M:I accelerates its output amid longer 007 film gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The facts are clear. The importance is a little fuzzy.

So, producer-star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie intend to do two Mission: Impossible film back to back. The movies would come out in 2021 and 2022.

If that works out, that means there will have been four M:I films (all directed by McQuarrie) from 2015 to 2022. There will have been two 007 films (2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25) coming out during that same period.

The M:I development makes sense in that Cruise will turn 60 in 2022. While a fantastic physical specimen for a middle-aged guy, the clock is ticking on Cruise’s time as a movie action hero.

The two McQuarrie-directed M:I films (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout) have been big hits. So it’s a natural studio Paramount could secure his services for two more movies. On top of everything else, McQuarrie and Cruise obviously get along.

Once upon a time, something similar was envisioned for the Bond series. John Logan was hired to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25. Skyfall director Sam Mendes, in a 2014 interview, said that he came back to helm SPECTRE after plans were ditched to do Bond 24 and 25 back to back. Star Daniel Craig had vetoed the idea.

Bond fans have a mixed reaction to this. There are the usual social media posts about Bond is superior, Bond is forever, Mission: Impossible will be done when Cruise is done, etc.

But there are also gibes (such as this one by the author of a Bond-related book) calling Cruise a “teeny man.” Cruise is listed at 5-foot-7 on IMDB.com while current 007 star Daniel Craig towers above him by an entire three inches, according to that same website. Craig is no runt but he’s definitely the shortest Bond in a series cast with tall actors.

(Historical note: Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, had his early successes as a producer after he and his then-partner Irving Allen signed 5-foot-6 1/4 Alan Ladd as a star.)

The M:I news hardly means the end of Bond. And nobody is seriously making that argument.

At the same time, M:I has been showing more energy (perhaps because of the aforementioned ticking clock). On the Bond side? It star, Craig, and lead producer, Barbara Broccoli, wanted to do other things after SPECTRE. “Everybody’s a bit tired,” Craig said during a 2016 appearance.

As I said at the beginning: The importance of all this is fuzzy. M:I will do what it has to do (with the “teeny man” having a BIG say). The Bond series will do what it wants to do. Unlike other franchises, Bond is not totally controlled by a studio and the one studio involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) a weak industry player.

Henry Sharp, an appreciation

Henry Sharp’s title card for The Night of the Golden Cobra on The Wild Wild West

For people of a certain age, the 1960s were a special time for spy entertainment (aka spy-fi). You had plenty of options and many of them were available to television.

Writer Henry Sharp (1912-2019) was one of those who made that era possible.

Sharp’s parents emigrated to the United States in the 1900s, according a detailed biography at the website Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists. He was an artist and his work later appeared in “pulp” magazines, featuring adventure stories. Sharp ended up writing stories as well. Sharp also drew stories for comic books.

According to that biography, things took a turn.

By 1954 his brother, Philip Sharp, had become a successful writer on The Sid Caesar Show. Philip Sharp went on to write teleplays for The Phil Silvers Show in 1956. In 1958 Philip Sharp was writing The Real McCoy’s, and invited his brother to become a co-writer on that TV show. The two brothers again teamed up on scripts for The Gale Storm Show (1958), The Ann Southern Show (1959), and The Donna Reed Show (1959-1961).

In the 1960s, spy-fi became popular because of the James Bond novels and early 007 films. Ian Flemings more escapist works (Dr. No and Goldfinger) had pulp sensibilities. The early Bond movies adeptly balanced drama and humor.

Those trends would make Henry Sharp ideal to work on spy-fi television shows.

Sharp co-wrote a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Neptune Affair. The writer found his stride with The Wild Wild West.

That 1965-69 series mixed spies with cowboys. It employed what’s now known as “steam punk” (taking present technology and figuring out how it would have been done in the 19th century).

Sharp wrote 10 episodes of The Wild Wild West. For almost three seasons, he was the story consultant who met with writers and made revisions to scripts to keep the tone of the series consistent.

Scripts for The Wild Wild West credited to Sharp brilliantly balanced adventure plots with humor. One of his scripts made the Philosopher’s Stone (!) the McGuffin. Sharp’s credited scripts included one featuring Dr. Loveless (the series’ arch-villain) and one featuring Count Manzeppi (an attempt to create a second arch-villain).

Sharp was a major contributor to making the show work. In 1979 and 1980, CBS produced TV movies based on The Wild Wild West with original stars Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. But without Sharp, things weren’t quite the same.

A 1999 movie version, with Will Smith and Kevin Kline also lacked the feel of the original show. In many ways, The Wild Wild West was like catching lightning in a bottle. Henry Sharp was one of those who accomplished that.

Television writer Henry Sharp dies at 106

Henry Sharp title card from a fourth-season episode of The Wild Wild West

Television writer Henry Sharp, whose credits included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died Jan. 9 at 106, according to a Twitter post by the Writers Guild West.

Sharp’s entry on IMDB.com lists credits across various genres going back to the late 1950s. Many of his initial credits were for situation comedies, including The Donna Reed Show and McHale’s Navy.

The writer shifted to spy-fi in the mid 1960s as the spy genre became popular. Sharp was brought in to rewrite a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Neptune Affair, about a group of scientists trying to start World War III. Sharp shared the teleplay credit with John W. Bloch, who plotted the story.

Sharp’s biggest mark was on The Wild Wild West, which mixed cowboys and espionage.

Sharp wrote four first-season episodes. Early in the second season, he was brought aboard as story editor (formal title: story consultant), where he helped supervise and revise scripts. He had a total of 10 writing credits on the series.

One of his best was early in the second season, The Night of the Golden Cobra, which featured Boris Karloff as the guest adversary for Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin).

Here’s the tweet announcing Sharp’s death:

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McQuarrie to direct 2 M:I films back to back, Variety says

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Christopher McQuarrie has agreed to direct two more Mission: Impossible movies for Paramount, Variety reported and film them back to back,  citing people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

McQuarrie wrote and directed the last two installments in the Tom Cruise series, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossibl-Fallout. Both were hits, with the latter addressing loose ends from previous M:I adventures.

The decision to film two films at once, with McQuarrie again writing and directing is  “to take advantage of the popularity of the series,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll. The first would be out in 2021, the second the following year, Variety said.

Cruise, who turns 57 in July, also is committed to the two movies, according to Variety.

In 2012, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced John Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. The announcement occurred after the release of Skyfall, the first 007 film to generate $1 billion in global box office.

Star Daniel Craig vetoed the idea of making two Bond films back to back. Bond 24, later titled SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015. Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in February 2020.

Other franchises, though, have done back to back productions. Marvel Studios took that approach with Avengers: Infinity War, released in 2018, and Avengers: Endgame, scheduled for release this spring.

UPDATE Jan. 15: Both McQuarrie and Cruise confirmed the news on social media.

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Irony of the day: Daniel Craig’s training regimen for Bond 25

Daniel Craig’s 007 enjoys a few (hic) Vespers.

In Ian Fleming’s novels and short stories, James Bond was known to smoke as many as 70 cigarettes a day and gulp down double bourbons (followed by martinis and pink champagne) not to mention having 11 whiskeys and soda while paying a friendly game a bridge.

Meanwhile, the Mirror, weighs in with a story that begins thusly:

Daniel Craig may well be gasping for a vodka martini after a strict regime to ensure he is fighting fit for his next outing as 007.

With seven weeks till he begins shooting Bond 25, I hear he has been shunning booze and calorie-rich food at this week’s ­Hollywood bashes to stay trim.

The star, 50, even skipped the BAFTA Tea Party at the Four Seasons – babysitting his four-month-old daughter in a suite upstairs while wife Rachel Weisz had some fun.

The cinematic Bond hasn’t had a cigarette since Timothy Dalton retired from the role after 1989’s Licence to Kill. But he’s had plenty of booze, even if it was far less than the literary Bond.

All of this, of course, has been part of the 007 film fantasy. The literary Bond’s drinking and smoking habits mirrored his creator, who died at the age of 56 on Aug. 12, 1964 — just before the Bond phenomenon took off.

In 2012’s Skyfall, Craig’s chiseled 007 supposedly is on his last legs. There’s a scene where he can’t finish doing chin ups.

Granted, Craig’s appearance likely was the result of a training program. But viewers of the film don’t see that. They have to draw their own conclusions. That’s similar to the stars of recent super hero movies (Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and others) who underwent similar training before the cameras rolled.

The Mirror story passes for 007 news these days. When production starts on Bond 25, the situation will change.

About all those ‘Who will be the next 007?’ articles

Over the last two or three years there have been more “who will be the next James Bond?” articles than the blog can count. The latest example: A Jan. 7 article on the U.K, edition of Esquire’s website.

Esquire goes through a number of the usual suspects — Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill, Idris Elba and Tom Hiddelston, among them.

Meanwhile, hard-core Bond fans ask why? After all there’s no vacancy for the part. Daniel Craig has been announced to star in Bond 25. And he apparently has more clout than other 007 actors, with his name mentioned in the same breath (in press releases) as Eon Productions principals Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Here’s one guess.

The general public, over almost 60 years of Eon’s film series, has been conditioned to having a new Bond actor emerge every decade or so. Sometimes, the tenure is longer (Roger Moore’s 1973-85 run), sometimes less (George Lazenby’s single film, Timothy Dalton’s two). But overall, a decade or so has emerged as the expected run.

After 10 years? The entertainment media starts getting antsy. Moore seemed to be done after 1981’s For Eyes Only yet came back for two more movies. But by that point, Moore was signing up for one movie at a time.

Daniel Craig has been the Bond of record since October 2005, when he was announced as the star of 2006’s Casino Royale. During Craig’s run, there have been one four-year break (between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) and one of longer than four years (between SPECTRE and the February 2020 release date for Bond 25).

Craig, to date, has only equaled the number of 007 films by Pierce Brosnan. No matter. There’s an element of the fan base, not to mention the entertainment media, that wants to know what’s new?

Essentially Craig is going through what Roger Moore experienced between 1981 and 1985. Roger’s coming back. Great. But who’s the new guy going to be? Craig turns 51 on March 2. Moore turned 58 the fall after A View to a Kill came out.

Bond 25 is scheduled to start production in early March. So maybe this will die down for a while. Still, don’t be surprised if the “who’s going to be the next Bond?” fervor doesn’t reignite sooner than later.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.