Aston Martin, glamorous on screen, struggles in real life

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Aston Martin, thanks to James Bond movies, including the upcoming SPECTRE, is a symbol of glamor and British ingenuity. In real life, it’s not easy being Aston.

Ford Motor Co. owned Aston for 20 years. The U.S. automaker sold off the niche maker of expensive sports cars in 2007 amid as Ford got its own economic house in order. Ever since, Aston hasn’t been owned by a major automaker unlike other British vehicle brands such as Bentley (owned by Volkswagen AG) or Jaguar and Land Rover (India’s Tata Motors).

Aston, however, is carrying on, including plans to introduce a seven-vehicle lineup this week at the Geneva Motor Show, according to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

A quick excerpt:

GENEVA — Andy Palmer once tried to convince former employer Nissan Motor Co. to buy niche sports-car maker Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. Now as the tiny British car maker’s chief executive, Mr. Palmer is fighting to keep it independent.

Long associated with its role as a featured automobile in the James Bond series, Aston Martin has struggled in recent years even as a cast of high-end rivals surged. Sold by Ford Motor Co. in 2007, annual sales have since fallen about 40%, from 7,300 to 4,000 in 2014.

Palmer, a U.K. native, has been on the job for less than six months. He’s counting on a cost-sharing agreement with Daimler AG to help the British company stay competitive with other automakers who are ramping up spending on research and development, according to the Journal. Daimler owns 5 percent of Aston.

For more details about Aston’s new lineup, you can view the Journal story BY CLICKING HERE. There is a pay wall at the Journal’s website.

SPECTRE stills get broader release

SPECTRE LOGO

A couple of SPECTRE stills that were in Empire magazine’s feature story about the film have gotten broader distribution via the official 007 Twitter account.

One is a picture of Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, the main henchman in the 24th James Bond film. The other is a photo of director Sam Mendes talking to actress Lea Seydoux.

Separately, the 007 Twitter account also took note of the birthday of star Daniel Craig using a photo taken during the production of Skyfall.

Happy birthday, Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

Here’s wishing a happy 80th birthday to Robert Conrad, the star of The Wild Wild West.

The show was sold as “James Bond and cowboys.” In reality, it was far more than that.

Set in the 1870s, The Wild Wild West was Jules Verne for television. The top agents of of the U.S. Secret Service, James West (Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) encountered foes including dwarf scientists (Michael Dunn’s Dr. Loveless Loveless), to 19th century cyborgs, to masterminds trying to overthrow the United States government (quite a few).

The Wild Wild West was the classic case of capturing lightning in a bottle. TV movie efforts in 1979 and 1980 as well as a theatrical move in 1999 CAME UP SHORT in recapturing the spirit of the original.

Despite that, The Wild Wild West is still fondly remembered a half century later, with Conrad’s Jim West a major reason. In 2013, the actor appeared in a salute to his career. While it covered many of Conrad’s television shows, The Wild Wild West took up a major part of the proceedings. The WWW segment begins roughly around the 15:00 mark. At around the 22:00 mark, applause begins from the audience.

Happy birthday, Mr. Conrad.

MI6 Confidential looks at SPECTRE

SPECTRE LOGO

MI6 Confidential has a new issue out looking at SPECTRE past and future.

The publication has a look at filming of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions. It also has articles about the actors who played SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld and how the criminal organization was depicted in novels by Ian Fleming and John Gardner.

Other features include a 30th anniversary look at A View to a Kill, Roger Moore’s final 007 film.

MI6 Confidential No. 29 costs 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros. For more information or to order, CLICK HERE.

Leonard Nimoy dies at 83, dabbled in spy entertainment

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock on Star Trek but who also dabbled in spy entertainment, has died today at 83, according to an obituary in THE NEW YORK TIMES.

A brief excerpt:

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week

Nimoy’s greatest fame was as Spock. He first played the role in an unsold 1964 pilot starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike. A second pilot, with William Shatner as Capt. James Kirk, did sell and a series aired on NBC for three seasons. Much later, Star Trek was revived for theatrical movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation, a syndicated series set decades after the original. Nimoy’s Spock showed up at one time or another in some of the films and the later series.

Still, he appeared in spy shows as well. He and Shatner were in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Project Strigas Affair. Shatner was an “innocent” recruited by Napoleon Solo as part of a complicated plot. Nimoy was a secondary villain.

Nimoy also replaced Martin Landau on Mission: Impossible for that show’s fourth and fifth seasons. Nimoy played Paris, a magician and master of disguise. Executives at Paramount forced out Landau, who never signed a long-term contact and who had previously won salary raises in negotiations.

Landau was was popular as disguise expert Rollin Hand and the departure also cost M:I of the services of his then-wife, Barbara Bain. As a result, Nimoy came aboard as the show’s ratings slipped. He left before the series changed to a format where the Impossible Missions Force battled only organized crime in the final two seasons.

UPDATE: Leonard Nimoy was active on Twitter. This is his last Tweet:

UPDATE II (7 p.m.): MeTV, the U.S. cable channel of classic television shows, is showing a lot of episodes of shows where Nimoy was the guest star. On Sunday at 10 p.m., it will show The Project Strigas Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., followed by one of Nimoy’s appearances on Mission: Impossible (“The Hostage) at 11 p.m., followed by an episode of Get Smart (The Dead Spy Scrawls) with Nimoy. For more details, CLICK HERE.

A few observations about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No real spoilers but spoiler sensitive fans should stay away.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in production for more than two months. But there’s been a bit of publicity this week. So here are a few observations:

It may be time for some new talking points: Actress Lea Seydoux, in Empire magazine, desecribed her character in SPECTRE thusly: “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, Seydoux’s character is like, among others, Agent Triple-X (agent who was “Bond’s equal in every way” as director Lewis Gilbert described her in The Spy Who Loved Me), Holly Goodhead (CIA agent *and* a trained shuttle rocket pilot in Moonraker), Melina (revenge driven woman who’s deadly with a crossbow in For Your Eyes Only), Pam Bouvier (CIA agent and pilot in Licence to Kill), Wai Lin (Chinese agent in Tomorrow Never Dies), Jinx (NSA agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) and Camille (another secret agent in Quantum of Solace).

Thus, the notion that a woman character is Bond’s equal isn’t unique or even unusual in the 21st century. It might be time to retire that talking point.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”: Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli told Empire that only “a very old version” of SPECTRE’s script leaked out because of the Sony hacks.

That depends on what you mean by “very old.” To the lay person, a very old script might be the first draft that John Logan turned in around March of 2014. Or it might be a draft before veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST (warning: spoilers), described a draft that existed after Logan’s story had been revised as well as memos from studio executives suggesting changes and that rewriting was happening in November, while filming began on Dec. 8.

On the other hand, if you define “very old” as something other than the version the crew has right now (dialogue if often tweaked during shooting), that would be accurate.

The Eon co-chief IN APRIL 2012 denied Ben Whishaw had been cast as Q in Skyfall and IN NOVEMBER 2012 that Logan had been hired to write two Bond movies. Both turned out to be true, though Logan’s scripting effort was judged to need rewriting.

The publicity machine is gradually revealing details: Broccoli acknowledged the title of SPECTRE refers to the organization featured in early Bond movies, but this is a new take. Normally, that’d rate a “duh,” but nobody wanted to say that much when the title was revealed in December.

Director Sam Mendes, in a video released by the official 007 website gave a bit of information about the movie. He even said that SPECTRE has more information about Bond’s childhood. Meanwhile, Whishaw’s Q was seen out in the field. Just like Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in Licence to Kill? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): Adding a question to the mix.

What was the story when Sam Mendes signed on to direct SPECTRE? Sam Mendes, in a video released by 007.com this week, says the reason he opted to direct a second 007 film, or any film, has “all to do about the story.”

But what story? Mendes’s signing as SPECTRE director was announced in JULY 2013. At that point, there even wasn’t a first draft script. John Logan didn’t deliver one until early 2014.

There had to be some kind of treatment, or detailed outline. The announcement also said the movie (then just called Bond 24) had a release date. We know through the reporting of Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail and the Sony hacking that Logan’s story was found insufficient and that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to revamp the script and it greatly changed.

Mendes spoke in a promotional video intended to sell the movie. But it would be interesting the next time an entertainment journalist gets an interview to pursue questions like these: What was appealing about that initial story? Are those elements still there? Was the scripting process tougher for SPECTRE compared with Skyfall?

Empire describes SPECTRE filming

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Mild spoilers, but no plot points. Spoiler adverse folks should just move on.

Empire magazine’s look at SPECTRE is out. While the story isn’t online, fans have been making image scans of the magazine pages.

A few highlights. No plot points discussed in this summary but those the spoiler adverse should stop reading. The magazine itself has more spoiler detail.

–There is a description of a fight involving Bond.

–There is a description of a bigger action sequence filmed in Austria filmed by the second unit.

–In a sidebar, Lea Seydoux repeats a Bond movie talking point going back decades. “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, the same talking points as Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 when describing the Chinese agent working with Bond in that film. Of course, the “Bond’s equal” character goes back to Agent Triple-X in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. In this case, Seydoux says she’s not an agent.

–Eon Productions does admit the title refers to the SPECTRE organization featured in Bond movies before the Daniel Craig reboot that started with 2006’s Casino Royale. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon, says “Okay, now’s the time to explore that (SPECTRE) again in a new and exciting and different way.”

— The film opens in Mexico.

–Barbara Broccoli says the script that got out during the Sony hacks was “a very old version.” The Gawker website on Dec. 12, based on a copy of the script and memos also leaked in the hack, said rewriting continued throughout November. The movie began filming on Dec. 8.

–In SPECTRE, “Bond is on top of his game, top of his form,” Broccoli told Empire.

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