Cubby Broccoli. In 2013, no Bonds appeared. Supposedly, that wasn’t the original plan, according to Nikki Finke, editor-in-chief of the Deadline entertainment news Web site. In a “LIVE SNARK” FROM THE OSCARS, she wrote:

The Academy and the show’s producers hoped to gather together all the living 007 actors. But Sean Connery refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family. Something about how he thinks they cheated him out of money he was owed. Then Pierce Brosnan refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family as well. Something about how he thinks they pulled him from the role too early. Roger Moore was dying to come because, well, he’s a sweetheart. And Daniel Craig would have come because he does what he’s told by the Broccoli family’s Eon Productions whose Bond #23 Skyfall just went through the box office global roof. So there you have it.

Finkke didn’t say how she came by this information. In mid-February, her site ran an interview with the producers of the Oscars show and that story said the six Bond film actors wouldn’t appear at the show and referred to “rampant media speculation” concerning such a joint appearance. Still, her Web site was the first to report that Sam Mendes was likely to direct Skyfall, so it can’t be disregarded completely.

In any case, the 1982 show had something not available to the producers of the Oscars show this year: Cubby Broccoli. He gave a particularly gracious speech when accepting his Thalberg award. He acknowledged both of his former partners, Irving Allen and Harry Saltzman, despite substantial differences of opinion he had with them in the past.

In the end, that speech sets the 1982 show apart from a 007 perspective despite the record two 007 wins for Skyfall. We’ve embedded it before, but here it is once more:

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