Bond 25 may decide Barbara Broccoli’s legacy

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

For Barbara Broccoli, Bond 25 may determine her career legacy.

Broccoli has produced a number of plays and non-Bond films. But being in the driver’s seat of the 007 film series will outweigh that.

Put another way: Her eventual obit will NOT have a headline of “Barbara Broccoli, producer of plays and dramas, dies.” It will read (more or less), “Barbara Broccoli, James Bond producer, dies.”

For the record, Broccoli, 58, is co-leader of Eon Productions with her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 76. In official Eon press releases, Wilson’s name is first, hers second. And, since 1995’s GoldenEye, the title card reads, “Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”

However, the Dec. 1, 2014 press event for SPECTRE made clear it was Broccoli was now in the lead position. Wilson wasn’t present. He would show up at later SPECTRE press events.

Nevertheless, the December 2014 event cemented a narrative that Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. and Dana Broccoli, was the lead figure of the franchise. For example, there’s this April 20, 2017 New York Times story that had this passage:

“…Barbara Broccoli, who runs Eon Productions. Moviemaking is a collaborative process, but Ms. Broccoli and her older half brother, Michael G. Wilson, have final say over every line of dialogue, casting decision, stunt sequence, marketing tie-in, TV ad, poster and billboard.”

Note The Times listed Broccoli first, Wilson second, the reverse of their title cards on 007 films.

However, that control doesn’t extend to financing. Eon has never financed its own movies. Others have always paid the bills. United Artists carried that responsibility in the early years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after it acquired UA in 1981.

MGM financial problems caused the longest hiatus in the 007 film series, 1989-95. An MGM bankruptcy was a major issue in the 2008-2012 gap.

The gap between 2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the franchise. This time, though, MGM financial issues aren’t a reason. Both Broccoli and her preferred leading man, Craig, wanted a break. They took one from Bond while pursuing other projects.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at during an October 2016 event sponsored by The New Yorker. “The producers are just…Barbara (Broccoli) is making a movie. I’m doing (the play) Othello, Barbara’s producing that.”

Contributing to the current gap was how Eon this year pursued Danny Boyle as a director for Bond 25. This occurred after long-time 007 screenwriters delivered a Bond 25 treatment, according to multiple media reports. But Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, supposedly pitch a spectacular idea that Eon wanted. On May 25, Eon said that version was full speed ahead. On Aug. 21, Boyle was gone because of “creative differences.”

Now, a new director (and writer), Cary Joji Fukunaga, has come aboard. “We are delighted to be working with Cary,” according a quote attributed to both Wilson and Broccoli in a press release. “His versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice for our next James Bond adventure,”

(Reminder: Press release quotes are written by those charged with drafting the statement. The principals then approve the quotes or suggest/demand changes. In this case, it’s unlikely either Broccoli or Wilson actually said this. That’s not unique to Eon. It’s true of virtually every corporate press release.)

The thing is, if Bond 25 proves an outstanding entry in the series and/or is a huge financial success, none of this will matter much. Pro-Broccoli fans will say, “I told you so!” The worst-case scenario, likely, is a popular film that fans have second thoughts about (like SPECTRE).

Nevertheless, Broccoli’s legacy does have a lot riding on Bond 25. Her chosen Bond, Craig, will have an unprecedented run as Bond (albeit one with delays).

Nothing succeeds like success. A combination critical and popular success (similar to or exceeding 2013’s Skyfall) will cause most to forget the various bumps. For Barbara Broccoli, a spectacular Bond 25 would put her at the front of the line to take credit.

No pressure.

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Historian notes U.N.C.L.E., NxNW anniversaries

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Historian Michael Beschloss used his Twitter feed to note two spy-entertainment landmarks: The first telecast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the end of production on North by Northwest.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted on Sept. 22, 1964 on NBC. The show had been in development for almost two years.

Producer Norman Felton, invited to discuss doing a TV series based on Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book, instead pitched an adventure show.

The network said it’d commit to a series without a pilot episode if Felton could get Ian Fleming on board. The two had discussions in October 1962 in New York. In June 1963, Fleming dropped out because of pressure by 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Despite Fleming’s departure, the project continued, although a pilot would have to be made before NBC committed to a series. Writer Sam Rolfe did the heavy lifting on scripting the pilot and would be the day-to-day producer on the show’s first season. The series paired Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (the character name being one of Fleming’s surviving contributions) and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Ernest Lehman, would set the style for a lot of 1960s spy entertainment. It balanced drama and humor as Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill would dodge spies, with a climax on Mount Rushmore. The film ended production in September 1958 and would be released in 1959.

Here are Beschloss’s tweets:

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UPDATE (9:30 p.m. New York time): Beschloss was busy with other 1960s TV shows, including Get Smart.

 

IndieWire claims Bond 25 will be Craig’s FRWL

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

IndieWire, without saying how it obtained the information, claims that Bond 25 will be Daniel Craig’s version of From Russia With Love. Here’s the opening of the article:

What Daniel Craig wants, Daniel Craig gets. And what he wants is to make his own version of “From Russia with Love” (1963), arguably the best of the James Bond movies and Sean Connery’s favorite. And now, with the signing of Cary Fukunaga as director, it looks like Craig’s going to pull it off for his fifth and final outing as 007.

All of this is presented with the certainty that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Journalists like Bob Woodward get away with this sort of thing because of a long track record.

Also, in Woodward’s case, it’s known he has recordings of all his interviews and lots of documents. People will speak to Woodward (even if it’s not with their name attached) to make sure they come across as good as possible.

IndieWire is a long-standing entertainment news website and clearly aspires to be more than British tabloids. But its latest story on Bond 25 calls on the reader to take a lot on faith without providing any information how the information was obtained.

The article says Craig has been seeking a From Russia With Love-like vehicle for almost a decade, going back to when Peter Morgan was hired to work with Nearl Purvis and Robert Wade on what eventually would be Skyfall.

IndieWire says Craig approached Morgan “to write a ‘From Russia with Love’-inspired treatment. Morgan delivered ‘Once Upon a Spy,’ in which Judi Dench’s M is blackmailed by a ghost from her Cold War past, exposing a secret love affair with a Soviet spy, which threatens to topple MI6, forcing Bond to kill his boss and maternal figure.”

Morgan’s misadventure in 007 screenwriting (he left the project) has been covered in the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury.

Is IndieWire summarizing the book? Or does IndieWire claim original reporting about this? There’s no way for the reader to know. IndieWire wrote about the Field-Chowdhury book and Morgan in a 2015 story. In turn, that article was a summary of a Digital Spy article about the book.

There’s not much more to tell. If IndieWire is correct, it’s interesting for a number of reasons. The most important is Craig’s power — unprecedented among Bond actors working for Eon Productions —  to determine the course of the 007 film franchise. We’ll see how it goes.

Scribes analyze Fukunaga’s prospects for directing Bond 25

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s new director

The naming of Cary Joji Fukunaga as the new director for Bond 25 quickly spurred entertainment writers and other scribes to analyze how he’ll perform.

Essentially, several were excited by what Fukunaga will bring to the production. Others were more cautious, Fukunaga, who has a reputation as an auteur director, is replacing Danny Boyle, another auteur who departed over unspecified “creative differences.”

ERIC KOHN, INDIEWIRE: “Fukunaga has never made an obvious blockbuster, but he’s been steadily flexing the muscles required for a brainy action-adventure over the course of a trailblazing decade-long career…With those two features (Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre) alone, the filmmaker had already shown his capacity to juggle the unique formula that has sustained the Bond franchise across 65 years: tough, visceral action against diverse backdrops, balanced off with sleek romanticism.”

MORGAN JEFFERY, DIGITAL SPY: “If Fukunaga is anything, he’s a director who always has a very specific vision. So given that Boyle is confirmed to have quit Bond over ‘creative differences’, is it a risk to hire another auteur type?…For better or for worse, the Bond films already have their own style, their own formula, and don’t really suit idiosyncratic filmmakers…Cary Fukunaga is a great director, but helming a Bond film and working within that rigid framework is a very singular task. For all Fukunaga’s impressive qualities as a filmmaker, it’s no sure thing that he’ll be able to pull it off.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “(T)he reason Cary Fukunaga has the potential to be an ideal filmmaker for the Bond series is all over his direction of ‘True Detective.’ Simply put, he has a depth-charge understanding of men…and women. And that, as much as anything, is what the James Bond series now needs to be about.”

ALISSA WILKINSON, VOX: “Fukunaga has spent much of his life moving between cultures and absorbing them. His father, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in an internment camp in the US during World War II; his mother is Swedish-American. His parents split when he was a child, after which his father married an Argentinian woman and his mother married a Mexican-American man. Fukunaga is fluent in French as well as Spanish, the latter of which he learned during summers in Mexico with his mother and stepfather.”

GEOFFREY MACNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “Fukunaga seems a very clever pick on two different levels. He has a strong creative reputation – he is an auteur whose latest series Maniac is said to be genre-breaking and mind-bending – but he also knows how to play the game. He can work with big paymasters like HBO and Netflix….The next Bond will be the first one since the rise of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Fukunaga’s films, whether Sin Nombre or Jane Eyre, have often had very strong women characters. He’ll strain out any of the sexism that might have crept into the Bond series in the past.”

Bond 25 questions: The new director edition

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director 2.0 for Bond 25

Almost a month after the old director left, Bond 25 has a new director. Of course, the blog has questions.

Who is Cary Joji Fukunaga, the new Bond 25 director? Fukunaga, 41, is a U.S.-born writer-producer-director. His credits go back to the early 2000s. They include TV series such as True Detective and Maniac as well as films such as the 2011 version of Jane Eyre.

He had been slated to direct a film based on Stephen King’s It. He left the production. The movie came out in 2017 and was a big hit. Fukunaga was one of the credited screenwriters.

What’s the significance of hiring an American? Probably not much, if anything. It matters to some fans who argue on internet bulletin boards and the like that a Bond film should never be helmed by an American.

Truth be told, however, American Phil Karlson was favored by some United Artists executives for Dr. No, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The main thing against Karlson was his $75,000 asking price. Terence Young was paid about $40,000. Karlson ended up directing two Matt Helm films produced by Irving Allen, former partner of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

What about the script? In July 2017, Eon said it would be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. On May 25, Eon said Bond 25 had an “original screenplay” by John Hodge. He’s a writer who’s worked with Danny Boyle, who left the project in August.

The announcement naming Fukunaga as director doesn’t mention the script. Last week, multiple media outlets said Purvis and Wade had been brought back to turn a previous treatment they had written into a script. Assuming that’s the case, the director may want to revise whatever Purvis and Wade produce. But that remains to be seen.

The movie’s release date has been pushed back to February 2020. Is that a good move? Yes. Bond 25 originally was to begin filming Dec. 3. That meant that a new director would have a little more than two months to do his pre-production work. Now, the start of filming has been delayed until March 4. That gives Fukunaga five months of pre-production time.

Also, Bond 25’s original November 2019 U.S. release was getting crowded. Wonder Woman 1984, sequel to last year’s hit film, would have come out the week before Bond 25. Star Wars Episode IX is scheduled for Dec. 20. That would have limited Bond 25’s window for audiences.

Bond 25 will still face competition in February but according to the movie release schedule of The Numbers website, it includes an untitled DC Comics movie from Warner Bros. and an untitled Walt Disney film.  So the February 2020 situation is a little hazy and changes may be made before then.

Today’s announcement says Bond 25 will have a “worldwide” release date of Feb. 14, 2020. Is that right? No U.K. release 10-14 days before the U.S.? That’s what it says. We’ll see if that stands.

UPDATE (11:10 a.m. New York time). The Guardian interviewed the director a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read the interview

UPDATE II (2:10 p.m. New York time). IndieWire has a quote from an interview with Fukunaga: “I’ve wanted to do one of these [Bond films] for a long time, so that’s not new. So right now it’s just kind of dealing with the shock that it’s real and the honor obviously and now the responsibility.”

Bond 25 gets new director, is pushed back to early 2020

Bond 25 found its replacement director and will be pushed back to early 2020, Eon Productions said early today.

The new director is Cary Joji Fukunaga, who replaces Danny Boyle who departed the project last month.

Filming now is scheduled to start March 4, 2019, according to the announcement. The previous start date was Dec. 3.

Eon said the “worldwide release date” is Feb. 14, 2020. Previously, Bond 25’s U.S. release date was in early November 2019.

Fukunaga, 41, has directed a mix of films and TV series. He was born in Oakland, California, making him the first American to direct an entry in the 007 film series. Two non-Eon Bond films, 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, had American directors (John Huston and Irvin Kershner).

Marvel’s Feige to get BAFTA’s Albert R. Broccoli award

Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios

Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, will receive the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment at the 2018 British Academy Britannia Awards, the Los Angeles arm of BAFTA announced.

Under Feige, Marvel has produced 20 films the past decade, including three this year. Two of them, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, each generated global box office in excess of $1 billion. The Avengers movie surpassed $2 billion.

According to BAFTA, Broccoli award winners “are that rare type of iconic and trail-blazing individuals whose innovative approach has had a profound, lasting impact on the global industry.”

Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, began the James Bond film series. He was associated with the first 17 007 films. Feige is scheduled to receive the award Oct. 26.