The spoiler debate: the sequel

"I understand Rhett Butler doesn't give a damn."

“I understand Rhett Butler doesn’t give a damn.”

On March 6, we ran a post ABOUT DEBATES AMONG FANS WHAT CONSTITUTES A SPOILER. It turns out some fans are even more sensitive than we described.

We had a spoiler-free post (as in no plot details were disclosed) about the implications related to Eon Production, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures trying to maximize filming incentives from a government for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

The post included what government — Mexico — was involved. The disclosure that SPECTRE was going to film in Mexico was MADE IN THE DEC. 4 PRESS RELEASE JUST AHEAD OF THE START OF FILMING. An excerpt:

The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

On Facebook, we got a complaint that “having read it on that basis I now know the name of a country associated with the movie I didn’t know before…”

Here’s the deal. This blog really does try to be reasonable about spoilers. Potential spoilers are labeled as such. If anything, this blog errs on the side of the spoiler adverse when it comes to warnings.

But, when the spoiler adverse complain about information already disclosed in an official press release, that’s too much. If you’re that spoiler adverse, you should not just stay away from this blog. You should stay off the Internet.

SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

Website describes how tax incentives influenced SPECTRE


Spoilers in this post. The spoiler adverse should stop reading.

A website for tax professionals IN A MARCH 3 STORY described how as much as $20 million in Mexican tax incentives caused changes in the script for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

The Tax Analysts website studied memos concerning SPECTRE that were part of the hacking at Sony Pictures. Some of the memos had been reported on before but the Tax Analysts story went into more detail specifically about the Mexican tax incentives.

SPECTRE has a budget of $300 million or more (another detail from the hacking), making it one of the most expensive movies ever made. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which co-owns the Bond franchise, wanted to maximize the Mexican incentives to hold down its costs, according to the story.

Some of the Mexican incentives, meanwhile, “governed the content — rather than the production — of the film,” according to Tax Analysts.

Spoilers start here.

Among the details from the Tax Analysts story:

–“To fill the role of Estrella, a woman whose hotel room Bond uses to begin his hunt for an assassin named Sciarra, the producers needed to cast a ‘known Mexican actress,'” according to the story.

This week, the official 007 Twitter feed and Facebook page announced Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman had been cast in the part.

–MGM requested highlighting the Mexico City skyline and “other ‘modern’ features” of the location, as part of maximizing the tax incentives.

–According to the website, some of the emails said much of this was “met through changes to the script.” Tax Analysts said that including using the Mexican “Day of the Dead” celebration instead of “a cage match with no apparent geographical setting.” Another script change, Tax Analysts said, was having Bond steal a helicopter as a way to show the Mexico City skyline.

SPECTRE filming is Mexico City is scheduled for later this month and pre-production work is underway, ACCORDING TO THIS STORY ON THE MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE.

To read the Tax Analysts story, which has additional details, CLICK HERE. There are additional spoilers.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has posted A STORY based on the Tax Analysts article. More spoilers than there are in this post. So has The Guardian with a story headlined LICENSE TO SHILL.