Margot Kidder dies at 69

Margot Kidder with Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978).

Margot Kidder, the definitive Lois Lane for a generation of movie goers, died over the weekend, according to an obituary posted by CNN. She was 69.

The actress “died peacefully in her sleep,” CNN reported, citing her manager.

Kidder first played Lois Lane in 1978’s Superman. Previous Superman productions were in the forms of modestly budgeted movie serials and television shows. The 1978 film, by contrast, was a big budget production. The movie had major stars — Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman among them.

But the leads were held by two relative unknowns, Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman and Kidder as Lois Lane. Kidder’s Lois was self confident, absolutely sure she would capture the big scoop. She would describe the play a story should receive in The Daily Planet while editor Perry White (Jackie Cooper) scanned her copy. “Only one ‘p’ in rapist,” White said on one occasion.

The Kidder version of Lois died, only to be revived when Superman reversed time in the 1978 movie. In Superman II (1981), the couple consummated their relationship after Lois discovered Clark was Superman. Clark had to renounce being Superman for a time but went back into action. He caused Lois to forget everything with a powerful kiss toward the end of the sequel.

Kidder’s career was a lot more than playing Lois Lane. During much of the 1970s, she had guest star roles on series such as Banacek, Barnaby Jones and Harry O. She moved into feature films such as The Great Waldo Pepper and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.

Still, because Superman was such a major production — it helped set the stage for big-budget, comic book-based films — Kidder was remembered by audiences for the role.

As news of Kidder’s death spread, tributes appeared on social media.

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Paul Williams on The Wild Wild West Revisited

Paul Williams as Miguelito Loveless Jr. in The Wild Wild West Revisited

Paul Williams took to Twitter to briefly discuss The Wild Wild West Revisited, the 1979 TV movie.

The singer-songwriter was prompted by a tweet from Silver Age TV about the anniversary of the TV movie’s debut showing.

Williams responded:

“Great fun. James Cagney visited the set. One of those moments you never forget.”

In the TV movie, Miguelito Jr. has developed atomic bombs and clones in 1885. He now wants revenge on retired Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin).

He holds West and Gordon responsible for the death of his father five years earlier. Michael Dunn played Miguelito Sr. in original 1965-69 series.

Williams and Martin had worked together earlier that television season on an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Years earlier, Williams reportedly cast as Mr. Wint in Diamonds Are Forever before Bruce Glover got the role.

Williams, 77, referring to a still from the TV movie added: “That’s me at 187 pounds. 130 today. Lucky to be alive. So grateful!”

You can view the tweet below.

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How marketing of 007 novels evolved over a decade

007 continuation novel authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend, 2013.

It seems that Ian Fleming Publications has altered how it markets James Bond continuation novels over the past decade.

In 2008, in time for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming, IFP brought out Devil May Care with Sebastian Faulks “writing as Ian Fleming.”

You got the feeling that this was a bit of a lark for Faulks.

A decade ago, the author gave an interview to The Financial Times.

“Fleming’s guiding principle was to write without pausing to reflect or edit,” wrote Rosie Blau of the FT. “By contrast, Human Traces took Faulks five years. But for Devil May Care he followed Fleming’s lead and gave himself six weeks: ‘You don’t have those long moments where you ponder for about an hour: ‘What is he thinking now?’”

The thing is, Fleming did a lot of revisions once his draft was done and he headed home after his annual winter trips to Jamaica. If you’ve ever visited Indiana University’s Lilly Library where many Fleming manuscripts are stored, you can view how 007 creator’s marked them up extensively.

In other words, Fleming didn’t spend six weeks and shove out a novel. But you wouldn’t have gotten that impression from the 2008 FT interview.

After Faulks, IFP had a series of Bond one-offs by other “name” writers, including Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd.

Anthony Horowitz, author of Trigger Mortis and the upcoming Forever and a Day

Trigger Mortis, published in 2015, appeared to follow that pattern. Another “name” author, Anthony Horowitz, came up with a story that took place immediately after the events of Fleming’s Goldfinger novel.

For the 110th anniversary of Fleming’s birth, Horowitz has returned. His story again relates to the timeline of Fleming’s originals. This time, Forever and a Day is billed as a prequel to Casino Royale, Fleming’s first 007 novel.

The “writing as Ian Fleming” gimmick is long gone. Faulks was the only one of the recent continuation novel authors who tried it.

At the same time, Forever and a Day, isn’t getting the big launch that Devil May Care received a decade ago.

In 2008, the literary Bond could be found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean pretty quickly. This time out, Forever and a Day will be published in the U.S. more than five months after it debuts in the U.K.

Intense U.S. fans of the literary fans, of course, can arrange to buy a U.K. copy and have it shipped over. But it’s still not the event Devil May Care was in 2008.

IFP announces new novel’s audio book narrator

U.K. cover image for Forever and a Day, Anthony Horwitz’s second James Bond continuation novel.

Ian Fleming Publications said in a statement today that actor Matthew Goode will narrate the audio book version of the new 007 continuation novel Forever and a Day.

The new book, written by Anthony Horowitz, is a prequel to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel.

The novel will be published at the end of this month in the U.K. It won’t be published in the U.S. until November. It’s the second Bond novel from Horowitz, who penned 2015’s Trigger Mortis.

The IFP statement also has a short audio clip of Goode reading a passage from Forever and a Day.

Horowitz’s reaction on Twitter was brief:

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Bond 25 questions: Daniel Craig payday edition

Daniel Craig in 2016 during the Brexit campaign in the U.K.

Variety says it knows Daniel Craig’s salary for Bond 25. Naturally, that raises questions. That’s the specialty of this blog.

Is Craig getting a pay raise or pay cut?

It depends who you believe, how accurate the news account and what currency exchange rates were at the time.

Back in 2012, after Skyfall became the first “billion-dollar-Bond,” outlets such as The Independent said Craig would receive 31 million British pounds to do two more 007 films.

At 2012 exchange rates, that would mean getting $49.7 million, or almost $25 million per film. At current exchange rates, that would be closer to $42 million, or $21 million per film.

Variety’s story says Craig is getting $25 million for Bond 25.

Given the currency swings and the like, it’s hard to say one way or another.

Still, the Variety figure is FAR LESS than the $150 million, two-film deal that Radar Online claimed Craig would receive in a September 2016 story.

In 2016, some Bond fans took to social media to argue Craig was worth every penny of that supposed $150 million, two-film deal.

That argument was made despite the fact that Craig hasn’t shown any evidence of being a box office draw outside of the Bond series.

Examples: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ($232 million global box office), and a film where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said resulted in a loss; Cowboys & Aliens ($174.8 million global box office); Lucky Logan ($47.6 million global box office); and Kings ($258,614 U.S. box office since April 27).

Does the Variety story mean Bond 25’s distribution/financing is wrapped up?

Not necessarily. MGM said in 2007 that Craig was signed for four more 007 films (or running through Bond 25). But one event (Craig’s contract) doesn’t directly affect the other (Bond 25’s distribution/financing).

Put another way: Craig isn’t going to collect on his contract (whatever the amount, whatever the length of time) unless there’s somebody to pay it.

MGM and Eon Productions announced a November 2019 release date back on July 24, 2017. No distribution deal was set then.

On Oct. 31, 2017, MGM and Annapurna Pictures said they formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies in the U.S. But that deal specifically exempted Bond 25.

In mid-December 2017, Barbara Broccoli said in a podcast of The Hollywood Reporter said Bond 25 distribution wasn’t set.

Maybe there’s been more progress since then. But Craig’s contract, in an of itself, doesn’t mean much.

Craig to receive $25M for Bond 25, Variety says

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig is set to receive $25 million for Bond 25, Variety reported as part of a survey of salaries for major actors.

The story, by Brent Lang and Justin Kroll, doesn’t specify how the information was obtained. Craig’s $25 million was the highest actor figure referenced. Dwayne Johnson is due to receive $22 million for Red Notice (2020) and Vin Diesel received $20 million for 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, Variety said.

Anne Hathaway is set to receive $15 million for 2020’s Barbie while Jennifer Lawrence got a $15 million pay day for this year’s Red Sparrow.

The bulk of the article concerns trends in pay for movie stars.

“Studios have gotten stingier about cutting stars in on a share of the profits from big-budget movies, preferring to keep much of the spoils of a box office blockbuster for themselves,” Lang and Kroll wrote.

“Part of the problem is that costumed superheroes and Jedi knights became the big attraction at movie theaters,” according to the writers. “The size of a film’s opening weekend no longer hinges on the popularity of the actors who grace its poster. Special effects are the stars these days and the place where studios are spending the bulk of their money.”

Variety said while some actors can still get $20 million or more for a movie, “those checks are usually handed out for only major franchise installments and often are tied to reaching a significant number of box office milestones.”

In 2007, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said Craig was signed for four more 007 films after his debut in Casino Royale, according to an account at that time by The Hollywood Reporter. If true, that would mean Craig’s contract extended through Bond 25 all along.

Rise of the ‘Scooby Gang’ in 007 films

SPECTRE publicity still featuring part of the fan-dubbed “Scooby Gang,” Tanner (Rory Kinnear), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw).

There’s a fan-generated 007 nickname that has gotten traction these days.

That would be the “Scooby Gang.” It’s shorthand for how supporting characters in the Eon Production film series join Bond out in the field. It’s based on the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, where the Scooby Gang of young people and a dog go out and solve mysteries together.

“Scooby Gang” was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, referring to the cartoon show.

Formerly, Bond was a lone-wolf. M would give 007 the mission. Q would provide some gadgets and Moneypenny would flirt before Bond departed the office.

That’s been changing for a while. In 1989’s Licence to Kill, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) goes rogue, as Bond (Timothy Dalton) has. He not only brings along some gadgets, he acts as 007’s assistant.

After Judi Dench came aboard as M in 1995’s GoldenEye, her character’s screen time expanded. That process started with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough where M’s kidnapping is a major aspect of the plot.

Finally, with 2012’s Skyfall, we got a rebooted Moneypenny (now with a first a name, Eve) who we initially see as a field agent. Also, the Judi Dench M scores more screen time than before because she’s a mother figure for both Bond (Daniel Craig) and the villain Silva (Javier Bardem).

In 2013, there was an early indication the Scooby Gang would come together in SPECTRE.

“Naomie Harris is getting more  of the action in the next James Bond film, which starts shooting next year,” Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a story published on Sept. 12 of that year.

Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.

‘The idea formulating in Bond-land is for Naomie to be much more of a sidekick to James, and for her to get out and harm the bad guys,’ an executive close to the production told me.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench/M perished at the end of Skyfall and was succeeded by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who has his own impressive military background.

By the end of SPECTRE, M, Moneypenny, Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all out in the field helping Bond. And, thus, the Scooby Gang nickname was born. It has appeared on 007 message boards and elsewhere on the internet.

Now, there has been recent fan speculation/questioning whether Fiennes can return to play Mallory/M because of other acting jobs.

In the “old days,” few fans wondered about the availability of Llewelyn, Bernard Lee or Lois Maxwell. The actors only had a few days of work and the focus was on Bond. Llewelyn was absent from Live And Let Die, but most of the publicity and fan attention was on Roger Moore’s debut as 007.

We’ll see what happens next. Meanwhile, here’s an amusing tweet from Phil Nobile Jr., former writer for Birth. Movies. Death and now editor of a new incarnation of Fangoria magazine. He’s a big 007 fan and has written extensively about Bond films in the past.

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