Bond 25 questions: Ginormous (?) premiere edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1 before another delay was announced.

U.K. tabloids The Sun and Mirror this month reported about supposed plans for big No Time to Die premiere plans this fall.

The Sun wrote that star Daniel Craig will conduct a “whirlwind tour” of personal appearances of No Time to Die premieres. The Mirror said the movie’s producers are planning for a 10-million-pound (almost $14 million) premiere event in London, possibly in a stadium.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should I take these accounts?

As usual, keep in mind U.K. tabloids have a reputation for cutting coners, overhyping things, etc. But that often doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And there are elements of the stories that pass the smell test.

How so?

Essentially, the two stories are talking about larger, but traditional, ways of promoting movies. Also, bear in mind that Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in 2015 that Eon does the heavy lifting in devising Bond film marketing (“We pretty much run the marketing ourselves.”) while studios merely execute it.

Eon is nothing if not traditional.

What do you mean?

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has said she’s opposed to Bond spinoffs. “We want to make these theatrical films,” Broccoli told Total Film published in the outlet’s 2020 Preview issue published in December 2019. “We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

The movie business is feeling a big impact from streaming. Netflix became a big thing, in some times acquiring movies from studios. Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. are stepping up stepping up streaming efforts.

For Eon, the tagline of 2012’s Skyfall (the old ways are the best) is a way of life.

If true, how practical are these plans?

No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of COVID-19. The current release date is the Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. There are multiple COVID-19 vaccinations available.

By this fall, COVID-19 may be under control enough to permit these kinds of large gatherings. There certainly is “COVID fatigue.” One school of thought is there’s much pent-up demand we may see a new “Roaring Twenties” as COVID-19 gets under control.

It should be noted that COVID-19 progress isn’t taking place in a straight line. In the U.S., the current COVID hot spot is Michigan, where cases have skyrocketed since February. There may be more unexpected developments between now and the fall.

Mirror claims a £10 million NTTD premiere is planned

The U.K. tabloid Mirror claims a £10 million (almost $14 million) premiere is planned for No Time to Die.

The tabloid quotes a source it didn’t identify as saying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and “the producers” (presumably Eon Productions which makes the Bond films) “are in agreement” for a big, splashy affair.

“They think they can pull off the biggest in-person premiere of the post-pandemic era, and have already put aside a whopping £10million for an event in England that will signal the return of these kinds of flashy movie launches that everybody’s been missing for the last year,” the Mirror quotes its source as saying.

No Time to Die has been delayed five times between fall 2019 and fall 2021. The first two delays were because of production issues (Danny Boyle departing as director and replaced by Cary Fukunaga) and three more times because of COVID-19.

The current release calls for the 25th James Bond film to come out Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

The U.K. has completed another COVID-19 shutdown. Globally, COVID-19 vaccinations are underway, although progress varies by country.

If the Mirror is accurate, MGM (and presumably Universal, which is handling international distribution) wants to do a traditional, pre-pandemic premiere. Some major films (such as Marvel’s Black Widow, now due out in July) have premiered simulantaneously on streaming and in theaters.

Indiana Jones 5 cast begins to resemble 007 alumni club

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

The cast of Indiana Jones 5 is beginning to resemble a meeting of the James Bond film alumni association.

Last week, it was announced that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, one of the multiple No Time to Die screenwriters, would also be the female lead of the new Indy production. Waller-Bridge is both a writer and an actress.

Today, Deadline: Hollywood reported that Mads Mikkelsen, who played Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale, had also joined the Indy 5 cast.

There aren’t a lot of details available. Steven Spielberg, who directed the first four Indy films, has relinquished the director’s chair. He’s still around in a producer capacity.

Leading man Harrison Ford is 78. On the surface, that would make it more logical for Ford to portray Barnaby Jones, rather than Indiana Jones. But we’ll see.

Some YouTube posters have already put out videos speculating that Waller-Bridge will take over from Ford in future installments. Again, that remains to be seen.

Another returning Indy veteran is composer-conductor John Williams.

NTTD footnote: Annapurna’s latest

Annapurna logo

Once upon a time, Annapurna Pictures was supposed to be a thing when it came to No Time to Die. And, in a way, it was. Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2017 formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies Eventually, No Time to Die was included in the deal.

On April 14, Variety published a story about Annapurna. Founder Megan Ellison has been away for more than a year but is back at the helm. However, according to Variety, Annapurna still has a lot of issues.

One of them is the future of United Artists Releasing, its joint venture with MGM. An excerpt from the story:

Renewed interest from distributors could help the (Annapurna) film unit, given that Annapurna is free to seek new partners outside of United Artists Releasing, the wobbly joint venture it sealed with MGM in late 2017. While Ellison has the option to release films anywhere, sources said she was unusually deferential to UAR in the negotiations for “On the Count of Three,” underscoring how dependent she’ll be on the group if no one steps forward to help her place the film in theaters. The pact was set to expire in 2021, but sources said MGM has opted for another year of releasing its own films through UAR (including the upcoming James Bond adventure “No Time to Die”). To extract itself from the agreement would be more costly than it’s worth, one source said, especially as MGM continues to seek a splashy sale, which it is rumored to be pursuing. (emphasis added)

As things stand now, United Artists Releasing will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S. and Canada while Universal will release the film internationally. No Time to Die promotional materials such as trailers have the MGM and Universal logos. Posters have the United Artists Releasing logo but not Annapurna.

The joint venture took the name United Artists from 007’s original studio. MGM acquired UA in 1981. MGM and Annapurna announced the United Artists Releasing name in 2019 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the original UA.

The Variety story is mostly about continuing turmoil at Annapurna.

Diana Rigg gets left out of BAFTA ‘In Memoriam’

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

This weekend, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or BAFTA, gave out its film awards. It’s the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars.

Like the Oscars, the BAFTAs include an “In Memoriam” segment. This year’s “In Memoriam” left out Diana Rigg (1938-2020). Variety, which was covering the awards inquired why. Here’s a tweet the entertainment news outlet put out:

Rigg was known for both movies and TV shows. For spy fans, she played Tracy, James Bond’s ill-fated wife in the 1969 film adaptation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. On TV, she was known for The Avengers and other television series.

UPDATE (April 12): Viewers advise that Bond film veterans Honor Blackman and Earl Cameron also didn’t make the “In Memoriam” segment. THIS STORY says Prince Philip, who died last week, was included.

UPDATE II: Reader @toysofbond advises Honor Blackman was included in the 2020 BAFTA TV “In Memoriam.” So she, lie Dame Diana, was deemed a TV performer rather than a movie one. See tweet below:

More movie release delays spur concerns about NTTD

Movie release dates continue to get reset, which raises the question whether No Time to Die will meet its current release range of Sept. 30-Oct. 8.

The latest: According to Variety, Paramount has moved back Top Gun: Maverick to Nov. 19 from July 2. Mission: Impossible 7 has been delayed to May 27, 2022, from Nov. 19 of this year.

Previously, Walt Disney Co. announced that Black Widow was pushed back to July from early May. Black Widow, made by the company’s Marvel Studios’ unit, will be available on the Disney + streaming service for an extra charge of almost $30 while also opening in theaters.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, had an investor call but said almost nothing about No Time To Die. MGM simply listed the 25th James Bond film — the company’s most expensive movie of the past two years — as one of many films in MGM’s schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with movie release dates for more than a year. Vaccines are now available. But COVID cases are accelerating yet again because of new versions of the virus.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

Co-author discusses The James Bond Lexicon

No longer coming soon — The James Bond Lexicon is here

The James Bond Lexicon, an exhaustive examination of James Bond in his various forms — movies, books and comics — is now available for sale.

It’s a book that has been in the making for years. Co-author Alan J. Porter, who wrote the book with Gillian J. Porter, talked to blog about it via email.

THE SPY COMMAND: When you last chatted with the blog, The James Bond Lexicon was about to come out. Things didn’t work out that way. Can you give a short summary of the headwinds that came up?

ALAN J. PORTER: Yes, last time we spoke we were on track to publish the book sometime in 2016, but shortly after that interview was published, and one on James Bond Radio aired, Gillian was diagnosed with Stage 3 Gall Bladder Cancer, which hit us pretty hard. As a consequence, we decided to put everything on hold to fully focus on Gill’s surgery and treatment.

By mid-2017 things were going well enough that we decided to get back to working on the book and updating the manuscript. Unfortunately, it was around this time that one of the co-owners of the publishing company we had contracted with suddenly passed away. His business partner decided he didn’t want to continue and shuttered the company, so we were now left with a partially updated manuscript and no publisher. This was a big decision point for us, and to be honest we came very close to just shelving the project. But after some thought decided to carry on and include all Bond material through to the end of 2017 and see if we could find another publisher.

A series of conversations with my On her Majesty’s Secret Podcast co-host Van Allen Plexico in 2018 resulted in him agreeing to publish the James Bond Lexicon via his White Rocket Books imprint and we were back to updating the manuscript for the third time with the intent to cover everything up to the end of 2019 so we could include Danny Boyle’s Bond 25 (or so we thought).

TSC: How was The James Bond Lexicon affected by the long delay between SPECTRE and No Time to Die?

PORTER: Well, we didn’t get to include Bond 25 after all. Once the No Time To Die delays started to happen we had to make a decision of whether we stuck with  “everything up to the end of 2019” or keep waiting so we could include the most recent movie.

At first, we thought about waiting but as the impact of COVID started to result in multiple slip dates we decided to stay with what we had and actually work towards getting the book out. So we fixed it at covering the 271 official Bond stories released between 1953 and the end of 2019. You have to put a line in the sand somewhere on a project like this or you will never finish.

We also decided to launch a companion website (http://jamesbondlexicon.online) where we are posting new entries for material released after 2019, and hopefully, one day that will include the entries for No Time To Die.

TSC: As an author, how do you keep yourself concentrated amid various setbacks?

PORTER: As I mentioned earlier, there was a point where we almost gave up, but we both recalled a piece of writing advice from writer Neil Gaiman: “Always finish what you start.”

So we decided to knuckle down and keep working. One of the best things we did was to talk about the project on social media, especially on the @BondLexicon Twitter account, sharing entries and other items we found during our research reinforced for us that there were other people waiting for the book and encouraging us to keep going.

We also found it helpful to be working on other projects. During downtimes on the Lexicon, I’d started to sell several historical adventure stories, and as part of her recovery process, Gill had written a novel. So being able to alternate between fiction and non-fiction work helped keep us focused and stopped the Lexicon from becoming a chore.

TSC: Now that the book is out, how do you feel? Elation? Relief? A combination?

PORTER: We actually talked about this the evening of the book release. It is something of a combination, very excited to see the book on sale, which still doesn’t seem real in some ways as getting to this point is something we’ve been working towards on and off for almost a decade.

TSC: During research for The James Bond Lexicon, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

PORTER: The first was how many different iterations of James Bond we came across. We expected there to be some, but not the 28 we cataloged. And we are sure the final number is higher than that as we didn’t cover the video games, which have several different versions of Bond in their history.

The other thing that struck us was the seemingly unnecessary minor changes to character names between the books and the movies, often by just changing a single letter. If EON had the rights to the characters from the novels why do things like change the Masterton sisters in Goldfinger to the Masterson sister in the movie? Or Honey Rider (novel) to Honey Ryder (movie)? And that’s just a couple of examples of what was a surprisingly common trait. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it just seemed strange to us.

TSC: At this point, do you even think about what you’d like to do next? Or do you concern yourself mostly with marketing The James Bond Lexicon?

Oh yes, we are both actively thinking about what’s next. We both have novels we are working on, but nothing immediate that we’ll be working together on. Having said that we do have some ideas and there’s another Lexicon project for a different franchise sitting on the shelf with about 60% of the research done – so after a break to get the novels finished who knows.

But in many ways, the work on the Bond Lexicon continues, as you mentioned there is the marketing of the book, but also keeping the companion JamesBondLexicon.online website up to date as new material comes out. As of today, we have already added over 40 new entries covering recent Dynamite Comics releases and the 2021 Comic Relief sketch with Daniel Craig.

We’re not leaving the world of Bond behind. The Lexicon continues to be a long-term commitment to the worlds of 007.

To see Amazon’s listing for The James Bond Lexicon, CLICK HERE.

Frank Jacobs, ace Mad writer, dies

007, a “James Bomb” stage musical by Mort Drucker and Frank Jacobs, 1965

Frank Jacobs, a long-time writer for Mad magazine has died, the semi-dormant publication announced on Twitter.

One of Jacobs’ specialties was devising musical parodies. One of his best was published in 1965. “007” envisioned a James Bond (or “James Bomb”) stage musicial.

As written by Jacobs, all of the songs were sung to the tune of songs from the stage musical Oklahoma! Artist Mort Drucker provided a James Bomb drawn to resemble Sean Connery.

In the story, Bomb confronts ICECUBE, an organization that is dragging Great Britain to the North Pole. The leader of ICECUBE is revealed to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at Bomb for taking away all his book sales. Drucker drew Hammer to look like author Mickey Spillane.

Jacobs made his first sale to Mad in 1957, debuting with five pieces in the June issue, according to his biography in Wikipedia. Mad’s editors quickly requested more. Jacobs also wrote 13 paperback books under the Mad imprint.

Below is Mad’s announcement about the death of Jacobs.

1966: Nancy Sinatra’s first spy craze entry

Poster for The Last of the Secret Agents?

These days, Nancy Sinatra, from a spy craze perspective, is best remembered for performing the title song of the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

As it turns out, she had been at it for a while.

A year earlier, she performed the title song of the 1966 comedy The Last of the Secret Agents? She also appeared in the movie with a less than convincing French accent.

The Last of the Secret Agents? featured the then-popular comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. Allen’s hair was teased (or something) so it went out in all directions. Allen was buggy eyed. His catchphrase was, “Hello dere!” Rossi, by comparison was classically handsome. The team, obviously sought to create a visual contrast.

In the film, our heroes are recruited to assist a top secret intelligence agency. (Of course.)

Along the way, Nancy Sinatra performs the title song. But she also acts (I use that term advisedly) as a young French woman.

The crew included director Norman Abbott (who helmed a number of episodes of The Munsters TV series) and costume designer Edith Head (?!).

If you’re really interested, you can see a version of the movie below.

Before you go there, remember this: “Hello dere!”