007 marketing, 2012 and 1987

At the official James Bond/Skyfall Facebook page, this went out Jan. 31:

James Bond 007
Bond fans! At 8am GMT, Wednesday 1st Feb the first official image from SKYFALL will be revealed exclusively on 007.com! If you’re in the US then pick up a copy of Wednesday’s edition of USA Today – it’s the first time you’ll be able to see it in print.

(UPDATE: It’s up at the Web site now. You can CLICK HERE to see it, an image of Daniel Craig/Bond with beard stubble, holding in a gloved hand what appears to be a Walther PPK.)

Except, a few weeks ago we were told the first Skyfall photo was out:

Star Daniel Craig, with blue swim trunks, was shown in various Web sites, including: Movieweb, Moviewatch, Entertainmentwise, and Whatculture! and who knows where else. Some billed it as an official photo courtesy of Sony (which is releasing the 23rd James Bond film), others merely said it was a Skyfall photo.

So was that an official release or not? The sheer number of Web sites showing the photo (which also included 007 fan Web sites) suggests it wasn’t Woodward-Bernstein investigative reporting that pried that image from the “Most Secret” vault of Eon Productions, which actually produces Skyfall. And it’s clearly not a “candid” shot (i.e. taken while a scene was being recorded). It appears to be posed and carefully lit and meant to evoke 2006’s Casino Royale, where Craig appeared in light-blue swim trunks.

But that’s in the past and we’re told Bond with stubble and gun is official and Bond in swim trunks wasn’t.

Let’s recap. Skyfall has been filming for almost three months. We have one photo of Craig at a pool (now dubbed unofficial) and now an official still for a movie whose first unit has yet to go beyond the borders of the U.K. (a second unit has been filming in China). Oh, and all those images of clapperboards on the official Bond sites. You know: like THIS ONE or THIS ONE or THIS ONE or….well, you get the point.

By contrast, a quarter-century ago, when Eon was filming The Living Daylights, after a few months of filming, there were cast interviews, footage from exotic locations, publicity stills and all sorts of things. Take a look at this footage from ABC’s Good Morning America in November 1986:

On various 007 fan message boards, participants are saying how great it is so few spoilers have gotten out. And that is a change from previous Bond movies. But, it comes at a cost. By this stage in the filming of most 007 films, there has been a lot of publicity already and some fans wonder why there hasn’t been more with Skyfall. Well, you can’t have it both ways. Eon hasn’t exactly spread the red carpet for reporters (much of the publicity so far has come from Daniel Craig interviews while he’s been trying to publicize The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, SUCH AS THIS ONE.) If you don’t want spoilers, fine. But don’t complain about lack of publicity at the same time.

`All the money’s going to go on the screen’

There’s a quote attributed to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli to the effect that with James Bond movies, the money is all up on the screen. In Broccoli’s time at the 007 helm (1961-1996), that explained why the production team often cast unknowns for key roles, especially the female leads. Eon would save money on such roles and use it toward putting spectacle during the film.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon

When the modestly budgeted ($1 million) Dr. No came out 50 years ago, the crew still spent weeks in Jamaica. As budgets increased, Eon increased location shooting. “Kids that watch that watch television and watch films today, they’re very smart,” Broccoli told ABC’s Good Morning America in 1987, a quarter-century after Dr. No, when discussing The Living Daylights. “They know just where you are. They know you’re in Hollywood behind a palm tree and not in Quarzazate or not in Morocco.” (We were reminded about this in a post on the Bond and Beyond message board. You can CLICK HERE to see a 9:20 video on YouTube that has two segments from Good Morning America about The Living Daylights. The Cubby Broccoli quote starts at about the 6:20 mark.)

Sometimes, as in the case with The Living Daylights, Vienna substituted for the then-Czechoslovakia or Thailand for Vietnam (Tomorrow Is Not Enough Tomorrow Never Dies) or Spain for Cuba (Die Another Day) if going to the actual site was too difficult for political or other reasons. Still, Eon emphasized location shoots. Meanwhile, Broccoli and Eon would pass over some actors, such as Faye Dunaway in Octopussy, deeming them too expensive, in favor of spending money elsewhere.

Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss and Cubby Broccoli’s daughter, cites the “putting the money on the screen” line in places like Quantum of Solace DVD extras and the November Skyfall news conference. At the latter, a reporter asked if the Skyfall’s budget might be reduced compared with 2008’s Quantum of Solace. “Does it look like we’re cutting back?” she asked, gesturing toward director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig. “All the money’s going to go on the screen.”

Since then, it has emerged that the first unit isn’t going to Shanghai, with U.K. locations subbing for the Chinese business center (Ascot Racecourse subbing for Shanghai International Airport, for example), while the second unit films in China. The first unit will film in Turkey. By contrast, Quantum of Solace, with a reported $230 million budget, filmed in Chile, Mexico, Italy, Panama, Austria and the U.K.

Javier Bardem, who plays Skyfall's villain

Has the budget been cut? Michael Wilson, the other Eon co-boss, said in November that Skyfall’s budget is in the same range as Quantum. That’s despite the fact the world economy is weaker than 2008, when Quantum was filmed. Also, Quantum’s reported budget was almost as much as some Harry Potter movies without delivering the same level of return.

Still, let’s take Wilson at his word for a moment. Skyfall may be taking on higher costs that its predecessors. The 23rd James Bond film is employing an Oscar-winning director (Sam Mendes), an Oscar-nominated screenwriter (John Logan, who had two nominations when he was signed and just picked up another for Hugo), an Oscar-nominated director of photography (Roger Deakins) and a cast that includes Oscar winner Javier Bardem, whose earning power is at a peak, thanks to 2007’s No Country for Old Men, Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes and five-time Oscar nominee Albert Finney.

Perhaps “all the money’s going to go on the screen” has a new meaning under Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Examples of all the money going to the screen for Skyfall may be the “Directed by Sam Mendes” credit in the titles or a dialogue scene between Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, or between Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney. That doesn’t mean there won’t be action. (The second unit has been filming driving sequences in China, according to the MI6 fan Web site.) But the increased salaries may mean shifting priorities, even if Skyfall’s budget isn’t one penny less than Quantum’s — and even more so if Skyfall’s budget really is lower than its predecessor.