Welcome back, Ian Fleming

It took a while, but finally 007’s creator is getting a little attention during the 50th anniversary year of the cinematic James Bond.

On April 29, Eon Productions conducted a press conference in Istanbul. It was almost six months after the early November press conference to kick off filming of the 23rd James Bond movie. Fleming, without whom the “Bond wagon” of the past half century would not be possible, hasn’t been mentioned much. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, spent some time talking about the author of the original Bond stories.

Here’s the account BY SKY NEWS about the April 29 event:

Speaking in Istanbul where the new film is currently shooting, the Oscar winner said he had gone back to the original novels to look at the troubled psyche of the MI6 agent.

“What Fleming created was a very conflicted character,” he told reporters.

Here’s a quote from Daniel Craig in a Reuters story describing what he and Mendes discussed:

“But we couldn’t shut up. It was a chance for us to reread Ian Fleming, and we started emailing each other, ‘What about this and what about this?’, and that’s how it snowballed.” (emphasis added)


“You always go back to the Fleming because the character Fleming created over a number of novels was incredibly complex,” Mendes said Sunday at a news conference in Istanbul, where the crew of “Skyfall” has filmed.

“Some people sometimes forget in the cliche of Bond, which is the international playboy, and someone who’s always untroubled, and almost never breaks a sweat, that actually what (Fleming) created was a very conflicted character,” said Mendes, who was joined by cast members, including Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Until now, we’ve heard how wonderful Daniel Craig is, how wonderful Sam Mendes is, how wonderful Barbara Broccoli is. We’ve heard catchphrases like “Bond with a capital B” and “the money’s all up on the screen.” But we’ve heard very little about the author who actually created James Bond and whose tales were adapted, relatively faithfully, for five of the first six movies of the film series.

Could this be manipulative? Perhaps. Craig talks in 2012 about he “reread Ian Fleming” when he said IN 2008 that Fleming titles mean “very little.” That suggests Craig perhaps didn’t read the Fleming stories that closely where titles such as Live And Let Die, From a View to a Kill and Octopussy were explained.

Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter. Without Fleming, none of this is possible. Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman would be forgotten movie producers. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli might have been successful, but probably not as movie producers. Sean Connery, Roger Moore and other James Bond actors wouldn’t be quite as famous as they’d end up being.

It remains to be seen whether Skyfall will be true to Ian Fleming. And, as we’ve noted before, being true to Fleming has multiple interpretations. But, at least for one day, a long-dead author got a little recognition in an anniversary year that wouldn’t have been possible without him.

Mendes says Skyfall is both `traditional’ and `personal’

The Skyfall cast and crew conducted a press conference in Instanbul today. Shortlist magazine sent out updates on its TWITTER FEED. Shortlist quotes director Sam Mendes as saying the 23rd James Bond film will be both “traditional” and “personal.” Here’s the tweet:

Sam Mendes

Director Sam Mendes: “I’m making a film that’s both a traditional Bond film, but also one that’s very personal to me.” #skyfall

Shortlist quotes star Daniel Craig as saying, “Bond is as funny as hell in this movie,” compared with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

UPDATE: Here’s a story by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ON YAHOO. It contains this passage:

In Fleming’s last novels, Mendes said, Bond suffered from a “combination of lassitude, boredom, depression, difficulty with what he’s chosen to do for a living, which is to kill. That makes him a much more interesting character, and some of those things are explored in this movie, because Daniel as an actor is capable of exploring them.”

Based on the AP story, this Skyfall event may have had the most mentions of 007 creator Ian Fleming. The author, who died in 1964, just as Bond mania was approaching its peak, hasn’t gotten much attention so far in publicity for the movie.

UPDATE II: The Huffington Post is running this same AP story on its ENTERTAINMENT PAGE. The teaser to entice you to click (as of 11:15 p.m. ET)? “James Bond Gets `Depressed’ in `Skyfall'”

Happy 99th birthday to the real Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Norman Felton

April 29 is the 99th birthday of Norman Felton. Without Felton, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would never come to be.

Fifty years ago, Felton pursued an escapist television show that would eventually be pitched as “James Bond for television.” Felton had been involved in a number of television series, including Dr. Kildare, based on a series of MGM movies.

In October 1962, Felton conducted meetings in New York with Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Fleming’s participation would be brief but his contributions included the hero’s name, Napoleon Solo. Another character name from Fleming, April Dancer, would be used for the spinoff series, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.. Felton eventually engaged a writer-producer named Sam Rolfe (1924-1993) to flesh out the concept of a multi-national security organization, a sort of United Nations of spies. Rolfe created the character of Illya Kuryakin.

The Felton-Rolfe project became reality in the fall of 1964, under the title The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum playing Solo and Kuryakin. The original title was to have been Solo. Eon Productions, which produced the James Bond film series, cried foul (well, sued), saying that Mr. Solo was a character in Fleming’s Goldfinger novel. There was little in common between U.N.C.L.E.’s Napoleon Solo, a dashing secret agent, and Goldfinger’s Mr. Solo, a Mafia leader. So, the lawsuit that Eon filed was settled and the series renamed. (Eon later got a measure of revenge by making sure its Solo character died a memorable death in Goldfinger.)

Both Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe (along with future movie director Richard Donner) made cameo appearances in the The Giuoco Piano Affair, the seventh episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Below is a link to the end tiles to that episode (embedding was disabled for the video, so if you click below, there’s a link to watch it on the YouTube site). At the 0:33 mark, you can see Felton’s executive producer credit and, at the far left of the screen, Felton himself portraying a chess player at the far left of the screen. Happy birthday, Mr. Felton.

Mendes confirms Skyfall delves into 007’s `personal history’

Skyfall director Sam Mendes

Empire magazine, promoting its new issue with Skyfall star Daniel Craig on the cover, has a short article with comments from Sam Mendes where the director confirms the movie will get into Bond’s background. While not a huge surprise, there’s this passage about the audience can expect:

Mendes also adds that Skyfall will see 007 “physically pushing himself” and says that he takes the character “to another level where Daniel isn’t just playing things he’sdone before, where we felt we were pushing — I have to say this in a way that’s not giving too much away — the personal history of the character.”

This revelation isn’t a surprise to anyone who read about Skyfall call sheets that briefly described scenes or viewed photographs taken by a nature photographer during filming in March.

Still, it’s the first quote we’ve seen from one of the Skyfall principals that addresses the issue of how the 23rd 007 movie will explore the character’s history. It hasn’t come up much in previous films. GoldenEye had a passing reference to how Bond was an orphan, for example.

Matt Helm project still kicking around at Paramount, THR says

Matt Helm: still waiting for another shot at the big screen

Paramount is still interested in a serious Matt Helm movie, according to Web site of The Hollywood Reporter.

In A STORY THIS WEEK, there was this nugget from an interview with Adam Goodman, president of Paramount Film Group:

Goodman faces his share of challenges as Paramount looks to make up for the defection of Marvel movies to Disney and the possible end of its relationship with DreamWorks Animation in December. Sitting down with THR recently in his spacious, bright corner office on the Melrose lot, he revealed that Tom Cruise likely is close to signing a deal to star in a Top Gun sequel and that Ehren Kruger has returned to write Transformers 4, even as Shia LaBeouf exits. He also disclosed that he’s moving ahead with franchise hopefuls Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Matt Helm, Earthseed, J.J. Abrams’ Micronauts and Without Remorse. (emphasis added)

No additional details about the Helm project, to be based on Donald Hamilton’s 27 published novels from 1960 to 1993. This is essentially the first whisper of any movement in three years. Back AT THAT TIME, there was talk that Steven Spielberg might be interested in producing, Gary Ross in directing and Bradley Cooper in starring.

None of that, obviously, happened. Spielberg has had multiple movies subsequently while Ross had a mega-hit with The Hunger Games. Cooper’s name surfaced as, for a time, the leading contender to play Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but that evaporated in the latest chapter of the U.N.C.L.E. curse.

Prospects for the first Helm movie since the four Dean Martin comedies of the 1960s? Personally, we suspect the new Titan Books editions of Hamilton’s novels will be out long before any film.

Bond 24 in 2014? Here’s a caveat

Michael G. Wilson: the agony and ecstasy

Earlier this week, Sony Corp. representatives said at a CinemaCon event in Las Vegas that it plans to release Bond 24, the next 007 film after Skyfall, in 2014. (See THIS MI6 007 FAN WEB SITE STORY which was the basis of posts on various Web sites)

The announcement about a year-and-a-half after Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, which controls half of the 007 franchise, said in a bankruptcy filing it wanted to restore 007 movies to an every-other-year schedule starting in 2012 as part of its reorganization plan. Both this year’s Skyfall and Bond 24 call for Sony to release the Bond films in a deal with MGM.

So, Bond fans can count on another 007 films two years after Skyfall comes out this fall, right? Hang on a minute.

We have yet to hear Eon Productions, which controls the other half of the 007 franchise, weigh in on the subject. Sony can’t release a Bond film unless Eon makes one. This is the same Eon Productions whose co-boss, Michael G. Wilson, has complained for years about the rigors of makes James Bond films.

Is Eon on board with making Bond 24 in time for a 2014 release? Maybe it is, but nobody knows at this point.

Wilson’s step-father, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, lived for making Bond movies. Wilson, his successor (along with half-sister Barbara Broccoli) seems a lot more reserved.

Don’t get us wrong. This is not a predition that it won’t happen. But until Eon makes known it concurs with the desires of Sony and MGM to resume an every-other-year schedule, it’s not a sure thing.

Here’s a most unliklely critic of the Skyfall-Heineken (R) deal

See for yourself:

(We spotted this originally on the message boards of the MI6 James Bond fan Web site.)

Mendes says Skyfall is `darker than usual’

Skyfall director Sam Mendes is quoted by an Italian publication as saying the 23rd James Bond movie is “darker than usual.”

Skyfall director Sam Mendes

The comment appeared in La Repubblica. When you run the story through Google Translate, it comes out like this:

“Although the script is original, we’ve told the writers, telling them to be guided by the irony and the spirit of Fleming’s novels,” said Mendes. “If I agreed to shoot Bond is because I believe that it is now possible to make a film of escape, fun, but at the same time tell us something about the world in which we live. And to do that you have characters believable and human. And actors like Daniel Craig, who has given to 007 humanity that I had never seen in the Bond of the past. Bond again seems a real man in real situations. I recalled how I felt when I saw the films of Sean Connery. Skyfall is even a bit darker than usual.”

What to make of this? Who knows?

Back at Skyfall’s early November press conference, Mendes talked about how he liked Live And Let Die, hardly a dark film. Now he’s talking up the Sean Connery movies. At the same press conference, producer Michael G. Wilson said no change in direction for Skyfall, then later talked about Skyfall having a feel like Goldfinger, a more escapist movie than Quantum of Solace.

The Skyfall principals have told other reporters there will be more humor in Skyfall. The most recent example? An April 23 story in The Washington Post, quoting star Daniel Craig. Now Mendes says “darker than usual.”

If you accept the principals at their word, Skyfall is escapist fun AND a film with a message about the way we live. It’s got more humor AND it’s “going to move people a little.” (another Craig quote at the end of the Washington Post story). We’ll see.

Ode to the original Nick Fury

Less than two weeks from now, the “summer” film season gets started with The Avengers, a super hero epic that has been building since 2008’s Iron Man. One of the major characters is Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who heads up SHIELD, the organization responsible for assembling the super hero team.

Jim Steranko's cover for Strange Tales No. 167

The movie, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, will probably be a big hit. We thought we’d pause now to bring up the subject of the original Nick Fury, who won’t be seen in The Avengers.

HMSS did a more extended look at Nick Fury IN THIS ARTICLE IN 2000. Wikipedia has an even more detailed look at the character you can view by CLICKING HERE.

Quick summary: Nick was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963 as the title character of the World War II comic Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. Shortly thereafter, Nick showed up in “the present day” in the Fantastic Four as a CIA agent, establishing that he survived his wartime adventures. With the ’60s spy boom, Lee and Kirby started Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1965 as part of the Strange Tales comic book. To use a James Bond reference, Fury was a combination of Bond *and* M — he ran the organization and he was its best operative.

The SHIELD version of Nick hit his stride in the late ’60s in stories written and drawn by Jim Steranko. Steranko more than once made a tip of the cap to 007. In Strange Tales No. 164, for example, the Sean Connery version of Bond has a one-panel cameo trying to enter a SHIELD entrance disguised as a barber shop. “Take it easy, chum!” Connery/Bond says. “You act like I’m an enemy spy!”

The Steranko tales were particularly fantastic, with Steranko’s intricate art being one of the attractions. But the spy boom ran its course and so did Nick Fury (who got his own title in 1968). He’s hung around in the Marvel universe and there were periodic attempts to revive the character.

At one point, Marvel started its “Ultimate” line of titles, featuring, in effect, an alternate universe version of familar Marvel characters. The Nick Fury in this universe was based on, well, Samuel L. Jackson. Wikipedia has a separate entry on this version of Nick Fury, which you can view by CLICKING HERE.

Thus, in 2008, when Iron Man came out, the “Ultimate” version of Nick Fury (played by, well, Samuel L. Jackson) made a surprise appearance in a short epilogue that appeared after the movie’s end titles. Thus it’s the “Ultimate” version of Fury, rather than the Lee-Kirby original (who enjoyed his peak popularity with Steranko) who’s in The Avengers.

It’s understandable how this came about. Samuel L. Jackson is a big star and, truth be told, much of the general population never heard of Nick Fury before the Jackson version of Nick showed up in Iron Man (not to mention Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America). The original Fury’s one moment in the sun was a 1998 TV movie with David Hasselhoff as Nick. Such is life. But we wanted to make note of the original version of Fury ahead of the big blockbuster movie.

Amazon acquires exclusive North American rights to publish all 14 Ian Fleming James Bond spy titles

The books will be available summer 2012 from Amazon.com Inc.’s AMZN Thomas & Mercer imprint, which specializes in mysteries and thrillers. Amazon will also give the books a new look.

Read the entire WSJ story here. It’s also mentioned on the Ian Fleming Publications WEB SITE.