‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

UPDATE (May 25): Alyssa Rosenberg, a pop culture blogger for The Washington Post, has weighed in with an essay titled “No, a woman shouldn’t play James Bond.”  Here’s an excerpt:

If our goal is for Hollywood to create action-oriented jobs for women that will be available for decades to come, then we need franchises that are built around women. We need roles like Bond’s, or Jack Ryan’s, or Captain Kirk’s that are designed to be occupied by a rotating series of women. Borrowing Bond’s tux might be a fun fantasy. But real power means a role we don’t have to give back to the men.

Your guide to 007 click bait, or “Madness! Madness!”

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

Here’s a quick summary of what we read (well, actually skimmed) so you don’t have to. After a while (say 15 minutes) it’s like the end of The Bridge On The River Kwai and thus, “Madness! Madness!”

The drive for a female James Bond: American actress Gillian Anderson, currently starring in a theatrical production of A Streetcar Named Desire, went to Twitter on May 21 to post some fan art of her playing a female 007.

“It’s Bond. Jane Bond,” she wrote. “Thanks for all the votes! (And sorry, don’t know who made poster but I love it!) #NextBond.”

Naturally, various websites wrote this up, including Time magazine, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post.

Around the same time, actress Priyanka Chopra have a magazine interview where she said she wants to play Bond.

This was chronicled in, among other places the Vulture entertainment news website (part of New York magazine), The Indian Express at least 160 others, according to a Google search.

Evidently, if you’re an actor with sufficient credits and a fan base willing to tweet up a storm, you, too, can have a story written about yourself as a potental James Bond.

In the drive for clicks, the tabloid New York Post decided to push back against the idea with an article titled “Why a Woman Can’t Play James Bond.”

Finally, a sane voice, you might conclude. However, this article isn’t comfort food for traditional 007 fans. Here’s how it ends:

So please, Hollywood, write more spy movies and TV shows for women. After all, the first two seasons of Jennifer Garner’s “Alias” were more exciting and creative than any James Bond movie since “Goldeneye.” Or have a woman play a gender-neutral character like the driving force of “Mission Impossible.” The less Tom Cruise, the better.

But don’t rely on a tired 54-year-old franchise to drive home your point. Your only aim should be making a spy movie that kicks James Bond’s ass.

Pretend you’re the casting director: The U.K. tabloid Daily Mail helped ramp up #NextBond fever last week with a story saying Daniel Craig had definitely quit the role despite lack of official confirmation.

The publication’s sister paper, The Mail on Sunday, decided to stir things up more by having a “Bond-off” about potential successors. It was primarily an exercise in showing off its staff’s expertise in Photoshop, by putting the heads of the usual suspects atop the bodies of Craig and previous 007 actors.

“Across the pond,” another tabloid, New York’s Daily News, did a variation on the same idea, albeit with no showing off of Photoshop skills.

Limbo for the serious James Bond fan Part II

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week’s fuss/buzz/kerfuffle (take your choice) about whether Daniel Craig has quit or not as James Bond unleashed a heat, if not much light about what’s next for the film 007.

What follows are some observations until there’s some real news to chew on.

Both the Daily Mail and BBC were opaque: There were dueling media accounts last week by the Daily Mail (which said Craig quit and turned down 68 million British pounds to do two more movies) and the BBC (which said Craig hadn’t quit and a decision wouldn’t be made for “a while.”).

For many, the decision which to believe was easy. The BBC is a prestigious media outlet while the Daily Mail (or Daily Fail, according to its critics) is a sloppy U.K. tabloid.

Still, both relied on unidentified sources of information. The Daily Mail cited “insiders,” including “one LA film source.” The BBC cited “authoritative Bond sources” (Barbara Broccoli? Michael G. Wilson? An Eon publicist?).

In a lot of instances, you have to not identify sources to break a story. But there’s the drawback that, in the end, the reader has to trust the outlet. In this case, the two outlets — one prestigious, the other not — are equally opaque in how they obtained their information.

Tabloids have been right in the past: Tabloids have been correct about Bond news in the past. That doesn’t mean each new story — such as last week’s Daily Mail story about Craig — should get an automatic pass. But people do tend to forget when their information has turned out to be right.

One such story occurred four years ago when the Daily Mail insisted that Naomie Harris was playing Moneypenny in Skyfall. The initial publicity said she was playing an MI6 agent named Eve.

Harris denied she was playing Moneypenny. The MI6 James Bond website ran a story in January 2012 that amplified that point.

Although little has been revealed about her Bond Girl role in the upcoming “Skyfall”, a lot of talk has been generated by the casting of Naomie Harris. Tabloids ran wild with speculation that the actress would be playing Miss Moneypenny, but Harris has finally put that story to bed.

(snip)

Despite Harris categorically stating in the interview that she will not be playing Moneypenny in the film, one tuned-out sub editor at the Mail still managed to slip the falsehood into her unrelated travel report from the Maldives, printed in the same issue of the newspaper. (emphasis added)

Months later, the Daily Mail was proven to be correct.

Again, the Daily Mail has a bad journalistic reputation. But, for some reason, it has had 007 scoops proven correct. Many of them were reported by Baz Bamigboye, but he hasn’t been on the Bond beat since late 2014. Skepticism is understandable. Still, all sorts of stories about both Skyfall and SPECTRE were proven correct.

People, incorrectly, believe something isn’t official until there’s a press release: Contracts can be signed and commitments made — all very official, and legally binding — before there’s a public announcement.

Example: Ford Motor Co. hired Boeing Co. executive Alan Mulally as its new chief executive officer on Friday, Sept. 1, 2006. Mulally signed his contract on that date. His hiring, however wasn’t announced until four days later, Tuesday, Sept. 5, the day after the U.S. Labor Day holiday. The Sept. 1 date didn’t become public until a subsequent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about terms of the new CEO’s contract.

In other words, Mulally was legally Ford’s CEO for four days before the company informed the public. That’s as official as it gets. A press release is the end of the process and not the beginning.

 

Moore speaks up on behalf of Craig

Seven-time 007 Roger Moore, as he has done in the past, spoke up on behalf of actor Daniel Craig.

Moore put out a post on his twitter account on Friday, apparently referring to a Daily Mail story late Wednesday saying that Craig had quit the role after four Bond movies. That story cited “insiders” and quoted a “LA film source.”

The BBC came out with a short item on Thursday quoting “authoritative Bond sources” that Craig had not and a decision won’t happen “for a while.” There has been no official statement on the topic. Before these dueling stories, there have been many articles discussing possible future Bonds.

Moore has often complimented Craig, including a 2012 interview with Time magazine. So it wasn’t surprising that Moore’s tweet on Friday followed that pattern.

Morley Safer’s 007 moment

Morley Safer, the long-time 60 Minutes correspondent, died on Thursday only days after CBS announced his retirement.

Safer covered the Vietnam War for CBS and came aboard 60 Minutes in 1970, two years after the broadcast began. During that stretch, he managed a James Bond moment.

In the 1970s, he did a story about the Orient Express, including how it had seen better days. You can catch a few shots of it in The Associated Press video obituary below, starting around the 20-second mark.

At one point, the story showed the train changing engines, with the new engine having the number 007 on its front.

That led to a brief sequence edited to make it appear as if Safer was listening in on the From Russia With Love fight between James Bond (Sean Connery) and Red Grant (Robert Shaw).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that clip, but the AP obit below is worth a watch. It runs 1:17. Meanwhile, while living as a bachelor in London in the 1960s while working for CBS, he bought a Bentley with his poker winnings, according to Sunday’s 60 Minutes telecast about Safer’s career.

UPDATE (10:25 p.m.): If you CLICK HERE, you may be able to view the 1977 story about the Orient Express. The video seems to be freezing up after a commercial is shown. The story was titled “Last Train to Istanbul.”

 

Daily Mail says Daniel Craig is out as 007

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

UPDATE (May 19): The BBC reports that “authoritative Bond sources” say Daniel Craig hasn’t made up his mind and no decision is expected soon. CLICK HERE and see the item with a time stamp of 07:56.

ORIGINAL POST: The U.K. tabloid newspaper and website the DAILY MAIL said turned down a 68 million pound ($99 million) to do two more 007 films.

In the past, the Daily Mail had a number of scoops about 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE that were proven to be true. The bulk of those stories were written by Baz Bamigboye, but he been writing about other entertainment subjects since late 2014.

Here’s an excerpt from the new story by Rehema Figueiredo:

Insiders said Craig turned down a £68million offer from MGM studio to return as Bond for two more films following last year’s hit Spectre. The sum included endorsements, profit shares, and a role for him working as a co-producer.

One LA film source said: ‘Daniel is done – pure and simple – he told top brass at MGM after Spectre. They threw huge amounts of money at him, but it just wasn’t what he wanted.’

There has been a lot of speculation that Craig, 48, was quitting Bondage and even more about possible replacements. Almost all of those stories cited how Craig some in some interviews shortly after SPECTRE finished filming that he would rather slit his wrists than do another Bond film.

However, the Daily Mail is the first outlet to go out on a limb and state definitively that Craig was out. Craig has done the last four films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Craig also was a co-producer of SPECTRE.

What follows is in the for what it’s worth category (and not an endorsement of the Daily Mail story):

SPECTRE ended with Bond driving off in the Aston Martin DB5 with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).

Just before filming began, the script had Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world,” a line originally from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, spoken by George Lazenby’s Bond, just before (and after) his wife Tracy (Diana Rigg) is killed. The finished version of SPECTRE didn’t have the line.

To read the entire Daily Mail story, CLICK HERE.

 

Yikes! Even the NYT gets into 007 sweepstakes stories

Tom Hiddleston's expression here is close to our reaction to the NYT story

Tom Hiddleston’s expression here is close to our reaction to the NYT story

Say it isn’t so, Gray Lady.

The New York Times, considered one of the best newspapers, if not the best newspaper, in the world couldn’t resist doing a James Bond story based on the activities of U.K. bookies who don’t actually know what’s going on.

Over the past few days, British bookmaker Coral stopped taking bets on who the next James Bond will be. That’s because there were a surge of bets in favor of British actor Tom Hiddleston.

The surge, in turn, occurred because of U.K. tabloid stories that Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall and SPECTRE director Sam Mendes had a late-night dinner recently with the 35-year-old actor.

This is what bookies do. They adjust odds based on bets. And if there are too many bets for one candidate, they stop making bets because they won’t make money.

Various U.K. tabloids have written up the Coral action. So has the BBC.  But The Times evidently felt it was now a matter for its attention.

The Times doesn’t actually bring any reporting to the issue. The story mostly cites other outlets. You know,  the way, blogs like ours (that are way, way down the media food chain), do.

Imagine the reaction when there’s actual news to report.

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