Fun facts about Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi (and others)

We mentioned before how NBC’s Thriller series included early performances by Bond women Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi. It turns out that deep in a commentary track on one of the DVDs, there’s some amusing trivia related to the 007 actresses.

This particular commentary track, rather than comment on an episode, is a re-enactment of a 1997 interview with Douglas Benton (1925-2000), who was the show’s associate producer and who went on to a long career producing various TV shows. The part of his father is played by Benton’s son, Daniel, who reads his father’s words.

Andress’s starring turn in “La Strega” was directed by Ida Lupino, with Alejandro Rey as the male lead. Benton quoted Lupino thusly: “Oh golly, it’s such a pleasure to come on the set and find out your leading man is more beautiful than the leading lady.” Benton quotes Lupino as changing her mind. “I’m happy with the way they look, it’s a shame, though, that neither one can act a lick. Alejandro couldn’t even understand English and Ursula was speaking German.”

On Paluzzi, who starred in “Flowers of Evil,” Benton said, “She was fun. She didn’t take acting terribly seriously. Her mother was one of Mussolini’s mistresses and Luciana had grown up in the upper reaches of Fasicist society.”

While this has nothing to do with 007, we couldn’t resist including Benton observations about William Shatner (“Bill was a terrible ham. Directors complained that he over-acted all the time.”) and Mary Tyler Moore (“I thought she was a brat. I was on the stage one day when somebody asked her to do something and she said, ‘I don’t have to do this. My husband Grant Tinker is the vice president of NBC.’…That was a request from the network that we find her a job.”)

Finally, Benton said of Robert Vaughn, the future Napoleon Solo, who also appeared in Thriller: “Robert Vaughn was the same guy I first met him on GE Theater and later on the U.N.C.L.E. show. He was a joy to work with. He is so much more intelligent than the average actor, that it was like dealing with a university professor…There’s no mystique in acting for Robert. He’s certainly no method operator. He’s just a very brainy guy who should be teaching history at one of the Ivy League universities. That is if he couldn’t make five times as much money as an actor.”

One of Benton’s many credits was being producer of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. It was he who came up with the idea of offering Karloff the role of Mother Muffin, the elderly woman leader of a band of assassins. The writer of The Mother Muffin Affair had described the character as “Boris Karloff in drag.”

“I looked at the damn thing and said well, why don’t we get Boris?” Benton said. “I knew him and I knew he’d be amused by this.” The answer Benton received from the actor: “When and where?”

Sony-MGM deal may cover Bond 23 *and* Bond 24, LAT says

Sony Corp.’s possible deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may include helping to finance both Bond 23, due out in November 2012, and Bond 24, the Los Angeles Times reported in its Company Town blog.

The report is similar to one yesterday on the Deadline entertainment Web site. The LA Times’s report has these additional nuggets:

As part of the arrangement under discussion, Sony would fund half of MGM’s next James Bond movie, which is planned for release Nov. 9, 2012, and 25% of a potential follow-up. Sony co-financed and released MGM’s last two Bond movies, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace,” making it a logical home for Hollywood’s longest-running franchise.

Sony would also release all future films made by MGM and the studio’s already completed movies “Red Dawn” and “Cabin in the Woods,” as well as handle sales of its 4,000-title library on DVD and digital platforms.

The Times presented a caveat. The talks are “far along,” the newspaper said while adding “people close to the discussions cautioned that there are a number of complex terms still to be hammered out and that it’s not certain a deal will be completed.”

Sony on verge of Bond 23 deal with MGM, Deadline says

Sony Corp., whose Columbia Pictures unit released Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, is on the verge of striking a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release Bond 23, the Deadline entertainment Web site reported.

That story, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, starts out thusly:

Deadline hears that Sony Pictures is close to landing distribution rights to MGM’s James Bond franchise again, and specifically for the next untitled Bond #23, even though several studios are still very much in the hunt.
(snip)

The new (MGM) brass, Spyglass Entertainment co-owners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum who are now the Co-Chairmen and CEOs of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, are finishing negotiations to co-finance a number of films with Sony.

The story says such a move would please the heads of Eon Proudctions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. That’s not surprising. Sony cut a check for $230 million for Quantum of Solace’s budget, the most expensive film in the Bond series. Whywouldn’t they be pleased? Maybe Bond 23 won’t face budget cutting after all, which might have occurred if other studios won the rights to distribute Bond 23. Here’s how Deadline puts it:

(Sony studio executive) Amy Pascal in particular has developed a strong personal and professional relationship with (Barbara) Broccoli when they were making the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig. Broccoli and Wilson found Craig among a list of possible 007s, and the choice wasn’t popular at first. But Pascal supported Craig. Also Sony has a reputation for spending big to market Bond: for Casino Royale, Sony spent a humongous sum worldwide to introduce the new Bond. MGM was supposed to distribute the 23rd Bond film itself, until the studio was pushed into bankruptcy.

Sony also isn’t a stickler for continuity in films such as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. So that may also suit Eon just fine, as well.

Ronald Reagan discusses James Bond

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. There’s plenty of debate even today about what Reagan’s political legacy means. We’re avoiding that, we just wanted to show this clip from a 1983 syndicated television special about the 007 films where Reagan made an appearance:

007 films and their (sort of) continuity part II

GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s 1995 debut as 007, marked the end of a six-year hiatus. It also marked the start of a change in the attitude of of the makers of the James Bond film series toward continuity.

Eon Productions, the maker of Bond movies, opted to use fan conventions in 1994 and 1995 as a marketing tool. The latter event, in New York City, a few days before the film’s premier in that city, included the chance for Bond fans to ask questions of Eon personnel, including producer Michael G. Wilson.

During the session, Wilson discussed continuity. He said the Bond films weren’t one big film series but rather a “series of series.” It was an interesting twist, especially given that Wilson and Richard Maibaum had co-scripted 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, which had a pre-titles sequence that explicitly tied that movie to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, even giving Tracy Bond’s date of death as 1969, the same year OHMSS was released.

Then again, when you become boss, things change. Wilson and his half-sister Barbara Broccoli by this time were running Eon, with Albert R. Broccoli incapacited by health issues. Cubby Broccoli had a “presenting” credit but wasn’t listed as a producer of GoldenEye and he died the following year.

Or did things change, continuity wise? Brosnan’s tenure ended with 2002’s Die Another Day, which featured a scene where Brosnan’s Bond while talking to John Cleese’s Q (Desmond Llewelyn died following a 1999 car accident) is in a storage area full of props from earlier Bond movies. Brosnan even asks if the Thunderball jet pack “still works” while throwing a switch activating it. It’s hard to say, given the scene was part of the film’s “Where’s Waldo?” motif of providing homages to previous Bond movies throughout the story.

Behind the scenes, Eon was rethinking Bond, as the series went into a four-year hiatus. Brosnan was out, Daniel Craig was in and Eon opted to begin the saga all over again. In effect, Eon followed Warner Bros.’s strategy with Batman, rebooting the character in 2005 following a four-film series that ran 1989 to 1997. Wilson called it the “beginning of Bond”:

Lest there be any doubt, there’s THIS TOTAL FILM INTERVIEW WITH THE EON BRAINTRUST. It began thusly:

TOTAL FILM: So… Bond is our Reboot Of The Decade.

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Well, that’s wonderful! Thank you very much.

The movie had no Moneypenny, no Q and Bond didn’t drink his martinis “shaken, not stirred.” The only holdover from the Brosnan era was Judi Dench’s M. There was no attempt to explain it, but one could assume it’s another fictional universe and she’s merely a different version of the same character, similar to how Marvel and DC comic books established there are similar versions of characters in different universes.

Casino Royale also got some of the best reviews of a Bond film in decades. So for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, fans were told it would be the first *direct* sequel, and the story would begin within hours of the end of Casino.

Except….well, the continuity still got muddled. In Casino we saw references SUCH AS THIS ONE to the film taking place in 2006. But in Quantum, we saw references SUCH AS THIS ONE that it was now 2008.

Nor was that all. At the end of Casino Royale, British agent Mathis was being interrogated as a suspected double agent. In the “few hours later” Quantum, MI6 had already bought him a villa as a make-up present AND he’s already moved into it. MI6 has apparently moved as well. At the very least, M has a new office.

(UPDATE: Going back to the end of Casino Royale, it shouldn’t have taken Bond very long to track down Quantum’s Mr. White. Bond had White’s cell phone number and that’s like having a GPS device, as this NEWSWEEK ARTICLE notes. It shouldn’t have taken weeks and White and Quantum were morons if they held on to their cell phones for TWO years. That’s why criminals use disposable cell phones and Bond, if he was remotely competent, would have had to act pretty fast to nab White at the end of Casino. A comment to this post, which we appreciate, prompted us to make this addition.)

It sounds like we’re being picky. You could argue, for example, that Quantum had a new production designer after Eon opted not to bring veteran Peter Lamont.

The counter-argument: Eon managed to keep M’s office looking about the same for the first 25 years of the series, despite having different production designers/art directors (Ken Adam, Syd Cain, Peter Murton and Lamont). It’s called attention to detail. Quantum director Marc Forster and production designer Dennis Gassner wanted their own look and they got it.

There have been reports SUCH AS THIS ONE ON THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE that say the script for Bond 23, due out in November 23, is “being kept under wraps but the story begins after Quantum Of Solace leaves off.”

We hope that’s not literally the case. While it may be possible to resolve Quantum plot lines in an entertaining story, by the time Bond 23 comes out it will have been six years after Casino Royale and four after Quantum of Solace. Then again, it’s not like inattention to detail has cost Bond much at the box office.

Don Black reflects on collaborating with John Barry in New York Post story

News Corp.’s New York Post, in a story you can read BY CLICKING HERE, has a story about the late 007 composer John Barry that includes observations by his frequent collaborator, lyricist Don Black.

An excerpt:

“When he finally played a song for you, you felt it was an unveiling. He’d wrestled with it himself for so long, it was beyond criticism. And then he expected you to go off and struggle with the lyrics just as he had struggled with the music. You know, staring out of windows and wandering around parks. That sort of thing.”

(snip)

“He didn’t like anything pretentious,” says Black. “He wanted simple words that hugged the contours of his melody. With the Bond songs, he thought they should be seductive, provocative and have a whiff of the boudoir about them.”

The duo did the title songs for Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever and The Man With The Golden Gun. They won an Academy Award for best song for the title song of Born Free.

007 films and their (sort of) continuity part I

Poster for a Dr. No/From Russia With Love double feature

Poster for a Dr. No/From Russia With Love double feature


We were scanning some 007 Internet message boards recently. A couple of assertions caught our eye, including one that *every* James Bond film has its own timeline that has nothing to do with any other 007 film. The other was that Casino Royale wasn’t a “reboot,” in which the Bond saga started over.

Facts would indicate otherwise. Still, the subject of continuity is a murky one for Bond films. Continuity has never been a big marketing point, at least until 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which was hyped as the first “direct” sequel to a Bond film (Casino Royale, in this instance). So here’s a glance at when the series at least attempted continuity.

Contrary to the Quantum of Solace hype, 1963’s From Russia With Love contains a few references to the events of Dr. No. True, it’s not mere minutes or hours later (even that is murky in Quantum, which we’ll get to in part II), but it’s clearly a year or less. Examples:

Early in the film, SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld is conferring with Kronsteen, his director of planning, and Rosa Klebb, a recent SPECTRE hire from the Soviet Union. Kronsteen tells Blofeld that SPECTRE “will have the chance for a personal revenge for the killing of our operative, Dr. No, because the man the British will almost certainly send is their agent, James Bond.”

After the plot has started, we finally see Sean Connery’s Bond spending a pleasant day making out with girlfriend Sylvia Trench out in the English countryside. Bond had met Sylvia in Dr. No and the two, eh, enjoyed each other’s company before Bond flew to Jamaica on the Dr. No assignment. Their reunion is interrupted when Bond has to call the office and is told he needs to return. Bond tells a disappointed Sylvia, “We’ll do this again some time soon.” Sylvia replies: “The last time you said that, you flew off to Jamaica. I haven’t seen you in six months…” Bond manages to buy some time before returning to headquarters.

In 1964’s Goldfinger, there’s another apparent refernece to Dr. No. In the original film, Bond met CIA agent Felix Leiter for the first time (Leiter wasn’t in the Ian Fleming novel). After the main titles, Leiter meets Bond again in Miami, where 007 is getting a rubdown from a woman named Dink. After Dink departs, Leiter says he’s surprised that Bond has let “a member of the opposition get that close to you.” Bond’s reply: “Well, they got a lot closer to you in Jamica, didn’t they?”

Five years later, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has a new Bond with George Lazenby. M tells Bond he’s being taken off Operation Bedlam because he’s had “two years” to track down Blofeld but has been unsuccessful. You Only Live Twice had come out in 1967 (and showed Blofeld’s face on camera for the first time), so that’s an apparent reference. More explicitly, when Bond decides to quit, he’s going through his desk, taking out objects from previous movies, including Honey Rider’s knife and Red Grant’s garrote watch, with excerpts from the scores of Dr. No and From Russia With Love playing in the background as he does so.

All of this was probably meant to reassure the audience that despite the new face, it was still Bond. Whatever the motivation, dicector Peter Hunt, screenwriter Richard Maibaum and composer John Barry had hit continuity button hard. On top of that, Maurice Binder’s main titles had an “hourglass” motiff showing the passage of time as well as (non-Sean Connery) clips from the five previous 007 films.

Eight years later, in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond and Agent Triple-X are showing off how much they know from each other’s dossiers. Triple-X one ups Bond by starting to talk about his late wife, presumably Tracy from OHMSS. Bond cuts her off, showing it’s still a sore subject. It’s the first time since OHMSS the marriage was explicitly referenced.

For Your Eyes Only in 1981 takes the OHMSS continuity play one step further. In the pre-titles sequence, Bond visits Tracy’s grave (and her name is on it, so there’s no possible mistake). The tombstone says Tracy died in 1969, the year OHMSS was released. The epitath is “We Have All the Time in the World,” the last line of OHMSS when a disbelieving Bond is mourning the loss of his wife, as well as the name of the main song from the film.

What’s more, the script contained a reference where the (sort of) Blofeld in the film’s pre-titles sequence says this is “the 10th anniversary of last encounter,” which would match 1971’s Diamond Are Forever, the last time the official film series used the Blofeld character openly. The line was snipped in final editing; Kevin McClory claimed ownership of Blofeld so Eon opted to take out the explicit reference. That decision was too late for Marvel Comics, which included the line in its comic book adaptation of the movie.

The ill-fated marriage gets referenced yet again in 1989’s Licence to Kill when Felix (whose own wife is about to get killed) says Bond was once married “but it was a long time ago.”

So connecting the dots, it would seem, at the very least, the Sean Connery-George Lazenby-Roger Moore films all share a timeline, though you’ll get arguments whether Diamonds Are Forever pretends OHMSS never happened. The films all have Lois Maxwell playing Miss Moneypenny. Extending the timeline through Timothy Dalton’s two films may be a more dicey proposition (he had his own Moneypenny, Caroline Bliss). On the other hand, Robert Brown, who had played M in the last two Roger Moore films, was still around, and so was Desmond Llewelyn’s Q.

After Licence to Kill, Bond went into a hiatus during a six-year period when Albert R. Broccoli considered selling off his Bond interest as well as getting into a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. When the dust settled, yet another new Bond was about to debut. And one of the key Eon Production personnel was about to muddy things up more, continuity wise.

TO BE CONTINUED

U.N.C.L.E. before there was U.N.C.L.E.

An international agency, with agents of various nationalities, works mostly in secret to capture the most ingenious and dangerous menaces. That could be part of a promo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which ran from 1964 to 1968. But it was also the premise of an unsold 1962 pilot, The Specialists.

The show ran as the final episode of NBC’s Thriller anthology series. The audience is never told the group’s name. It has operatives in North America, the U.K. and the European continent. We also see one agent who’s Pakastani, so it may agents in Asia as well. The episode follows agents led by Peter Duncan (Lin McCarthy) who are trying to break a criminal group operating in Europe and North America.

There are elements of spy shows that would populate the airwaves a few years later. Duncan notes that two of his men were killed by police, who thought they were gangsters. “They knew the risks,” Duncan’s Washington-based boss replies. Duncan and his men only work through the police when it’s necessary.

There are significant differences, also. Duncan is a family man, unlike James Bond-influenced characters such as Napoleon Solo and James West. Duncan’s wife thinks he’s a lawyer. In terms of style, The Specialists comes across more like an updated Untouchables (Duncan and his men all wear hats, similar to Elliott Ness & Co.) than the ’60s spy shows.

Still, there are a few connections to those same ’60s spy programs. The show was scripted by John Kneubuhl, one of the most important writers for The Wild, Wild West (he created Dr. Loveless and wrote five of the 10 Loveless episodes for that series). And future U.N.C.L.E. writer Alan Caillou has a small role as a British police superintendent who cooperates with Duncan’s group. There isn’t an original music score, but The Specialists uses music that Jerry Goldsmtih and Morton Stevens composed for earlier Thriller episodes. Goldsmith would do U.N.C.L.E.’s theme and he and Stevens both did first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

Javier Bardem interested in playing Bond 23 villain, LA Times says

The Los Angeles Times, in its Awards Tracker weblog, says Javier Bardem is interested in playing the villain in Bond 23, due out in November 2012. An exerpt:

Oscar nominee Javier Bardem is notoriously difficult when it comes to getting him to commit to a film, but he admits he has just been offered a part that will be hard to turn down.

Bardem recently met with director Sam Mendes to talk about playing the villain in the next James Bond film, temporarily titled “James Bond 23” and set for a Nov. 9, 2012, release.

The actor, who is Oscar-nominated for his lead work in the Spanish-language drama “Biutiful” and who won in 2008 for another villainous role in “No Country for Old Men,” hasn’t said yes to Mendes — yet. He wants to read the screenplay first.

(A shoutout to “Mark” who brought this to our attention in a response to a previous post.)