Burt Reynolds at 80: the (could-have-been) Bond

Burt Reynolds and the cast of Hooper in the film's final scene

Burt Reynolds at the end of Hooper (1978)

Feb. 11 was the 80th birthday of Burt Reynolds. For a time, in the very early 1970s, some (such as director Guy Hamilton) thought he could have been a good James Bond.

That wasn’t meant to be, but the actor’s milestone birthday is worthy of a pause for reflection.

Reynolds was a better actor than a lot of his critics gave him credit for. At the same time, for a long time, Reynolds was quoted as acknowledging that he accepted some roles because it would be fun, rather than stretching his acting chops.

Regardless, Reynolds worked his way up. For a time in the early 1960s, he was a supporting player on Gunsmoke as Quint Asper, a half-Indian blacksmith in Dodge City. Reynolds also had a memorable guest appearance on The Twilight Zone, where he played a pompous actor, doing a spot-on impersonation of Marlon Brando.

Reynolds later became the lead actor in police dramas such as Hawk and Dan August.

The latter, which aired during the 1970-71 season on ABC, was a turning point. Not because it was successful, but because Reynolds took a copy of the show’s “blooper reel” with him on talk shows. (See the book Quinn Martin, Producer for more details.) For the first time, audiences could see what his colleagues already knew — Reynolds had a sense of humor.

Reynolds could be serious when he wanted to, such as the 1971 movie Deliverance. But, for some (such as the Spy Commander), one of his best performances — where drama and comedy were required — was 1978’s Hooper.

In that Hal Needham-directed film, Reynolds played the lead stunt man on a James Bond-like movie being directed by an “A” list movie director (Robert Klein). The latter character was based on Peter Bogdanovich, who directed 1976’s Nickelodeon, a film where Reynolds worked as an actor and Needham as stunt coordinator.

In 1978, it was inconceivable that an “A” list director would ever do a Bond movie. So, in some ways, Hooper was a sort-of preview of the Sam Mendes-directed 007 films of the 21st century.

Anyway, here’s a hearty happy birthday for Burt Reynolds.

Batman v Superman turns into a Batman movie

So when did Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice turn into the newest Batman movie?

Warner Bros. came out with its final trailer for the movie that’s intended to launch a “shared universe” of characters from DC Comics. However, from the looks of the trailer, it looks more like a new Batman movie with an expanded cast. Or, put another way, there’s a reason Batman gets top billing in the title.

This trailer opens with Ben Affleck, the newest incarnation of the Bob Kane-Bill Finger character, in action along with an assist from the new Alfred, Jeremy Irons.

More importantly, it ends with a shot showing a surprised Superman (Henry Cavill) when an armored Bats is able to block a punch. Somehow (Kryptonite, anyone?), Batman has found an edge in what logically would be a rout.

If 2015 was “The Year of the Spy,” then 2016 is “The Year of the Superhero,” as Warner Bros. ramps up its output against rival Marvel/Disney. Warners and DC have had common ownership for decades, but DC now is directly a part of the studio. DC even moved from its long time home in New York to Warners’ digs in Burbank, California.

The studio has a lot riding on Batman v. Superman, especially after a sour 2015 at the box office.

Warners originally scheduled Batman v. Superman for July 2015 but delayed it to May 2016. But the studio slotted it for the first Friday in May, a date Marvel/Disney has owned more or less since 2008’s Iron Man. Marvel didn’t back down. It went ahead and scheduled the third Captain America movie — now Captain America: Civil War, which is more like The Avengers Part 2.5 — into the slot.

So Warners rescheduled again, moving Batman v. Superman to March, not your typical month for a blockbuster “tentpole” (in studio speak).

One shouldn’t read too much into trailers. Yet, it appears Warners is playing the Batman card heavily. From the trailer, it also looks like director Zack Snyder owes more than a little to Frank Miller’s 1986 The Dark Knight Returns comic book.

Pinewood Conducts Review; 007 film home may be sold

Pinewood Group PLC logo

Pinewood Group PLC logo

Pinewood Group PLC said Wednesday it’s conducting a “strategic review” that could lead to the company — the long-time studio home for the 007 films — to be sold.

Here’s an excerpt from the company’s press release:

The Board has now determined that it is appropriate to evaluate alternative opportunities to maximise value for the Company’s shareholders and to build on Pinewood’s successes to date. We believe there is a requirement for a funding strategy to be in place to fully realise the Company’s future potential…Accordingly, Rothschild has been appointed to assist with a strategic review of the overall capital base and structure, which could include a sale of the Company.

Pinewood has wanted to move to the main market of the London Stock Exchange from AIM, the market for smaller, growing companies. But, ACCORDING TO REUTERS, such a move is being hindered by the company’s tight ownership.

“As a result of a failed takeover attempt in 2011, Pinewood’s biggest shareholder Peel Group owns about 40 percent and Warren James Holdings has a 26 percent stake, Reuters data showed,” the news service reported. Bloomberg News said IN A SEPARATE STORY that Aviva PLC owns another 13 percent. All told, that means the large holders control 79 percent of Pinewood Shares. To get on the main market, a company needs to have at least 25 percent of its shares trading publicly, Bloomberg said.

Besides the bulk of the Bond films (including last year’s SPECTRE), Star Wars movies, the 1989 Batman and 1978 Superman films have been made at Pinewood’s main U.K. studios. The company has expanded to other locations, including Atlanta and Toronto.

Norman Hudis, busy spy TV writer, dies at 93

Norman Hudis

Norman Hudis

Norman Hudis, who penned episodes of various spy and spy-related television shows, has died at 93, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

In his native England, Hudis is remembered as the writer of the first six “Carry On” comedy films that began in 1958.

Hudis was very busy with spy-related entertainment. He wrote episodes of The Saint and Danger Man. He moved to the United States, where he wrote episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (including its final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, released outside the U.S. as the film How to Steal the World), The Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, The FBI and Search, among others.

According to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. timeline website, producer Norman Felton in 1971 responded to an NBC suggestion that U.N.C.L.E. be revived as a TV movie by saying Hudis would be a good writer for such a project. Nothing came of the suggestion.

UPDATE: According to Hudis’ IMDB.COM ENTRY his writing credits included the following.

The Saint: The Imprudent Politician, The Frightened Inn-Keeper, The Checkered Flag, The Persistent Parasites

Danger Man/Secret Agent: Koroshi, Shinda Shima

The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Tottering Tontine

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Yo-Ho-Ho And a Bottle of Rum Affair, The Five Daughters Affairs Parts I and II (released as The Karate Killers overseas), The “J” for Judas Affair, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair Parts I and II (released as How to Steal the World overseas).

Hawaii Five-O: The Big Kahuna

The FBI: The Inside Man

It Takes a Thief: Nice Girls Marry Stockbrokers, To Sing a Song of Murder, Beyond a Treasonable Doubt

Search: The Clayton Lewis Document, Suffer My Child

 

Jason Bourne ad debuts during Super Bowl

The new Bourne movie now has a title, simply Jason Bourne, and a 30-second ad aired during CBS’ telecast of the Super Bowl.

The ad didn’t reveal much, mostly showing Matt Damon in action as Bourne. Tommy Lee Jones wonders “why would he come back now?”

The movie, due out July 29, is the fifth Bourne film released by Universal and the fourth with Damon. The most recent entry in the series, 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, featured Jeremy Renner as another character, Aaron Cross.

Damon’s three previous movies were made from 2002 through 2007. Jason Bourne was directed by Paul Greengrass, who helmed Damon’s last two Bourne films, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Scott Mendelson, a writer at Forbes.com, has A COMMENTARY, where he speculates whether Jason Bourne will acknowledge the events of The Bourne Legacy. Meanwhile, you can watch the ad below.

About Honest Trailers and SPECTRE

By now, the Honest Trailers Series of online, parody trailers produced at Screen Junkies.com is well established. Getting an Honest Trailers sendup is a rite of passage for a movie, sometime between being viewed in theaters and at home.

This week, Honest Trailers teed off on SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film. Naturally, some websites wrote about it, including THE PLAYLIST and ESQUIRE. Some fans laugh with it, but others criticize Honest Trailers as self-absorbed and not serious film criticism.

Well, they’re not certainly serious film criticism. Each Honest Trailers entry lasts a few minutes and is full of one-liners. For the SPECTRE entry, the jokes conclude with all the similarities between SPECTRE and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a comic book-based film with a lot of spy elements. Take a look if you haven’t seen it already.

The thing is, as much as the SPECTRE version of Honest Trailer talks up the 2014 Captain America film, the folks at Screen Junkes still did a parody of it. CLICK HERE to view it.

When it comes to Honest Trailers, it’s best to go along for the ride, or, depending on your view, ignore the series. It ain’t Pauline Kael (or your movie essayist of choice) nor does it attempt to be.

Our Man in Havana’s (sort of) 007 in-joke

Our Man in Havana

We’re still catching up with TCM’s marathon of spy films from Jan. 25. Anyway, in the Carol Reed-directed Our Man in Havana, there’s a sort-of in-joke to James Bond films.

Considering the movie was released in late 1959, before the 007 film series debuted with Dr. No in 1962, that’s a mean trick.

Here’s the explanation. Our Man in Havana’s crew included Syd Cain, who was the movie’s assistant art director. Cain, of course, worked on a number of Bond films, including as art director of Dr. No and From Russia With Love and production designer of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Our Man in Havana involves Jim Wormold (Alec Guiness), a seller of vacuum clearners who’s recruited to be the British Secret Service’s man in pre-revolution Havana. Wormold, after unsuccessfully trying to recruit a spy network, begins making stuff up — and London is buying (literally) every bit of it.

Wormold is now considered so important that British Intelligence is assigning him support personnel, including a secretary (Maureen O’Hara). One of Wormold’s fictional agents supposedly flew over a secret Cuban installation and saw a secret weapon (really a drawing of a vacuum cleaner). Now, there’s pressure from London to get photographs of it.

Wormold, in trying to decide his next step, happens to see a comic strip in a newspaper. It’s called Rock Kent and is supposed to be by Syd Cain. (It’s on the top of the page, just above Blondie.)

This particular strip depicts Rock crashing into the side of a mountain. “We shall hear no more of Captain Rock Kent!” reads the caption accompanying the drawing of the plane crashing.

This gives Wormold an idea how to solve his problem. Of course, things get more complicated.

Regardless, it’s an amusing moment for viewers familiar with the early 007 movies.

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