Golden Gun’s 40th anniversary: 007′s sacrificial lamb

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Normally, we’d have waited to do a post about The Man With The Golden Gun’s 40th anniversary. But with this week’s passing of co-director of photography Oswald Morris, this is as good a time to examine the ninth James Bond film.

Let’s face it: Golden Gun doesn’t get a lot of love among James Bond fans or even professionals. It’s exhibit A when the subject comes up about 007 film misfires. Too goofy. Too cheap. Too many of the crew members having a bad day.

Over the years, Bond fans have said it has an average John Barry score (though one supposes Picasso had average paintings). It has too many bad gags (Bond watches as two teenage karate students take out a supposedly deadly school of assassins). And, for a number of first-generation 007 film fans, it has Roger Moore playing Bond, which is bad it and of itself.

Golden Gun is a way for fans to establish “street cred” — a way of establishing, “I’m not a fan boy.” The 1974 film is a way for the makers of 007 films to establish they’re really talking candidly, that not every Bond film has been an unqualified success.

The latter point is true enough. Golden Gun’s worldwide box office plunged 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die ($97.6 million versus $161.8 million, according to THE NUMBERS website). Within a few weeks of its December 1974 U.S. release, United Artists hurriedly paired Golden Gun with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which UA released earlier in 1974, to make a double feature.

In terms of long-term importance, Golden Gun was the finale of the Albert R. Broccoli-Harry Saltzman 007 partnership. Saltzman would soon be in financial trouble and have to sell out his share of the franchise to United Artists. In a way, things have never really been the same since.

This is not to argue that Golden Gun is the best offering in the Eon Production series. Rather, in many ways, it’s the runt of the litter that everybody likes to pick on — even among the same people who’d chafe at criticism of their favorite 007 film.

The documentary Inside The Man With The Golden Gun says the movie has all of the 007 “ingredients.” Of course, such a documentary is approved by executives who aren’t exactly demanding candor. But the statement is true. It has not one, but two Oscar winning directors of photography (Morris and Ted Moore); it has a score by a five-time Oscar winner (Barry); it is one of 13 007 movies Richard Maibaum contributed writing.

Then again, movies sometimes are less the sum of their parts. It happens. Not everyone has their best day.

For many, Golden Gun is a convenient piñata. Despite some positives (including a genuinely dangerous driving stunt), it’s never going to get much love in the 007 community.

Director of photography Oswald Morris dies at 98

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Oswald Morris, a distinguished director of photography whose work included part of one James Bond movie, has died at age 98.

Morris photographed films of various genres, according to his IMDB.COM BIO. They included Moulin Rouge, Moby Dick, A Farewell to Arms, Lolita, The Hill, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and The Man Who Would Be King.

His one Bond contribution was 1974′s The Man With The Golden Gun, the second Roger Moore 007 film.

Morris was hired to replace Ted Moore, who had fallen ill after completing location shooting in the Far East. Morris took over photography of the interiors. That included the scenes at the “fun house” of assassin Francisco Scaramanga, which the assassin uses for training. In the John Cork-directed documentary Inside The Man With the Golden Gun, Morris commented shooting on the set with its many mirrors was “a pain in the butt” to photograph. Morris also had tight deadlines to meet Christmas 1974 release dates.

Neither Morris nor Ted Moore would return to the 007 series. Morris won an Oscar (for Fiddler On The Roof) and was nominated for two others, ACCORDING TO IMDB.COM

You can CLICK HERE to read an obituary by The Hollywood Reporter, HERE for Variety.com’s obit and HERE one by The Guardian.

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.

MI6 Confidential’s new issue teases Moore’s debut as 007

Separated at birth: MI6 Confidential's cover image...

Separated at birth: MI6 Confidential’s cover image (featuring a flipped image of a Live And Let Die publicity still used for Sir Roger Moore’s book about the filming of Live And Let Die)…

MI6 Confidential has teased the content of its next issue, which includes a cover celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roger Moore’s debut as 007 in Live And Let Die.

According to the magazine’s WEBSITE, the new issue’s contents include:

– Becoming Bond – Sir Roger Moore reflects on his casting and time as 007
– No Kind Of Doomsday Machine – Hilary & Steven Saltzman celebrate Harry’s work
– In Deep Water – Peter Lamont recounts recceing and shooting Live And Let Die
– A Perfect Match – On the bond between 007 & Aston Martin throughout the decades

...and an U.N.C.L.E. first-season image

…and an U.N.C.L.E. first-season image featuring Ian Fleming’s other spy, Napoleon Solo, a name Ian Fleming Publications used without mentioning the connection to the TV show

– Origins Of The Aston – A rare Aston Martin that may have inspired Ian Fleming
– On The Trail Of 007 – Retracing 007’s route through Kent countryside in ‘Moonraker’
– Boyd Is Bond – A report from the star-studded launch of the new book, ‘Solo’
– The Bond Connection – Reliving the on-screen espionage of Saltzman’s Harry Palmer

The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros, not including postage and handling. For more information about ordering, CLICK HERE.

Lewis Collins, Professionals star who tried out for 007, dies

Lewis Collins, a star of the British television series The Professionals, has died at 67, according to obituaries by THE BBC and the DAILY MAIL. He also unsuccessfully tried out to play James Bond in the early 1980s.

The Professionals, created by Brian Clemens, concerned operatives of CI5, which was assigned to combat terrorism and other major crimes. Collins played William Bodie, a former paratrooper and SAS soldier who had a “rule-free approach to policing,” according to the Daily Mail’s obituary.

Both obits reference how Collins auditioned for the part of 007 in 1982, when it appeared Roger Moore might have departed the role for good. Each obit references a quote where Broccoli is supposed to have found Collins “too aggressive” to play Bond. Here’s the key passage in the BBC obituary:

“I was in Albert R Broccoli’s office for five minutes, but it was really over for me in seconds,” he is reported to have said.

“He’s expecting another Connery to walk through the door and there are few of them around.”

UPDATE (3:10 p.m.): The BBC has AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR IAN SHARP who worked with Collins a number of times. Sharp had this to say about Collins’s 007 audition:

Everybody agrees Lewis would have made a great James Bond. He had all the right qualities: He had the looks, he had the humour, he didn’t take himself too seriously.

(snip)
These days people would grab him with both hands. In those days, they wanted the smoothie type, like Roger Moore and, if you like, he was a Daniel Craig in a Roger Moore era.

Thanks to @bondmemes for pointing out the Ian Sharp interview on Twitter.

Hal Needham, director of Hooper, dies

Burt Reynolds and the cast of Hooper in the film's final scene

Burt Reynolds and the cast of Hooper in the film’s final scene

Hal Needham, a veteran Hollywood stuntman and director of action comedies such as 1978′s Hooper, has died at the age of 82 according to AN OBITUARY IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

As a director, Hooper, starring Burt Reynolds as an aging stuntman, is arguably Needham’s best work. The movie looks at the stunt work being done on a James Bond-like film by an A-list Hollywood director.

The movie has its origins in an earlier film, 1976′s Nickelodeon. It was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, with Reynolds as one of the stars and Needham as stunt coordinator.

When Hooper came out two years later, there were reviews posing the question whether Needham and Reynolds were getting a little payback. Whether that’s true or not, Hooper wasn’t just played for jokes.

The title character played by Reynolds is getting old for to be a stuntman and knows it; his next major injury could paralyze or kill him. What’s more, Hooper is being pushed by a younger rival stuntman (Jan-Michael Vincent). All of this is happening on a movie directed by egotistic director Roger Deal (Robert Klein) that resembles a James Bond film (starring, as it turns out, Adam West).

Needham also directed 1981′s The Cannonball Run, another Reynolds comedy, with a cast including Roger Moore, playing somebody who thinks he’s Roger Moore.

Here’s part of the climatic sequence of Hooper (as long as it doesn’t get yanked by YouTube):

Happy 86th birthday, Roger Moore

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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

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

MI6 Confidential examines Octopussy’s 30th anniversary

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MI6 Confidential, for its 21st issue, takes a look at Octopussy on its 30th anniversary.

Included in the issue is a forward by Roger Moore; an examination of how the screenplay evolved; interviews with director John Glen and cast members Maud Adams, who played the title character, Kristina Wayborn and Kabir Bedi; and a story about the television movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., which featured a cameo by ex-007 George Lazenby as “JB,” and debuted on U.S. television two months before Octopussy arrived in theaters.

The magazine costs seven British pounds, $11 or 8.50 Euros. For more information about the issue and ordering information, CLICK HERE

EARLIER POSTS:
OCTOPUSSY’S 30TH: BATTLE OF THE BONDS ROUND 1

RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.’S 30TH ANNIVERSARY

“Waiting for Mendes” (or 007 dog days)

To direct or not to direct Bond 24

To direct or not to direct Bond 24

It may be time to update the classic Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot for James Bond fans. All you’d need to do is tweak the title to Waiting for Mendes.

While nobody knows for sure, it appears that Bond 24, the next 007 movie, is in a kind of hiatus until Skyfall director Sam Mendes decides whether he wants another turn in the Bond director’s chair. First he said no, then changed his mind to the equivalent of “let have a think on it.” (You can CLICK HERE for a story on the MI6 fan Web site that carries Mendes quotes from three different outlets.)

In the play Waiting for Mendes, characters Vladimir and Estragon, instead of waiting for the mysterious Godot, spend their time waiting for Sam Mendes to make up his mind about Bond 24.

“Do you think Daniel Craig will best Roger Moore’s record of appearing in seven James Bond movies?” Vladimir asks.

“Sean Connery also did seven,” Estragon replies.

“But that does not count,” Vladimir says. “Never Say Never Again is an unofficial Bond movie!”

“Unofficial?” asks Estragon. “Did not producer Jack Schwartzman obtain the rights legally?”

“You are engaging in double talk. Besides, once Sam Mendes returns as director, everything will be well again. Daniel Craig will have his eight Bond movies, mark my word.”

Estragon frowns. “But when will Bond 24 come out? 2015? 2016? God forbid, 2017?”

And so on and so forth. Perhaps Michael G. Wilson could have a cameo appearance. Meanwhile, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. Thus, the wife of former soccer player David Beckham can proclaim her husband would be a great 007, AND IT GETS WRITTEN AS IF IT’S AN ACTUAL STORY.

It’s all a bit silly, especially in light of another recent story that claims Beckham IS GOING TO AUDITION TO PLAY THE LEAD IN THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MOVIE (Which, presumably, would be a surprise to actor Henry Cavill, who seems to be under the impression he’s going to be the star.)

Still, it would seem, until Mr. Mendes decides, there’s not going to be much real Bond 24 news. For Bond fans, the dog days continue.

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