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.

How did the 007-Heineken deal become such a big deal?

The flap over Heineken’s product-placement deal with Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, isn’t going away. How’d that happen? After all, James Bond drank beer in some of Ian Fleming’s original stories. He had beer in some movies, as recently as 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the most recent 007 flick.

"James, was this beer deal such a good idea?"
"Pass me a Heineken, Felix!"


With 20-20 hindsight, it’s not that surprising. Here’s what led to the situation:

The financial conditions of two studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns half the 007 franchise, recently was in bankruptcy court, emerging as a smaller company. It ended up cutting a deal with Sony Corp. to distribute Skyfall (and the next 007 film). But Sony has financial problems of its own. That meant:

Skyfall was going to rely heavily on product placement: The Sunday Times of London reported 11 month ago that MGM and Sony were looking to product placement deals to supply as much as one-third of Skyfall’s budget (this link shows the version of the Sunday Times story that appeared in The Australian). Months later, Skyfall star Daniel Craig tactily admitted that product placement was vital to Skyfall.

As a result, the media and some fans were on red alert: Bond movies had been criticized before for what seemed like excessive product placement. Some fans noted how 1979’s Moonraker included plenty of plugs for Marlboro cigarettes, British Airways and 7-Up. The 2006 Casino Royale movie, Craig’s debut as Bond, was noted for how it shoehorned a reference for Omega watches into a key scene with Craig’s Bond and Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who had done a film on product placement, included 007 films in his critique.

The initial announcement of Heineken’s Skyfall deal wasn’t handled well: Heineken’s Feb. 8 press release announcing the product-placement deal had a lot of chest-thumping by both the company and Eon Productions, which produces the 007 movies:

Alexis Nasard, Chief Commercial Officer of HEINEKEN said: “When two great brands like Heineken® and James Bond join together, excitement is guaranteed. We are proud of our long standing partnership. The trust that we have built has allowed us to take the partnership to a new level by linking SKYFALL directly with our award winning global ‘Open Your World’ campaign. We are confident our activation plan will ignite the conversation with our consumers and film viewers.”

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the SKYFALL producers added: “The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.”

Of course, Heineken and Eon could have mentioned that 007 had consumed beer in Ian Fleming’s novels and Eon’s movies. Evidently, they were so busy discussing how wonderful they were, that fact just couldn’t be squeezed into the press release. Make no mistake, when a press release quotes an executive, those quotes are approved by the executive ahead of time. This wasn’t an oversight. This is the message Heineken and Eon wanted to get across. Translation of said message: “We’re wonderful, you’re lucky to have us.”

Timing is everything: In this case, the timing was bad. Yes, Bond drank more than just martinis on the page and on the screen. (In Live And Let Die, director Guy Hamilton and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz made a point of having first-time 007 Roger Moore drink bourbon to avoid comparisons with Sean Connery.) But Bond was, for better or worse, identified with martinis in movies.

In addition, the Casino Royale reboot shook things up. The movie turned the traditional Bond formula on its head as we watched a thuggish Bond learn to be a gentleman. They could have chose to shown how a gentleman learned to become tough (this is not an original observation on our part) but the filmmakers didn’t take that approach. During Casino Royale’s marketing, we were told, the film shows “how James became Bond.” We were told by the end of the movie, the James Bond we all knew would emerge. Then, in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, we were told that James wasn’t Bond just yet. Hence, the gunbarrel scene, again, wasn’t at the start of the movie.

As a result, in the last six years, Bond fans have processed at lot of change. The Heineken deal meant yet more change and that’s been the theme of much of the coverage since the deal was first announced. Maud Adams, who appeared in two 007 films, said “this has gone too far. Martini was something elegant when I served Roger Moore and it is elegant to this day.”

Some fans say this was all planned by Heineken to get publicity. We doubt it. Most companies don’t like publicity where people dump on you. This probably will blow over. Then again, we first thought this would have blown over by now.

UPDATE: According to A YAHOO! MOVIES POST blog post, Michael G. Wilson told reporters in Mexico (he was speaking from the U.K.) that: “Bond would sup Heineken in the film, but added that he would drink Vodka Martinis as well.”

007 Magazine publishes another issue

Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine has another issue out, this one dealing with artwork for marketing James Bond, including poster art for 007 double features.

For more information, just CLICK HERE. The price is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 or 11.99 euros.

Sam Mendes once doubted casting Daniel Craig as 007?

We were about to take a sabbatical of a few days after reading a lot (probably too much) of the Skyfall publicity blitz. But on a Brazilian Web site, Bol Noticias, which you can view in its original form BY CLICKING HERE, it says Skyfall director Sam Mendes originally felt Daniel Craig wouldn’t be right to play James Bond.

Skyfall director Sam Mendes


Here are samples of the text after running it through Google Translate (caveat emptor):

The hiring of Daniel Craig to take the suit of James Bond has never been a consensus among the fans. Among them, the director of new film “007 – Skyfall”, the third of Craig as the British spy.

“I was one of those people who did not think it right for the role,” confessed Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), which revealed the actor in the United States with his “Road to Perdition (2002).” Maybe I had not chosen Daniel to be Bond, but he proved me wrong. Watching him go through the process and assume the character was amazing. ”

Mendes and Craig did a collective online direct from Pinewood Studios in England to the press. Earlier, the teaser trailer was shown for the first time. Revealed by the scenes, “007 – Skyfall” James Bond will have a thirst for revenge for a series of attacks on British soil, culminating in the murder of several colleagues.

Now, this is the first of the many stories (reported over the past couple of weeks and released April 16 when an embargo set by Eon Productions lifted) that mentioned details of the teaser trailer:

The trailer begins with the agent himself being interrogated under the eyes of the official M (Judi Dench) and Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). When asked about the mission “Skyfall,” he answered only: “It’s done.” Then scenes of explosions in London, falling buildings in Shanghai and a funeral.

“The film has some darker moments, but there are a variety of colors, the beautiful bondgirls and some references of mythology that we are bringing the series back to,” said Mendes. “007 is not a real world. So he’s not Bond and Bourne.”

By now our head hurts, but a few observations:

No Bourne influences? It was a different story when studio executives requesting anonymity told The New York Times in 2005 that “the model was Jason Bourne.”

At the end of the story, Daniel Craig, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson say Bond will still drink martinis while also consuming Heineken beer. Running the story through Google Translate makes it difficult to say who said exactly what, but all three commented to some extent:

“He also will drink vodka martini in the movie, he said producer Barbara Broccoli. “We care first to write the best possible movie. Then just incorporate what we think appropriate,” the producer Michael G. Wilson.

The first quote appears to be Craig based on the context of the story (via Google Translate). Broccoli appears to chime in the “best possible movie line” with Wilson getting in the last word.

UPDATE: A Yahoo! Movies blog post, which you can read BY CLICKING HERE says there was a press event in Mexico, where reporters got these quotes via a hookup to the U.K. where the principals (Craig et. al.) spoke.

Daniel Craig’s 007 economics 101

By this point, most James Bond fans are tired about reading about the Heineken product-placement deal with Skyfall and, based on recent remarks, it appears Daniel Craig is, too. But the Skyfall star may have provided a small lesson on the economics of James Bond movies.

Daniel Craig: teacher of 007 movie economics for a day


Craig, as part of a publicity blitz, spoke to the U.K. edition of the Huffington Post and the U.S. Moviefone Web site (both are part of AOL and carried the same story). In THAT INTERVIEW the Skyfall star said the following:

“We have relationships with a number of companies so that we can make this movie. The simple fact is that, without them, we couldn’t do it. It’s unfortunate but that’s how it is…This movie costs a lot of money to make, it costs as nearly as much again if not more to promote, so we go where we can. (emphasis added)

That’s not a lot of detail and others in the movie business have said similar things for a long time. However, it’s more detail than the makers of 007 movies get into. Usually they say it costs a lot and let it go at that.

So let’s take a look at how this rough calculation applied to the most recent Bond film, 2008’s Quantum of Solace. That movie had a reported budget of $230 million. To keep the math easy, let’s double that figure to add in the promotional costs. That gets you to $460 million.

Quantum’s woroldwide box office was just shy of $592 million, the second-best ever gross for the 50-year series. Now, that’s in unadjusted dollars. Then again, studios don’t deal in adjusted dollars; they deal with box office in the hear and now. Anyway, sounds like Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer must have done OK, after all that’s more than $130 million than the combined production-promotional cost.

Except, the studios didn’t keep all that $592 million. Theaters got a cut; typically, that’s tiny at the start and becomes more the longer a movie plays. Also, while the details aren’t public, the studios had to split whatever profits there were with Eon Productions, which controls half the 007 franchise and actually produces the films.

We don’t pretend to know the final figures, but the profit, if any, may have been relatively small for Sony and MGM. Last month, MGM disclosed it lost money on The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, also starring Craig, which had a $100 million production budget (and presumably similar sized outlay for promtion) with a worldwide box office of $231 million. Like both Quantum of Skyfall, that was a joint Sony/MGM deal.

Looking ahead to Skyfall, Eon co-bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said in November there had been no budget cuts for Skyfall. If Skyfall’s budget matches the reported $230 million budget of Skyfall, that would also be a combined $460 million production and promotional cost. Skyfall would need to at least match Quantum’s box office for it not to be viewed as a disappointment.

Thus, product-placement deals — and the Bond series is hardly a stranger to them — are a way to hedge bets. That’s especially true for Skyfall, where Sony is having financial troubles and MGM emerged from bankruptcy not that long ago.

Fans may think James Bond will go on forever and that product-placement deals are a nuisance. And yes, there are other sources of revenue (though falling prices for DVDs are eating into that). Still, Daniel Craig lifted the veil just a tiny bit on a more complicated financial picture.

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