Why Bond 25 may not do much economizing

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

One question about Bond 25 is whether its budget may get trimmed. 2015’s SPECTRE was the most expensive 007 film adventure, with an estimated $245 million budget including Mexican tax credits and product placement deals.

While it’s too early to say definitively, there are signs that Bond 25 won’t exactly fly economy class.

Craig’s reported paycheck: Earlier this month, Variety reported that star Daniel Craig is set for a $25 million payday from his fifth Bond film. It was the highest amount in a survey of actor compensation by the trade publication.

If correct, that makes it harder to drastically cut the budget. For example, if you wanted to cut Bond 25’s outlay to $100 million to $150 million, Craig’s pay would mean you could only spend $75 million to $125 million for the rest of the film.

Boyle’s change of attitude: Director Danny Boyle has a reputation for making very lean, small-scale films. Some fans on internet message boards have speculated Boyle in Bond 25’s director chair could mean a less epic, leaner 007 outing.

Not so fast.

This week, Boyle spoke at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Here’s an excerpt from a story about the talk on LIPA’s website.

Danny says, at first, he wasn’t sure he was the right person for the job (for Bond 25). “I like watching big films but I don’t think I’m necessarily good at making them. Then I thought ‘no, you shouldn’t think like that’.”

Working with long-time collaborator, writer John Hodge, Danny explained why he accepted. “We have this idea about what we want to do with Bond and I felt we should have a go because of this idea. So we are trying to stay true to our principles.” (emphasis added)

It sounds, at the very least, Boyle may be more than willing to have a go at an epic-like film.

Broccoli’s ambitions: The Screen Daily website this week ran a story about how Universal became the international distributor for Bond 25. There was this passage:

“(Eon Productions boss) Barbara Broccoli wants a one billion dollar international gross,” says one industry expert, noting that international box office accounts for the bulk of Bond films’ global theatrical revenues. No 007 release has ever achieved this, and Universal knows a thing or two about getting to the hallowed milestone. Of only seven films to cross $1bn at the international box office, Universal has released three, and it has done so in the last three years: Furious 7 and Jurassic World in 2015, and Fate Of The Furious in 2017.

Only one Bond film surpassed $1 billion globally. 2012’s Skyfall had $304.4 million in the U.S. and $804.2 million internationally. SPECTRE slipped to $200 million in the U.S. and $680.6 million internationally.

To achieve that $1 billion international mark, Bond 25 would have to generate more than 45 percent more box office compared with SPECTRE. Higher ticket prices will help some. But if Broccoli really wants $1 billion, excluding the U.S. market, Bond is going to have to ramp things up.

What’s more, if Broccoli really is seeking $1 billion internationally, that generally means mounting a big-scale production. Marvel Studios filmed two Avengers movies back to back, Avengers: Infinity War, released in late April and the yet-to-titled Avengers 4, due out next year.

It’s been estimated the combined cost of the two movies may reach as much as $1 billion. Avengers: Infinity War has been a big hit (global box office of $1.9 billion so far).

Big risks, big rewards. If the expert quoted by Screen Daily is correct (and the website didn’t identify him or her), that may mean that Bond 25 may be a more high stakes game than anything 007 encountered in a novel or movie scene.

Daniel Craig is seen in a tuxedo and the internet explodes

Daniel Craig was photographed in a tuxedo and the internet exploded. Welcome to Bond 25 pre-production.

The actor, set to play James Bond for a fifth time, was in Cardona, Spain. TMZ rushed out a story saying the appearance “appears to be the start of filming for his fifth 007 flick … and a production assistant clearly wanted to keep it under wraps.”

Except….

The Daily Mail, a tabloid not usually known as the voice of reason, had a different explanation: Filming a Heineken commercial. The paper said Crig was “spotted channeling the spy as he filmed scenes for a new Heineken commercial in Spain on Tuesday.”

A Spanish outlet, Regio 7, had a similar explanation. According to a rough Google translation, Regio 7 said, “The popular English actor Daniel Craig, known for his role as James Bond, has been today in Cardona to participate in the shooting of an announcement by Heineken, according to this newspaper. The City Council, however, explained that it is not ‘authorized’ or to confirm or deny information that was circulated today among the people’s neighbors, who have gathered in different parts of the town.”

Heineken has had a commercial relationship with the 007 film series for some time now. There was a fuss about Heineken’s product placement in Skyfall, although the literary James Bond was known to have a beer now and then.

One tidbit was supplied in a tweet by the MI6 James Bond website. It said that Craig’s contract to play 007 “prohibits him from appearing onscreen in a tuxedo unless approved.”

Regardless, given what happened today, you now have an idea what it’s going to be like until fall 2019, when Bond 25 is scheduled to be released.

Forever and a Day excerpt goes online

Anthony Horowitz

The website of Penguin UK now an excerpt of Forever and a Day, the new James Bond continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz.

The excerpt consists of M and his chief of staff Bill Tanner discussing a fatality in the Double-O section and what to do about it.

This leads to James Bond getting accepted into the section. The excerpt includes an exchange between M and Tanner that was included in an Ian Fleming Publications announcement of the book back in February.

The novel is set in 1950 (“And now, just five years after VE Day…”) and is a prequel to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale.

Essentially, the extract provides a reader the setup to the story of Forever and a Day. The novel will be published May 31 in the U.K. It won’t be published in the U.S. until November.

With Solo, Star Wars comes back down to Earth

Solo: A Star Wars Story is being lumped with Justice League as an example of a pricey movie that’s not generating the kind of box office it needs.

The movie, which provides the back story of Han Solo, is estimated to produce $83.3 million in the U.S. market for the May 25-27 weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, which compiles such information.

Last November, Warner Bros.’s Justice League generated $93.8 million for its opening U.S. weekend. At the time, that was the poster child for a movie that’s reasonably popular (almost $658 million in global box office) but a financial bomb because of a huge budget (estimated to be as much as $300 million).

Until now, Star Wars has been seen as a sure thing. Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4 billion for that reason.

Under Disney ownership, Star Wars output has sped up. Previously, Star Wars movies came out in three-year intervals. And there was a long hiatus between the first trilogy (1977-1983) and the second (1999-2005).

Now, the main Star Wars movies come out every other year. In between, there are one-offs that expand upon the basic story line.

Solo wasn’t an easy production. Its directors were fired. Ron Howard was brought in to replace them and re-shot most of the movie.

With the movie out, Scott Mendelson of Forbes.com declared Solo had bombed. 

“Disney already killed Han Solo once–He’s gone for good now,” Exhibitor Relations, which analyzes box office data wrote on Twitter. “So long, SOLO.”

Normally, action-related movies do well in the big China market. No so, Solo. “China Box Office: ‘Solo’ Combs With Third-Place $10.1M Opening,” was the headline in The Hollywood Reporter.

Now the question is being raised whether Star Wars movies are coming out too often. 

The Exhibitor Relations tweet also adjusted the opening of previous Star Wars movies for inflation to demonstrate how Solo shapes up.

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Bond 25 questions: Full speed ahead edition

Bond 25 is full speed ahead, with a director, new screenwriter and a new distribution lineup. So, it’s time for the blog’s specialty — questions.

What was that story idea (turned into a script by John Hodge) that was so good Eon Productions dropped a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script?

Throughout the Bond 25 saga to date, this has been one of the most intriguing angles.

Eon announced 10 months ago that Purvis and Wade were back as 007 screenwriters. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a December podcast from The Hollywood Reporter that Purvis and Wade were ““busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

Not fantastic enough. Danny Boyle, now officially named as Bond 25’s director, and Hodge pitched Eon an idea. Boyle would direct if a script based on the idea were selected. (Boyle spoke about this in public, even if Eon didn’t until this week.)

Boom! Here we are.

This week’s official announcement about Boyle’s and Hodge’s participation in Bond 25 didn’t reference any plot points. The guess here is we’ll get some kind of brief synopsis when production starts in early December.

Who will compose Bond 25’s score? Some directors have a strong relationship with composers. That’s why we got Thomas Newman for Skyfall and SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

A variety of composers have worked on Boyle’s films, including David Arnold (A Life Less Ordinary), John Murphy (28 Days Later…), A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs).

Arnold, of course, is a 007 film veteran, working on five films from 1997 through 2008. Does he get a chance at a sixth?

Will Bond 25’s budget expand or contract compared with SPECTRE?  SPECTRE’s budget was an estimated $245 million (after including tax credits in Mexico and product placement deals). A car chase scene in Rome alone cost about 24 million British pounds, or $36 million at the time. Also, Eon boasted how the movie had the biggest explosion in motion picture history.

By contrast, 2012’s Skyfall had an estimated budget of $200 million. That’s still a lot of money but there was economizing. The first unit only traveled to Turkey. Sequences set in China were filmed with a second unit, with interiors filmed either at Pinewood Studios or U.K. locations doubling for China.

Presumably, Bond 25’s budget has been taken into account by the new distribution setup: A joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (007’s home studio) and Annapurna Pictures for the U.S. and Universal for international.

The previous four 007 films were distributed by Sony Pictures. For Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony contributed 50 percent of the production budget but only got back 25 percent of the profit, while MGM kept 75 percent.

Bond 25 announcements confirm director, distribution

Daniel Craig

Official announcements about Bond 25 being directed by Danny Boyle and its distribution were issued early Friday.

Versions were on the official James Bond website and official James Bond feed on Twitter.

They followed a story late Thursday by Deadline: Hollywood that Universal would distribute the movie internationally while a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures would distribute it in the United States. The story also said Boyle was confirmed as director.

The announcements also confirmed a Feb. 21 story in Deadline about how  Boyle would direct is a script by John Hodge were accepted. Boyle said as such in subsequent public appearances but that hadn’t been part of official announcements until now.

A March 8 story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who has had a number of 007 scoops confirmed in the past, said star Daniel Craig was “pulling out all the stops” to have Boyle direct the new Bond film.

The announcements reference Hodge working on Bond 25’s script. A July 24, 2017 announcement said veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were writing Bond 25.

Excerpt from the announcement issued early today:

Daniel Craig returns as 007 and Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) will direct from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting) with production set to begin on 3 December 2018. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures will release the film theatrically in the US on 8 November 2019 through its new joint venture for domestic theatrical distribution with Annapurna Pictures, and Universal Pictures will release internationally commencing with the traditional earlier release in the UK on 25 October 2019.

Here is what the Twitter version looked like:

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Deadline says Bond 25 distribution settled

Bond 25’s distribution has been settled, Deadline: Hollywood reported. with Universal taking over the international distribution.

Universal will also handle home video distribution, the entertainment website, citing sources it didn’t identify.

U.S. distribution will be through a joint venture that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures formed last year, Deadline said.

That joint venture was announced on Oct. 31. Deadline reported in November that the joint venture was “thisclose” to securing U.S. distribution rights but no formal announcement has been made.

Deadline also said the movie will debut in the U.K. on Oct. 25, 2019, with a U.S. release on Nov. 8, 2019. The U.S. release date was announced by Eon Productions and MGM on July 24, 2017.

Bond 25 will begin production on Dec. 3 of this year, Deadline said.

UPDATE (11:55 p.m.): Deadline says the studios involved confirmed the news. Danny Boyle also  is now confirmed as director, the website said.

“We are delighted to announce that the exceptionally talented Danny Boyle will be directing Daniel Craig in his fifth outing as James Bond in the 25th installment of the franchise,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said in a statement quoted by Deadline.

“We will begin shooting Bond 25 at Pinewood Studios in December with our partners at MGM and thrilled that Universal will be our international distributor.” the duo said in the statement.

The distribution deal was put together more than 300 days after the release date was announced.