Cinefex magazine looks at Skyfall

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image


Cinefex, a quarterly magazine that looks at special effects in movies, has an article about Skyfall IN ITS APRIL 2013 ISSUE.

Some details from an excerpt from the story:

“Sam Mendes agreed that there should be a big, jaw-dropping moment during a chase in the London Underground,” said special effects supervisor Chris Corbould. “I came up with the idea for the Tube train crash, which Sam liked a lot, but then I started to realize the enormity of what I’d dreamt up. A real Tube train carriage is 60 feet long and weighs in excess of 25 tons. We decided to make our own carriages, and brainstormed a way to make them crash.”

Corbould’s senior special effects technician, Dan Homewood, and special effects designer Jason Leinster oversaw construction of two full-scale carriages on an overhead monorail rig. “We fitted a track in the ceiling that ran two-thirds of the whole length of the 007 Stage. That gave us room to get the train up to speed, then have it dip down into the set, like a rollercoaster ride. We hung the train on steel linking arms, and connected it via cables to a tractor unit that towed the train into the set at about 30 miles per hour.”

For more information, you can go to the PUBLICATION’S WEB SITE and go to the back issues section. The Skyfall article is No. 133 (you can also use the link at the top of this post). Cinefex also had articles about Casino Royale in issue 108 and Quantum of Solace in issue 116. Ordering costs $12.50 and orders outside the U.S. require an addition $7.50 shipping.

Derek Watkins, 007 musician, dies

Derek Watkins

Derek Watkins

Derek Watkins, who frequently played trumpet on the scores of James Bond movies, has died, according to a series of Tweets by composer David Arnold.

DavidGArnold ‏@DavidGArnold
Very very sad news…the legend that was Derek Watkins,gentleman,musical genius and Trumpet on EVERY
Bond score has just passed away

DavidGArnold ‏@DavidGArnold
renowned as one of the finest Trumpet players in the world (LA session players often asked me about him) but he was mainly a lovely man

DavidGArnold ‏@DavidGArnold
He played on pretty much all of my scores and records….sublime playing,tasteful,supreme…and could hit notes others couldn’t get near

DavidGArnold ‏@DavidGArnold 4h
That will be a chair in the Trumpet section that will remain permanently empty….an irreplaceable musician and a down to earth,funny man

Arnold was composer on five James Bond movies, starting with Tomorrow Never Dies and running through Quantum of Solace. Watkins’s Web site has a long list of movie and TV credits.

UPDATE (March 23): Watkins, born in 1945, was just 17 when he played on Dr. No, beginning his long run performing on 007 scores. You can CLICK HERE to view his biography on his Web site.

UPDATE II (10:55 a.m., March 23): There is a Facebook page called DEREK WATKINS, THE TRUMPET LEGEND. It includes this post from his wife Wendy:

“A trumpet spreading a wondrous sound
Throughout the graves of all lands.
Will drive mankind before the Throne
Death and Nature shall be astonished”

It is with such sorrow that I have to tell you that my beloved husband died at 19.50 on 22 March. He was surrounded by his family telling him how much we loved him. His two year battle against cancer is over, he is at peace but we shall miss him so very much. His courage and strength over the past years have been an inspiration to everyone he met, and his music will live on for his future generations.

DEREK ROY WATKINS – 2 MARCH 1945 – 22 MARCH 2013

The HOME PAGE of Watkins’s official Web site now also has a tribute. Finally, some 007 Web sites have tried embedding one of the Skyfall videoblogs about the film’s music where Watkins is featured along with composer Thomas Newman. But those videos appear to have been blocked. But you can still see it by going to the VIDEOS PAGE of the official 007.com Web site.

UPDATE III (11:52 a.m.): The BBC’s Web page has an obituary you can view by CLICKING HERE. Meanwhile, other 007 bloggers inform us they’ve embedded versions of the 007.com video featuring Watkins works fine. So we’ll try to embed here:

The reverse Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse

Channing Tatum: one-time Solo contender, now hot Hollywood property

Channing Tatum: one-time Solo contender, now hot Hollywood property

We’ve posted before about how there’s a CURSE that seems to prevent new versions of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from becoming reality. But there also seems to be a reverse curse — actors who get mentioned as leads in a new U.N.C.L.E. but don’t end up in the roles do really, really well.

All of this is undoubtedly coincidence but consider:

George Clooney: The actor was director Steven Soderbergh’s first choice to play Napoleon Solo for an aborted U.N.C.L.E. project. The two had worked together multiple times but Clooney took his name out of the running, in part because he wasn’t up to the physical demands of the role. He ends up picking up an Oscar as one of the producers of Argo after that 2012 film received the Best Picture Academy Award.

Bradley Cooper Cooper was supposedly offered the role of Napoleon Solo after Clooney’s exit. At the time, he was seen as the star of comedies such as The Hangover that didn’t have a lot of content. Now, he’s viewed as a Serious Actor (R) after getting a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook.

Michael Fassbender: There were multiple stories that Soderbergh suggested Michael Fassbender to play Napoleon Solo after Clooney and Cooper faded from the scene. Supposedly, Warner Bros. vetoed the choice because Fassbender wasn’t considered a star. Now, the German-Irish actor is considered a star.

Channing Tatum: The actor, who resembles a football linebacker, also was mentioned before Soderbergh finally quit his U.N.C.L.E. project. Last year, Paramount abruptly pulled GI Joe: Retaliation from release. The story at the time was the studio needed time to add 3-D effects. But the Deadline: Hollywood Web site reported the real reason was the need to re-shoot scenes so Tatum’s character wouldn’t get killed off because the studio brass had concluded he was now a star. Studios don’t reschedule big, expensive movies lightly. (UPDATE, March 31: If there were reshoots, well, Channing’s character doesn’t exactly come out whole, but he does take up a lot of the early part of the movie. GI Joe 2 also was the top film at the U.S. box office during Easter weekend.)

Joel Kinnaman: this actor was Soderbergh’s choice at one point to play Illya Kuryakin, but got vetoed by Warner Bros. because, you guessed it, he wasn’t considered a star. Subsequently, he was cast in the lead role in an upcoming remake of RoboCop. Apparently, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which also co-owns the 007 franchise, was willing to take a chance where Warner Bros. was not. MGM, though, hedged its bet by including Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman in the cast.

11 questions about a Tom Cruise U.N.C.L.E. movie

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Warner Bros. is in early talks about Tom Cruise starring in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., according to the Deadline: Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter Web sites. But there’s been no studio confirmation. That’s understandable if they’re in negotiations.

Still, the development raises a number of questions in our mind. So, in honor of the No. 11 badge Napoleon Solo wore at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, here are 11 of them.

1. Would Cruise play Napoleon Solo? No idea. Neither Deadline nor The Hollywood Reporter provided that information in their stories this week. When Cruise started his Mission: Impossible movies in 1996, he didn’t play a character from the original show. He played a new character, Ethan Hunt. The first movie turned Jim Phelps, the character played by Peter Graves in the original television series, into a villain.

2. He wouldn’t do that again, would he? Who knows? With Mission: Impossible, Cruise also doubled as producer. The current project is being headed up by Guy Ritchie, assigned by Warner Bros. after Steven Soderbergh bowed out of a possible U.N.C.L.E. movie in late 2011. Pulling the same trick twice, might seem tacky. Then again, Cruise might play a new character even if they don’t make Solo a villain.

3. If Cruise does play Solo, who plays Illya Kuryakin? That depends on the answer to question 1. It also depends on how big a role Kuryakin (if the character does appear) has in the movie.

4. How are long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans taking this? From our sampling, not that well, Earlier this week, we checked out the hashtag #manfromuncle on Twitter and the more vocal fans were quite annoyed, with at least one freely using swear words.

5. What are some of the fan complaints? A recurring one is that Cruise, 50, is too old. Robert Vaughn was 30 when he began filming the series pilot and celebrated his 31st birthday while the pilot was in production. Vaughn was 50 when The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie aired in April 1983, which featured an aging Solo who returns to action 15 years after leaving the international intelligence agency.

6. Is that reaction surprising? No. Fans had the same complaint when George Clooney, born a year earlier than Cruise, was first mentioned as Soderbergh’s preferred choice for Solo. Same complaint, different actor.

7. What does this week’s news tell you about this possible movie? It indicates that Warner Bros. believes U.N.C.L.E. won’t work without a big name star. Some properties work with a relative unknown. The 1978 version of Superman was a hit with unknown Christopher Reeve in the title role, though Warners hedged its bet by having Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. The 2002 Spider-Man movie had Tobey Maguire in the title role. But Superman and Spider-Man have been continuously published for decades and the public is more aware of them than U.N.C.L.E.

8. Let’s say Cruise does play Solo, Solo stays a hero and Cruise does a good job. Would there be any fan issues then? Not initially, but it does raise the question whether you can build a multi-movie franchise with an actor in his 50s — unless, of course, he’s really playing Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief played by Leo G. Carroll in the original show. But that wouldn’t seem likely.

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo


9. Is there a bright side to this week’s news? Yes. For a day or so, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a hot topic on the Internet. On Yahoo, it was the number one topic after the two stories hit and other entertainment Web sites weighed in. The show went off the air in January 1968 and there has been no official U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 television movie. Suddenly, U.N.C.L.E. was a hot topic again, at least for a bit.

10. What are the odds of this becoming reality? For now, the odds are against it but only because studios release fewer movies than they did even a decade ago. Until filming begins, nothing is certain.

11. What’s your opinion? We’re trying not to think about it until there’s something to think about. There was a LONG SOAP OPERA when Soderbergh’s project was underway and we posted a lot about it. This time out (this post notwithstanding), we’d prefer to hold back until things are more certain.

Why we guess Bond 24 won’t be out until at least 2015

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

This week, Gary Barber, the CEO of MGM Holdings Inc., the parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said the company is “hoping within the next three years” that Bond 24 will be released.

That’s a much different tune that late 2010 when MGM, in bankruptcy court, said it planned TO GET THE BOND FILM SERIES BACK ON AN EVERY-OTHER-YEAR SCHEDULE. It was even different from November when Barber told investors that MGM was “hopeful” that Bond 24 could come out in 2014. “If not in ’14, certainly in ’15,” he said at that time.

With these week’s comments by Barber, entertainment Web sites such as WHATCULTURE! and FLICK DAILY are taking the MGM CEO literally and saying Bond 24 won’t be out until 2016. That’s probably extreme, but Barber and MGM clearly are backing off the idea of Bond 24 coming out in 2014.

Here are our guesses why:

Eon Productions (which actually makes the 007 films) doesn’t seem keen on a 2014 timetable: Last year, an executive of Sony Pictures (which co-financed Skyfall with MGM and co-financed the movie) said Bond 24 would make a 2014 release date. Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall star Daniel Craig slapped that idea down in an interview with COLLIDER.COM.

(QUESTION:) Last week Rory, the president of distribution of Sony, announced Bond 24 for I guess late 2014…

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it (emphasis added)

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs).

(emphasis added)

Actually, somebody had announced something — an executive of Sony Pictures, an Eon Productions business partner who was acting in his official capacity, had announced that Bond 24 was coming out in another two years. In effect, Broccoli and Craig were saying, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

In an interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Barbara Broccoli had this comment about studios:

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

In the case of MGM, it co-owns the 007 franchise with Eon. But, based on these comments, it would seem as if Broccoli doesn’t view MGM exactly as a partner. At the very least, it doesn’t sound like Broccoli wants to hurry the process along. Meanwhile, Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli’s half brother and the other-co boss of Eon, had this to say in an interview with the DEN OF GEEK! Web site:

Have any preparations been made for Bond 24 yet?

Broccoli: No, no.

How long a space do you think you’ll need?

Wilson: If we’re rapid it’ll be two years, if we’re not it’ll be three. (emphasis added)

It’s not as critical for MGM to get Bond 24 out by 2014: When MGM made that filing in bankruptcy court it was, well, bankrupt. This week, it reported considerably improved financial results for 2012, much of it from Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The Hobbit has release dates for sequels in 2013 and 2014. Presumably, MGM will want Bond 24 sooner than later, but a 2014 release date isn’t a matter of life and death for the studio. Meanwhile, Bond remains an important asset for MGM and CEO Barber talked on this week’s investor call how the company was working with its “partners” (his words) at Eon. If Eon isn’t that keen for a 2014 release, Barber has less reason to force the issue at this point.

To quote M from the film You Only Live Twice, “Mind you, all of this is pure guess work.” But our guess is that a 2015 release for Bond 24 is more likely than a 2014 one.

MGM watch: Studio CEO is cagey about Bond 24 release date

MGM logo

The top executive of MGM Holdings Inc., parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was cagey about a release date for Bond 24 during an investor call on March 19.

“The timetable is not set yet,” Chief Executive Officer Gary Barber said in response to a question. “We’re hoping within the next three years it will be released.”

When MGM was in bankruptcy court in 2010, part of its business plan was to get the 007 movies back on an every-other-year schedule, with Bond 24 coming out in 2014. Barber said nothing about a 2014 release date during the March 19 call.

Referring to Bond 24, Barber also said, “We’re currently developing the screenplay and we’re working with our partners at Danjaq. We look forward to developing the script soon and signing a director in the near future.” Danjaq LLC is responsible for copyrights and trademarks of the 007 films which are produced by Eon Productions, run by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

Barber was also asked why Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, wasn’t returning for a 007 encore.

“He did an amazing job on Skyfall. We’re very thankful for the work he did. He decided to pursue other interests at this time. We look forward to announcing a director soon. We’re very thrilled about where we’re taking the franchise.”

A replay of the investor call is on the INVESTORS RELATIONS SECTION OF MGM’S WEB SITE. Barber’s comments about Bond 24 came during the question-and-answer session, which begins about half-way through the call. Barber, on a November investor call, confirmed that John Logan was writing the scripts for Bond 24 and Bond 25.

MGM owns half the 007 franchise with Danjaq/Eon. MGM co-financed Skyfall with Sony Pictures, which actually released the movie. MGM and Sony will repeat the arrangement on Bond 24.

Tom Cruise considering U.N.C.L.E., Deadline says

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise is considering starring in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., ACCORDING TO A STORY ON THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

Here’s an excerpt from the story by Mike Fleming Jr.:

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros may have finally found its The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I’m hearing that early talks with Tom Cruise to star in the film that will be directed by Sherlock Holmes helmer Guy Ritchie….Warner Bros. began quiet talks with Cruise after he completed All You Need Is Kill with director Doug Liman, which must have turned out pretty strong.

Cruise, 50, has starred in four Mission: Impossible films (though not as a character who was part of that 1966-73 television show). The fourth M:I movie, directed by Brad Bird, was arguably the one most faithful to the original. The first, in 1996, made Jim Phelps, hero M:I in the second through seventh seasons, the villain of the movie.

Warner Bros. has the rights to the 1964-68 U.N.C.L.E. show, featuring the exploits of Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn, misspelled in the Deadline story) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). The studio was keen to have Steven Soderbergh direct a movie version but that fall apart in late 2011 AFTER A LONG SOAP OPERA. Warners assigned the project to Guy Ritchie with Soderbergh’s departure.

We’ll see. There has been A LONG HISTORY of unsuccessful attempts to revive U.N.C.L.E. The original series began with meetings in New York between producer Norman Felton and 007 author Ian Fleming in October 1962. Sam Rolfe did the heavy lifting coming up with a script for the pilot. Fleming exited the U.N.C.L.E. project in June 1963, signing away his rights for one British pound.

UPDATE (8:20 P.M.): The Hollywood Reporter HAS ITS OWN VERSION OF THE STORY. But the trade publication takes a more skeptical tone.

Guy Ritchie and his producing partner Lionel Wigram came on in December 2011 but they too had trouble finding their Solo and Kuryakin. Late last year the studio had offers out to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to play the duo, offers that did not pan out.

Cruise just wrapped the sci-fi action movie All You Need is Kill for Warners, on which the studio is high. Sources have said that if the Cruise casting doesn’t gel, Ritchie will be forced to move on to a new movie project.