Wayne Fitzgerald, title designer, dies

Wayne Fitzgerald’s title card (along with others, including Bruce Lee) for The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm movie with Dean Martin.

Wayne Fitzgerald, a prolific designer of movie and television titles, has died at 89, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Fitzgerald went to work at Pacific Title in 1951, according to his bio at the Art of the Title website.

Pacific Title did title work for Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox. But no one at Pacific received on-screen credit. As a result, Fitzgerald’s name doesn’t appear on such films as The Music Man and My Fair Lady, according to the website.

Fitzgerald went independent in 1967. His work appeared in such films as The Green Berets; The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm film with Dean Martin; Chinatown; and McQ.

Other of his film credits included The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III, Apocalypse Now and Heaven Can Wait, according to his THR obituary.

The designer also got a lot of television work. He was hired often by Universal’s “television factory.” As a result, the Universal shows he worked on had titles with a bit of visual flair.

Start of the main title of The NBC Mystery Movie

For example, he designed the main title to The NBC Mystery Movie (later The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie), where a man with a flashlight walks with stills of the different components (Columbo, McCloud, McMillan & Wife and others) being shown while accompanied by a Henry Mancini theme.

As the title ended, announcer Hank Simms (also the go-to announcer for shows made by QM Productions) would then tell viewers which Mystery Movie segment was being shown tonight.

That title is rarely seen today. The Mystery Movie’s different entries are syndicated separately as TV movies. As a result, they usually don’t include Fitzgerald’s main title.

The designer’s other Universal credits included  It Takes a Thief, The Bold Ones, Switch and Night Gallery.

In all, Fitzgerald’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 400 credits, extending into the early 21st century.

Kingsman prequel trailer is out

The trailer for the Kingsman prequel, The King’s Man, is out. A familiar face for James Bond film fans, Ralph Fiennes, is prominent in the proceedings.

After two Kingsman movies, director Matthew Vaughn’s new effort concerns the origins of the Kingsman organization, “the first independent” spy agency.

One major change has occurred since the first two Kingsman movies. Walt Disney Co. acquired the bulk of 21st Century Fox assets, including the 20th Century Fox film studio. The latter released the earlier Kingsman films. The new movie still has the 20th Century Fox label. But The King’s Man may help determine how much Disney will put into Fox-branded films.

The King’s Man is scheduled to come out on Feb.14 (at one time the release date for No Time to Die). Here’s a look at the trailer.

Sony, Marvel make up on Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster from 2017

Sony Studios and Marvel Studios patched up their differences and said they will do a third Spider-Man movie together.

The two studios said today that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige will again produce a Spider-Man movie for Sony. You can view details in VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 and Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer were made under that arrangement and were big hits.

The deal also allowed Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to appear in other Marvel Studios movies such as Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

However, the two sides publicly said in August they couldn’t agree on how to continue the arrangement. So it appeared Spider-Man would keep appearing in Sony movies but no longer be part of Marvel films.

We’ll see if the new deal lasts beyond one movie. But both sides benefited from working together, with Sony getting a revitalized Spider-Man series and Marvel getting to use its most popular comic book character. Sony is also developing other movies based on Spider-Man characters.

Waller-Bridge being ‘wooed’ for Bond 26, Baz says

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge “is being wooed” to write Bond 26, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye wrote in a story published Thursday.

Earlier this week, Amazon Studios announced it signed Waller-Bridg to create and produce new shows for the streaming service, a deal Variety reported is worth $20 million a year. That deal was disclosed after Waller-Bridge won three Emmys for her Fleabag series.

Bamigboye previously had a number of scoops proven direct during production of Skyfall and SPECTRE. He hasn’t been reporting on Bond films as much in recent years and hadn’t written at all about No Time to Die for months.

His newest story quotes a source he didn’t identify as saying Waller-Bridge’s contributions to No Time to Die were “great — far greater than we’d anticipated. She’s the savior of Bond really.”

The tone of the story was considerably more cheerful that a piece Bamigboye did in May that described No Time to Die’s script as being written by committee.

Waller-Bridge was one of several writers who worked on the 25th Bond film made by Eon Productions. Others included Scott Z. Burns and the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Bamigboye’s new story provided no details about when Bond 26 might come along except to say it will be “years” from now.

It remains to be seen whether the busy Waller-Bridge will be available for Bond 26.

The Bond series has a history where a writer comes aboard to rewrite and gets a lot of credit for improving the story. However, in some cases, (Bruce Feirstein after GoldenEye, Paul Haggis after Casino Royale and John Logan after Skyfall) they ran into problems with their second Bond effort.

When universes collide: Marvel and Star Wars?

Marvel’s Dr. Doom (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962) and Darth Vader of Star Wars, originally created for the first Star Wars movie in 1977.

Kevin Feige, the head of Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios unit, is developing a new Star Wars movie, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The move comes as Disney faces where to take Star Wars next. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is due out late this year. That will end the entire Skywalker saga encompassing nine films from 1977 to 2019.

Since Disney acquired Star Wars from George Lucas for $4 billion ($2 billion in cash, $2 billion in Disney stock), it attempted to kick start the franchise, which had been dormant since 2005.

Some movies were big successes, but some (such as a film showing Han Solo’s back story) not as much.

Star Wars has been supervised by producer Kathleen Kennedy under Disney ownership while Marvel Studios (a separate Disney acquisition) has operated under Feige.

“With the close of the Skywalker Saga, Kathy is pursuing a new era in Star Wars storytelling, and knowing what a die-hard fan Kevin is, it made sense for these two extraordinary producers to work on a Star Wars film together.”Disney said in a statement to THR.

There have been connections between Star Wars and Marvel going back to the early days of Star Wars.

In the 1970s, many fans commented on the similarities between artist Jack Kirby’s design for Dr. Doom, the arch villain of the Fantastic Four, and Darth Vader in Star Wars.

What’s more, Marvel published comic books based on Star Wars beginning when the first film came out in 1977. The move proved to be a major boost for Marvel during a comic industry slump at the time. That helped keep Marvel alive for better days many years later.

Apple seen as buyer to stock new streaming service (MGM?)

Apple logo

Apple Inc., which is preparing to launch a streaming television service, is seen as looking to buy entertainment companies to get a library of titles for viewing. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, comes up on the list of possibilities.

Earlier this month, Apple said its Apple TV + will go live Nov. 1 and cost $4.99 a month, $2 less than rival Disney +. The problem is Apple doesn’t have the library of titles that Disney has, which includes projects made under the Disney, Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios brands. Marvel, in particular, is making new series for Disney + to go along with its various movie titles. AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., also is getting into streaming television.

Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance had separate stories on Sept. 13 raising the question whether Apple may buy entertainment properties to boost its supply of programming.

Here’s an excerpt from the Bloomberg story (which was picked up by The Washington Post):

Much has been made of Apple TV+ undercutting competitors, but the price was set low to make up for the fact that, unlike rival services, it won’t contain a backlog of content out of the gate. (snip)

Apple’s lack of a library argues for the company to buy a production studio. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (which also owns the Starz premium channel), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (known as MGM), Sony Pictures and indie studio A24 are all prospects.

Yahoo Finance interviewed Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

“It’s a content arms race,” Ives told Yahoo. “Right now, Apple has built a house, they’ve priced it accordingly. They need to fill it with content and we think that’s going to be the next trick up the sleeve for (Apple CEO Tim) Cook in terms of bigger M&A.” That’s mergers and acquisitions for those who don’t converse in business talk.

Ives’s pecking order for potential purchases was as follows: A24 Studio, Lionsgate, Viacom/CBS, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Netflix “and then a potential gaming publisher (that could be incorporated into Apple’s streaming service or a separate gaming subscription service) as a wild card.”

Sony distributed the four most recent Bond films. It’s not involved with No Time to Die, which will be distributed by United Artists Releasing (joint venture between MGM and Annapurna) in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

MGM has long been one of the weakest studios, having survived various restructurings and a bankruptcy. MGM controls half of the Bond film franchise along with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions. MGM also owns a large film library, which includes the old United Artists library containing such titles (in addition to Bond films) as West Side Story, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, the Rocky series and the Pink Panther series.

Apple certainly has plenty of cash. Interesting times in show biz.

A year later, another Cavill-is-done-as-Superman story

Will play superheroes for food.

Talk about a slow-motion way to lose your job.

In September 2018, The Hollywood Reporter said Henry Cavill was out as Superman. Cavill’s agent tried to dispute that, but Warner Bros. only offered up a vague statement that didn’t say much.

Flash forward a year. A website called Cosmic Book News this week came out with a story saying Cavill is still out. It also adds a wrinkle that stems from more recent developments.

One change from a year ago is that Warner Bros. has secured the services of J.J. Abrams. One Abrams project may be jumpstarting the cinematic Superman and the director-producer likely wants his own choice in the role.

Something similar happened when director Matt Reeves was given the keys to the Batcave. Soon, incumbent Ben Affleck was out and Reeves cast Robert Pattinson as a younger Batman for a 2021 movie. That project reportedly may pick up the services of Jeffrey Wright as the new Commissioner Gordon. THR said this week the actor is in talks for the part. Wright currently is reprising the role of Felix Leiter in No Time to Die.

Nothing is official, of course. Still, it’s interesting to see how Cavill has been left hanging for so long.

There’s been no sign that “Mr. Warner” wants to proceed with Cavill. For example, this year’s Shazam! movie ended with a Superman cameo but it wasn’t with Cavill. It was a guy in a Superman uniform whose face the audience never sees.

Still, Cavill is not out officially, either. In comic books, kryptonite was Superman’s weakness. In real life, Cavill/Superman’s weakness is inertia.

Cavill, of course, has played one spy hero (Napoleon Solo in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and one spy villain (Mission: Impossible-Fallout). He was tested in play Bond for 2006’s Casino Royale, but Daniel Craig got it, in large part because Eon boss Barbara Broccoli wanted him and wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

Cavill’s name still gets speculated about as the next cinematic James Bond. But given how more men have walked on the Moon (12) than have played Bond on-screen in the Eon series (six) that’s hardly a sure thing.  Besides, one suspects Barbara Broccoli will try to keep Craig in Bondage beyond No Time to Die.