Bond 23’s odd publicity buildup; can 007 shoot straight?

This week, there were reports that actress Naomie Harris was in talks for a part in Bond 23. One of the reports on Entertainment Weekly’s Web site said that Eon Productions confirmed such talks. However, the Eon person who made the comment wasn’t identified.

Well, that’s par for the course. The newest 007 film, to start filming late this year for release in October (in the U.K.) and November (in the U.S.) of 2012, has had an odd publicity buildup so far. Eon Productions and its studio partners, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures, have not exactly been consistent about how they spread the word. Consider:

The Peter Morgan saga: Eon puts out a press release in 2009 that Morgan, screenwriter of Frost/Nixon, would join Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in scripting Bond 23. Fans wouldn’t find out until 2010 that Morgan never even completed a treatment (essentially a detailed outline), much less a first draft of a script. Even then, that was through an interview Morgan did after he departed the Bond project. Oh, and by the way, it turned out Morgan didn’t believe in the 007 character.

OK, Morgan is a big-name screenwriter. But why publicize it so early, until you at least had some work to look at?

The Sam Mendes tease: Way back in January 2010, the Deadline Web site said Mendes had been hired as a consultant as a prelude to becoming Bond 23’s director. He couldn’t officially be designated director until MGM was ready to make a first payment for the film (and MGM was in severe financial trouble).

Later that month, Mendes was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Did he come clean? Hardly. In that interview, Mendes said it was “just speculation” that he’d direct Bond 23. That was an interesting statement, given Mendes’s own publicist told a U.K. newspaper that Mendes had indeed had talks about Bond 23 with Eon.

Oops. We, of course, know now it was hardly specualtion. Mendes’s own ex-wife, actress Kate Winslet, spilled the beans in a December 2010 interview that Mendes was directing. She was even moving to London so Mendes could be with his kids. Maybe he’s a good father, but it would seem he needs to work on his honesty in press interviews.

Hey! Don’t forget about me!: Eon apparently has decided to leave it up to some cast and crew members to make their own Bond 23 announcements. Eon and MGM said in January of this year that the film was finally on. That press release mentioned Mendes (finally), star Daniel Craig and the new screenwriting team of Purvis, Wade and John Logan.

Left out? Dame Judi Dench, who has played M in the 007 films since 1995, wasn’t mentioned. So, in late January, Dame Judi told the BBC she was indeed going to reprise the role.

Meanwhile, a big name behind the camera, director of photography Roger Deakins, told anybody who could find his Web site in a May 1 posting that he’d photograph the film. Deakins is considered one of the best directors of photography in the industry but that news was handled as an afterthought.

Clearly, Eon bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have work to do and seem to like their privacy. Also, MGM’s quick trip to bankruptcy court last year complicated matters. But in the early 21st Century, big movies are marketed long before their release dates.

Warner Bros. already is using the Internet to publicize its next Batman film due out in the summer of 2012. Daniel Craig made a trip to last year’s San Diego comic book convention — which studios use to publicize upcoming films — to promote his Cowboys and Aliens movie coming out this summer. By contrast, Bond 23’s marketing and distribution of news has been much more haphazard.