Eon’s Rhythm Section Shuts Down, THR Reports

Barbara Broccoli

The Rhythm Section, Eon Productions’ non-007 spy film, has shut down production after star Blake Lively suffered a hand injury in December, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The key detail from the story:

Lively sustained the injury while doing a stunt on the Dublin (Ireland) set in December. At the time, production was temporarily suspended while she took time to heal. However, sources close to the situation now tell THR that Lively’s initial hand surgery did not go as planned and the actress must undergo a second surgery and will need more time to recover.

It is currently unclear when filming will recommence. One insider said that just under half the movie had been shot while another source said it could be five months before the production resumes.

The Rhythm Section is part of Eon boss Barbara Broccoli’s growing portfolio of non-007 projects.

The project was announced in July. It’s based on a novel by Mark Burnell. It’s currently slated for a Feb. 22, 2019 release date via Paramount, though a lengthy shutdown may change that.

Bond 25, the next James Bond film, has announced a November 2019 release date in the United States, but has no announced distributor.

Broccoli has diversified from Bond, being involved with smaller-scale dramas, such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, as well as plays.

The Rhythm Section has a budget of about $50 million, financed by Global Road, formerly IM Global, THR said. That’s about 20 percent of the budget (after product placement deals) of 2015’s SPECTRE, the most recent Bond film.

“Hiatus on the production of The Rhythm Section has been extended due to an ongoing issue with Blake Lively’s hand injury sustained while filming an action sequence on the action thriller at the end of last year,” Eon said in a statement, according to THR.

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Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

(snip)
The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

Joseph Sargent talks about directing U.N.C.L.E.

Joseph Sargent (1925-2014)

This weekend, the blog caught up on a 2006 interview that director Joseph Sargent (1925-2014) did for the Archive of American Television and checked out what he had to say about The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Sargent said the 1964-68 spy show helped him develop as a director.

Sargent working on episodic television in general was a training ground “not the least of which was Man from U.N.C.L.E. That was like summer stock is to an actor in terms of training.”

U.N.C.L.E., he said, gave him “the opportunity to break the envelope a little bit.”

“It was an  innovative and very daring and very wild, free style kind of show. It had whip pans for instance for the first time, it gave it a sense of energy.”

Whip pans (sometimes call zip pans) have the camera move suddenly, creating a blur. U.N.C.L.E. used whip pans as a transition between scenes.

“There was this twinkle Bob Vaughn and David (McCallum) had about the whole role,” Sargent said in the 2006 interview.

The series involved “a very broad, wonderful concept of peace and cooperation between, in effect, the two major antagonists of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and America.” At the same time, he said, it employed humor which “saved it from being a heavy polemic.”

Sargent directed 11 episodes of the series, plus one episode of its spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. The series was made at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer while the studio still had its legendary production lots still in tact.

As a result, Sargent said, scenes were devised “using the available infrastructure of MGM Studios,” which was like being “a kid in a candy store.”

U.N.C.L.E. episodes were shot in six days, often in a hurry.

Getting Napoleon Solo out of this fix had to be devised during lunch.

“We had a script that was incomplete,” Sargent said. “In this case, they were writing and still writing and I was on the scene that hadn’t been written yet and it was going to be filmed right after lunch.”

The scene to be filmed, but not yet written, involved Illya Kurykin (McCallum) having to rescue fellow agent Napoleon Solo (Vaughn) from being executed by the villains.

Over lunch, Sargent talked to the prop man who gave him a small tape recorder. After lunch, the scene was filmed. Two agents assisting Kuryakin play the tape, which is a cavalry charge, and provide Kuryakin protective fire which he performs the rescue.

“Of course, you couldn’t do that today,” Sargent said.

Two asides:

–In the interview, Sargent mis-remembers one aspect of the scene. He describes a character played by Ricardo Montalban as trying to kill Solo. Actually, that character was double crossing his allies in the story. They catch on and are trying to kill Montalban’s character as well in the scene. Remember, though, the interview was done 40 years after the episode aired.

–The episode is titled The King of Diamonds and has its oddities. It was plotted and co-scripted by Edwin Blum, who co-write Stalag 17 with Billy Wilder. The script was rewritten by Leo Townsend, a co-writer on Beach Blanket Bingo. The tone is a bit uneven.

Anyway, the portion of the 2006 interview dealing with U.N.C.L.E. is in the video below. It begins around the 11:30 mark.

Uncomfortable moments in early 007 films

Close captioned image from Dr. No

Over the past few days, there have been three stories (in LAD Bible, the Daily Mail and the Express) about how millennials (people becoming adults in the early 21st century) find early James Bond films lacking.

The stories rely heavily on posts on Twitter from those who complain that Bond is a rapist or comes across as “rapey.” There are also complaints about racism as well.

But many of the tweets don’t get into specifics. With that in mind, here are some scenes that might be generating that reaction.

In selecting these three examples, they’re about Bond himself. In the stories linked above, some of the posters on Twitter objected to, for example, Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), who appeared in Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The sheriff clearly was racist, but was devised by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz for the audience to laugh at and ridicule.

“Fetch my shoes” (Dr. No): While on Crab Key, Bond (Sean Connery) instructs Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) to, “Fetch my shoes.”

Quarrel, a Jamaican native, had been assisting MI6 operative Strangways. The latter’s disappearance spurred M to assign Bond to find out what happened to Strangways. That put him on the trail of Dr. No.

Anyway, Bond telling Quarrel to “fetch” his shoes wasn’t a major plot point. Bond, Quarrel and Honey are getting ready to hide out in Crab Key.

While Bond’s line doesn’t have good optics in the 21st century, it wasn’t so great in the 1960s, either. The U.S. civil rights movement already was well underway. The Montgomery bus boycott began in December 1955.

In 2014, a website called The Complainist  did a detailed analysis of Dr. No. Concerning “Fetch my shoes,” it said the following:

“Oh goddammit. Fetch you’re own shoes JB. Gross. Gross gross gross.”

Bond and Kerim laugh lecherously (From Russia With Love): In From Russia With Love, Connery’s Bond is talking to Pedro Armandariz’s Kerim about whether Tatiana’s offer to deliver a Soviet decoding machine is genuine.

Bond and Kerim enjoy a laugh together in From Russia With Love

Kerim is skeptical. “My friend, she has you dangling.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Bond replies. “All I want is that Lektor.”

“All? Are you sure that’s all you want?”

“Well…” Bond says. The two then laugh lecherously for about five seconds before we cut to the next scene.

The thing is, this is a big difference from Ian Fleming’s novel. Bond was afraid he might actually be falling for Tatiana. In the film, at least in this scene, there isn’t nearly as much emotion involved. It’s an example of the different worldview of the novels and films.

Bond’s roll in the hay with Pussy (Goldfinger): This is likely the source of the “rapist” and “rapey” comments.

Auric Goldfinger instructs Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) to show Bond around his horse farm to reassure CIA agents who are keeping an eye on the place.

Bond and Pussy eventually go inside a barn. They demonstrate their skills in self defense. After Bond throws Pussy to the ground, the agent says, “Now, let’s both play.”

Pussy resists for a while before embracing Bond.

Bond tries to secure Pussy’s cooperation in Goldfinger.

As depicted in the film, she appears to have been wooed over by Bond but it’s not until the very end of the scene.

It’s not just millenials who’ve commented about this sequence over the years. I’ve had discussions with first-generation 007 film fans who feel the scene gets very close to rape.

Just a year later, in Thunderball, the filmmakers allude to Goldfinger. Bond has gone to bed with SPECTRE killer Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). But she stays loyal to SPECTRE.

“What a blow it must have been,” she says to Bond.

“Well, you can’t win them all,” Bond says.

In the 1990s, director Guy Hamilton recorded comments about the film for a Criterion laserdisc home release that got recalled.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” the director said on the commentary track. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

Cruise releases M:I 6’s title, teases a stunt

Stunt teased by Tom Cruise on Instagram

Tom Cruise took to Instagram on Thursday to disclose the title of the sixth Mission: Impossible movie is Mission: Impossible — Fallout and to post a still of him doing a helicopter stunt.

“We’ve upped the ante for the sixth #MissionImpossible. I can’t wait for you guys to see more,” Cruise wrote on Instagram and on Twitter.

The social media posts also coincided with the release of an Empire magazine interview with Mission: Impossible — Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie.

“The title has multiple meanings in the film, from the literal to the figurative,” explains McQuarrie. “There is the threat of nuclear terrorism hanging over the movie, which is the literal threat.”

And the figurative? “There’s the notion that what’s happened in the movie is the end result of choices that Ethan Hunt has made in his life. It’s Ethan’s past come back to haunt him. It’s the fallout of all his good intentions.”

The production has had setbacks, including Cruise, 55, suffering a broken ankle during filming last summer. Mission: Impossible — Fallout is slated for a late July release, which has been the summer “spy” movie release date since 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

UPDATE (1:15 p.m. New York Time): Mission: Impossible — Fallout also has a Facebook page. It includes this official synopsis:

The best intentions often come back to haunt you. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team (Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames) along with some familiar allies (Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan) in a race against time after a mission gone wrong. Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby also join the dynamic cast with filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie returning to the helm.

 

007 film veterans get Oscar nominations

Oscars logo

Nominations for the Oscars were released this morning. A few had connections to the 007 film series.

Cinematography: The directors of photography for the last two James Bond movies received nominations. Roger Deakins (who worked on Skyfall) got a nomination for Blade Runner 2049. Hoyte van Hoytema (who worked on SPECTRE) received a nomination for Dunkirk.

Production Design: Dennis Gassner shared a nomination with Alessandra Querzola for Blade Runner 2049. Gassner has been the production designer on the Bond series since 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Gassner has said he’ll be back for Bond 25.

Film Editing: Lee Smith, who is part of director Christopher Nolan’s regular crew, received a nomination for Dunkirk. Smith worked on SPECTRE.

Visual Effects: Chris Corbould was among four people getting a nomination for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Corbould has Bond film credits going back to the 1980s.

As an aside, Nolan — who some 007 fans would like to helm a Bond film — received a directing nomination for Dunkirk. That film also received a nomination for Best Picture.

Jack Kirby’s version of The Prisoner gets official release

Splash page to Jack Kirby’s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner

Jack Kirby’s 1970s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner has been scheduled for an official release by Titan Comics, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Titan also is releasing a new comic book series based on The Prisoner. Here are the details about the Kirby material:

In July, Titan will also release The Prisoner: Original Art Edition, a hardcover edition of previously unreleased work by Kirby, (artist Gil) Kane and writer Steve Englehart from their attempt to adapt the pilot episode of the TV show to comics during the 1970s. In addition to featuring the complete Kirby artwork for his unpublished issue — six pages of which were inked and lettered by his long-term collaborator, Mike Royer — the collection will also feature 18 pages of Kane’s pencils, and the complete script for Kane’s issue by Englehart.

Background: Kirby (1917-1994) returned to Marvel — where he co-created many of the classic Marvel characters of the 1960s — in 1975 after spending a few years at rival DC.

In the ’70s, Kirby wrote, drew and edited most of his projects. In the previous decade, Kirby did the heavy lifting at Marvel with plots while editor Stan Lee did the scripting.

Jack Kirby self portrait, circa 1970

With his second stint at Marvel, Kirby took over Captain America (a character he co-created in 1941 with Joe Simon) and went about mostly creating new characters.

Beginnings: Steve Englehart, 70, a one-time writer at Marvel, described the origin of The Prisoner project in a post on his website.

“I plotted an adaptation of the first episode, and Gil Kane handled the art (with Joe Staton providing his layouts),” Englehart wrote. According to the scribe, it was put on the shelf by Marvel. (Kane died in 2000, at the age of 73.)

“Sometime later, remembering they’d paid for the rights, they got Jack Kirby to do an issue,” Englehart wrote. “I always thought Patrick McGoohan looked like a Kirby character, with his nice brow ridge, but apparently they didn’t like Kirby’s version and it, too, went on the shelf.”

Kirby themes: Charles Hatfield, in a detailed article on the Two Morrows website, said the original Prisoner series, starring Patrick McGoohan, was a great match for Kirby.

“It’s not hard to see why The Prisoner appealed to Kirby,” Hatfield wrote. “Indeed, the series’ concept, which Kirby glossed as ‘an individual’s stubborn attempts to wrest freedom from subtle but oppressive power’ makes perfect sense within Kirby’s oeuvre. Its paranoiac, Orwellian premise dovetails with the dystopian future of Kirby’s OMAC (1974-75), as well as the Orwell riffs in Kirby’s ‘Madbomb’ saga in Captain America #193-200 (1975-76).” (OMAC was one of the titles Kirby created at DC in between his stints at Marvel.)

Pages from Kirby’s one issue of The Prisoner has been seen before online, including the Forces of Geek website.

Still, this year is the the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner being shown in the U.S. Also, Kirby’s original work has been getting renewed attention thanks to Marvel Studios movies that rely heavily on Kirby-created characters.

Marvel’s next movie is The Black Panther, which is being released next month. The title character was introduced in a 1966 issue of The Fantastic Four by Lee and Kirby. The film version of the character was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.