The race to do an Edward Snowden movie

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

There’s a race to see who can do an Edward Snowden movie first.

In one corner is Sony Pictures and 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. In the other, according to various stories (including THIS ONE BY THE GUARDIAN) is director Oliver Stone.

Each project is based on separate books about Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of NSA surveillance programs to reporters. The Sony-Eon Productions project is based on a book by Glenn Greenwald. The Stone project on a book by Luke Harding.

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian about Stone’s project. The newspaper may have a bit of a rooting interest.

Stone’s thriller will focus on the experiences of the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency who leaked thousands of classified documents to the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald back in June 2013. The film is to be produced by Stone’s regular business partner Moritz Borman, with Harding and other Guardian journalists serving as production and story consultants.

“This is one of the greatest stories of our time,” Stone, 67, said in a statement. “A real challenge. I’m glad to have the Guardian working with us.” Stone’s previous films include Platoon, JFK and W. The director has also made documentaries on Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, together with a 2012 TV series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.

The Sony-Eon project was announced in May. Greenwald’s work for The Guardian about Snowden earned that newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for public service, which it shared with The Washington Post. The public service Pulitzer is given only to publications, not to particular individuals. Greenwald left The Guardian to start a website called The Intercept.

For now, the question is which project reaches theater screens first. Wilson and Broccoli have been involved in a number of non-Bond movie projects but haven’t had one become reality yet. Separately, Broccoli has been involved as a producer of a documentary (Stolen Childhoods), a made-for-television movie (Crime of the Century) and a public service short film (James Bond Supports International Women’s Day). Broccoli and Wilson together have also been involved in stage productions.

Wilson and Broccoli also have Bond 24, scheduled to start filming this fall for a 2015 release. Can they handle they handle that and get their Snowden project to theaters ahead of Oliver Stone? We’ll see. The Stone movie is supposed to start filming before the end of 2014.

HMSS scorecard on comic book creators and ’14 movies

John Romita Sr.'s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

John Romita Sr.’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 121, written by Gerry Conway

Sorry, Gerry Conway.

Last month, we carried a A POST wondering if comic book creators would get their due with 2014′s bumper crop of comic book-based films.

So far, the creators are 1-for-2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier carried a creator credit for Cap (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) and included a “special thanks” credit for a number of comic book writers and artists, including scribe Ed Brubaker who devised the Winter Soldier storyline that’s the spine of the movie.

This weekend, saw the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko got a “based on the comic book by” credit, as they have with past Spider-Man films. But others, mainly Gerry Conway, who authored an early 1970s story whose outcome is incorporated into the movie, didn’t get a mention. The closest reference in Amazing Spier-Man 2 is how there’s a “Principal Conway” character.

Also going unmentioned is John Romita Sr., co-creator of the Rhino; a much different version of the character appears in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

This isn’t that surprising. Movies produced by Marvel, now a Walt Disney Co. unit, have for the most part provided some kind of recognition for those who created characters and stories used by film writers and directors. Studios that license Marvel characters, such as Sony with Spider-Man, haven’t been as diligent.

Later this month, Fox will release another X-Men movie. Much of that film is based on a Chris Claremont-John Byrne story. The X-Men were originally created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and a 1975 reboot with a number of new characters was started by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. It remains to be seen whether any of them will get a mention in the 2014 film.

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.

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