Bond 25: Time to get real

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter


Over the past week, some Bond fans have gotten upset.

They were mad about a March 2 open letter from the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier that urged a delay in the premiere for No Time to Die because of the coronavirus.

Two days later, Eon Productions announced that the movie would be delayed until November.

Was that because of the open letter? Likely not. The open letter merely drew attention to issues that studio executives, et. al., were already looking at.

The announcement referenced “the global theatrical marketplace.” It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce this was probably a reference to the coronavirus. Since then, there have been other changes in movie release dates.

Nevertheless, some Bond fans are still mad. How dare the authors of the open letter speak for all fans?

Of course, the open letter never said it was on behalf of ALL fans. It cited how key international markets in China, South Korea, and Japan had been affected. Since the open letter was posted, the disease has spread. Italy now has been shut down.

Some fans are still mad about the open letter. Such fans argue that the delay may have been the right move, but the open letter should never have been written.

Whatever. It’s time to move on. The coronavirus has continued to spread. The World Health Organization today declared the coronavirus is a pandemic.

To be clear, I often am a guest on the James Bond & Friends podcast produced by the MI6 James Bond site. I have not given the site a heads up that I was doing this post.

We are in a pandemic. It’s time to put aside arguments and debates. No Time to Die’s debut has been delayed. Instead of attacking other Bond fans, it’s time to prepare for what is to come.

UPDATE (March 12): Since this post was published, a number of other films have seen their release date pushed back. Variety reported that Fast & Furious 9 is being delayed by almost a year. It had been set for release on May 22, 2020. Movies in the series depend heavily on markets outside the U.S.

According to a post from the movie’s Twitter feed, the 9th installment will come out in April 2021.

1965: Jesus and the spy (actors)

Blu Ray cover for The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

The death this week of actor Max Von Sydow was a reminder for the blog of a Biblical film that highlighted actors from the 1960s spy craze.

The movie was The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), about the life of Jesus Christ, played by Von Sydow.

The movie was years in the making. The writing of the script alone took about two years. Filming occurred in 1962 and 1963.

The producer-director was George Stevens (1904-1975). Over the years he had helmed movies such as Gunga Din (1939), I Remember Mama (1948), A Place in the Sun (1951), Shane (1953) and Giant (1956).

With the release of 1959’s The Diary of Anne Frank, Stevens was at the height of his powers. The film was both a popular and critical hit, winning three Oscars and nominated for five more.

For his next project, Stevens opted to tackle the story of Jesus. The film originated at 20th Century Fox (which had released The Diary of Anne Frank) but ended up at United Artists.

Major stars wanted to be part of the project. John Wayne got one line as a Roman centurion (“Truly this man was the son of God.”). Charlton Heston (as John the Baptist), Sidney Poitier, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains, Dorothy McGuire (as the Virgin Mary), Shelly Winters and Ed Wynn were in the cast.

And then there was the future spy actor contingent.

There were three future Blofeld actors — Von Sydow (Never Say Never Again), Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice) and Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). The latter shaved his head for the role of Pontius Pilate, a look he’d keep until the end of his life.

There was one Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum as Judas), one future Felix Leiter (David Hedison) and one future Rollin Hand (Martin Landau). In a 2007 extra for a home video release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Robert Vaughn told McCallum that he, too, had sought the Judas role that McCallum won.

Also present: Victor Buono, who screenwriter Richard Maibaum had recommended to play Goldfinger. Buono had his share of work during the 1960s spy craze in The Silencers, The Wild Wild West, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy.

The Greatest Story Ever Told had an actual tragedy. Director of photography William C. Mellor, who had worked with Stevens on other films, died of a heart attack during production.

The movie proved to be a flop. By the time it came out in early 1965, the market for such films had seemingly run its course. The movie was earnest and sincere. So was Ben-Hur (1959), but that project had also ship battles and the famous chariot race.

Stevens would direct only one more film, 1970’s The Only Game in Town.

The Greatest Story Ever Told was nominated for five Oscars, including special visual effects. It lost out to another United Artists release.