Quantum’s 10th: Impact still felt on 007 franchise

International poster for Quantum of Solace

This fall marks the 10th anniversary of Quantum of Solace, the 22nd 007 film made by Eon Productions. It’s a production that still reverberates with the franchise.

It was the last time the makers of James Bond films tried to come out with an entry just two years after the previous installment. And it’s possible it will remain the last.

As Casino Royale was ending production, Sony Pictures put out a July 20, 2006 release saying it intended to release Bond 22 (as it was then known) quickly — May 2, 2008.

“As we wrap production on CASINO ROYALE we couldn’t be more excited about the direction the franchise is heading with Daniel Craig. Daniel has taken the origins of Ian Fleming’s James Bond portraying, with emotional complexity, a darker and edgier 007,” Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were quoted in the press release.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with three Bond films under their belt, were aboard to come up with a story for what Eon would later describe as the series’ first “direct sequel.”

There were soon signs the pace was causing some strains.

‘Very Nervous’
Director Roger Michell opted not to helm the movie because he felt the story wasn’t developed enough. In 2007, Michell gave an interview to The Times. The original link to the interview is broken, but the Commander Bond website’s summary includes some of Michell’s comments.

“‘Well, I did give up directing the Bond film,” Michell told The Times, according to the Commander Bond summary. “It was because in the end I didn’t feel comfortable with the Bond process, and I was very nervous that there was a start date but really no script at all. And I like to be very well prepared as a director.”

Eventually, Quantum was pushed back to a fall 2008 release. But there were still time pressures. The Writers Guild of America was in labor talks and a strike deadline was looming. The union went on strike from November 2007 to February 2008, with the Bond movie starting production in early 2008.

There are conflicting versions of the movie’s story process.

Marc Forster

The director hired for the movie, Marc Forster, said in an April 2008 Rotten Tomatoes story, said there was a reset after he arrived.

‘From Scratch’
“Once I signed on to do it we pretty much developed the script from scratch because I felt that it wasn’t the movie I wanted to make and we started with Paul Haggis from scratch,” Forster said in the story. Haggis was the writer who did the final drafts of Casino Royale.

“And I said to him these are the topics I am interested in this is what I would like to say, what’s important to me,” the director said. “And we developed it from there together. Then Barbara and Michael said they liked where we were going and they liked the script.”

In this interview, Forster said everything worked out fine.

““The good thing is that Paul and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with,” the director said. “Then we started shooting and the only problems I had with the script we were shooting in April, May and June so as soon as the strike was over we did another polish.”

The writer doing that polish, Forster said, was Joshua Zetumer. The scribe’s involvement with the film was noted in other stories written during the production.

More Complicated
Forster, in a Nov. 3, 2008 story on the Vulture culture blog of New York magazine, indicated things were more complicated.

“Haggis had an idea they weren’t fond of, and I didn’t know if it would work or not,” Forster told Vulture. “The idea was that Vesper in the last movie, maybe she had a kid, and there would be an orphan out there.”

Eventually, with the clocking ticking to a WGA strike, the idea of Bond searching for Vesper’s child was rejected. Haggis, though, delivered a script ahead of the WGA walkout.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

In 2011, as Skyfall was preparing production, a new scenario was unveiled.

Daniel Craig in an interview with Time Out London, said he and Forster were forced to rewrite the script as Quantum was being filmed.

The actor described what they had as a “bare bones of a script.” Because of the WGA strike, “We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it.”

This tale has emerged as the now-accepted version, with Joshua Zetumer the movie’s forgotten man.

(Note: The original Time out link is still up but when I called it up, I got a warning about a “malicious link” from my computer. This SUMMARY OF THE INTERVIEW ON INDIEWIRE has the same Craig quotes with no malicious link” warnings.)

The movie did fine at the box office, with $586 million globally. But Quantum’s biggest effect may be that Eon doesn’t want to rush things if it can help it.

External Pressures’
“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli told the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

Barbara Broccoli

“But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures,” the Eon boss told the newspaper.

She didn’t mention either Sony or Quantum of Solace. But it’s not much of a stretch to wonder if both were on her mind during the interview.

What’s more, a Sony executive told theater executives in 2012 that Bond 24 (eventually titled SPECTRE) would be out in 2014. Broccoli and Craig, in a May 1, 2012 interview with Collider, shut down such talk.

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it.

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs). It’s very nice that he has the confidence to be able to do that, but we haven’t finished this movie yet.

SPECTRE, of course, came out in 2015, not 2014.

Today, Quantum occupies an odd space. Despite its financial success, it wasn’t discussed much in the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing. But many fans feel it’s more than a worthy entry in series.

Regardless of how you feel about the movie, though, it had an impact on the franchise. Trying to make a James Bond film within two years is now unthinkable.

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Deadline says Bond 25 has dueling story lines

Bond 25 has dueling story lines, one of which would be directed by Danny Boyle, the other if he takes a pass, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

“Boyle had an idea for a very specific 007 movie, and he and his Trainspotting  partner John Hodge have teamed up to work out the beats,” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “Hodge is writing that version and if it all works out, that would be the 007 film that Boyle would helm.”

If Hodge’s script, whenever it’s finished, gets the OK, according to Fleming, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would “shelve the movie they were contemplating…and they will instead make the version that was cooked up by the Trainspotting team.”

The version that would be junked would be the story cooked up by veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The duo were hired for their seventh Bond effort almost a year ago. That was reported in March 2017 by the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye and the hiring was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 release saying Bond 25 will be released in the U.S. in November 2019.

Hodge “won’t be done for a couple of months,” according to Deadline. MGM declined to comment to the entertainment website.

Fleming’s report followed a story yesterday in Variety saying that Boyle may direct Bond 25.

A couple of points:

This development, if true, has the potential to delay Bond 25: Filming on Skyfall and SPECTRE began between 11 and 12 months before they were released in the U.S. If Bond 25 had a similar schedule, it’d need to be in production before the end of this year.

Also, if Deadline is literally accurate, Hodge would be done sometime this spring. And you could almost count on additional rewriting taking place after that. Can all that be done and still get Bond 25 out in the fall of 2019?

This sounds similar to the scripting process of Quantum of Solace: That 2008 Bond film had dueling story lines also.

Whatever story work had been done before the arrival of director Marc Forster went out the window.

“Once I signed on to do it we pretty much developed the script from scratch because I felt that it wasn’t the movie I wanted to make,” director Marc Forster said in an April 2008 Rotten Tomatoes story.

Then the creative team spent time on another story line were Bond looks for a Vesper Lynd’s child which was eventually rejected, Forster said in a November 2008 story at Vulture, the entertainment blog of New York magazine.

Eventually, yet another script was submitted just ahead of a 2007 Writer’s Guild of America strike. That was the effort that was eventually dubbed a “bare bones of a script” by star Daniel Craig in 2011 when he discussed what happened with Quantum.

There, of course, is one big difference between Quantum and Bond 25. Quantum operated under a tight deadline. Sony Pictures, which released the film, first announced it would come out in May 2008. That would later be pushed back to the fall.

Bond 25, by comparison, doesn’t appear to have a lot of urgency.

As mentioned before, Purvis and Wade were hired almost a year ago. Craig said in the fall of 2016 at an event sponsored by The New Yorker that nothing was happening on Bond 25 “because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired.” The actor didn’t publicly commit to doing Bond 25 until August 2017.

New Bond 25 observations after Variety’s story

Daniel Craig in a 2000s publicity still

UPDATE (Feb. 21): Post updated to note that Variety removed mention of Annapurna Pictures from its story.

Variety is reporting that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are keen to have Danny Boyle direct Bond 25.

A few observations:

Eon’s auteur director phase may continue: Beginning with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon has been enamored with “auteur” directors: Marc Forster (Quantum) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

Employing the services of Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire, would continue that streak.

Over the past decade, Eon has sought more prestige for the long running Bond film series. It hired writer Peter Morgan in the early stages of pre-production of Skyfall.

Morgan had an enviable resume, including writing Frost/Nixon. But, in a 2010 interview, he seemed ambivalent about writing for Bond. ““I’m not sure it’s possible to do it.” He cited the lack of ” social reality” in Bond films Morgan exited the project but apparently he had the idea of Judi Dench’s M being killed.

Bond 25 may still be unsettled: According to Variety, when it was first posted, Boyle surfaced as a candidate after Annapurna Pictures emerged as a piece of the movie’s distribution puzzle.

In late October, MGM and Annapurna announced they were forming a joint venture to release each other’s movies. However, Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

In November, Deadline: Hollywood reported that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to securing the U.S. distribution rights to Bond 25. But MGM hasn’t confirmed that and hasn’t commented publicly at all about Bond 25 distribution.

In this week’s Variety story, there was this passage:

“Sources tell Variety that ‘White Boy Rick’ director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but after Annapurna won the distribution rights, there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

Later, Variety removed any mention of Annapurna from the story. That passage was changed to read: “Sources tell Variety that “White Boy Rick” director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

The story then had this passage at the end: “UPDATED: Domestic distribution rights are currently held by MGM.”

Bond 25 financing is still a big question: With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony Pictures was the distributor and supplied half of the production budget. However, Sony only got 25 percent of the profits while MGM got 75 percent.

It would appear that things have changed with Bond 25. But how so remains unknown.

Is MGM more like a “big boy” studio now and actually financing Bond 25 on its own? Is MGM splitting the budget with Annapurna (assuming Annapurna becomes involved)? Will yet another studio take on the international distribution (and perhaps a portion of the production budget)?

Nobody knows. Until the financing is nailed down, Bond 25 still has a long way to go.

Danny Boyle may direct Bond 25, Variety says

Director Danny Boyle, who helmed Slumdog Millionaire as well as directing a 007-themed sequence for the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies, may direct Bond 25, Variety reported.

Variety reporter Justin Kroll wrote that “no formal offer has yet been made.” At the same time, Variety said, Boyle is high on the list for both Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which jointly control the 007 film franchise.

Boyle directed a segment for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics, held in London, where Daniel Craig’s Bond escorts Queen Elizabeth to the games. Stunt doubles for Craig and the queen parachuted to the ceremonies.

“Boyle has keen interest in the project and has always wanted to direct a Bond film,” Kroll wrote. The Variety story says Annapurna Pictures “is expected to distribute.”

MGM and Annapurna announced in late October they formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies but said at that time that Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

UPDATE: Here’s the segment from the 2012 Olympics:

UPDATE II (Feb. 21): Variety later removed mention of Annapurna. It added this line: “UPDATED: Domestic distribution rights are currently held by MGM.”

How Black Panther may be the future of Marvel films

Black Panther poster

UPDATE (Feb. 19): Black Panther’s U.S. box office for Friday-Sunday ended up at $201 million, Exhibitors Relations said on Twitter. 

ORIGINAL POST (Feb. 18): Black Panther, the newest Marvel Studios film, is being celebrated as a huge moment for black America. Examples include The New York Times Magazine (“a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries”) and The Guardian (“The film is already being regarded in the US as a positive force for social change”),

It may also be a sign of Marvel’s future.

Black Panther’s estimated Friday-Sunday U.S. box office is $192 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

That figure would be (unadjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices), the No. 2 U.S. opening for Marvel. Here are the other movies in Marvel’s top five (all of which eventually topped $1 billion at the worldwide box office):

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012): $207.4 million.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): $191.3 million.

Captain America: Civil War (2016): $179.1 million.

Iron Man 3 (2013): $174.1 million.

Of the Marvel top five, Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman) is the only one not to include Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark/Iron Man.

It was 2008’s Iron Man where Marvel began making its own films, instead of licensing the rights to others. The movie became the building block upon which Marvel built is movie universe. Four years later, with Marvel’s The Avengers, the notion of a “shared universe” became big business.

Some have wondered whether Marvel could withstand Downey’s eventual departure. The actor turns 53 in April and it’s not the kind of thing you can keep doing forever. Other major Marvel actors such as Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have reached the end of their contracts.

What’s more, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and an unnamed Avengers film in 2019 is intended as a kind of finale for Marvel films up to now. So, a decade after its first movie, Marvel Studios has reached a transition point.

Black Panther already is a popular and critical (a 97 percent “fresh” score on the Rotten Tomatoes website) success.

Beyond that, Black Panther shows that Marvel is capable of extending itself beyond its first decade of making movies. Black Panther seems destined to join Marvel’s billion-dollar club (it’s at $361 million globally as of this weekend). The movie also is broadening Marvel’s appeal. We’ll see what happens.

Nolan says he’s not directing Bond 25

Christopher Nolan

Director Christopher Nolan has said he’s not directing Bond 25.

“I won’t be,” Nolan said on a broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Feb. 18. “No, no categorically. I think every time they hire a new director I’m just rumored to be doing it.”

There has been a fan theory expressed on internet message boards that Nolan had committed to Bond 25 but it was being kept under wraps until after the Oscars ceremony on March 4.

Nolan is one of the nominees for Best Director for last year’s Dunkirk. Under the fan theory, the thinking is an announcement that Nolan is directing Bond 25 might ruin the director’s chances.

In December, the Archivo 007 fan webite said it was “more than likely” that Nolan would direct Bond 25. The site cited two sources it didn’t identify (one from the U.S. and one from the U.K.) as saying Nolan already was working on the 007 project.

Nolan has said he’s a fan of James Bond films, something he repeated in the BBC Radio 4 interview. The director said in a 2017 interview with Playboy magazine that he has talked to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions “over the years.”

“I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it,” Nolan told Playboy. “Maybe one day that would work out. You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean. It has to need reinvention; it has to need you. And they’re getting along very well.”

Many fans have always been intrigued about what his take on 007 would be like. Director Sam Mendes has said Nolan’s Batman films were an influence on 2012’s Skyfall.

The Black Panther’s 007 vibe

Black Panther poster

No meaningful plot spoilers but the extremely spoiler adverse should skip.

Black Panther, which is debuting this weekend in the United States, also has a James Bond vibe.

Director Ryan Coogler, was quoted in stories appearing in January like this one and this one as saying Black Panther was intended to be the Marvel film universe’s version of 007.

Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the new king of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda.

The country is the only source of vibranium, a material with various properties which is the reason why Wakanda is so advanced. Wakandan leaders have long kept the country’s technology a secret. All of this is established in a short prologue that takes the form of a story being told a child.

T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) develops weapons and gadgets. Shuri is clearly this movie’s Q.

Because the movie is dealing with a fictional material, Shuri’s devices are more science fiction that what you see in a Bond movie.

What doesn’t work in a Bond movie (Die Another Day’s invisible car) is kid’s stuff compared to Black Panther, including a uniform with vibranium for T’Challa that stores kinetic energy that can be redirected against his opponents.

It’s similar to what director Christopher Nolan, a Bond film fan, did with his trilogy of Batman films.

In those films, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox kept Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne supplied with devices. Some of the Freeman-Bale scenes played very similar to their 007 counterpart sequences, where Wayne can’t wait to play around before Fox completes his briefing.

More broadly, Black Panther has espionage undertones. Because Wakanda is trying to keep its technology advances secret — and keep control of its vibranium — it employs a large network of spies deployed throughout the world. As a result, there’s an element of international intrigue. The movie has a lot more going than that, but it makes an interesting subtext.

UPDATE: I should have noted this earlier. At the very end of the film, after the final post-credits scene, there was something displayed that would warm the heart of old-time Bond film fans.

“BLACK PANTHER will return in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.” It’s not the first time Marvel has done this sort of thing, but first-generation Bond movie fans probably appreciate it. In this case, the next Avengers film will be out in less than three months.