About those MGM sales talks and Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post reported that an unknown Chinese buyer is negotiating to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.

The Post’s sister paper, The Wall Street Journal, followed up by saying MGM had been in talks with a Chinese buyer but the negotiations broke off last year.

How all this applies to Bond 25?

This may explain why MGM never reached a Bond 25 distribution deal

Back in March 2016, MGM said it was in no hurry to negotiate a new Bond movie distribution deal. If the Post and Journal are accurate (that MGM at least *had* talks with a would-be Chinese purchaser), the reason is obvious.

MGM CEO Gary Barber had bigger things on his mind. James Bond may be MGM’s biggest asset, but whether to sell the company or not is bigger (from the perspective of an MGM CEO) than that.

Such talks may have slowed the pace of Bond 25 development

Until there’s a studio that can distribute Bond 25, a new 007 production can’t reach theaters.

Following its 2010 bankruptcy, MGM no longer had a distribution operation. Since then, it has negotiated co-financing and distribution deals with other studios. Maybe that would have changed if a Chinese concern acquired MGM. If the Journal is correct, we’ll never know.

Regardless, MGM negotiating to sell to the Chinese probably would have sent any talks with other U.S.-based studios to distribute Bond 25 to the back burner.

Where do we go from here?

Your guess is as good as this blog’s. However, this is a reminder that Bond is tethered to a weak studio.

MGM bought United Artists in 1981. UA, years earlier, got control of half of the Bond franchise when Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, sold out because of financial troubles.

The MGM soap opera changes in some regards (executives come, executives go) but not in others.  MGM’s glory days are long gone.

 

MGM sale to Chinese not happening, WSJ says

MGM logo

A sale of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, to a Chinese buyer isn’t happening, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Talks broke down between MGM and several Chinese companies late last year, an apparent casualty of China’s move to stanch capital outflows that has stalled the country’s shopping spree in Hollywood, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported.

“An MGM sale would have been among the biggest-ticket and highest-profile such acquisitions, but its failure to materialize is evidence of a twist ending that few in Hollywood expected,” according to the story by three Journal reporters.

Earlier, the New York Post reported that MGM was in talks with a Chinese buyer it didn’t identify. Both the Journal and Post are owned by News Corp., controlled by Rupert Muchoch.

Uncertainty at MGM would have an adverse effect on the 007 film franchise. MGM has been involved with Bond since it acquired United Artists in 1981. UA, in 1975, acquired half of the franchise after Eon Productions co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out because of financial troubles.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company, unable to release its own films. MGM cuts deals with other studios to co-finance and release those movies, including the Bond series.

An MGM spokeswoman told the Journal that the studio wasn’t for sale.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal story about the broader issues facing Hollywood and China:

The economic-policy changes in China come amid mounting protectionist rhetoric in the U.S. from the administration of President Donald Trump.

“We’ve heard from both [private-equity] firms and investment banks that China investment activity around [Hollywood] assets started to wane just prior to the election and is almost nonexistent now,” said Chris Fenton, a trustee of the U.S.-Asia Institute, which organizes congressional delegations to China, and president of DMG Entertainment, a media company headquartered in Beverly Hills and Beijing.

“No China entity wants to be the first to test” the heated rhetoric on the U.S. side and the capital controls on the Chinese side, he added.

The last four Bond films have actually been released by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

 

MGM in negotiations with Chinese buyer, NY Post reports

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio of the 007 film franchise, is in sales talks with a Chinese buyer, the New York Post reported.

“The name of the China-based entity involved in the talks, perhaps newly formed to make the deal, could not immediately be learned,” the Post’s Claire Atkinson wrote.

MGM acquired United Artists in 1981, giving it a half stake in the Bond franchise. UA had earlier purchased the holdings of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions and its parent firm, Danjaq.

The studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company. It doesn’t have a distribution operation and negotiates deals with other studios to release its films. The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures.

MGM’s most recent two-picture contract with Sony expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Studio chief Gary Barber said in March 2016 there was “no rush” to negotiate a new Bond distribution accord with Sony or another studio.

In 2016, MGM said it intended to sell stock to the public in three to five years.

NY Post gossip columnist says Craig will be back

Daniel Craig in a pose worthy of Orson Welles.

Daniel Craig

New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams wrote in a short, snarky item that Daniel Craig will be back as James Bond.

“The 411 on 007 is maybe he’s A-1 on BS. Remember him burping ‘I’d rather slash my wrists than play James Bond again?’ Oh, please. Dannyboy’s ready to stir that martini,” Adams wrote for the Post’s Page Six feature.

“Hollywood know-it-alls who know it all categorize this hard-to-catch play as a ploy. He says he hates filming those Bonds, but he knows he loves those Benjamins.”

Who the Hollywood know-it-alls are or how they’re in a position to know it all weren’t specified.

The Post is owned by the Rupert Murdock-controlled News Corp., which owns U.K. tabloids as well as The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal in the U.S.

Spanish in James Bond movies

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

SMERSH’s dossier on James Bond stipulates he is fluent in three languages: English, French and German.

However in the films, Bond and those he encounters speak a fair amount of Spanish on occasion.

 

From Russia with Love (1963)

The audience hears a few words in Spanish during the SPECTRE training sequence in the pre-title sequence.

As Red Grant terminates the fake 007 during his exercise, a few headlights are turned on and a voice in an unidentified dialect says: “Silencio, cada uno donde está”, which in English means “Silence! Everyone, stay where you are.”

Goldfinger (1964)

In the pre-title sequence of Goldfinger, James Bond breaks into a heroin-making laboratory in Latin America.

After setting up explosive charges over nitro barrels in Ramírez’ lab, Bond goes to a nearby canteen. There, a dancer named Bonita makes up a flamenco step show with people cheering.

The charges explode and as the crowd moves along, Bond talks to a man in English. It’s his contact. He warns 007 not to go back to his hotel and to take the first plane to Miami. He addresses Bond as Señor, not Mister.

Bond disregards the advice and goes to see Bonita. He is attacked by an assailant, whom he terminates with electricity in a “shocking” way. The assailant, played by stuntman Alf Joint, is wrongfully credited in publications as “Capungo” as if it were a name or a surname. In Ian Fleming’s novel, we know capungo is a Mexican slang for “thug” or “hitman.”

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) says a single line in Spanish when having lunch with Bond, claiming the death of 007 “mano a mano, face to face” will be all his.

FYEO U.S. Insert

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

This is the first film in the series where 007 speaks in Spanish. Roger Moore has the distinction of being the first Bond to use the language.

007 is sent to Madrid to capture and interrogate Héctor González, a Cuban hitman responsible of the death of Timothy and Iona Havelock. While spying on the González estate, Bond is captured. The agent escapes after a diversion caused by Melina, the daughter of the late Havelocks, when she shots a bolt into González’ back.

As Bond and Melina escape, we hear some words: “¡Vamos, que no se puede escapar!” (Come on, we can’t let him escape). Later, 007 and the girl try to find a way out while driving Melina’s Citroen 2 CV.

The car flips down while taking a low road and some of the natives try to help the couple. As the henchmen of González try to reach them in their more powerful Mercedes Benz, Bond asks the citizens to help them push the car: “Por favor, ¡empujen!”

Safe in his hotel, Bond reserves a flight back to London and thanks in Spanish: “Muchas gracias.”

octopussy

Octopussy (1983)

Spanish is much heard during the first ten minutes of the film, when 007 infiltrates an air base in an unknown Latin American country (probably Cuba) to sabotage a missile. We hear trough the radio phones one Colonel Alvarado is performing an equestrian show.

Bianca, a Latin American agent, helps 007 don his disguise (fake moustache included): Colonel Luis Toro. A detail to note is that the prop department wrongfully abbreviated the word “Colonel” in English (Col. Toro) when it should have used the Spanish abbreviation (Cnel. Toro).

Moore makes a good use of his double entendrés with Toro’s surname: “Toro? Sounds like a load of bull” (The English for toro is “bull”).

Bond –- posing as Toro -– infiltrates the compound and greets one of the officers working on the missile. “Coronel,” the man says.  007 replies “Continúe” (Carry on) before knocking the man unconscious and getting discovered by the real Toro.

“Interrogación”, the military orders for the impostor to be arrested and interrogated. One of the officers complies while replying: “Sí, Coronel. Métanlo al camion” (Yes, Colonel. Get him on the truck).

007 escapes with the aid of Bianca’s seductive skills and, before taking a leap on the Acrostar jet for the definitive runaway, he thanks her with a “gracias, querida” (Thank you, darling).

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Licence to Kill (1989)

Given the film had major locations shot in Mexico, Spanish is present in the last film with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Bond himself only uses the language by addressing the villain as “Señor Sánchez” and by translating to Leiter the villain’s statement: “Plomo o Plata” (literally translated as “Lead or Silver”).

The villain played by Robert Davi uses a handful of Spanish words: “No te preocupes” (Don’t worry) to his girlfriend Lupe before whipping her; “amigo” (friend) to Krest and Bond); and even a mouthful: “¡Este hijo de p*ta!” (son of a bitch) before shooting the dead body of double agent Kwang, who killed himself with cyanide to avoid capture.

So does Lupe Lamora –often addressed as señorita instead of Miss– mixing words in Spanish with English phrases: “You loco” and “You borracho” (loco: crazy, borracho: drunk) to Bond and Krest.

Milton Krest, one of Sànchez’ associates, says a “muy bien” (all right) while searching for Bond as he escapes his troops. We can notice Anthony Zerbe’s voice is dubbed.

More of the language is heard when Bond and Pam (Carey Lowell) arrive at Isthmus City, when a radio is playing a populist narration claiming the benefits for the people given by the president (a puppet of Sánchez): “Beneficios para el pueblo con Héctor López, su Presidente”.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The film begins in Bilbao, Spain, while visiting a corrupt banker, Lachaise. The mission for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is to recover Sir Robert King’s money and extract information on who eliminated a fellow agent.

Bond fights Lachaise’s thugs and manages to escape from the Spanish police trough the office window. We hear officers speculating about the crime scene and shouting warinings: “Creo que son dos o tres, están armados… se oyeron cinco disparos y una explosión… ¡Abra la puerta, Policía!” (I think there were two or three, they’re armed. We heard five shots and an explosion. Police! Open the door!).

007 calmly escapes and, as he walks through the streets close to the Guggenheim, museum, one of Lachaise’s guards is caught: “¡Quieto ahí! Levanta las manos!” (Stay right there! Hands up!).

DADposter

Die Another Day (2002)

Bond (Brosnan) visits Cuba to eliminate assassin Zao. His first stop in Havanna is Raoul’s tobacco factory, where he asks for Delectados, a kind of cigars not made anymore.

“Raoul, aquí hay un tipo que busca delectados, de Universal Exports” (Raoul, there’s a guy asking for delectados, from Universal Exports), an old man notifies via telephone. Delectados were used as an understanding code between the agents.

In the tobacco factory, a man is reading the newspaper aloud to the employees, an article about the selling of lenses and recording cameras.

As Bond and Raoul talk about Zao, he calms down the tense looking old man, holding a gun to protect his boss, given the case: “Bueno, ¡pero relájate, hombre!”

Strangely, Raoul is a French name and the Spanish version of that name should have been “Raúl.”

Enjoying a bit of the Cuban culture, Brosnan makes use of his Spanish knowledge as James Bond: “Un mojito, por favor”, he asks ordering the famous Cuban drink.

To gain access to the Álvarez Clinic in Los Órganos, where Zao a patient for DNA makeover therapy, he knocks down a grumpy patient, carries him unconscious in a wheelchair and uses his papers to transport him. Before he does, he greets the prostitute: “Buenos días” (Good morning). Then, he delivers his papers to a boat transbord agent, calling him señor, and as the man grants him permission Bond replies “gracias”.

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The 22nd film in the series is set in Latin American locations, with Panama and Chile doubling for Bolivia.

For the first time, Spanish was an important language in a Bond film and not restricted to a few words. The Spanish dialogue was so important that in most countries it was subtitled.

In Haití, Camille greets General Medrano. Before capturing her, the military, responsible for the death of her parents, tells her: “Conocí a su familia, tristemente, creo que fui el último que los vio vivos” (I met your family. Sadly, I think I was the last one who saw them alive).

As Bond (Daniel Craig) rescues Camille, the general will throw orders in Spanish: “¡Síganlos!” (Follow them!).

Following the lead to villain Dominic Greene, Bond visits La Paz with Mathis, returning to the series after Casino Royale.

Upon reaching the city, they’re joined by Fields, a British agent sent to return Bond to London but who ends up joining the quest.

Stationed in Bolivia for almost a decade, Mathis is a friend of the Police Colonel, Carlos, whom he calls as a chatterbox taxi driver complains of the poor state of the country: “Calentamiento global… llueve mucho o no llueve nada” (Global warmth, it either rains or it never rains) and of the high taxes. Mathis continuously shushes him: “Cállate, ya, ¡chito!

When Bond checks into the luxurious Grand Andean Hotel, Craig says, “Hola, somos maestros en año sabático, y nos ganamos la lotería” (We’re teachers on sabbatical, and we have just won the lottery).

The concierge replies, “Felicidades, señor. ¿Les puedo ayudar en algo?” (Congratulations. How can I help you?). The voice of the concierge was dubbed by noted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

There are some mistakes in the subtitles added to the film: when 007 approaches a villager asking for the DC-3 plane to escape with Camille, the man rudely asks: “Buenos días, ¡¿Qué es lo que quiere?!” Subtitled as the polite “How can I help you?”, it should have been translated as the more literal “What do you want?” given the rudeness of the voice tone of the man.

Another Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón, provided the voice for the radio guiding the Bolivian jet planes sent by Greene to hunt Bond and Camille, with the first phrase being “Objetivo eliminado” (Target terminated).

Something rather funny happens near the end of the film, when General Medrano and the Chief of Police have a chat on the Perla de las Dunas hotel.

Both characters are Bolivian, yet Medrano is played by a Mexican actor (Joaquín Cosio) and Carlos, the Colonel is played by a Spaniard actor (Fernando Guillén Cuervo).

The different dialects show up, and there’s yet another mistake in the subtitles.

Complaining by the noise made by the fuel cells to give electricity to the complex, the Colonel says: “Maldito quebradero de cabeza, la verdad”. Subtitled as “Pain in the ass, really”, the more literal “This sound wrecks my head” would have been more appropriate.

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

SPECTRE (2015)

The movie begins in Mexico City during the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Bond (Craig) is seen, in disguise, with a girl called Estrella, who in the hotel elevator mutters him some words in Spanish to his ears – presumably “te deseo” (I desire you) is logical since she kisses him as they both reach the room.

Not much more is heard except for the melody sang aloud by the attendants: “Los muertos vivos están, siento ya su poder, vengan todos aquí, este día llegará” (The dead are alive, I can feel their power. Let’s get all together, this day will arrive).

At around the half of the film, the SPECTRE agents are reunited in Rome to discuss the job in hand after the death of Sciarra in Bond’s hands. One of Blofeld’s assistants claims the next duty for Sciarra was the assassination of Mr. White, and offers the assignment to a Spaniard member known as Guerra.

Guerra, played by Benito Sagredo, complies by showing his loyalty to the organization in his own language: “Por supuesto. Mi lealtad a esta organización es absoluta. La protegeré hasta mi último aliento. No habrán más… aficionados. No veremos más muestras de debilidad” (“Of course. My loyalty to this organization is total. I will protect it with my last breath. There will be no more… amateurs. No more shows of weakness”).

 

James Bond and Brass Bancroft, separated at birth?

bond-reagan-comic

Dynamite Comics has been on a run publishing James Bond comic books of late. Dynamite announced its latest project, James Bond: Service to come out in May.

What caught the blog’s eye was the cover illustration (see above). In this version, Bond (particularly his hair style) seems to resemble former U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). But not Reagan as president. Rather more like Reagan as he appeared in the late 1930s or early ’40s.

Ronald Reagan's title card in a Brass Brancroft movie.

Ronald Reagan’s title card in a Brass Brancroft movie.

Reagan was an actor before turning to politics. One of his roles was that of U.S. Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft in four movies in 1939 and 1940: Secret Service of the Air, Code of the Secret Service, Smashing the Monkey Ring and Murder in the Air.

Perhaps it’s coincidence. Perhaps the blog’s eye is a little off kilter. Judge for yourself.

 

The Other Spies and their longevity that 007s can only envy

Never rile up fans of “The Other Spies.”

A Bond website, Dalton Was Best, got a lot of publicity for declaring that Daniel Craig is now the second-longest serving Bond. The methodology was starting with the time an actor was cast as Bond through the time his replacement was announced.

The Avengers Tv Show on Twitter, using those rules came up with some calculations of spy actors who have much more longevity than any Bond actor.

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Patrick Macnee is 37 years because he began in 1961 as Steed and wasn’t re-cast until Ralph Fiennes in the 1998 Avengers feature film. Peter Graves is 29 years because he debuted as Jim Phelps in 1967 and wasn’t replaced until Jon Voight in the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie. Tom Cruise is at 20 years and counting (21 this fall) because he was the star of the Mission: Impossible movie series that started with the 1996 film.

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Two more worth mentioning: Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. They were signed in 1963 (when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot was shot) and weren’t replaced as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin until 2013 when the U.N.C.L.E. film began production. That’s an even 50 years.

But Harry Palmer hasn’t been recast since Michael Caine’s debut in 1965. (He did three theatrical films in the 1960s and two made-for-television ones in the 1990s). By the recasting rule, Caine, in theory, is still on the clock, with his 52nd anniversary later this year.

I doubt these calculations will go viral the way the Daniel Craig one did. Still, you never know what you can stir up.

UPDATE (7:35 p.m. ET): Well, this post stirred up at least a little hornet’s nest.

The Avengers Tv Show received tweets asking about Jim West, Maxwell Smart, John Drake and The Prisoner. This was never intended to be a comprehensive ranking, more like poking fun at the original blog post (and reaction by the British media that made it go viral).

Separately, reader Matthew Bradford ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE notes another Len Deighton-based production featured a character that may have really been Palmer under a different name. Actually, the explanation is more detailed than that, but Matthew says you can make the case the Palmer role was re-cast, or at the very least the issue deserves an asterisk.

UPDATE II (7:45 p.m. ET): Earlier today a friend e-mailed and raised these questions about the early Bond actor longevity rankings that started all this.

“Do they count the fact of when these guys were NOT under contract?

“Connery after THUNDERBALL?

“Roger after SPY and each film thereafter?

“Dalton until 1994?

Pierce signed for DAYLIGHTS and then released?”