Writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. dies

Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the Batman pilot and 1966 feature movie

Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the Batman pilot and 1966 feature movie

Lorenzo Semple Jr., a writer best known for the 1960s Batman television show but who also did spy-related scripts including Never Say Never Again, has died at 91, according to an obituary in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Semple wrote the pilot for the 1966-68 Batman series as well as the quickly made 1966 feature film starring Adam West and Burt Ward. When executive producer William Dozier decided on a less-than-serious take, Semple devised a simple format for other writers to follow.

The opening of Part I would establish a menace. Batman and Robin would be summoned by Police Commissioner Gordon. The dynamic duo proceeded on the case, ending with a cliffhanger ending. Part II opened with a recap, the heroes escaped and eventually brought the villains to justice.

Among Semple’s memorable lines of dialogue: “What a terrible way to go-go,” and “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Semple always was drawn more than once to the spy genre. In the 1950s, he worked on drafts of a script based on Casino Royale, the first 007 novel, but nothing went before the cameras. Decades later, he was the sole credited writer on Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake not produced by Eon Productions but starring Sean Connery. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, writers brought in by de facto producer Connery, did uncredited rewrites.

Between Semple’s Bond work, he scripted films such as 1967′s Fathom with Raquel Welch (featuring a Maurice Binder-designed title sequence), 1974′s The Parallax View with Warren Beatty (a movie about a conspiracy to assassinate political candidates) and 1975′s Three Days of The Condor, a serious spy film with Robert Redford.

In The Hollywood Reporter’s obituary, Semple is quoted about the ups and downs of film production. Here’s a passage involving Never Say Never Again:

Semple met with Sean Connery in Marbella, Spain and sold him on his 70-page treatment for Never Say Never Again, which saw the aging actor return as 007 in the much-litigated Warner Bros. film based on Thunderball. But when some action scenes were cut as a cost-saving measure, the producers pacified an angry Connery by blaming — and then booting — Semple.

“I was quite relieved; I really didn’t want to go on with it,” he said. “I also agree a human sacrifice is required when a project goes wrong; it makes all the survivors feel very good.”

To read the entire obituary, CLICK HERE. There’s one mistake. It says Semple only wrote the first four episodes of Batman. He wrote or co-wrote 10 episodes during the first season, though he penned fewer in the final two seasons.

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.

Connery still most popular U.K. actor in U.S.

Sean Connery and David McCallum circa 1966

Party like it’s 1966: Sean Connery No. 1 most popular U.K. actor in U.S., David McCallum No. 4

Sean Connery, the original screen James Bond, is still the most popular U.K. actor in the U.S., according to an article in the Sunday Times.

Here’s an excerpt:

Connery, who played James Bond in seven films between 1962 and 1983, eclipses younger British actors including Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis and even Daniel Craig, the current 007.

He is the most popular Briton to feature in the Q Score charts, which are based on opinion polls conducted in America every six months, asking 1,500 people how much they like stars and the extent to which they trust them.

The ARTICLE and full list is behind a paywall, meaning you have to register for the website to view it. But copies have circulated elsewhere on the Internet. Anyway, for readers of this blog, here are some other names of interest:

No. 4: David McCallum, who gained fame as Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and is a supporting player on NCIS.

No. 6: Judi Dench, who played M in seven James Bond films from 1995 through 2012 and an Oscar winning actress.

No. 8: Daniel Craig, James Bond actor in three movies, 2006 to present and has said he’s signed to play 007 in two more movies. The next, the untitled Bond 24, is scheduled for fall 2015.

No. 12: Robert Carlyle, who played one of the villains in 1999′s The World Is Not Enough.

No. 21: Alan Cumming, character actor who played a secondary villain in 1995′s GoldenEye.

No. 24: Henry Cavill: most recent screen Superman in 2013′s Man of Steel and currently playing Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Was also one of the finalists for the 007 role who lost out to Daniel Craig in 2005 for 2006′s Casino Royale.

No. 27: Jane Seymour: busy actress who played Solitaire in 1973′s Live And Let Die.

UPDATE (Oct. 28): This ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN isn’t behind a paywall and a has a full list of the top 20.

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

RE-POST: From Russia With Love’s 50th: legacy

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Originally published Sept. 18, the last of a four-part series. Reprinted today, the actual anniversary.

From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film, remains different from any 007 adventure since.

It’s the closest the Bond series had to a straight espionage thriller. The “McGuffin” is a decoding machine. That’s important in the world of spying but the stakes would be much larger in future 007 adventures: the fate of the U.S. gold supply, recovering two atomic bombs, preventing nuclear war, etc.

From Russia With Love includes memorable set pieces such as the gypsy camp fight between Bulgarians working for the Soviets and the gypsies working for MI6′s Kerim Bey as well as Bond dodging a helicopter. But they’re not the same scope compared with what would be seen in future 007 films. No underwater fights. No giant magnets snatching cars from a highway. No death-dealing satellites. Even when Bond movies such as For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights tried to have From Russia With Love-like moments, they still had larger action sequences.

From Russia With Love is by no means a small, “indie” film. It’s just different compared with what producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and their successors, would offer in future 007 installments. Perhaps that’s why some fans keep coming back to view From Russia With Love again and again.

From Russia With Love also introduced stylistic changes to the Bond series, particularly with the beginning of the 007 pre-credits sequence. It also had an actual title song, unlike Dr. No. However, the main titles used an instrumental version (plus an arrangement of the James Bond Theme). The vocal, performed by Matt Monro, is briefly heard during the film and isn’t played in its entirety until the end titles. Finally, the movie was the first time Eon Productions revealed the title of the next 007 adventure in the end titles.

From Russia With Love also demonstrated that Dr. No wasn’t a fluke. If Sean Connery as Bond had been a diamond in the rough in Dr. No, he was now fully polished in his second turn as Bond. At the box office, From Russia With Love was an even bigger hit with audiences than Dr. No.

The 1963 007 outing proved once and for all the judgment of Broccoli and Saltzman — the odd couple forced by circumstances to join forces — that Bond had major commercial potential. The likes of Irving Allen (Broccoli’s former partner who hated Ian Fleming’s novels) and Columbia Pictures (which had the chance to finance Dr. No only to see United Artists do the deal) had egg on their faces.

Nearly a half-century later, From Russia With Love is often in the conversation among fans (particularly older ones) as among the best of the Bond films. It also ensured the series would continue — though nobody realized how big things would get.

THE END…NOT QUITE THE END…JAMES BOND will return in the next Ian Fleming thriller “GOLDFINGER.”

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.

Richard Sarafian, director of TV spy shows, dies at 83

Richard C. Sarafian

Richard C. Sarafian

Richard C. Sarafian, who directed episodes of 1960s spy television shows, died Sept. 18, according to AN OBITUARY POSTED BY VARIETY.

Sarafian directed the 1965 pilot for The Wild, Wild West, which combined spies with the Wild West. Star Robert Conrad, in a commentary track for the first-season DVD set, said that pilot, The Night of the Inferno, was expensive by mid-1960s standards. The Sarafian-directed episode sold the series and the director returned for one more first-season installment.

Sarafian also helmed EIGHT EPISODES of the 1965-68 I Spy, starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, which was probably took the darkest take among ’60s spy shows. His final work on the series was the 1968 episode Home to Judgment, which had a plot SIMILAR TO THE 2012 007 MOVIE SKYFALL.

In the 1970s, Sarafian got the chance to direct some feature films, including Vanishing Point and THE NEXT MAN, in which Sean Connery played an Arab diplomat who’s the target of assassination plots.

To read the Variety obituary, CLICK HERE. To see a list of Sarafian’s directing credits on IMDB.com, CLICK HERE.

From Russia With Love’s 50th conclusion: legacy

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film, remains different from any 007 adventure since.

It’s the closest the Bond series had to a straight espionage thriller. The “McGuffin” is a decoding machine. That’s important in the world of spying but the stakes would be much larger in future 007 adventures: the fate of the U.S. gold supply, recovering two atomic bombs, preventing nuclear war, etc.

From Russia With Love includes memorable set pieces such as the gypsy camp fight between Bulgarians working for the Soviets and the gypsies working for MI6′s Kerim Bey as well as Bond dodging a helicopter. But they’re not the same scope compared with what would be seen in future 007 films. No underwater fights. No giant magnets snatching cars from a highway. No death-dealing satellites. Even when Bond movies such as For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights tried to have From Russia With Love-like moments, they still had larger action sequences.

From Russia With Love is by no means a small, “indie” film. It’s just different compared with what producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and their successors, would offer in future 007 installments. Perhaps that’s why some fans keep coming back to view From Russia With Love again and again.

From Russia With Love also introduced stylistic changes to the Bond series, particularly with the beginning of the 007 pre-credits sequence. It also had an actual title song, unlike Dr. No. However, the main titles used an instrumental version (plus an arrangement of the James Bond Theme). The vocal, performed by Matt Monro, is briefly heard during the film and isn’t played in its entirety until the end titles. Finally, the movie was the first time Eon Productions revealed the title of the next 007 adventure in the end titles.

From Russia With Love also demonstrated that Dr. No wasn’t a fluke. If Sean Connery as Bond had been a diamond in the rough in Dr. No, he was now fully polished in his second turn as Bond. At the box office, From Russia With Love was an even bigger hit with audiences than Dr. No.

The 1963 007 outing proved once and for all the judgment of Broccoli and Saltzman — the odd couple forced by circumstances to join forces — that Bond had major commercial potential. The likes of Irving Allen (Broccoli’s former partner who hated Ian Fleming’s novels) and Columbia Pictures (which had the chance to finance Dr. No only to see United Artists do the deal) had egg on their faces.

Nearly a half-century later, From Russia With Love is often in the conversation among fans (particularly older ones) as among the best of the Bond films. It also ensured the series would continue — though nobody realized how big things would get.

THE END…NOT QUITE THE END…JAMES BOND will return in the next Ian Fleming thriller “GOLDFINGER.”

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

From Russia With Love’s 50th Part I: the difficult sequel

From Russia With Love's poster

From Russia With Love’s poster

Nothing about From Russia With Love was easy. From scripting all the way through filming, the second James Bond film was difficult and at times an ordeal.

At last three writers (Richard Maibaum, Johnna Harwood and an uncredited Len Deighton) took turns trying to adapt the Ian Fleming novel, with major rewrites during shooting. One cast member (Pedro Armendariz) committed suicide shortly after completing his work on the movie because he was dying of cancer. Director Terence Young was nearly killed in a helicopter accident (CLICK HERE for an MI6 007 fan page account of that and other incidents).

For many 007 fans, the movie, which premiered Oct. 10, 1963, is the best film in the Eon Productions series. It’s one of the closest adaptations of a Fleming novel, despite the major change of adding Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE into the proceedings. It also proved the success of Dr. No the previous year was no accident.

Fleming’s novel was one of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 10 favorite books, a list published in 1961 in Life magazine. From Russia, With Love (with the comma and published in 1957) was one of the author’s most important books.

Fleming’s friend, author Raymond Chandler, had chided 007′s creator for letting the quality of his Bond novels slip after 1953′s Casino Royale. “I think you will have to make up your mind what kind of writer you are going to be,” Chandler wrote to Fleming in an April 1956 letter. Fleming decided to step up his game with his fifth 007 novel.

Years later, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with an endorsement of the source material from Kennedy, proceeded with adapting the book. Dr. No veterans Young, editor Peter Hunt, director of photography Ted Moore and scribes Maibaum and Harwood all reported for duty on the new 007 project.

The major Dr. No contributor absent was production designer Ken Adam, designing the war room set and other interiors for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. John Stears, meanwhile, took over on special effects.

Armendariz, as Kerim Bey, the head of MI6′s station in Turkey and Bond’s primary ally, had a big impact. He lit up every scene he was in and had great on-screen chemistry with star Sean Connery. When Kerim Bey is killed, as part of the complicated SPECTRE plot, it resonates with the audience. The “sacrificial lamb” is part of the Bond formula, but Armendariz was one of the best, if not the best, sacrificial lamb in the 007 film series.

The gravely ill actor needed assistance to complete his scenes. In long shots in the gypsy camp sequence, you needn’t look closely to tell somebody else is playing Kerim Bey walking with Connery’s 007. (It was director Young, according to Armendariz’s WIKIPEDIA ENTRY.)

Young & Co. retained the novel’s memorable set pieces (the fight between two gypsy women, the subsequent battle between Bulgarians and gypsies and the Orient Express train fight between Bond and Red Grant). The production also added a few twists, including two outdoor sequences after getting Bond off the train earlier than in the novel. The question was how would audiences respond.

The answer was approvingly. “I see that ‘From Russia With Love’ is now a movie and although I rarely see them I plan to take this one in,” former CIA Director Allen Dulles wrote to Fleming in 1964.

He wasn’t alone. The film, with a budget of $2 million, generated $78.9 million in worldwide box office, almost one-third more than its predecessor.

NEXT: John Barry establishes the 007 music template

1997 HMSS article: A VISIT WITH IAN FLEMING

November 2012 post: LEN DEIGHTON ON FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

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