Without whom, etc.

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Idris Elba: The 2018 007 wave

Idris Elba

UPDATE (4:50 p.m., New York time): The Hollywood Reporter quotes a representative for Fuqua as saying the supposed conversation with Barbara Broccoli never happened and the Daily Star story was “all made up stuff.”

Justin Kroll, a writer for Variety, had the following:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

ORIGINAL POST (tweaked to incorporate Fuqua’s denial): Three years ago, the blog said the Idris Elba/James Bond “debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.” Talk about an understatement.

It’s 2018 and this week the idea of Elba playing 007 was trending all over social media. It began a story in the Daily Star. The tabloid’s article said director Antoine Fuqua “chatted to Barbara (Brocccoli) about who will take over from Daniel Craig, 50, if he hangs up his gun after the next Bond film, due next year.”

Antoine, 52, revealed Barbara feels “it is time” for an ethnic minority actor to star as 007 and she is certain “it will happen eventually”.

He added: “Idris could do it if he was in shape. You need a guy with physically strong presence. Idris has that.”

There was no indication the Daily Star reached out to Eon for comment (and now we know why).

Back in December, Broccoli said the following in a Hollywood Reporter podcast.

Question: Would you ever hire a person of color or a woman to play James Bond one day?

Broccoli: Anything is possible. Right now, it’s Daniel Craig and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig.

Meanwhile, the Fuqua quote got cited in summaries produced by CNN.com (which asked Eon for comment), People, and Esquire. Almost immediately there after (but before Fuqua’s denial), fans debates ensued. Temperatures up in a thread on The Spy Command’s Facebook page.

Like the movie groundhog day, many of the same comments uttered before were stated again.

–Bond is white/it’s political correctness run amok/it’d be like casting a white guy as John Shaft. Of course, people of color have seen the opposite (“whitewashing”) occur for many decades. White guys (Olivier Welles) playing Othello, white guys playing Asians (like Mickey Rooney’s less-than-subtle performance in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s) or Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman in the title role, who was half Chinese, half German.

–Read the books! Where Bond has a scar down his cheek and Felix Leiter (played by two different black actors in a combined three movies, including two made by Eon) was a Texan with straw-colored hair.

–Elba is too old to play James Bond. Elba turns 46 on Sept. 6. Of course, last month saw the debut of Mission: Impossible-Fallout starring 56-year-old, age-defying, skydiving Tom Cruise.

–Elba is too old to spend a decade playing 007. The traditional expectation is a new Bond actor will be at it for about a decade. However, the hiatus between 007 films is growing. Eon will barely make three 007 movies in the 2010s, assuming Bond 25 meets its scheduled fall 2019 release date.

Assuming Eon doesn’t sell itself, will it mount, say, only two Bond films in the 2020s? Is the “Bond actor spends a decade in the role” model up for reappraisal? Could future Bond actors do one-offs?

Not that any of this is going to change minds. But it looks like this latest wave — goofy tabloid stories and all — is as strong as previous ones.

Here we go again: Academy tries to streamline the Oscars

Oscars logo

If at first you don’t succeed…

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is — again — trying to streamline its Oscar telecast and find a place for more popular movies.

The academy sent a written message to members (this Hollywood Reporter story has the full text). Among the changes: 1) Keeping the telecast to three hours (honest!). 2) Adding a category for “outstanding achievement in popular film.”

To stick to the new time limit, the TV broadcast will show some of the 24 Oscar winners on an edited, tape-delayed basis. Which ones are seen live by the TV audience and which get the edited treatment are to be determined.

Lots of luck, academy.

The Oscars have already stripped away honorary Oscar awards and the Thalberg career award for producers from the main broadcast.

Examples of honorary Oscar moments: The dying Gary Cooper receiving an honorary award, with James Stewart accepting it on his behalf; Charlie Chaplin receiving a standing ovation while receiving his honorary award; Barbara Stanwyck likewise getting big applause when she got her honorary award.

Albert R. Broccoli , Thalberg award winner (Illustration by Paul Baack)

As for the Thalberg award, 007 fans remember Roger Moore presenting the award to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Related to that award, that Oscars show included a big James Bond musical number.

Today, however, honorary Oscars and the Thalberg (when it’s given; the last time was 2010) are now part of a separate event. Taped highlights from that are briefly shown during the main Oscars telecast. That’s show biz.

Those moves were done in the name of making the Oscars telecast shorter. Well, the telecast still goes past midnight. Various skits and such take up the time that supposedly was freed up.

Meanwhile, the academy expanded the number of best picture nominees to as many as 10. The idea was to get more popular movies into the show. It hasn’t worked out that way.

So now, potential future Oscar winners are wondering if they’ll be on TV live or an afterthought on tape delay. Will a winning cinematographer be live or taped delay? Composer? Best original screenplay? Best adapted screenplay? No way to know right now.

As for the new popular film category (or whatever it’s eventually called), it’s being criticized.

For example, here’s the take from Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: The new category “feels like a panicked move by an Academy that’s worried Black Panther won’t be nominated for Best Picture, an echo of when they expanded the Best Picture category to 10 nominees in 2009 in response to The Dark Knight and Wall-E being snubbed in that category.”

007 Magazine hosting dinner with 3 Bond film alumni

Norman Wanstall accepting his Oscar for Goldfinger, 1965.

Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine said it’s hosting a dinner next month for three Bond film alumni: actresses Caroline Munro and Martine Beswick as well as sound man Norman Wanstall.

The dinner is set for Sept. 29 at the Plough Inn in New Romney, England.  The price is 115 British pounds ($148). The price includes a three-course gourmet meal and a half-bottle of win per person. The dinner is limited to 50 people. Those attending will receive a vodka martini upon arrival, according to the fan publication.

Beswick, 76, was in two Bond films. She was one of the gypsy fighting women in From Russia With Love and played Paula, Bond’s doomed assistant, in Thunderball.

Munro, 69, played Naomi, henchwoman for villain Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Wanstall, 83, won the 007 film series’ first Oscar for his sound work on Goldfinger. The series as a whole has only won four Oscars. Thunderball won for special effects, with Skyfall and SPECTRE both picking up best song Oscars.

For more information about the dinner, CLICK HERE.

The blog’s list of (really) non-spoilers

The movie came out in 1941. By any reasonable standard, it should be OK to talk about the ending. That’s especially true in this case. It was a joke on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s and an Iron Man comic book in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

The blog was reminded while publishing a post about spoiler sensitivity. It’s a subject the blog has written about a number of times including HERE, HERE, and HERE.

In THIS 2011 POST, a reader yelped that a “spoiler alert” should be tagged with a spoiler alert about a movie that had come out years before (seven years at the time of the post, 14 years ago now).

I ended up doing that, but regretted it later. Spoilers should have a sell-by date. But spoiler extremists insist on spoiler alerts on everything, no matter how long ago the film or TV show came out. By that standard, it’s never OK to talk about any movie, now matter how old.

Spoiler police: “That’s a spoiler! You’re spoiling it for the 19-year-old who’s never seen The Great Train Robbery!”

If you suspect the blog is kidding with this example you’d be right. Still, The Great Train Robbery (1903) is considered a major example of early cinema, including the ending above. But if we take the position of the spoiler police to its logical conclusion, the ending would be forbidden to talk about.

More recently, but still back in the “old days,” trailers often gave away the best bits. Example: Trailers for The Spy Who Loved Me showing the ski jump Rick Sylvester performed while doubling for Roger Moore.

For that matter, sometimes soundtracks — which came out before the movie —  had track titles beginning with “Death of” followed by a character name. See the soundtracks for From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice for examples.

At that time, if you were disappointed about a spoiler, you sucked it up. You manned up and moved on. Today, it’s the source of complaining, complaining and more complaining.

I understand the concern about spoilers. You should be considerate, especially before and during a movie’s release. But I do think some people complain too much about them.

The idea of a forever ban on spoilers isn’t reasonable. Nineteen-year-olds have plenty of chances to catch up on classic movies without a gag order on the rest of us. And some members of the spoiler police define a spoiler as saying anything about a film.

So, with that in mind, here’s the blog list of not-really spoilers (but may offend the spoiler police).

Classic Movies

–Rosebud is the sled.
–Rhett breaks up with Scarlett.
–Ranse really didn’t kill Liberty Valance. Though I’m told some film analysts actually debate this point because it’s in a flashback. (Actually a flashback within a flashback, to be precise.)
–Shane decides to ride off.
–“Nobody’s perfect!”
–“WTF just happened?” (audiences at 2001: A Space Odyssey)
–Lawrence went home after the war, shaken and disturbed.
–“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!”

Genre Movies
–Harry still had a bullet left.
–The money got incinerated.
–The castle blows up.
–The lead character was really dead all this time. (multiple movies)
–Rock lost one leg, but is still alive even if most of his officers aren’t.
–Iron Man wins.
–Captain America wins.
–Batman wins.

James Bond Movies
–Bond wins (multiple films).
–Tracy dies.
–Vesper dies.
–Quarrel dies.
–Fiona dies.
–Aki dies.
–Tilly dies.
–Jill dies.
–Vijay dies.
–Kerim dies.
–Paula dies.
–Plenty dies.
–Scaramanga dies.
–Oddjob dies.
–Goldfinger dies.
–Largo dies.
–Dr. No dies.
–Klebb dies.
–Q gets a laugh from the audience showing Bond a gadget (multiple films).
–Q gets annoyed at Bond. (multiple films)
–Bond has sex with women characters (multiple films).
–Bond flirts with Moneypenny (multiple films).
…..There are many more, but you get the idea.

‘Hunt’ for Bond Revisited: More M:I Connections to 007

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

By the by, there are spoilers if you haven’t seen Mission: Impossible-Fallout. For that matter, there are spoilers if you’ve never seen the 007 films cited.

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has returned in Mission: Impossible – Fallout while 007’s next film is scheduled for a 2019 release.

Taking advantage of  Bond’s absence in theaters, many reviewers said Hunt has taken the place of Bond and criticized 2015’s SPECTRE.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation adapted Bond-like settings and scenes in the story. But  Mission: Impossible – Fallout is even more Bond inspired. It has, the escapist tone of the days of Pierce Brosnan, just with a little more grit.

Tom Cruise and director-screenwriter Christopher MacQuarrie redoubled their efforts and made a more spectacular film than its predecessors. The last two M:I films are similar to how Thunderball and You Only Live Twice compared with the three first Eon 007 movies, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.

In M:I-Fallout, Hunt again faces off against Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who — like Blofeld’s SPECTRE — is the author of his pain. Lane was the main antagonist of M:I – Rogue Nation.

‘The Girl or the Mission’

The film’s starts in Berlin, where Hunt and Benji (Simon Pegg) pose as buyers of three atomic warheads. Their cover is blown and Luther (Ving Rhames) is captured. Hunt makes a risky decision: to save his friend. That leaves the case with the plutonium unattended and stolen.

This is similar to GoldenEye, where Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) asks Bond to choose between “the girl or the mission” while General Ourumov (Gottfried John) held Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) at gunpoint. Finally, Bond saved Natalya by gunning the Russian general down.

It’s also similar to Skyfall. M orders Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to shoot Patrice (who stole a hard drive with data of infiltrated agents). Hunt makes a “judgment call” by shooting Luther to distract the man holding him at gunpoint and save his life. The “fallout” of M’s and Hunt’s action determines the principal threat of both films.

Also in the Berlin scene. we have another familiar Bond meme: a remote controlled car, a function available in the cars driven by Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

HALO Jump

Coming next a HALO jump as featured in Tomorrow Never Dies. Although this time, it’s a much riskier scene when Hunt and his teammate August Walker (Henry Cavill) face a storm during the operation and Walker is hit by lightning, losing consciousness.

In a similar situation to Moonraker and Quantum of Solace, Hunt has to do a little skydiving to reach Walker, reconnect his oxygen and deploy Walker’s parachute, as well as his own.

Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) returns and saves Hunt’s life after a cruel bathroom fight with one John Lark, the man he had to impersonate, warning him not to complete his mission of meeting the “White Widow” (Vanessa Kirby) to exchange the missing plutonium.

They walk across a mirrored and red-lighted room that reminds us to Die Another Day’s Álvarez Clinic in Cuba. Ilsa tells him that he’ll be a dead man if he meets the woman because Lark has a contract on him. It’s known he’s meeting the White Widow that night, so they’ll kill him on sight. In a similar context in which Bond met Severine in Skyfall, both heroes manage to beat all the assailants and escape alive.

In exchange of the plutonium spheres, the White Widow and her accomplices want Solomon Lane, who’s been transferred to a prison to another in France. Hunt forgoes the originally conceived plan (which dealt with killing every witness) and pushes the prison van into the Seine, having Luther and Benji extract Lane trough the water, the same method in which Franz Sánchez escaped in 1989’s Licence to Kill.

The breakout of Lane pits the French police against Hunt and a chase ensues through the streets of Paris, on motorbike and then on a small BMW, as he is chased by Ilsa who has been given orders from MI6 to terminate Lane.

Not only there’s a particular shot as the BMW makes a backwards spin above some steps which is very reminiscent to A View to A Kill, where Bond (Roger Moore) chased a parachuting May Day (Grace Jones) in a Renault 14, but we have Ilsa trying to do the job of any 00 agent: terminate someone who is a threat for national security.

Mole Revealed

Hunt and his team –- and the captive Lane — reunite with IMF Secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) in a safe house, much as Bond did at the beginning of Quantum of Solace with Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in Siena.

Stunt teased by Tom Cruise on Instagram earlier this year.

Walker is revealed as a mole and a shootout ensues, breaking Lane free again. As a result of this confrontation, Hunley is badly hurt by Walker and dies showing his trust to Hunt, much like M at the end of Skyfall.

Just like in the 23rd Bond movie, in pursuit of Walker, Hunt also holds from a scaffold in the bottom of the elevator his enemy is taking, as Bond did in Shanghai when chasing Patrice.

The film’s climax takes place in Kashmir, where Lane and Walker attempt to detonate a nuclear bomb using the plutonium spheres that have fallen into their hands. Ilsa and Benji fight Lane, Hunt goes for Walker.

A long helicopter chase ensues and that includes a few references to SPECTRE’s helicopter fight in Mexico, with Bond fighting Marco Sciarra and the pilot, pushing them away and taking control of the vehicle.

Just like Blofeld at the end of the same film, Hunt and Walker both survive the helicopter crash.

Showdown

This takes us to the final showdown between Hunt and Walker atop the cliff of a mountain, as the remains of the one of the helicopter’s cockpit hang loosely of a wire.

A shot of ice caps falling close to both men looks greatly inspired by Die Another Day, in the scene where a clinging Bond faced the power of the Icarus satellite beam in Iceland.

While this scene overall may be reminiscent of the confrontation between Hunt and rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in Mission: Impossible II, but there are some links to the antenna fight between 007 and Trevelyan in GoldenEye.

In the beginning of 1995 film, Trevelyan gets half of his face burned by a chemical explosion in Arkhangelsk. In a similar way, Walker gets an acid fluid from the helicopter straight into his face, leaving him badly scarred side. At the end of GoldenEye, Bond and his former friend fight in a small platform at high altitude as both attempt to make each other fall to the vacuum.

A clapperboard from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Finally, Bond lets Trevelyan fall and the villain, agonizing, is finally terminated when the whole antenna structure crushes him. In Walker’s case, as he’s about to get Hunt, the IMF agent forces the wire over him and the hook gets impaled into his face, making him fall to his death.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is, of all the M:I movies, the closest to a James Bond film. While some people may feel offended for the way they ripped the Bond archive in more than a way this time, I’ll recognize the great taste Mr. Cruise has and the respect he had for 007’s legacy during his interviews promoting the movie.

1970s: McClory enlists Connery, Deighton for a 007 script

Title page to the 1978 Warhead script.

Kevin McClory had struck it big in 1965. Holding the screen rights to Thunderball, he had been, in effect, made a partner by Eon Productions on the film adaptation. It was a big hit.

Under terms of his deal, McClory wasn’t to attempt another Thunderball-related project for a decade. Once that time elapsed, McClory decided to do just that.

This time, he enlisted Sean Connery, now the former 007, and author Len Deighton, who had performed uncredited work on the screenplay of From Russia With Love.

The trio’s names would be attached to a script titled James Bond of the Secret Service in 1976 and Warhead in 1978. The 1976 script is online, uploaded by 007Dossier.com. I dug out a copy I had of the 1978 effort. Meanwhile, the BBC on July 26 ran a story about the Warhead script.

The two are very similar with key differences. James Bond of the Secret Service is like Thunderball. Blofeld is the behind the scenes mastermind while Largo is the operational commander.

In Warhead, Blofeld (identified as Ernst Stavros Blofed, with the extra “s” in the middle name) performs both functions. The name Largo inadvertently appears a couple of times in my copy of Warhead, as if somebody forgot to remove it.

SPECTRE operates a mammoth underwater operation. In 1976, it’s called Arkos. In 1978, it’s named Aquapolis. The earlier script includes a large thug named Bomba, described as “a black man of gigantic proportions.” The 1978 script the henchman is called Ghengis, “a Mongloian of gigantic proportions.”

More Ambitious

SPECTRE, in both scripts, has gotten more ambitious than it had been in the Eon film series. It’s responsible for missing aircraft in the Bermuda Triangle (apparently because it can). It’s already extracting gold and other substances from seawater.

And this time out, SPECTRE aims to take control of the world’s oceans.

“My first act will be to stop all pollution,” Blofeld says in both scripts. “Each government will answer to me for any desctive elements coming in to our oceans. I will give them six months to cease using our oceans as umping grounds for their sewage, filth, poisons, chemicals and atomic waste.”

SPECTRE’s plan to accomplish all this includes robot sharks and nuclear warheads from a Soviet submarine the criminal organization has disabled.

Familiar Tale?

By this point, the average Bond fan is probably observing all this sounds familiar to The Spy Who Loved Me, the 10th film in Eon’s film series.

That 1977 movie featured villain Karl Stromberg, an industrialist who operated a mammoth installation called Atlantis and who was alarmed about environmental damage to oceans. He, of course, had a large henchman named Jaws. The story line emerged from the contributions of many writers besides the credited Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum.

Indeed, there were court fights between Eon and McClory during this period. The result was that Eon and United Artists proceeded with Spy while McClory stayed on the sidelines.

In James Bond of the Secret Service/Warhead, we don’t encounter Bond himself until the scene switches to Shrublands. This story turned Schrublands from a health clinic into an “aquatactical centre,” which trains operatives of various countries, including the U.K. and U.S.

Here’s a stage direction from the Warhead script:

Along the beach, barbed wires comes down to the sea. JAMES BOND is having sun oil aplied to his body by a girl instructor, an exceptionally athletic and attractive fair-haired girl, JUSTINE LOVESIT. He is reclining in the shade of an old gun emplacement.

Perhaps she’s a cousin of Lovey Kravezit from the Matt Helm movie series. The dialogue here is certainly similar to a Helm movie with Dean Martin.

BOND
Call me James. And what’s your name?

LOVESIT
Justine Lovesit.

BOND
She does?

LOVESIT
My name is Justine.

BOND
(laughs)
Well, I’ll call you ‘Just’ for short.

Anyway, Bond and Felix Leiter meet up at Schrublands. They have an exchange that appears to reference scandals of the era involving the CIA and FBI.

“Good to see you, Felix,” Bond says. “So the Russians haven’t put you behind bars yet.”

“No, but Congress nearly did,” Leiter replies.

Dr. Blush

A briefing is conducted because SPECTRE has contacted the United Nations and “the leaders of the governments of five great powers” in the words of Gardner Steer, a CIA official. SPECTRE has already killed the UN secretary general, disabling his plane as it flew threw the Bermuda Triangle.

Meanwhile, SPECTRE agent Fatima Blush lurks about as a memeber of the medical staff. Bond quickly takes interest. “Well, if the party’s off, perhaps you’d like to give me my physical tonight, Dr. Blush,” the British agent says.

Also, at one point, Bond is scheduled is play Largo/Blofeld (depending on which script) in a backgammon game. But M orders Bond not to participate so we don’t get to see any such confrontation.

Eventually, the story results in a climax in New York City and at the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, the plot is foiled, the villain vanquished.

None of this would make the screen. A Thunderball remake finally became reality in 1983 with Never Say Never Again.

McClorry was aboard with the title of executive producer. But it was producer Jack Schwartzman (1932-1994) who did the heavy lifting, securing Sean Connery’s services to make one final appearance as 007.