Some questions about a James Bond musical

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

It’s been a few days since stories came out that there are plans for a James Bond stage musical to be produced by Merry Saltzman, daughter of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions.

Since then, there haven’t been any more details about James Bond: The Musical. We can’t offer many answers, but we’re more than willing to pose the questions.

Where did Merry Saltzman get the rights for this project? Stories in BROADWAY WORLD.COM and PLAYBILL said Saltzman had “secured the rights” for a stage production. But where from?

Ian Fleming Publications, run by 007 creator Ian Fleming’s heirs, controls the literary rights. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq (holding company for the Broccoli-Wilson family) control the film rights.

Once upon a time, Harry Saltzman had half of Danjaq. But he sold his share in 1975 to United Artists because of financial troubles. MGM acquired UA in the early ’80s.

Neither Ian Fleming Publications or MGM/Danjaq has publicly commented about Ms. Saltzman’s plans.

Is there any kind of precedent for this? In the 1980s, there was an attempt to mount a non-musical Casino Royale play but nothing happened.

Raymond Benson, who’d go on to write 007 continuation novels published from 1997-2002, was involved in the ill-fated project. He gave an interview in 2007 to the journal Paradigm. Excerpts were published by the MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE as well as the COMMANDER BOND FAN WEBSITE.

According to the interview excerpts, the Fleming literary estate commissioned the play. Benson adapted Ian Fleming’s first novel into a play but the literary estate opted not to continue. By the late 1990s, Danjaq/Eon secured the film rights to Casino.

Benson is quoted in the interview as saying the “stage play cannot be produced without the movie people’s permission…I own the copyright of the play, but the Fleming Estate owns the publication rights and the movie people own the production rights.”

It should be noted that Merry Saltzman’s project is supposed to have an all-new story, rather than adapt any Fleming novel, According to the Playbill story it will have “several Bond villains, plus some new ones.”

Is this a good idea? Decades ago, there were probably some who scoffed that Pygmalion could be made into a musical. Yet, My Fair Lady was made. Then again, some people thought a musical play featuring Spider-Man was a sure winner and things didn’t turn out that way.

For now, color us skeptical. Until we know more, however, here’s a 2012 video that our friends at The James Bond Dossier found a few days ago.

Happy Fourth of July from The Spy Command

To celebrate the birthday of the United States, here’s our traditional greeting: Jim Steranko’s classic cover to Strange Tales 167.

The issue wrapped up a marathon Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. story line by the writer-artist.

Jim Steranko's cover to Strange Tales 167

Recap of ironic SPECTRE statements

SPECTRE LOGO

As SPECTRE is ready to wrap up principal photography, here’s a look back at some statements laden with irony and hidden meaning that weren’t evident at the time.

“John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL and we, along with our partners at MGM, can’t wait to share this new chapter with audiences all over the world.” Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal in a JULY 2013 PRESS RELEASE.

At the time, there was no script. A treatment arrived in the fall of 2013. Logan didn’t deliver a first draft until March 2014. Because of the hacking of Sony Pictures, it’s now known that studio executives were less than thrilled with what Logan (who always said he was working closely with Mendes) delivered. Logan would later be replaced by veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

A side note: bad publicity from the hacks caused Sony to fire Pascal (something she has publicly acknowledged).

“At the end of the day, it came down to the story…It was a story I wanted to tell.” This was Sam Mendes speaking on Dec. 4, 2014 to ENTERTAINMENT NOW.

At the time Mendes said that, rewrites to fix the last third of the story were being done right up to the Dec. 4 media event that the director hosted. Again, that’s only known because of the hacking at Sony Pictures.

“More pressure.” Mendes again on Dec. 4, on how SPECTRE would have a bigger budget than Skyfall and how it would affect him. With the Sony hacks, it’s known the budget had gone past $300 million, making the 24th James Bond film one of the most expensive of all time.

Russian U.N.C.L.E. movie trailer and its extras

The Russian trailer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has emerged online and it has some material not in the U.S. trailers.

The trailer, naturally, plays up Armie Hammer’s Illya Kuryakin character a bit more than what has been seen in the United States.

Specifically, there’s a scene (beginning around the 1:15 mark) where Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo is using a small wire cutter on a fence. Kuryakin then takes out some kind of laser gadget to do the same thing much easier. Also, we see a shot of Kuryakin’s KGB superior that wasn’t in the U.S. trailers.

Anyway, if you’re interested, you can take a look below. It’s also available on a Russian video site that you can access by CLICKING HERE. Thanks to reader James Harris for posting that video on The Spy Command page on Facebook. Also, thanks to @HenryCavillONL on Twitter for pointing out the YouTube version embedded here.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s gamble

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

After two years (or so) of fan debates, we’re about six weeks before The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie — a project decades in the making — finally comes out.

Needless to say, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Who should be Solo? Who should be Kuryakin? Should this even be attempted at all?

This post is prompted after reading yet another fan debate on these subjects. Rather than hash over the debating points, this is an attempt to summarize what’s going on.

It would appear that director Guy Ritchie and his producing/writing partner Lionel Wigram are betting they can strip U.N.C.L.E to its component parts — Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly — and dispense with familiar memes (cool secret HQs, among them) that have been adapted by others such as Kingsman: The Secret Service. There may be the odd reference to the original 1964-68 series, but it may not be much more than that.

The Ritchie-Wigram target — something that Warner Bros. evidently agrees with — is younger viewers. Essentially, the filmmakers want to make U.N.C.L.E. palatable to the younger demographic while hoping enough first-generation fans are willing to go along for the ride.

Will it work? We’ll see. For some first-generation fans, having a Del Floria’s front to the secret HQs is a key part of the original U.N.C.L.E. concept. Others don’t like an “origin” storyline, which has become the default option for lots of “re-imagined” popular entertainment.

Whatever the case, “Mr. Warner” (check out old Warner Bros. cartoons for the joke) has stepped up recently to promote the movie, including making it part of next weekend’s San Diego Comic Con. For many long-time fans, having U.N.C.L.E. be part of that event — which has become a major venue for promoting movies — couldn’t even be imagined as recently as a year ago.

U.N.C.L.E. stars to promote movie at San Diego Comic Con

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will promote the film at the San Diego Comic Con on July 11, according to a WARNER BROS. PRESS RELEASE.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, are scheduled to be joined by female leads Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki, the studio said in announcing its activities at the convention.

Cavill and Hammer reprise the roles that Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played on the 1964-68 television series. Vikander plays Gaby Teller, the “innocent” of the story while Debicki is the lead villain. The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, is a different take on U.N.C.L.E., without familiar memes such as the organization’s secret headquarters.

The convention appearance will take place a little more than a month before the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Aug. 14 release date.

Cavill is doing double duty for Warners at the event. He’s also scheduled to be promote Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. That movie, which comes out in March 2016, features a conflict between Superman (Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck). It also an attempt to be Warners’ answer to Disney/Marvel’s Avengers franchise. The press release leads off with details about the Batman v Superman promotion.

Cavill first played Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel. He was cast as Solo in U.N.C.L.E. around the time Man of Steel came out in June of that year.

Some early U.N.C.L.E. reactions arrive

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Following this week’s early press screenings of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, reactions are starting to appear on social media.

None of them have been detailed. The guess here is that an embargo is in place before those invited to the see the movie can comment in detail.

That’s standard operating procedure, involving movie reviews and feature articles about films. Occasionally you’ll hear about a flap where a scribe published before the embargo time. The U.N.C.L.E. screen is unusual because it took place six weeks before the movie’s Aug. 14 release date.

In any case, for what it’s worth, here are some tweets that have come out since the screening.

From a Reuters scribe (included in an update of our post the other day about the screening):

From a film critic who has written for BlackFilm.com and Latino Review, according to the Rotten Tomatoes website:

A film writer at Uproxx weighs in.

A writer for BlackFilm.com (spotted by Henry Cavill News, which is how we saw this one):

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