The nature of fandom

Daniel Craig as James Bond

The past few weeks have been rough for James Bond fans. They’ve witnessed the passing of key actors such as Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Michael Lonsdale.

All three had long careers that extended beyond James Bond films. But some Bond fans say something to the effect that they represent OUR Pussy Galore, OUR Tracy, OUR Drax.

However, fans of The Avengers TV series might counter something like, yes but that’s OUR Cathy Gale or OUR Emma Peel.

This extends beyond Bond fandom.

I’ve seen some fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. say having an American and a Russian as partners was BIG AND BOLD.

Meanwhile, fans of the original I Spy television series counter that having a White and a Black man as equal partners was a lot more controversial in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Undoubtedly, there are many other examples. Many fans, though, don’t want to examine all that. They are concerned with their fandom. No more, no less.

No criticism is intended in any of this. It’s the way of the world. It’s also the nature of fandom.

Michael Lonsdale dies at 89

Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax in Moonraker

French actor Michael Lonsdale, who played the lead villain in 1979’s Moonraker, has died at 89, according to news accounts, including the BBC and France 24.

Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax wasn’t the scarred, bombastic villain of Ian Fleming’s third James Bond novel.

Rather, the Lonsdale version was cool, calm and prone to making droll remarks such as, “See that some harm comes to him,” as he orders a henchman to kill Bond.

The film Drax also liked to take digs at the English. In one scene, he refers to “afternoon tea” as the major English contribution to Western culture.

Moonraker was an English-French co-production. As a result, French actors were placed in a number of roles. The movie ended up being a big hit in the summer of 1979 as Roger Moore’s James Bond went into space for a final showdown with Drax.

Lonsdale’s career began in the mid-1950s and extended into the 21st century.

His English-language highlights included The Day of the Jackal (1973), where he played a detective on the trail of an assassin trying to kill French President Charles de Gaulle; The Name of the Rose (1986); Ronin (1998); and Munich (2005).

In 2010, The Wall Street Journal published a profile of the actor (be warned it’s behind a paywall). It was headlined, “A Gentle Screen Giant Subtly Shines.”

Here’s an excerpt concerning the actor’s versatility.

Mr. Lonsdale has played the gamut of religious roles —priests, abbots, cardinals, inquisitors—as well as countless aristocrats ranging from English lords to Louis XVI. Also a man of the theater, his circle of friends has included literary heavyweights like Marguerite Duras, Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco, whose works he performed on stage in Paris in the 1960s. Perfectly bilingual, he moves easily between the bizarre shoe salesman in François Truffaut’s “Stolen Kisses” and the campy bearded villain in the James Bond classic, “Moonraker.”

Happy 87th birthday, David McCallum

David McCallum in a Man From U.N.C.L.E. publicity still

Today, Sept. 19, is David McCallum’s 87th birthday.

There’s not a whole lot that needs saying. He’s had a great career. He still has many fans who admire him. Happy birthday. We’ll leave it at that.

Diana Rigg dies at 82

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

Diana Rigg, who entertained generations of fans in The Avengers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Game of Thrones, has died at 82, the BBC reported.

The actress was versatile, acting in a variety of roles on stage, television and films.

Rigg became an international star in the 1960s, playing Emma Peel on The Avengers. She joined the series after Honor Blackman exited, going on to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

The Avengers didn’t lose a step. One of the Rigg episodes had John Steed (Patrick Macnee) receiving a Christmas card from Blackman’s character, Cathy Gale. Steed wondered what she was doing in Fort Knox.

Rigg had a huge impact on the show. Mrs. Peel, a “talented amateur” (in the words of one introduction for The Avengers) could out-fight and out-think male opponents. Rigg and Macnee had a chemistry that fans enjoyed.

The U.K.-produced series was imported into the United States during Rigg’s run. Mrs. Peel became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic.

She was twice nominated for an Emmy for The Avengers. She lost both times to Barbara Bain of Mission: Impossible.

Rigg left the show to seek new challenges. One of her post-Avengers projects was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She played Tracy, the doomed bride of James Bond.

The actress got the role, in part, because the filmmakers figured they needed an experienced female lead opposite the inexperienced George Lazenby.

Majesty’s, while financially successful, wasn’t as big a hit as earlier Bond entries. Nevertheless, Rigg again was memorable. Her character’s death at the end of the movie, was the first unhappy conclusion for the film series produced by Eon Productions.

About the only format Rigg couldn’t conquer was starring in her own TV situation comedy. A U.S. series, Diana, ran less than a full season during 1973-74.

Rigg’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 70 movie and TV credits.

Tenet’s U.S. box office debut is mixed

Tenet poster

Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan-directed film, had a mixed debut in the COVID-19 stricken United States.

For the Labor Day weekend, Tenet will generate an estimated $20.2 million in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo in 2,810 theaters. (Box Office Mojo listed that figure for both the regular Sept. 4-6 weekend and including the Labor Day holiday.)

This comes after Tenet had an international opening weekend last weekend of about $53 million.

The spy-fi/sci-fi move is now up to an estimated $146.2 million internationally, according to figures compiled by Box Office Mojo.

The question is whether ticket sales are enough in the U.S. to support an expensive “tentpole” movie.

Warner Bros. has been supporting Nolan’s desire that Tenet get a full theatrical experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Other studios have been watching Tenet closely concerning their own tentpole releases.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, reactivated its marketing efforts for No Time to Die. A new poster and trailer were released, both emphasizing how the 25th James Bond film was sticking with a planned November 2020 release.

What does all this mean for Bond? We’ll see.

10-second teaser released for new NTTD trailer

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

A 10-second teaser was released today ahead of a Sept. 3 release of a new No Time to Die trailer.

The teaser includes previously unreleased footage of a ship firing missiles, a jet firing missiles, an evening dress-clad Ana de Armas kicking a thug and a Land Rover in the midst of a chase.

The teaser was included in a post by Eon Productions’s official Twitter feed.

On Monday, a new No Time to Die poster was released along with the disclosure of the impending trailer release.

In the Monday announcement, Eon said No Time to Die was still on track for a November release.

The 25th James Bond film had been set for an April release following a March 31 world premiere. But the release got postponed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Many Bond fans have been bolstered by the international release of Tenet, the newest Christopher Nolan movies that combines spy fiction with science fiction.

Here’s the Eon tweet with the teaser:

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UPDATE (1:35 p.m.): The teaser is now on YouTube.

Music from A Man Called Sloane is coming

Robert Conrad in a publicity still for A Man Called Sloane

An upcoming limited-edition soundtrack release will contain music from A Man Called Sloane, the short-lived TV spy series from 1979.

Sloane, starring Robert Conrad, only lasted a half-season on NBC in the fall of 1979. It was one of the last series made by QM Productions.

La-La Land Records is bringing out its third volume of soundtracks from Quinn Martin TV series, this one focused on The Streets of San Francisco.

Composer Patrick Williams (1939-2018) composed the themes for both Streets and Sloane. As a result, music from both series is on the CD set. Jon Burlingame, producer of the Quinn Martin series for La-La Land Records announced the Sloane portion of the project on social media.

The Streets/Sloane set will be out on Sept. 15 along with other new soundtracks, La-La Land said on Twitter.

UPDATE (Sept. 2): See comment from a reader below. A Man Called Sloane was the last QM series (Quinn Martin had sold the company off some time before). Barnaby Jones remained on the air into 1980. QM also made a TV movie, The Return of Frank Cannon, in 1981.

Mixed tea leaves for No Time to Die

New No Time to Die poster

Let’s face it. James Bond film fans are anxious. They want to know if No Time to Die will make its current November release date.

The tea leaves are a bit mixed.

Good news! Tenet is moving full speed ahead!

Director Christopher Nolan’s new spy-fi/sci-fi film is rolling out in various markets.

Tenet is billed as the movie that can save movie theaters amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Famously, Mission: Impossible star Tom Cruise made a point of letting everybody know he was watching Tenet in a theater.

So if Tenet can do it, can’t No Time to Die?

Bad news! The King’s Man has been delayed to early 2021

The King’s Man, the prequel to the first two Kingsman films, which was delayed once already, now won’t be out until February 2021.

The prequel stars Ralph Fiennes, who played M at the end of Skyfall and in SPECTRE and No Time to Die. It tells the story of the earliest days of the Kingsman organization.

The delay for The King’s Man shows not all studios are enthusiastic about releasing a movie in the fall of 2020.

As usual, we’ll see.

Tenet reviews note film’s James Bond vibe

Tenet poster

A lot is riding on Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s combination spy-fi and sci-fi movie. It will be a test whether people are willing to return to movie theaters amid the continuing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Critics have now had a look and writing reviews. Some note how director Nolan, a Bond fan, channels 007 in the film.

What follows are non-spoiler excerpts.

DANNY LEIGH, FINANCIAL TIMES: “Bond gets a subscription to New Scientist. For all the cryptic packaging, Tenet is really an action spy movie of the oldest school, built on supervillains, plutonium and holiday brochure photography in world tour locations.”

LESLIE FELPERIN, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Altogether, it makes for a chilly, cerebral film — easy to admire, especially since it’s so rich in audacity and originality, but almost impossible to love, lacking as it is in a certain humanity.”

JESSICA KIANG, NEW YORK TIMES: “(Tenet star John David) Washington is basically James Bond, forward and backward, a kind of 00700, right down to the occasional wry one-liner. And if it takes megastar charisma to be able to memorably inhabit so vaporous a role, he is also blessed to be playing off an equally unflappable (Robert) Pattinson.”

JAMES MOTTRAM, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: “Laced with references to theoretical physics, Tenet comes across like a tentpole movie with a PhD. Fan forums will be unpicking the intricacies of the plot for years to come, while Nolan’s narrative daring leaves other spy movies looking infantile.”

GUY LODGE, VARIETY: “Like ‘Inception,’ which used the essential language of the heist film as an organizing structure for Nolan’s peculiar fixations of chronology and consciousness, “Tenet” tricks out the spy thriller with expanded science-fiction parameters to return to those pet themes.”

Five years later: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

Five years after the 2015 movie of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came out, my social media inbox is pretty full about the Guy Ritchie-directed film.

It’s a mixed bag. I know some people who loved it. These folks liked the updated take on Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) and Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant).

Within that group, there was a sigh of relief the movie didn’t end up like Wild Wild West (1999) and I Spy (2002) — other films based on 1960s spy shows.

I know others who hated it.

With that group, there’s criticism about the lack of a secret headquarters, badges (to access the secret headquarters) and cool gadgets. It’s not U.N.C.L.E., just something with that name.

Over the past year, I’ve gotten a few questions about my own opinion. For me, despite changing Solo’s backstory, the Henry Cavill version of Solo is more or less where Robert Vaughn’s original was.

The more radical change was Armie Hammer’s Kuryakin. The 2015 movie suggests some serious mental issues. That didn’t stop David McCallum from endorsing the film in a 2015 interview with Fox News.

My main complaint? The filmmakers could have given us more of Jerry Goldsmith’s original theme. Guy Ritchie wanted to avoid that, but a few notes of the original theme were sneaked into the film.

Some original fans complain about Hugh Grant’s Waverly. They cite how much younger Grant was compared with Leo G. Carroll’s Waverly. The thing is, the original Waverly was very manipulative, a trait that Grant’s Waverly had.

One footnote: The 2015 movie worked in one of Ian Fleming’s ideas from October 1962 (namely that Solo liked to cook). So there’s that.

In any event, I personally was surprised by the amount of social media chatter about the fifth anniversary of the movie.

Do I think there will ever be a sequel? I doubt it. I’ll take what I can get, though.