Aston Martin unveils revamped Valhalla

Aston Martin publicity image for the Valhalla.

Aston Martin this week unveiled a revamped version of its hybrid supercar, the Valhalla. An earlier version appears in No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film.

Here’s part of the press release:

15 July 2021, Gaydon, Warwickshire: Aston Martin’s transformational journey takes a huge step forwards with the Valhalla concept car brought to production reality as an extraordinary, truly driver-focused mid-engined hybrid supercar.
 
Led by Aston Martin’s CEO, Tobias Moers, Valhalla is the latest and most significant product of the brand’s Project Horizon strategy to-date; a car which will broaden the model portfolio to reflect Aston Martin’s presence in Formula One®, set best-in-class standards for performance, dynamics and driving pleasure, and drive the transition from internal combustion to hybrid to full electric powertrains.

The InsideHook website explained how the car unveiled this week is different.

Aston Martin is now calling the Valhalla a “supercar,” not a “hypercar,” and while they don’t explain the downgrade, there are a few obvious reasons for it. As Car and Driver explained, the car was originally supposed to be limited to 500 examples, but now it will be the brand’s first series production mid-engine supercar. Rarity is a must for hypercar status.

Among other thing, the basic design has changed and the car has a different engine. The projected price now is below $1 million when it goes on sale in 2023.

No Time to Die was filmed in 2019 but has been on hold because of COVID-19. In the past two years, Aston Martin has installed new management. As a result, the Valhalla featured in No Time to Die won’t be the same one buyers will get, according to InsideHook.

The Carfection channel on YouTube had a preview of the new, improved Valhalla:

Tarantino takes a shot (?) at Jack Lord

Soundtrack cover for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino is out with a novelization of his 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. As a result, the writer-director has even more room to make comments about 1960s entertainment.

So far, I’m only a chapter into it and noticed a less-than-flattering reference to Jack Lord, the first screen Felix Leiter and the star of the original Hawaii Five-O (1968-80).

In Chapter One (“Call Me Marvin”), actor Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie) chats with agent Marvin Schwarz.

“Stewart Granger was the single biggest prick I ever worked with,” Dalton says. “And I’ve worked with Jack Lord!”

What brought this on? Lord (1920-98) had a reputation for (depending on your perspective) being a perfectionist or….more than that.

A 1983 Starlog interview with Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum revealed that Lord was wanted back to reprise the Leiter role for Goldfinger. Except, Lord wanted a big raise and better billing. Cec Linder got the job instead.

Also, there was this passage from a 1971 TV Guide article (text is available on Mike Quigley’s Hawaii Five-O page) that had quotes from Ben Wood, entertainment editor for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“My phone rang. It was the show’s press agent. He said that ‘management’ was ‘very upset’ over the piece. I had called Zulu and Kam Fong stars. They are not stars, I was told. Not even Jimmy MacArthur. They are all ‘featured players.’ There is only one star of Five-O, and that is Jack Lord. When I reported this conversation in print, a couple of CBS vice presidents (Perry Lafferty and Paul King) got into the act. ‘Management’ had said no such thing. They demanded a retraction, making it look as if I was guilty of inaccurate reporting. That was when we began to refer to ‘Jimmy MacArthur, Co-Star’.”

The original Five-O ended its run more than 40 year ago. But, occasionally, there are still references to Lord. In November 2020, the official George Lazenby Twitter feed suggested that the one-film Bond may have had an interesting experience.

Also in Chapter One, Rick Dalton also compliments director Paul Wendkos to Schwarz. Wendkos’ many credits include the 1968 Hawaii Five-O TV movie pilot.

1999: TV Guide publishes a Bond special

TV Guide cover to the Nov. 13-19, 1999 issue

In 1999, TV Guide decided to go big on a special James Bond issue.

The Nov. 13-19 edition, with a Pierce Brosnan cover, included a new Bond short story, an interview with Bond actresses and an essay by a conservative icon.

Live at Five by Raymond Benson: This was a five-page short story by the American James Bond continuation author. Bond recalls an assignment in Chicago.

This was part of a big year for Benson’s tenure as a Bond author. 1999 also saw publication of an original Bond continuation novel by Benson, High Time to Kill, and the novelization of the 007 film The World Is Not Enough.

Buckley on Bond: William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008), a conservative commentator and sometimes spy author, mused about Bond. “James Bond does it all with that remarkable lightheartedness that attaches to the Just Man,” Buckley wrote. “The Bond films are there to be viewed, popcorn in hand. You’re not to worry about the girl’s emotional problems.”

I wonder what Barbara Broccoli would say if she had a conversation with Buckley.

Bond actresses: The issue has a Q&A with Jane Seymour, Luciana Paluzzi, Maud Adams, Lana Wood, Tanya Roberts, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Lois Chiles.

Bond, Steranko bits show up in Black Widow

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine’s debut in Strange Tales 159 in 1967

Spoilers, although so much is available on social media, the horse is out of the barn.

Marvel Studios has resumed movie releases with Black Widow that was released last weekend. A lot of James Bond fans were pleased with 007 references. Also, a character created by writer-artist Jim Steranko’s run on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD made an encore appearance in the MCU.

By this time, it’s pretty common knowledge that Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) is seen watching Moonraker, a scene that includes a clip from the 1979 Bond film. Also, John Barry gets a credit in the end titles crawl for a composition titled Bond Fights Snake. Those who’ve seen Moonraker will instantly remember the composition involved.

Beyond that, there has been a lot of Bond fan discussion via social media about other Black Widow sequences that borrow from Bond.

Meanwhile, in a scene during the end titles, a character created by Jim Steranko during his 1960s run on Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, made her second MCU appearance.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, aka Val, first appeared in 1967. Originally, Black Widow was intended to be Val’s MCU debut. However, the movie was delayed from its original May 2020 release date because of COVID-19.

As a result, Val (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) first showed up in the Marvel streaming series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in April. Originally, Val was a SHIELD recruit. She’s now a villainous character.

UPDATE: Fellow Bond fan Jeffrey Westhoff and I exchanged messages on Facebook. He makes the case (and I agree) there’s a Black Widow sequence inspired by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. You’ll have to see it for yourself.

‘Intrigue’ at Amazon, MGM over NYT article, newsletter says

MGM logo

A New York Times story on July 6 has created “intrigue” at Amazon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to a newsletter by a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

The article about MGM film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy generated some “serious eye-rolling at Amazon Studios this week,” wrote Matthew Belloni.

De Luca runs MGM’s film division and Abdy is his deputy. An excerpt from the newsletter:

I’m told Amazon’s famously press-averse executives were “concerned” about the story, mostly because De Luca and Abdy focused on MGM’s theatrical release plans and their strategy of “original ideas and original authorship,” possibly leaving the impression that there will be internal conflict with what Jeff Bezos cited as the primary reason for buying MGM: To “reimagine and redevelop” the studio’s existing I.P. The story also suggested the town might be rooting for De Luca to wrest control of Amazon’s film output from Jen Salke, the current head of Amazon Studios. 

Amazon last month agreed to acquire MGM for $8.45 billion. But the deal is subject to regulatory approval, a process that may take months.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, in a statement to the Times made clear they’re rooting for De Luca and Abdy.

Referring to Amazon, they said in the statement: “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered,” MGM is James Bond’s home studio. Eon controls creative matters with Bond while MGM finances the films.

Belloni’s newsletter said the Times story didn’t go over well with Amazon.

“Amazon and the tech companies that run Hollywood these days absolutely hate this posturing crap,” Belloni wrote. MGM and De Luca declined to comment to the newsletter.

No Time to Die, Eon’s 25th James Bond film, is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. The Amazon acquisition isn’t likely to be completed before then.

Real-life Hugo Draxes play with rockets

Cover to a recent edition of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker novel

In the 1955 novel Moonraker, Ian Fleming wrote about Hugo Drax, a mysterious multi-millionaire who was building a missile for Britain.

Today, the 21st century has its own billionaire Hugo Draxes, except they’re playing with rockets as part of private space companies: Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Elon Musk (SpaceX).

These billionaires can be flamboyant as Fleming’s Drax. Branson is scheduled to fly to the edge of space today. Fellow billionaire Bezos is scheduled to fly to space on July 20. The billionaires are feuding whether Branson is making a true space flight.

A Dec. 13, 2019 episode of the podcast James Bond & Friends mused whether you could do an updated adaptation of Live And Let Die in the 21st century. Toward the end (about the 1 hour, 6-minute mark) the discussion briefly turned to how to do a 21st-century Moonraker adaptation and how billionaires and their rockets could be a hook.

Perhaps it could still be done. Branson had a cameo in 2006’s Casino Royale. Bezos, with his shaved head, has been compared to a James Bond villain. And Musk is a big James Bond fan.

UPDATE (11:47 a.m. New York Time): Branson’s flight was successful. CNN provided a lot of breathless, context-free coverage.

Bond 26 questions: The ‘next iteration’ edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No Time to Die still isn’t out but there has been some news related to Bond 26. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you make of recent Broccoli-Wilson comments?

In a July 6 story in The New York Times, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions spoke up in support of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” the Eon duo said in a statement of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy. (emphasis added)

Until late September 2020, Broccoli wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that No Time to Die would be Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie. ““It is the fifth and final one that Daniel Craig is going to be doing,” Broccoli said on an episode of the official No Time to Die podcast that would soon go into hiatus because the movie got delayed.

Evidently, Eon likes how De Luca and Abdy are managing MGM’s film unit. But their future is uncertain with Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon controls creative matters related to the cinema Bond. The Broccoli-Wilson statement looks like a strong suggestion to Amazon to not shake up MGM’s film operation when the Bond franchise is on the verge of another transition and yet another new film Bond.

Did the list of possible new film Bond actors just go down by one?

Over the past few years, entertainment outlets and websites have speculated about who might take over Craig’s shoulder holster. One name that comes up a lot is British actor Henry Cavill.

However, this week, it came out that Cavill will be in a new Matthew Vaughn-directed spy film, Argylle.

Once upon a time, when Cavill was in his early 20s, he tested for Bond. He came in behind Craig.

Since then, Cavill’s ability to anchor film franchises has been a so-so affair. He was in one solo Superman movie and appeared as the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. But his future as Superman looks dicey. Cavill starred in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but that movie didn’t resonate with audiences and no additional U.N.C.L.E. films followed.

Cavill was a supporting player in a Mission: Impossible movie and has starred in a popular streaming show, The Witcher.

The actor is now 38, the same age Craig was when he was cast as Bond. But Cavill’s chances of being cast as Bond may be running out — assuming he ever had a chance in the first place. Would Eon want to cast a Bond actor who has been in two different spy movies? I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Matthew Vaughn heads to the spy well — again

Teaser poster for Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director Matthew Vaughn has had spies on his mind since at least 2004. And he’s going to that well once more with a new project titled Argylle.

Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter about Vaughn’s newest project:

Based on the soon to be launched spy novel Argylle, from author Ellie Conway, the film — being produced by Vaughn’s Marv banner — follows the world’s greatest spy Argylle as he is caught up in a globe-trotting adventure. It’s expected to be the first of at least three films in the franchise and is set in America, London and multiple locations across the world.

The large cast is to include Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, Dallas Bryce Howard, Bryan Cranston, Samuel L. Jackson and others.

Vaughn’s interest in spy entertainment goes back more than 15 years. In 2004, Vaughn was reported to be in talks to direct a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. That didn’t happen and an U.N.C.L.E. movie didn’t come out until 2015, with Henry Cavill in the cast.

Vaughn, in the meantime, directed 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which included Michael Fassbender engaging in some James Bond-style tropes as the future Magneto.

But the director’s big spy genre activity has been the Kingsman series — Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and a prequel, The King’s Man. The latter has been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cast members of Kingsman: The Secret Service said in 2014 the movie had elements of early Bond films, U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers.

Concerning Vaughn’s new project, The Hollywood Reporter quotes Vaughn as saying, “This is going to reinvent the spy genre.”

That’s quite a boast, particularly the rummaging around Vaughn already has done in the spy genre. We’ll see.

Broccoli, Wilson sing Seydoux’s praises

No Time to Die poster featuring Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions praise Lea Seydoux in a Deadline: Hollywood feature story about the actress.

“Léa’s portrayal of Dr. Madeleine Swann explores the complexity of what it is like to be in a relationship with James Bond,” Deadline quoted Broccoli and Wilson as saying. The entertainment news website didn’t specify whether this was in a written statement or an interview.

 “Given the background of her character being the daughter of a SPECTRE assassin, she understands Bond’s world, the dark forces that he is up against, and his psyche. We wanted to challenge Bond emotionally and Léa’s character does this in No Time to Die,” the Eon duo said. “Léa is very committed to her profession and gives 100 percent. She always illuminates the characters she plays and makes you feel the connection with them because she makes them feel real.”

Seydoux, in turn, praised star Daniel Craig. “Because he comes from the theater, I think he wanted to create a more interesting character,” she said. “He’s made him vulnerable and let him show his flaws. By seeing the character’s imperfections, the audience can relate to him.”

Seydoux first played Swann in 2015’s SPECTRE. She returned for the upcoming No Time to Die.

Eon endorses 2 current MGM execs amid Amazon deal

MGM logo

Eon Productions has endorsed the efforts of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives in the wake of Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement for a story today in The New York Times. They spoke up in support of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” Broccoli and Wilson said in the statement to the Times.

The tenure of Daniel Craig, the current cinema Bond, is coming to an end with the upcoming No Time to Die.

“Amazon has assured us that Bond” films will come out first in movie theaters, Broccoli and Wilson added. “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered.” 

De Luca has been in his post since early 2020.

The Times story primarily concerns efforts by De Luca and Abdy to reinvigorate MGM’s film efforts. The studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. Since then, it has attempted to build up its film slate under the MGM and Orion brands.

Amazon has a major streaming service. Purchasing MGM secures Amazon a large film library and programming source.

The Times also details how Amazon also has purchased films from studios “looking to offload their movies because theaters were largely closed” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major executive changes often take place following an acquisition. “

“There are some in Hollywood’s film community who are hopeful that Mr. De Luca and Ms. Abdy will oversee Amazon’s movie business once the merger is complete,” the Times said.

Amazon’s purchase of MGM is subject to regulatory approval.

No Time to Die, Eon’s 25th Bond film, is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. It’s uncertain whether Amazon’s deal with MGM will be completed before then.