Marvel Studios and the Cubby Broccoli playbook

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Ben Fritz, takes a look at how Marvel Studios operates. While it doesn’t come up in the story, it sounds like Marvel has read the old Albert R. Broccoli playbook.

Like James Bond movies produced by Broccoli, Marvel makes big, sprawling movies. But, like the Eon Productions co-founder, Marvel doesn’t spend top dollar for everything. Here’s a key excerpt:

But no company has eschewed A-list talent as consistently and effectively in the modern age as Marvel. All but one of its 10 films released so far have been hits, a record rivaled only by Pixar Animation Studios. And none have featured a major star or established action director.

Money is a key reason, say people who have done business with Marvel. The Disney subsidiary’s chief executive, Ike Perlmutter, is notoriously frugal and doesn’t believe that the millions rivals like Warner Bros. spend to get big-name stars like Ben Affleck and Will Smith are worth it.

“They are in the business of hiring the guy who hasn’t had a big success, because they don’t have to pay that guy very much,” said Mr. Whedon, adding that he made more money on his self-produced Internet series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” than he did directing the first “Avengers,” which cost $230 million to produce and grossed $1.5 billion world-wide.

When Broccoli (first with Harry Saltzman and then on his own) produced 007 films, a formula eventually emerged where the actor playing James Bond would be paid well but Eon didn’t usually pay for A-list actors for other roles. “Regulars” such as Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn were paid relatively modestly.

As directors, Eon would hire journeymen such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton. Or, with John Glen, promote from within, elevating him to the director’s chair from the second unit.

Marvel isn’t exactly the same, but there are similarities. The Journal describes how Marvel’s approach to talent is to seek out actors on their way up (who don’t cost top dollar yet) or are making a comeback (such as Robert Downey Jr.). There’s a similar strategy with directors, including Joss Whedon (referenced in the excerpt above) and Joe and Anthony Russo.

As we’ve written before, Eon’s strategy has evolved since the Cubby Broccoli days. Bond movies employ more auteur directors (Sam Mendes, Marc Forster) and more expensive actors for at least some roles (Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes).  Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-leaders of Eon, have been putting their own stamp on the series.

In any case, if you want to read the entire Journal story about Marvel, CLICK HERE.

 

SPECTRE footage shown at CinemaCon (no spoilers)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Sony Pictures showed some new footage from SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, according to writers who attended.

The event is where studios make presentations for theater owners of upcoming films.

Steven Weintraub, the editor-in-chief of the entertainment website Collider.com, tweeted the following about Sony’s presentation:

Jim Vejvoda, executive editor-movies of IGN.com, also sent out a tweet:

Paramount and Warner Bros. on April 21 had presentations that highlighted Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., both coming out this summer. SPECTRE is due out in theaters in early November.

UPDATE (April 23): COMICBOOK.COM has a description of of the footage, leaving out what it describes as a “big spoiler.” For those who don’t want to know anything about the movie, even with the “big spoiler” withheld, don’t click on the link.

VARIETY also has a description of a key scene that’s part of the footage shown at CinemaCon. Variety doesn’t disclose the main spoiler, but has a plot detail not in the Comicbook.com story. Those who are super spoiler sensitive probably should avoid.

Robert Rietti, 007 voiceover artist, dies at 92

Emilo Largo (Adolfo Celi) was dubbed over by Robert Rietti

When Largo appeared in Thunderball, American audiences saw Adolfo Celi’s face but heard Robert Rietti’s voice.

Robert Rietti, an actor who dubbed over a number of characters in James Bond films, died earlier this month at 92, according to obituaries in THE TIMES OF LONDON and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Rietti’s participation in 007 films went all the way back to the first, 1962’s Dr. No. He dubbed over Timothy Moxon’s lines as Strangways, the doomed head of the Kingston station of British intelligence.

Rietti also dubbed over Adolfo Celi’s Emilo Largo in Thunderball, Testuro Tamba’s Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and a bald villain intended to evoke Ernst Stavo Blofeld (but who officially wasn’t the SPECTRE chief because of rights disputes) in For Your Eyes Only. Thus, it was Rietty who uttered the line, “I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel!”

With Thunderball, American audiences heard the real voices of Celi and Claudine Auger as Domino in a that clip that was part of the television special The Incredible World of James Bond, which aired in November 1965. But they heard Rietti’s voice paired with Nikki Van der Zyl’s the next month when Thunderball arrived in theaters.

Van der Zyl was even more of a 007 veteran at that point, doing voice work on the three previous 007 films, including dubbing over Ursula Andress in Dr. No.

You can CLICK HERE to view Rietti’s IMDB.com bio (where his name is spelled Rietty), which lists 256 acting credits.

Bleeding Cool discloses SPECTRE spoilers from WikiLeaks

SPECTRE LOGO

No spoilers in the text of the post, but obviously links to something full of spoilers.

That didn’t take long.

The Bleeding Cool website PUBLISHED A LONG POST extensively quoting from hacked Sony Pictures e-mails concerning SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Bleeding Cool examined the e-mails after WiliLeaks published a searchable database of the material hacked from Sony last year. Sony will release SPECTRE in November, which is why the 007 material was included in the hack.

The Bleeding Cool post contains references to early script drafts by John Logan and later rewrites by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Generally (and to phrase this in a non-spoiler way), the quoted e-mails give the reader how extensively the story changed. Some characters from earlier drafts disappear from later ones. There’s a lot of discussion from various executives about what the villains should be doing.

Even the title is spoiler-related (it concerns something from an earlier draft). So, if you click on the link above, just remember you can’t un-see what you read.

WikiLeaks publishes Sony hack data (no spoilers)

sonylogo

WikiLeaks, the group that has published leaked U.S. government documents, SAID IN AN APRIL 16 STATEMENT it has put more than 30,000 hacked Sony Pictures documents and more than 173,000 company e-mails into a searchable database.

The Sony documents first surfaced in November 2014. Part of the hacked documents concerned SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, which is being released by Sony this coming November. Stories were published in various media outlets at the time about the movie’s $300 million budget and details about its script. The hacked material also included personal information about Sony employees.

“Whilst some stories came out at the time, the original archives, which were not searchable, were removed before the public and journalists were able to do more than scratch the surface,” the group said. WikiLeaks said the material should be in the public domain because Sony “is an influential corporation…with an ability to impact laws and policies.”

WikiLeaks said Sony is “a strong lobbyist on issues around internet policy, piracy, trade agreements and copyright issues. The emails show the back and forth on lobbying and political efforts.”

Sony, in a statement quoted by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, criticized WikiLeaks.

“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees,” Sony said in the statement, according to THR.

Elon Musk and Blofeld, the sequel

Elon Musk photo on Twitter on April 29.

Elon Musk photo on Twitter.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, really, really likes to compare himself to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond’s arch enemy.

This week, SpaceX had a much-publicized launch. It didn’t go as planned. Here’s an excerpt from CNN’S WEBSITE:

(CNN)—SpaceX on Tuesday launched a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying an uncrewed cargo spacecraft called Dragon on a flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station.

That was the easy part. In a difficult bid to land a rocket stage on a floating barge for the first time, the private space exploration company was unsuccessful.

Musk, whose photo on Twitter evokes Blofeld as well as Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, had been more optimistic about the outcome. And, in doing so, *again* evoked Blofeld, specifically as depicted in You Only Live Twice:

Musk was less jovial after the landing failure.

Moonraker and the ‘guilty pleasure’

A "guilty pleasure" for some 007 fans

A “guilty pleasure” for some 007 fans

Over the past 40 years, the term “guilty pleasure” has become chic. In a James Bond context, some fans will cite the extravagant 1979 Moonraker as a guilty pleasure.

What does the term mean exactly? Wikipedia defines it as “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.”

The term was popularized by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, in which the two Very Serious Film Critics (R) acknowledged they like some schlock on occasion. In 1979 and 1987, they came up with their lists of “guilty pleasures,” including such movies as The Greek Tycoon and The Fury.

Moonraker was the only Bond movie where 007 went into space. Before that happened, a space shuttle was hijacked, Bond fell out of a plane without a parachute, a boat chase took place in Venice, Bond fought Jaws (Richard Kiel) on top of a cable car in Rio, etc., etc. Nothing was done in a small way. There were clearly silly moments, including a double taking pigeon and Jaws finding true love.

In other words, nothing very subtle. It was a huge hit in its day. It even got a rave review in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Nevertheless, Eon Productions immediately decided Bond should come back down to earth both figuratively and literally in his next film adventure, For Your Eyes Only.

When Bond fans say Moonraker is a “guilty pleasure,” they’re putting some distance between themselves and the movie. It’s almost as if they’re afraid they’ll lose their “street cred” with other Bond fans. After all, in the 21st century, Bond is Serious Art deserving of Academy Award nominations.

To be fair, it should be noted that opinions of people change over time. They can like something initially, decide it really was awful, then eventually come back and decide it was good or at least not as bad as they thought. What’s more, in the case of Moonraker, some fans will tell you they hated it then, they hate it now. That group is being consistent.

Still, if you like a movie, maybe should own it and not worry about your “street cred.” In the case of 007 films, just because you like a lighter Bond entry doesn’t preclude from enjoying a more serious film also.

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