Our modest proposal for a James Bond-related movie

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

This weekend in the U.S., Saving Mr. Banks, a telling of the behind-the-scenes turmoil during the making of 1964′s Mary Poppins, is out. Generally, movie makers love to make movies about their industry. So why not a movie based on how James Bond made it to the screen?

There certainly were moments of drama that occurred before 007 made it to the screen in 1962′s Dr. No. The meeting where Irving Allen, then the partner of Albert R. Broccoli, ridicules the Bond novels to Ian Fleming’s face. The ticking clock as Harry Saltzman strained to make a deal with a studio before his six-month option on the bulk of the 007 novels expired. How the producers and United Artists wrangled about who to cast to play Fleming’s gentleman agent with a license to kill.

Such a project likely would face complications. It’d be easiest for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in partnership with Sony. Saving Mr. Banks was released by Walt Disney Co., which meant it was no problem to use clips from Mary Poppins in a sequence about the movie’s world premier. However, an MGM-Sony combo would need to proceed cautiously, not wanting to alienate Eon Productions, which actually produces the 007 movies.

One possible vehicle to do a “being the scenes of 007″ movie would be to acquire the screen rights of one-time United Artists executive David V. Picker’s memoir, which includes a chapter on the Bond movies and how they came to be. One possible scenario for a movie would be show how things came to be through Picker’s eyes.

Don’t hold your breath for such a movie (or even TV movie). But it would have the potential to be an entertaining film.

Eon’s new normal

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

For Eon Productions, which produces James Bond films, the old normal was trying to make a 007 film every other year, maybe every third year.

The new normal: A Bond film maybe every third year (Bond 24, the next movie is scheduled for the fall of 2015), with various other projects in-between.

Examples of the new normal as it applies to non-Bond projects: a new U.K. stage production based on the Alfred Hitchock movie Strangers On a Train and, possibly, a movie based on a Glenn Greenwald book about Edward Snowden.

The latter depends if Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures wins the bidding for the rights to the Greenwald book according to AN OCT. 11 STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES. Other studios are also seeking the rights to the book, according to the Times story. (Broccoli didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests to comment.)

This follows the stage production of Once, where WHERE EON CO-BOSSES BARBARA BROCCOLI AND MICHAEL G. WILSON were among the producers. The duo have also been interested in a remake of a 1957 horror movie called Curse of the Demon or Night of the Demon depending on where it was released.

When Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman co-founded Eon Productions in 1961, they planned to do non-007 projects. The duo did produce the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana. After that, however, they went their separate ways on non-Bond material. Saltzman produced the Harry Palmer series and other films without Broccoli. Broccoli produced Chitty Chitty Bang Bang without Saltzman.

By the 1970s, Broccoli was concentrating on the Bond series primarily. Saltzman pursued other projects but financial problems forced him to sell off his interest in 1975.

Under the new normal, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson appear to be following the Saltzman model — exploring stage and film projects beyond the 007 series — more than the Albert R. Broccoli model. Or perhaps they’re going back to the model that Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman intended to follow.

In any event, Barbara Broccoli, in a NOVEMBER 2012 INTERVIEW WITH THE LOS ANGELES TIMES signaled not to expect Bond movies to come out as often as they once did.

“Sometimes there are internal pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit…We have to keep the deadlines within our own time limits.”

Sony watch: Company rejects shareholder’s demand

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UPDATE (Aug. 6): Third Point’s Daniel Loeb in an interview with Variety said his relations with Sony are just fine:

In an exclusive interview, Loeb, whose Third Point owns an estimated 7% of Sony, struck a much more conciliatory tone toward the Japanese electronics giant than he’s demonstrated in recent weeks. He praised Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai’s letter to him, calling it “thoughtfully written and detailed in its discussion of profitability and transparency. There was a lot there for shareholders to hang their hats on.”

In response, Nikki Finkke, the editor-in-chief of the Deadline entertainment Web site, wasn’t buying it IN A COMMENTARY. Here’s a partial quote:

So now Third Point hedge fund CEO Daniel Loeb claims today he’s backing off Sony. But only after the putz created chaos and confusion inside a stable and successful studio…Now Loeb will simply retreat to his $45 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West and dream home in East Hampton and not give Hollywood another thought until the next time he feels the urge to kvetch.

ORIGINAL POST (Aug. 5): Sony Corp.’s board rejected a proposal from a major shareholder to sell a piece of its entertainment business, which includes Sony Pictures, the studio that has released the last three James Bond movies.

Sony issued A STATEMENT that reads in part:

Sony Corporation today sent a letter to Third Point LLC following a unanimous vote of Sony’s Board of Directors. The letter outlines that the Board and management team strongly believe that continuing to own 100% of the Company’s entertainment businesses is fundamental to Sony’s success, and that a rights or public offering is not consistent with the Company’s strategy for achieving sustained growth in profitability and shareholder value.

Third Point, led by investor Daniel Loeb, wanted Sony to sell a piece of the entertainment business in an initial public offering. Third Point recently criticized management of the entertainment business for a couple of box-office duds. One prominent Hollywood actor-producer-director, George Clooney, spoke up in Sony’s defense in AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

For now, there’s no real effect on the Bond movies. Sony is slated to release its fourth 007 movie, the untitled Bond 24, in the fall of 2015. Third Point and Loeb presumably will remain a source of tension the management of Sony Pictures. The studio’s big properties in the coming years are Bond 24 and three scheduled Spider-Man movies in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Skyfall, last year’s Bond movie, sold about $1.1 billion in tickets worldwide. The New York Times reported in May that Skyfall didn’t generate that much profit for the company because Sony was third in line for the proceeds behind Eon Productions/Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Sony watch: investor criticizes movie unit

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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.

007′s Marvel superhero competitor in 2015

A Jack Kirby cover featuring Ant Man

A Jack Kirby cover featuring Ant Man

When James Bond makes his return to U.S. cinemas in 2015, he’s going to have company in the form of one of Marvel Comics’ oldest (but not that well known to the general public) characters: Ant Man.

Scientist Henry Pym made his debut in 1962 in a story by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, in Tales to Astonish No. 27. It was a one-off tale, in which Pym devises a formula that shrinks himself to the size of an ant. He shrinks so fast, he can’t reach the antidote.

Pym eventually ends up in an ant colony. He’s saved by one ant who acts differently than the others. Pym manages to reach his enlarging formula and swears off such formulas.

That is, until issue 35, when Pym returned, this time deciding he should be a superhero and takes on the guise of Ant Man. Eventually, Ant Man ends up as a founder of the Avengers superhero group. He also, in Tales to Astonish No. 49, decided to be Giant Man instead. Still later, Pym took on other superhero guises. Eventually, other characters took on the Ant Man mantle.

Marvel, now part of Walt Disney Co., is preparing an Ant Man movie and already set A NOV. 6, 2015 RELEASE DATE, the same date Bond 24 will arrive in U.S. theaters. EDGAR WRIGHT is slated to direct, and ACCORDING TO THE SCREEN RANT WEB SITE has completed the script.

Ant Man chats with the Flash on Saturday Night Live

Ant Man chats with the Flash on Saturday Night Live

It’s easy to imagine the jokes that will soon be cracked on James Bond fan message boards. “Ant Man? Bond will SQUISH him!” Figuratively speaking, that may happen. The character hasn’t gotten a lot of respect to date. Ant Man once was part of a 1970s Saturday Night Live skit, where he was portrayed by Garrett Morris and other superheroes (such as John Belushi’s Hulk) made fun of him.

Then again, Iron Man was once called a second-tier Marvel character until Robert Downey Jr. suited up in 2008′s Iron Man. Ant Man will also be the first Marvel film after The Avengers sequel starring Downey that’s scheduled for May 2015. So Ant Man will probably have a lot of publicity. Still, as far as 007 fans are concerned, Ant Man faces a large task taking on Bond at the box office.

APRIL 2013 POST: THE FAMILY MODEL (EON) VS. THE CORPORATE MODEL (MARVEL)

Mendes to direct Bond 24, movie due out in 2015

Sam Mendes: back for Bodn 24

Sam Mendes: back for Bond 24

Sam Mendes, after initially rejecting it, has opted to direct Bond 24, which has a 2015 release date, ACCORDING TO THE OFFICIAL 007.COM WEB SITE.

An excerpt:

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, EON Productions; Gary Barber, Chairman & CEO, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Michael Lynton, CEO, Sony Entertainment, Inc, and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced that Daniel Craig will once again return as the legendary British secret agent in the 24th James Bond film and Sam Mendes will also return to direct the screenplay written by John Logan. The film is set for release in the UK on October 23, 2015 and in the US on November 6, 2015.

SKYFALL the 23rd James Bond film, took in $1.1 billion worldwide and set a new mark as the highest-grossing film of all time in the UK; it was the best-selling Bond film on DVD/Blu-ray and was the most critically acclaimed film in the history of the longest-running film franchise.

Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “Following the extraordinary success of SKYFALL, we’re really excited to be working once again with Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and John Logan.”

Bond 24 running out of time for 2014 release

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

UPDATE (July 11): The movie will be out in late October 2015 in the U.K. and early November 2015 in the U.S. See THE FOLLOWING POST.

ORIGINAL JULY 10 POST: It’s not exactly a news flash, but time is running out for Bond 24 to make a 2014 release.

We’re now past the halfway mark of 2013. If Bond 24 could keep its pre-production time to six months and its shooting schedule to six months, you could still get a movie out before the end of 2014.

However, that would be tighter than Skyfall’s schedule, which had 10 months of pre-production (it was announced in January 2011 and filming began in early November of that year) and a seven-month shoot. It also assumes Bond 24, which is being scripted by Skyfall scribe John Logan, has a final script ready to be filmed.

Some fans still hold out hope for a 2014 release. However, Skyfall director Sam Mendes apparently is still waiting whether to come back for an encore and Bond 24 appears to be on hold until he makes up his mind.

Fans who liked Skyfall a lot say Mendes is worth the wait. In any case, there have been signs for a while (click HERE and HERE for examples) that “24 in ’14″ was a long shot. It seems more of a long shot now.

Sony watch: investor raises stake in 007 distributor

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A major investor in Sony Corp., parent company of Sony Pictures, which released the last three 007 movies, has boosted its stake in the company.

Third Point LLC, controlled by billionaire Daniel Loeb, now holds 9.4 percent of Sony shares, according to a BLOOMBERG.COM STORY. That’s up from 6.5 percent previously.

Third Point wants Sony to sell 20 percent of its entertainment businesses, including Sony Pictures. The unit, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has released Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall from 2006 through 2012. Sony will also release the as-yet-unscheduled Bond 24.

Sony Pictures has been under pressure because it’s not as profitable as other studios, according to a MAY STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES despite its interest in 007, Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black movies.

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