No Time to Die: Waiting for news

New No Time to Die poster

So are we any closer to knowing the fate of No Time to Die?

Answer: Not really.

A Dutch fan site, in an Aug. 3 post, says (via Google translate) there’s a “pretty big” chance that the 25th James Bond film will make its currently scheduled November release date.

“Maybe even 70%.,” according to the website.

The thing is, Bond fans don’t know. It’s hard to tell if the studios involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, or Universal, which is handling international distribution) know at this point.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a moving target. The United States is the global hot spot for the pandemic, with some of its most-populated states (Florida, Texas and California) some of the worst locations for the pandemic.

Do studios follow the pattern that Warner Bros. seems to be following with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (an international release in August with a limited U.S. release in September)?

The thing is, AT&T owned-Warner Bros. is a bigger operation than MGM. Warner Bros. has more options than MGM, the run of Hollywood’s studio litter, has.

For now, there’s a lot more uncertainty than certainty. We’ll see.

Wilford Brimley in spy entertainment

Wilford Brimley as President Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisited.

Wilford Brimley died over the weekend at the age of 85. He’s being remembered for a number of roles in movies, TV and commercials. But his long career included some appearances in the spy genre.

Brimley (born Sept. 27, 1934) was less than a year older than actor Robert Conrad (born March 1, 1935). But in 1979, Conrad reprised his role as dashing U.S. Secret Service agent James West, with Brimley playing President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisited.

In the TV movie, Michelito Loveless Jr. (Paul Williams) has kidnapped Cleveland, Queen Victoria, the Czar of Russia and the King of Spain. The villain has replaced them with clones (referred to as “replicas”).

West and his partner Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) finally meet up with the president. “Aren’t you the people who are supposed to be sure this doesn’t happen to the president of the United States?” Brimley’s Cleveland asks.

A bigger spy role for Brimley was in 1985’s Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

The film was intended to launch a franchise. The producers enlisted two alumni of the James Bond film franchise, director Guy Hamilton and screenwriter Christopher Wood.

Brimley was the head of a secret United States organization which took on missions where the U.S. could disavow its operatives (sounds familiar). Brimley’s chief character was prepared to commit suicide if things came to that.

The agency abducts a New York City policeman (Fred Ward) and trains him to be an agent. Ward’s character is trained by Chiun (Joel Gray) and is assigned to take out an evil businessman who is also a U.S. military contractor.

UPDATE (Feb. 3, 2020): Here’s the trailer for Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

 

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Never-Never Affair

Solo and Illya during the theater gunfight in The Never-Never Affair

The Never-Never Affair was an important episode for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Supposedly, after it aired, NBC executives decided its balance of drama and humor were what they were looking for in the show.

It also launched Dean Hargrove’s tenure as an U.N.C.L.E. writer. Up until this time, Hargrove had been primarily a comedy writer. Hargrove, in a 2019 video interview said his U.N.C.L.E. work boosted his career.

A preliminary script for the episode, dated Jan. 25, 1965, indicated there was a lot of work to be done before it’d be ready for airing on March 22.

The Jan. 25 script weighs in at 68 pages. The rule of thumb is each script page roughly equals one minute of screen time. In 1965, excluding commercials, an U.N.C.L.E. episode was 50 minutes, including titles and a preview of next week’s episode.

The early script has the core of what would be broadcast — the story’s “innocent,” Many Stevenson, is an U.N.C.L.E. translator yearns for the excitement of espionage. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) gives her a pretend mission (she’s really getting more tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly.

But she gets a microdot (intended to be taken by courier to Europe) by mistake. She is then sought by heroes and villains as she takes a route in New York City that Solo gave her.

However, a lot of streamlining would take place.

Agent Falchek we hardly knew ye: The story begins with U.N.C.L.E. agent Falchek being hunted by a team of Thrush operatives. Falchek has a microdot with information about the villainous organization and Thrush wants it back.

The sequence plays out pretty much like the final version. Falchek would be replaced by Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), cutting down the number of characters in the story.

In any case, Falchek brings the microdot to U.N.C.E. headquarters. Falchek later joins Solo and Illya in seeking Mandy. Falchek catches up to Mandy first but gets shot by Thrush agents for his trouble.

On page 24, the stage directions refer to “Falchek’s body” (one of the Thrush agents is searching Falchek’s pockets). But on the next page, a doctor tells Solo that Falchek is still alive despite being shot twice.

In the final version, there is no Falchek. It’s Illya who brings in the microdot. Illya also catches up to Mandy first, though he doesn’t get shot.

Theater shootout: When Hargrove pitched his Never-Never idea, one of its highlights was a shootout in a movie theater. A villain would be behind the movie screen hooting at the U.N.C.L.E. agents.

The Jan. 25 script has some differences from the broadcast version. The movie being shown is an “Italian melodrama” involving Mafia types. In the broadcast version, it’d be a war movie.

Solo and Illya, once they figure out where the Thrush assassin is empty their guns into the screen. Hargrove refers to the pistols as revolvers while the guns used in the show were P-38s. The killer falls through the screen, dead.

Hargrove’s stage directions have a touch not seen in the episode. “THE END” is being shown on the movie screen as Solo and Illya inspect the body.

Dean Hargrove

U.N.C.L.E. raid: Eventually, Mandy is captured by Thrush and taken to a field center disguised as a garage. Solo opts to go inside while Illya waits for reinforcements.

Hargrove’s script has a longer sequence of Solo dealing with a mechanic who is really a Thrush agent. The broadcast version shortened the sequence considerably.

As in the final version, Hargrove’s script has Solo captured but improbably getting the upper hand.

The Jan. 25 script, however, has an entire U.N.C.L.E. raid sequence, including Illya squaring off against Thrush henchwoman Miss Raven. In the final version, viewers could hear some shooting sound effects before Waverly and some agents show up.

The end: In Hargrove’s script, the final scene was at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. A courier named Pearson takes custody of the microdot.

Waverly remembers he still doesn’t have any new tobacco and the shop will close in a half-hour. In this script, Illya volunteers to get the tobacco because “I’m low on tobacco myself.”

In the final version, Solo gets the job of fetching Waverly his tobacco because of all the trouble he caused by playing the prank on Many in the first place. “Yes, I feel it is coming to me,” Solo says in the broadcast version.

John Saxon’s forgotten spy TV movie

Publicity still for Istanbul Express with John Saxon, Gene Barry and Mary Ann Mobley.

Actor John Saxon died today at 83, according to The Hollywood Reporter. according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Saxon had many credits over a long career including Enter the Dragon and Nightmare on Elm Street. But he dabbled in the spy genre, including a 1968 TV movie, Istanbul Express.

Saxon played Cheval, who was in charge of security for a train running from Instanbul into Europe. The TV movie starred Gene Barry as an intelligence agent. The cast also included Senta Berger and Mary Ann Mobley,

There was quite a bit of behind-the-scenes talent involved. The producer-director was Richard Irving, a major player at Universal’s television factory. The writers were Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators of Columbo.

Universal pioneered made-for-TV movies and this espionage story was an early effort along those lines. It’s not well-remembered today.

As it turns out, Instanbul Express is on YouTube (at least for now)

New normal? ‘U.S. Last’ releasing model isn’t that new

Christopher Reeve near the end of Superman II

There has been a lot of buzz this month that the “new normal” for major theatrical releases will be a “U.S. Last” model (the blog’s name for it, nothing official) where the United States will get the movie much later than other regions.

The reason for this is how the U.S. is one of the countries hardest hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). While much of Asia and Europe have managed to contain the virus, there are major outbreaks in highly populated U.S. states such as Florida, Texas and California.

A July 22 story in The Hollywood Reporter describes what may be happening.

In recent weeks, a campaign to begin releasing new Hollywood movies even if it means only launching a title in markets that are able to open safely — whether overseas or in the U.S. — has gained momentum as a global day-and-date launch becomes impossible in the era of coronavirus.

The thing is such a model, if it emerges, is more like the old normal than a new normal.

Back in the day, it took a long time for a movie to reach all global markets. With Dr. No, for example, its U.K, premiere was in October but it didn’t reach the U.S. until the spring of 1963. From Russia With Love came out in the fall of 1963, but didn’t reach U.S. shores until the following year. And Goldfinger didn’t reach the U.S. until Christmas 1964, months after its U.K. debut.

Nor was Bond alone. With Superman II, a highly awaited sequel to Christopher Reeve’s debut as Superman in 1978, the movie was in major markets in late 1980 and didn’t get to the U.S. until the summer of 1981. Some U.S. publications referenced what was in the movie ahead of its American premiere.

In recent decades, studios have grabbed for theatrical release money fast. Movies came out in a relatively short time globally. That enabled quicker home video releases.

All of this may affect No Time to Die. Is it possible a “U.S. Last” releasing model may be used for the 25th James Bond film? We’ll see.

Nolan’s Tenet is delayed again; what it means

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Tenet, has been delayed yet again, according to Variety. The move may have significance beyond that.

Tenet originally was scheduled to come out on July 17. It was pushed back a couple of times, most recently to Aug. 12. Warner Bros., in effect, was gambling it could get people back into theaters amid the pandemic stemming from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Steven Zeitchik, a writer for The Washington Post, suggested the latest development may be a twist in how studios have been releasing films in recent years.

Warner Bros. left the door open for the movie to come out in other countries by the end of the summer — before it is released in the U.S. But that too will depend on conditions overseas.

The postponement scuttles Hollywood’s plan for a mid-summer reopening and is likely to delay other entertainment-reopening plans across the country.

Why should James Bond fans care about this?

No Time to Die was made during a pre-pandemic time. The notion was you’d roll out a movie as soon as possible globally.

With COVID-19, that may not be possible. The coronavirus appears to be under control in much of Asia and much of Europe. But there are major breakouts of COVID-19 in the U.S., including some of the country’s most populated states (Florida, Texas and California).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and Universal (which is handling No Time to Die’s international distribution) have to take all of this into account. For now, No Time to Die is scheduled to come out in November.

Bond 25 questions: Another delay (?) edition

New (well, tweaked) No Time to Die character poster

There is a report (via the MI6 James Bond website) that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal are seriously considering pushing back No Time to Die’s release to the summer of 2021.

The movie currently has a November release date. This week’s news follows a series of delays in the release date for the 25th James Bond film.

Naturally, the blog has some questions.

Can’t the movie come out on a video on demand (VOD) format?

There’s not enough cash involved to make a profit on a movie that cost $250 million (give or take a million or two) to make.

Such expensive movies need to have as many revenue sources as possible. And for a pricey film like No Time to Die, that means a theatrical release — whenever it can happen.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the Bond franchise’s home studio) doesn’t have deep pockets.

Maybe a big studio can roll the dice and put a “tentpole” movie out first on VOD. But MGM ain’t it.

But I’m 60 or older and am among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Why can’t we go ahead with VOD?

Studios don’t care about you. Neither do advertisers or most marketers (except for makers of catheters or other products intended for older people).

Put another way, once you hit 50 years old, you’re nothing to them.

Who do they care about?

Younger people who have to buy a lot more products than their parents and grandparents. In the case of movie studios, younger people are more likely to see movies.

But I’m a long-time fan! I’ve followed Bond for decades!

See answer for question 2.

Isn’t that a cynical outlook?

The studio bosses don’t think so. That’s the way it is.

MGM, Universal consider 2021 NTTD date, MI6 says

No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal are considering pushing No Time to Die’s release date to a “Summer 2021 release window,” the MI6 James Bond website said.

A decision on such a move “will be due soon,” the website reported.

The 25th James Bond film currently is scheduled for November after a delay from April.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has jumbled movie release schedules. Films such as Tenet, a new Christopher Nolan movie, have had multiple release dates.

In March, when the decision was made to delay No Time to Die until November, COVID-19 had caused theaters in China to shut down and Italy was the site of a major outbreak in Europe. Marketing for No Time to Die was well underway when the delay to November was announced.

Since then, Asia and Europe have moved to contain the virus. But major states in the U.S. — including Florida, Texas and California — have had major outbreaks. Theaters in the U.S. have been deciding when and how to reopen.

No Time to Die is being released in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, co-owned by MGM, and by Universal internationally. MGM also is Bond’s home studio.

The last James Bond film to have a summer release date was 1989’s Licence to Kill.

NTTD update: California shuts movie theaters again

No Time to Die character poster

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, has shut down movie theaters again, according to CNBC.

Other businesses affected by the governor’s orders include restaurants, bars, and museums.

California is the largest state in the United States. It is also one of the biggest movie audiences in the U.S.

The state is among the U.S. centers of COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. Other U.S. hot spots include Florida, Texas and Arizona. California also is one of the largest centers of the American movie industry.

No Time to Die currently is scheduled to come out in November in the U.K. and the U.S. The 25th James Bond film originally was scheduled to come out in April. But that schedule was pushed back because of COVID-19.

Barbara Broccoli now No. 2 in 007 film tenure

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

The milestone took place a few years ago, but it should be noted that Barbara Broccoli is now No. 2 in 007 film tenure at 38 years.

Broccoli, 60, has worked in the franchise full-time since 1982. She graduated from college that year and soon was working on Octopussy, which began filming that summer. She received an on-screen credit of executive assistant.

Earlier, she worked part-time as a teenager, writing captions for publicity stills on The Spy Who Loved Me.

At 38 years, she trails only her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 78, who joined Eon Productions in 1972. Wilson and Broccoli have shared the producer title on Bond films since 1995’s GoldenEye.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon and its parent company Danjaq, had a tenure of 35 years, from 1961 until his death in 1996.

UPDATE (July 11): To be clear, this post only concerns total tenure time on a full-time basis. Albert R. Broccoli was either co-decision maker (when Harry Saltzman was his partner) or primary decision-maker (after Saltzman departed) for almost all of his 35 years. He only yielded toward the end of that time because of health issues.

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have spent more years involved in the franchise. But it took them some years to achieve the same decision-maker status.