Footnote: Was Craig committed to Bond 25 all along?

Daniel Craig

Amid this week’s news about Daniel Craig, there’s a footnote. Was he signed to Bond 25 all along? Or not?

In 2007, then-Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CEO Harry Sloan said Daniel Craig was signed for four more James Bond films, according to a Hollywood Reporter account. Sloan made the comment at a conference.

Casino Royale was released the year before. So four more films would take you through Bond 25.

Of course, MGM went bankrupt a few years later. So there’s the possibility any such contract got altered.

Except…

Craig told Rolling Stone  in 2012, “I’ve agreed to do a couple more, but let’s see how this one (Skyfall) does, because business is business and if the shit goes down, I’ve got a contract that somebody will happily wipe their ass with.” (emphasis added)

Two more after Skyfall gets you through Bond 25.

Except…

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions SAID IN THIS VIDEO from November 2015 after SPECTRE (Bond 24) that Craig wasn’t under contract although he added he expected the actor to return for Bond 25.

Which, of course, Craig announced this week.

So which (if any) was it? Contracts do get renegotiated. So did it change from one point to another?

At this point, it’s academic. Just another “little thing” (like Lt. Columbo used to say) to chew over.

An early Bond 25 accuracy scorecard

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 has a star (Daniel Craig), a release date (November 2019 in the U.S.) and confirmed writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).

While there’s more than two years before the next Bond film adventure, here’s a look at the accuracy of some major stories written about the movie.

News before it was announced: By that, the stories were accurate before there was a formal announcement.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in March that Purvis and Wade, who’ve worked on the 007 film series since the late 1990s, were hired to write Bond 25’s story. That was confirmed in a July 24 announcement on the official 007 website.

Emily Smith of Page Six/New York Post wrote in April and Brook Barnes of The York Times wrote in July that Daniel Craig would be back for a fifth outing as 007.

The Page Six item, being a gossip column, ragged on Tom Hiddleston being determined by Eon Productions to be too smug. That’s certainly not proven.

But the key phrase was “Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has ‘just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie.'”

The Times’ story, published the same day as the Eon announcement about the 2019 release date said, “Daniel Craig will play James Bond in at least one more film,” In any event, Craig confirmed he’s coming back on the Aug. 15 telecast of The Late Show on CBS.

Looking shaky: Radar Online in September 2016 said Sony Pictures offered Craig $150 million to do two more Bond movies. At the time, there was no distribution deal for Bond 25 and one still hasn’t been announced.

Then, as now, nobody knows if Sony will even be involved with Bond 25. Given a release date has been announced, you’d think a distributor is in place but nobody outside of Eon actually knows.

The Mirror, a U.K. tabloid, said last month that Bond 25 will be titled Shatterhand and be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson. Benson, however, went public and said nobody at the Mirror even contacted him and said he “can only assume the article is fabrication.”

The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, said earlier this month Craig was “on the verge of signing for not one but two more installments” in the 007 film series.

Craig told CBS, “I think this is it,” referring to Bond 25. But people have been known to change their minds. We’ll see.

Craig says on Late Show he’ll be back as 007

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Daniel Craig said on CBS’s Late Show said he’ll be back as James Bond in Bond 25.

“Yes,” he said answering a question from host Stephen Colbert whether he’d return as 007.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Craig said. “I have to apologize to all the people I’ve done interviews with today.” Earlier in the day, he said in radio interviews he hadn’t made a decision yet.

“It’s been a couple of months,” Craig said, responding to a question from Colbert how long he had known. “I always wanted to. I needed a break.”

Colbert reminded the actor about his 2015 comments, made shortly after the conclusion of the filming of SPECTRE, how he’d rather “slash my wrists” rather than do another Bond film.

“There’s no point in making excuses,” Craig said. “Instead of saying something with style and grace, I gave a stupid answer.”

At the end of the interview, Colbert asked Craig if this was his last Bond film.

“I think this is it,” Craig replied. “I just want to go out on a high note.”

UPDATE 5:40 a.m., Aug. 16: The official James Bond website followed up the interview with a short announcement.

The interview is now available on YouTube:

Daniel Craig says he’s still deciding about Bond 25

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig, in an interview with a Boston radio station, said he still hasn’t decided about Bond 25.

“No decision has been made at the moment,” Craig told Magic 106.7. “There’s a lot of noise out there. Nothing official has been confirmed. I’m not like holding out for more money or doing anything like that.”

The actor said there are “very personal decisions to be made at the moment… They’re desperate to get going. I would, in theory, I would love to do it. There have been no decisions just yet.”

Craig was interviewed by the station to promote Logan Lucky, the Steven Soderbergh-directed heist movie that opens on Friday. Craig also is scheduled to appear on The Late Show on CBS tonight.

The noise Craig referred to includes a story earlier this month by The Sun tabloid in the U.K. saying he has agreed to do two more 007 films. Eon Productions announced last month that Bond 25 will have a U.S. release date of November 2019, but didn’t specify cast, director or distributor.

Shout out to Marcos Konze who spotted the link to the interview and posted it on a James Bond message board. He also has a post on the James Bond Brasil website.

UPDATE (11:58 p.m.): @Bond25Film spotted another Craig interview and provided a transcript.

UPDATE II (5:15 p.m.): Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had an investor call today after reporter second-quarter financial results. The only mention of Bond 25 was CEO Gary Barber noting the movie’s November 2019 release date. He said the film would reunite the writers of some of the most successful 007 movies. He did not mention Neal Purvis and Robert Wade by name.
 

Fleming and U.N.C.L.E.: More than a footnote

Ian Fleming

This weekend marked the 53rd anniversary of the death of 007 creator Ian Fleming.

Understandably, there were the usual observations of his passing. After all, without Fleming, we wouldn’t have James Bond movies or the 1960s spy craze.

After all these years, however, there’s an oddity. That is, Fleming’s connection to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television show.

U.N.C.L.E. originated because there was interest in turning Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book into some kind of television show.

That led to television producer (who concluded the book would not be the basis of a show) into doing a pitch for something different. In turn, that led to NBC saying it Fleming could be enticed into participating, it’d buy the series without a pilot being produced.

In turn, that led to meetings between Felton and Fleming in New York in October 1962. In turn, that led to Felton writing up ideas and Fleming (after days without much being accomplished) writing on 11 pages of Western Union telegram blanks. In turn, that led to Felton employing Sam Rolfe to concoct something that went beyond far beyond the initial Felton-Fleming ideas.

Eventually, Fleming exited the project (under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman), selling off his interest for 1 British pound.

Regardless, without Fleming, U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t exist given the history with Thrilling Cities. But some long-time (i.e. original) U.N.C.L.E. fans hesitate to acknowledge that. Felton and Rolfe did the heavy lifting — there’s no denying that at all. But Thrilling Cities was the catalyst.

Also, Fleming’s idea of naming the hero Napoleon Solo (Felton’s initial idea was Edgar Solo) was huge. The original idea was Solo would be an ordinary looking fellow. But a character named Napoleon Solo was not going to be your next door neighbor or the guy in the apartment down the hall.

At the same time, Bond movie fans don’t even consider it. And Ian Fleming Publications, run by Fleming’s heirs, don’t even mention U.N.C.L.E. in the IFP timeline of Fleming’s life. 

Fleming was connected to U.N.C.L.E. for less than eight months (late October 1962 to June 1963). Not an enormous amount of time but more than just a footnote.

It is what it is, as the saying going. The 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t give a credit to either Sam Rolfe or Ian Fleming, while Felton (who died in 2012) got an “executive consultant” credit. Ironically, one of Fleming’s 1962 ideas — of Solo being a good cook — was included in the film.

It would appear that U.N.C.L.E. will remain Fleming’s bastard child (figuratively, of course) now and forever.

Without whom, etc.

Our annual tradition. Ian Fleming died on Aug. 12, 1964 at age 56. So here’s a quick reminder of an extraordinary life. Ian Fleming crammed 90 years of living into a little more than 56.

Blanche Blackwell, Fleming companion, dies

Blanche Blackwell and Ian Fleming in Jamaica

Blanche Blackwell, who had a relationship with Ian Fleming, has died at 104, according to an obituary posted by The Telegraph.

Blackwell was part of two 007-related documentaries, 2000’s Ian Fleming: 007’s Creator ( an extra in the home video release of The Living Daylights) and 2012’s Everything or Nothing.

Her interviews for the documentaries provided perspective for fans about Fleming’s complicated life, touching on her affair with the married author. She lived in Jamaica, where Fleming wrote his James Bond novels.

“He was somebody who could be anybody he wanted to be,” Blackwell says of Fleming at the start of the 2000 documentary.

Ian Fleming: 007’s Creator included a section on Blackwell. “I decided how I wanted to live long ago,” she says. “And I’ve managed to succeed at doing it without getting into too much trouble.”

In 2012, The Express. published a feature story about her.

“A neighbour of both (Noel) Coward and Fleming, she was a society beauty who beguiled the guests who came to her home, Bolt House, in St Mary, Jamaica,” according to the story.

UPDATE (Aug. 12): The Washington Post has published a very detailed obituary of Blanche Blackwell that’s worth a read.