Happy New Year From the HMSS Weblog!

Our other annual greeting

To all our readers, we hope you have a great 2014.

And if you’re going out tonight for a New Year’s Eve gathering (like this year’s James Bond Gala in Washington, D.C.), Napoleon Solo reminds everyone to party responsibly.

solonye

Spy entertainment to watch in 2014

It’s only a few days before the near year. So it’s not too early to think about spy-related entertainment coming up in 2014.

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall


Bond 24 begins filming: The 24th 007 film produced by Eon Productions probably will go into production toward the end of the year to meet is October (U.K.)/November (U.S.) 2015 release date.

There’s not much hard information, other than Daniel Craig is back as Bond, Sam Mendes is again directing and John Logan is writing the script.

Ralph Fiennes, whose Mallory became the new M at the end of 2012’s Skyfall, TOLD REUTERS IN A DEC. 24 STORY that, “I know nothing, I’ve not been told anything, I have no information, no dates, no sense of the journey of my character at all! I don’t!”

If Bond 24 follows the same path as Skyfall, casting details will dribble out, though not be confirmed initially. With Skyfall, the casting of Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Javier Bardem were all reported long before the movie started principal photography in November 2011.

U.N.C.L.E. movie (probably) arrives in theaters: Director Guy Ritchie’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. wrapped production the first week of December. Warner Bros. hasn’t publicly announced a release date but there’s certainly enough post-production time for a fall 2014 release.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)


The movie, starring Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, will be the first U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which reunited Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the stars of the original 1964-68 television series.

The film will also be a test whether there’s a mass audience in the 21st century for U.N.C.L.E., a “utopian” spy concept in which agents from opposing sides in the Cold War could unite against common menaces. The movie will be set in the 1960s, the same as the original show.

Mission: Impossible 5 starts production: Tom Cruise is back for a fifth time as the star of a Mission: Impossible film, which will be released at Christmas 2015. Cruise had been slated to star in the U.N.C.L.E. movie as Solo but dropped out as M:I 5 (which his production company produces) developed. That move gave the opening for Cavill’s casting in the U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Cruise’s most recent M:I film, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, was a hit while while paying homages to the original 1966-73 television series, while the original 1996 movie turned Jim Phelps into a villain. Since then, Cruise has had his ups and downs. So he could use another financially successful M:I movie.

Golfinger’s 50th anniversary: 1964’s Goldfinger turned Bond into a worldwide phenomenon. Dr. No’s 50th anniversary got a lot of attention, in part because Skyfall was coming out. It’ll be interesting to see if Goldfinger’s golden anniversary draws attention.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from HMSS!

Our annual holiday greeting:

Our modest proposal for a James Bond-related movie

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

This weekend in the U.S., Saving Mr. Banks, a telling of the behind-the-scenes turmoil during the making of 1964’s Mary Poppins, is out. Generally, movie makers love to make movies about their industry. So why not a movie based on how James Bond made it to the screen?

There certainly were moments of drama that occurred before 007 made it to the screen in 1962’s Dr. No. The meeting where Irving Allen, then the partner of Albert R. Broccoli, ridicules the Bond novels to Ian Fleming’s face. The ticking clock as Harry Saltzman strained to make a deal with a studio before his six-month option on the bulk of the 007 novels expired. How the producers and United Artists wrangled about who to cast to play Fleming’s gentleman agent with a license to kill.

Such a project likely would face complications. It’d be easiest for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in partnership with Sony. Saving Mr. Banks was released by Walt Disney Co., which meant it was no problem to use clips from Mary Poppins in a sequence about the movie’s world premier. However, an MGM-Sony combo would need to proceed cautiously, not wanting to alienate Eon Productions, which actually produces the 007 movies.

One possible vehicle to do a “being the scenes of 007” movie would be to acquire the screen rights of one-time United Artists executive David V. Picker’s memoir, which includes a chapter on the Bond movies and how they came to be. One possible scenario for a movie would be show how things came to be through Picker’s eyes.

Don’t hold your breath for such a movie (or even TV movie). But it would have the potential to be an entertaining film.

Website ranks the net worth of the screen 007s

With a $300 net worth, Sean Connery could probably afford a better tie today.

Sean Connery could probably afford a better tie today.

The Celebrity Networth website poses the question, “What’s your favorite star got in the bank?” Among other things, the site ranks the net worth of the six actors who’ve played James Bond over the past half-century.

A few caveats are in order. For the six Bonds, the site doesn’t have a lot of detail on the math involved in the estimates. At least one entry (current 007 Daniel Craig) isn’t up to date.

By far the highest ranked is the original screen 007, Sean Connery, at $300 million. Celebrity Networth doesn’t explain how it arrived at that figure.

However, the site says Connery could be even richer. A separate article estimates Connery lost out on $450 million by turning down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In order to convince Connery to sign on to the film, the producers pulled out all the stops. In addition to a $10 million per film salary, they offered Connery 15% of the box office for all three movies. In what would turn out to be a monumentally poor decision, Connery declined the part because he “did not understand the script”.

Meanwhile, perhaps a surprising No. 2 among film Bonds is George Lazenby, who appeared only in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, at $100 million. Lazenby, the site says, “turned to business and real estate investments that earned him spacious mansions in Hawaii, Brentwood, California, Australia, a ranch estate in Valyermo, California, as well as a port-side penthouse apartment in Hong Kong and an estate home in Maryland.”

No. 3 is Roger Moore, who appeared in seven 007 films from 1973 to 1985, at $90 million.

No. 4 is Pierce Brosnan, star of four Bond movies from 1995 to 2002, at $80 million. As with Moore, no details are provided about how the estimate was made.

No. 5 is the current Bond, Daniel Craig, at $45 million, but that figure was calculated in 2008 based on the text of Craig’s entry on the site.

At No. 6, is two-time 007 Timothy Dalton at $10 million.

Thanks to Gary Firuta for the heads up.

Are cameos in movies worth it?

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo right after his "directed by" credit in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest

This fall, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series wondered if the show’s original stars would have a cameo in a new film version underway. Some fans were vocal, arguing that of course they should.

It’s not known if such a cameo took place for the U.N.C.L.E. movie. (Robert Vaughn said more than once he’d welcome the opportunity; David McCallum made comments suggesting he wouldn’t participate.) The subject though got this blog to thinking: are such cameos worth it, or are they more of a distraction for a finished film?

The king of such cameos was director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in his more than 50 films. They can be something of a mixed bag. In North by Northwest, he appears right after his “directed by” credit as a man missing his bus in New York City. The appearance, in effect, is an extension of the main titles designed by Saul Bass. At this point, the viewer hasn’t been watching the actual story of the film.

In other cases, Hitchcock’s appearance almost draw attention to themselves. In 1969’s Topaz, there’s an airport scene. The viewer is drawn to Hitchock, in a wheelchair, guided by a nurse. Hitchcock meets a man, abruptly stands up and shakes the man hand before walking off. By this point, more than 20 minutes of the story have been told. You could argue it’s a distraction, although it’s over pretty quickly.

In the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been performing cameos for decades. Again, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. In some cases (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough), they’re fleeting, something for the hard-core fans while more casual 007 cinema goers aren’t likely to notice. In others (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale), they draw attention to themselves. Here are some:

The interest among U.N.C.L.E. fans whether the movie has cameos is different. Vaughn and McCallum established the original show’s popularity. There’d be no movie if there hadn’t been a television show in the first place. If one was filmed, would it distract from the Guy Ritchie-directed story? The counter question: do you owe it to the original actors if they’re interested? (Especially since Ritchie appears to have squeezed former soccer star David Beckham into the movie.)

None of these questions have right or wrong answers. Fan tastes vary. Hitchcock fans, for example, take pleasure in trying to spot the director’s cameos. In any case, it’s likely such cameos will continue in movies.

Peter O’Toole dies; his minor 007 connection

A pair of Peters: Sellers and O'Toole in 1967's Casino Royale

A pair of Peters: Sellers and O’Toole in 1967’s Casino Royale

Peter O’Toole has died at 81. His stellar career included one very, very minor James Bond connection: an unbilled cameo in producer Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 Casino Royale spoof.

We’d try to explain, but it’s really not worth it. Feldman signed up a lot of famous actors for his over-the-top comedy. The producer opted to go the spoof route after being unable to cut a deal with Albert R. Broccoli (a former employee) and Harry Saltzman, who held the film rights to the bulk of the Ian Fleming 007 stories.

O’Toole in various obituaries (including THE GUARDIAN, VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER) understandably emphasized his role as the title character in Lawrence of Arabia.

That 1962 film, directed by David Lean, had a crew that would have a greater impact on the film world of James Bond: director of photography Freddie Young (You Only Live Twice), camera operator Ernie Day (who’d be a second unit director on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) and special effects man Cliff Richardson, the father of John Richardson, who’d work special effects on several Bond movies.

Also, Spy’s composer, Marvin Hamlisch, included a snippet of Maurice Jarre’s main theme for Lawrence for a scene set in the Eyptian desert.