U.N.C.L.E. script: The Cut and Paste Affair Part I

Luciana Paluzzi’s title card for The Four-Steps Affair

Television producer Norman Felton was many things. The list would include efficient and thrifty.

During the first year of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., extra scenes were filmed so two episodes, The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair, could be turned into films for the international market. The show would be so popular the resulting films, To Trap a Spy and and The Spy With My Face, were released in the U.S. as a double feature in 1966.

But what if even more use could be had from those extra scenes? Felton and his Arena Productions did just that, writing a new story to incorporate those scenes in an episode titled The Four-Steps Affair, airing on NBC on Feb. 22, 1965.

A script dated Dec. 30, 1964 has the original title, The Himalayan Affair. One of the villains for Thrush, the evil organization, is named Walchek, but the name would be changed later to Rudnick.

The script opens with a sequence copied from Sam Rolfe’s extra scenes for The Vulcan Affair/To Trap a Spy. An U.N.C.L.E. operative is on the run from Thrush agents trying to kill him. Here, he’s named Dancer. In Rolfe’s original, he was Lancer.

Regardless, the sequence plays out as Rolfe wrote it. Dancer seeks refuge at the home of Angela, a woman he knows. The stage directions describing Angela are the same.

ANGELA is an attractive girl, with short, cropped hair. She is wearing a negligee and carrying a hairbrush. Her eyes reflect surprise at encountering Dancer. Apparently she was in another part of the house when he entered. As Dancer spins around she sees the blood on his shirt and she gasps.

What Dancer is unaware of is that Angela works for Thrush. She double-crosses him and Dancer is killed amid machine-gun fire.

Perhaps the most significant change is that Dancer first manages to call Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), the chief of U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters, to deliver a vague warning. “The bird is on the wing.”

The part of Angela was cast with Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi. When this episode aired, Paluzzi was filming Thunderball, playing SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe. Both Angela and Fiona were femme fatales.

After Dancer’s death, we meet Walchek. In Rolfe’s original, he was simply referred to as the Leader. He is a “well-dressed man in his early forties, that part of him which isn’t nasty is just plain grim.” The new script adds having Walchek saying the late Dancer’s car will be “excellent bait” to trap other U.N.C.L.E. agents.

What follows is a new scene at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, setting up the plot for the television episode. A formerly violent country in the Himalayas has been tamed by Miki, a 10-year-old “boy lama” who has unified his nation. He is believed to be the reincarnation of “their ancient Supreme Lama.”

Miki has been in the U.S. for dental surgery but now appears to be the target for Thrush.

Illya Kuryakin and an Australian agent, Kitt Kittridge, are assigned to bring Miki and his group to safety. Waverly also wonders where Napoleon Solo is.

FLASH PAN TO:

EXT. BEHIND HOME — TWO SHOT NIGHT — NIGHT

of SOLO and an anonymous GRADE AA YOUNG LADY, as they recline in each other’s arms on a double chaise lounge.

Solo, however, has to answer a call on his communications device to go look for Dancer. This script has a bit that wouldn’t be in the episode.

Solo rises quickly, puts his radio away, leans over, KISSES Grade AA on the forehead, SALUTES, and MOVES OUT OF FRAME briskly, without explanation. She growls after him.

TO BE CONTINUED

Daily Mail analyzes Bond tax info

The This Is Money website, part of the Daily Mail network of sites, has published an analysis of the tax side of James Bond films.

Eon Productions has “received more than £100million in tax subsidies in the UK but pay little corporation tax,” according to the story. That figure amounts to $129 million.

The story is based on information from a group called Tax Watch UK.

Here’s an excerpt. Danjaq is the parent company of U.K.-based Eon Productions.

Tax Watch alleges that Danjaq, which ultimately owns the Bond franchise and is based in Delaware and California, as well as its Hollywood partners reap the benefit of cinema ticket sales. 

To be honest, most Bond fans don’t care about such details. They just want to see a movie.

Nevertheless, tax breaks offered by different countries affect the locations used by Bond films.

With SPECTRE, for example, the Mexican government offered various tax breaks if the country were depicted in a favorable light. With the hack of SPECTRE-related memos and such, memos saw the light of day showing there was a concern from studio executives that such tax breaks be maximized.

Here’s another excerpt:

Eon Productions received £30million in tax credits in the year Spectre was made. But that was sunk into losses almost exactly equal to that amount, which meant the company only just broke even. Accounts for an Eon subsidiary, which are understood to be linked to the next in the franchise, No Time To Die, indicate the makers received another £47million last year. 

UPDATE: Danjaq LLC’s home address is in Santa Monica, California, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

@007inLA on Twitter says this is an old address and it’s now in west Los Angeles. It turns out he’s right. The new address is on part of Eon’s website.

A lot of sites still carry the Santa Monica address, including Danjaq’s own LinkedIn page. The point is Danjaq is U.S.-based. I heard from a Doubting Thomas on Facebook who seemed to think Danjaq was still a Swiss company.

At one time, Danjaq was a Swiss corporation and known as Danjaq S.A. It was still known by that name in 1989 when Licence to Kill was released. It had become Danjaq Inc. by 1995 when GoldenEye came out. It has been known as Danjaq LLC since at least 1997 when Tomorrow Never Dies was released. You can see the evolution of the name in the copyright notices of those movies.

Apple uses Bond theme to introduce new iPhone

Apple Inc. used The James Bond Theme as part of a presentation to introduce the new iPhone 12 Mini.

Normally, that wouldn’t be much of a deal. However, today’s event comes a couple of days after The Wall Street Journal reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, is under pressure to strike a sales deal. Apple was listed as one of the potential buyers.

Whether coincidence or conspiracy, it was something Bond fans noted. You can view the use of the Bond theme below via a video from CNET.

Margaret Nolan, Bond’s ‘Golden Girl,’ dies

Margaret Nolan, an actress who appeared in Goldfinger and A Hard Day’s Night, has died, according to director Edgar Wright.

Wright reported her passing on Twitter:

Nolan was 76, according to her entry on Wikipedia.

Nolan had a small role as Dink in Goldfinger, a woman James Bond (Sean Connery) meets in Goldfinger. But it was the film’s main titles, designed by Robert Brownjohn, where Nolan made her biggest impact.

In Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel, Auric Goldfinger has a fetish of having women painted gold. Brownjohn jumped on the idea for his main titles. Nolan, clad in a bikini, was painted gold, with scenes from the movie (as well as scenes from Dr. No and From Russia With Love) projected onto her body.

Brownjohn’s visuals of Nolan coupled with the title song written by John Barry and lyricists Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, helped make Goldfinger a huge hit. The lyrics referred to a “Golden Girl.” Both the song and the images captured the imaginations of audiences in 1964.

She also had a small role in A Hard Day’s Night starring The Beatles. Bond fans could spot her instantly.

Below is an image from her brief appearance in Goldfinger outside of the main titles.

“Dink, say goodbye to Felix.”

And below is one of the Goldfinger posters with the Nolan image.

Goldfinger poster

UPDATE (Oct. 12): The official 007 Twitter feed took note of Nolan’s passing this morning.

Bond 25 questions: The future of MGM edition

No Time to Die poster from spring 2020

It turns out No Time to Die is not just a James Bond movie. It’s also a bargaining chip concerning the future of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s going on?

MGM is owned by hedge funds. They acquired the studio when it was in bankruptcy in 2010. Hedge funds typically acquire assets and sell (or “flip”) them a few years later at a profit.

MGM’s hedge fund owners have held onto to the studio for a full decade. That’s longer than is typical of hedge funds.

There have been attempts at selling the studio. MGM spent part of 2016 trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer, according to news reports in early 2017. CEO Gary Barber was in early “unsanctioned” talks to sell MGM to Apple in 2018. That spurred MGM’s board to fire him, The Wall Street Journal said in part of a story about MGM on Oct. 11.

No Time to Die, a $250 million production, was supposed to generate $1 billion in global box office pre COVID-19. That could boost an MGM sales price. But various delays, including two COVID-related ones, have complicated that rosy scenario.

Why should Bond fans care?

The Bond franchise has felt the impact of shaky MGM ownership ever since MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. At times, Eon Production was under the gun to get movies out fast or hold costs down. The whole 1989-1995 hiatus was the direct result of a financial mess at MGM.

Any push by MGM to sell now would be amid the growth in streaming services. Possible buyers may include Apple and Amazon.com, two tech companies active in streaming.

What happens now?

As once said in Diamonds Are Forever, people are playing Monopoly with real buildings, or at least movie and TV studios.

This week’s Wall Street Journal story depicts Anchorage Capital Group, the largest single MGM hedge fund owner, as under pressure to do a deal.

In one passage, the story indicates that Anchorage views the still-unreleased No Time to Die as something that could boost a sales price. A buyer could assume control of No Time to Die’s distribution.

There is a complication, according to the Journal. Comcast Corp.’s Universal is set to distribute No Time to Die internationally. If someone other than Comcast buys MGM, Comcast may need to be compensation.

But I just want my Bond movie! Why do I to follow this other stuff?

Life is complicated sometimes.

MGM’s lead owner under pressure to do deal: WSJ

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s lead owner, hedge fund Anchorage Capital Group, to do a deal involving James Bond’s home studio, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The person in the center of all this is Kevin Ulrich, head of Anchorage and chairman of MGM.

Anchorage is MGM’s largest owner. Anchorage had hoped that the release of No Time to Die would boost MGM’s value for a deal, the Journal said. But the newest delay in the 25th James Bond film has complicated the situation. Here’s an excerpt:

Some Anchorage clients have asked the hedge fund whether the perks and privileges that come with being a Hollywood chieftain have influenced Mr. Ulrich’s call to stay with MGM, the lengthiest and largest investment in Anchorage’s history. Other MGM investors have asked the same.

Ulrich declined to be interviewed by the Journal.

The Journal also said Ulrich has indicated he is working toward a deal and referenced Amazon.com, Apple Inc., Comcast Corp. (parent company of Universal, which is releasing No Time to Die internationally), and Facebook Inc. as possible buyers.

The financial news outlet also said CEO Gary Barber was fired in 2018 for holding “unsanctioned” talks with Apple. Barber was never replaced and MGM is governed by an “office of the chief executive.”

If the Journal’s reporting is accurate, No Time to Die is one of the main bargaining chips concerning MGM’s future. Another excerpt:

A person close to Anchorage said Mr. Ulrich believes MGM is a more-attractive asset because it hasn’t released “No Time to Die,” giving a buyer control over its launch and distribution.

If MGM were sold, Universal would need to be compensated, the Journal said. Presumably, that wouldn’t apply if Comcast were the buyer.

Fukunaga shows WSJ pre-titles for No Time to Die

Of course it’s a spoiler. If you don’t like spoilers, go away.

The Wall Street Journal today published a feature story about No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga. And Fukunaga showed the Journal’s scribe the pre-titles sequence of No Time To Die.

The story is behind a paywall but I saw a version of the full story. As it says above, leave if you don’t like spoilers. No more warnings.

In the story, there’s a description of Fukanaga instructing one of the movie’s editors to show the Journal reporter the pre-titles sequence.

“It’s slow-paced, visually arreting, subtitled with dialogue in French and entirely Bond-free,” the story says. “Focusing instead on Madeline (Swann’s) backstory, the opening is a terrifying episode from her childhood in which Safin, wearing a Japanese Noh mask, kills her mother, persues Madeline through the home and hunts her down on a frozen lake.”

Fukunaga also comments to the reporter: “Some clown chasing a child around the house. Yeah, it’s like I brought back It in the first five minutes of Bond.”

One quick note: This isn’t the first time Bond hasn’t been in a pre-titles sequence. The Journal story mistakenly says Bond has been in every pre-titles sequence.

From Russia With Love had a fake-out and had a Bond double instead of Bond. Live And Let Die didn’t have Bond. And The Man With the Golden Gun had a (supposed) Bond statue, but not Bond.

Still, based on the Journal story, this is a departure from a typical Bond pre-titles sequence.

Meanwhile, Fukunaga declined comment on the following possibilities for the movie: Bond is a father, Bond saves the world from a biological weapon and global pandemic.

The director also says he won’t feel closure with the project until it’s in front of audiences. Last week, No Time to Die’s release date was pushed back again, this time to April 2021.

Bond 26 questions: Future of the franchise edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There has been a lot of James Bond film news the past week. Naturally the blog has questions.

What decade will Bond 26 come out in?

If we’re lucky, the 2020s.

Oh, come on! That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?

In 2012, when Skyfall came out, did you think there’d only be two Bond films in the 2010s?

Put another way, can you be sure there will be two Bond films in the 2020s?

Never mind. But why such a negative vibe?

Because there are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the future of movies.

No Time to Die (plus Marvel movies, plus DC Comics movies, plus Fast and the Furious films plus Jurassic World movies) were pre-COVID-19 movies scheduled to debut in a post-COVID-19 world.

Studios counted on big “tentpole” epics to bring paying customers into movie theaters to supplement on-demand and home video releases. Meanwhile, mid- to small-budgeted projects have gone over to streaming services.

There have been many, many delays of “tentpole” epics during COVID-19. No Time to Die alone was pushed back from April 2020 to November 2020 to April 2021.

But movie theaters are under a lot of financial strain. What happens if many theaters — the same theaters studios rely on for a major tentpole revenue stream — go under?

At one time — say a year ago — people weren’t talking in those terms. Now? It’s a possibility.

What are you saying?

As the saying goes, “James Bond will return.” But will it return as a $250 million-budget “tentpole”? Or does Bond return in a form similar to his 1962 film debut, i.e. a more modestly budgeted film adventure.

Time will tell.

No Time to Die featured on Tonight Show

The spoiler adverse should simply move on.

No Time to Die was featured on the Oct. 5 installment of The Tonight Show before being put back on the shelf until its new April 2021 release date.

The main new aspect was a brief clip. It’s from the Matera sequence and a bit more could be viewed of the scene where where Daniel Craig’s Bond jumps off a bridge. There was a brief chance to sample the Steve Mazzaro-Hans Zimmer score. (Remember, Zimmer told Variety that Mazzaro should get top billing. I am merely following his wishes.)

Phil Nobile Jr., editor of Fangoria magazine, posted the clip on Twitter. I am not embedding it, particularly if it gets yanked.

(UPDATE: Well, The Tonight Show posted it on YouTube. So no reason to be coy.)

In an interview with host Jimmy Fallon, Craig said the delay was so the 25th James Bond film could be shown worldwide. Now, Craig said, was not the time. The comment was a variation on the Oct. 2 announcement that the movie was being pushed back.

Craig also said he returned for a fifth outing as Bond because there was a story left to tell. This was similar to previous interviews.

The Tonight Show interview also had a 15-year-old anecdote about how Craig had never had a martini until just before the announcement he was taking over the Bond role.

Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas conducted what Fallon hyped as “the first U.S. performance” of the movie’s title song. It sounded pretty similar to all those other performances from months ago when the song first debuted. But the camera work was more interesting than the music video that came out last week.

Tonight also carried a new No Time to Die spot (now saying “in theaters 2021”) as well as Bond-themed Omega and Heineken commercials.

NTTD: Key events, dates that shaped expectations

.

All they need to do is change the “3” to a “2.”

No Time to Die has become one of the longest soap operas in the history of the Eon Productions James Bond film series. But how did it get that way?

What follows are some key events and dates. All of them helped shape outside perspective of the production.

July 24, 2017: Both Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announce that Bond 25 will be released on Nov. 8, 2019. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are onboard as writers.

At this point, MGM had no way of distributing the film. As it turns out, MGM was working to get back into distribution. But that wouldn’t be firmed up for some time. MGM and Annapurna would form a joint venture, later called United Artists releasing, for U.S. distribution. Eventually, Universal would be picked for international distribution.

In any case, the announcement creates the expectation Bond 25 would be out in fall 2019.

Aug. 15, 2017: Daniel Craig, on CBS’s The Late Show, says he’s returning as Bond in the new movie. The July 2017 announcement didn’t specify who was playing Bond.

Craig’s appearance helps create the impression of momentum. The Bond film machine is stirring.

Oct. 31, 2017: MGM and Annapurna announce their joint venture. Bond 25, for now, is not part of the deal. (It would become part of it later.) But again, the news creates the image of momentum.

February 2018: Entertainment news outlets report that Danny Boyle is a contender to direct Bond 25. Ultimately, it turns out Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, have a competing idea for the film and Hodge is working up a script. If that idea gets approved, Hodge is in the director’s chair.

Boyle confirms all this in March.

May 25, 2018: Official announcement is made that Boyle is directing and Hodge is writing Bond 25.

It’s a new day. Now, that’s what you call momentum.

Aug. 21, 2018: Danny Boyle, we hardly ye. He’s out, according to a new announcement. (It later becomes clear Hodge is gone, too.) Now, that’s what you call slamming the brakes on momentum.

Sept. 20, 2018: Bond 25 has a new director, Cary Fukunaga. It also has a new release date, Feb. 14, 2020, according to an official announcement.

That’s a mixed bag, but at least work is moving ahead.

Feb. 15, 2019: New release date is announced, now April 2020. The news was a bit of a letdown to Bond fans who had started their “one year to go” countdowns the previous day.

April 25, 2019: Eon conducts a livestream event in Jamaica ahead of the start of the production of Bond 25. There are some technical hiccups. There’s still no title. But, hey, filming is starting at long last.

We’re on our way now. What could go wrong?

May 22, 2019: Eon confirms Daniel Craig suffered an injury and will have ankle surgery. It’s not the firm time Craig has gotten hurt. Eon says the April release date is still in effect.

June 4, 2019: There’s an explosion at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. No serious injuries but the optics weren’t the best.

007 Stage after the June 4, 2019 incident.

Aug. 20, 2019: Bond 25 gets a title — No Time to Die. This helps re-establish momentum and anticipation. A title helps things seem more real. A movie is actually coming.

Oct. 25, 2019: Eon announces filming has concluded. Whatever bumps took place, the movie is done. Anticipation builds.

Over the next few months, the first trailer comes out, an expensive ad appears during the Super Bowl and plans for a world premiere get announced.

Then, on March 4, Bond 25/No Time to Die is delayed to November 2020. This week, it was delayed again to April 2021. In both cases, the actions stem from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The pandemic has slammed a lot of industries, including the film industry.

The point of bringing all this up is that Bond 25 has had 1) a lot of ups and downs and 2) had those ups and downs for an extended time.

As a result, if fans are feeling a little whipsawed, there’s good reason.

The movie is sitting there, presumably secure and ready to be shown. When that happens, anticipation will build yet again. But nobody should blame fans for feeling a little uneasy at this point.