SPECTRE’s script: a recap of twists and turns

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers in this post

Some of the drama about SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has concerned its script.

The computer hacking at Sony Pictures caused more attention than normal as versions of the story were among the materials posted by hackers.

What follows is how the story line — and the accompanying behind-the scenes drama — developed.

October 2012: Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr. PUBLISHES A STORY saying John Logan, who had done the later drafts of Skyfall, had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Fleming writes that “the franchise’s producers have quietly made a deal with John Logan to write not one but two 007 films.” (Emphasis in original.) He continues, “I’ve been told that Logan pitched an original two-movie arc to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson while they were shooting Skyfall, and that he has already begun writing the scripts.”

November 2012: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announces on an investor call that John Logan indeed had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. By the time of the call, Skyfall is on its way to becoming the first 007 film to have worldwide box office exceeding $1 billion.

The announcement confirmed the gist of the Deadline story, although later events would call into question how far Logan had really gotten by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, after working on the scripts of five 007 films, later confirm they’re not returning to work on Bond 24.

February 2013: BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL reports the two-film story arc plan is no more and Skyfall’s Sam Mendes may return as director for Bond 24.

The scribe also reported that “Logan’s thoughts for Bond 24 are in the form of two treatment papers outlining a rough idea of the plot.” According to Bamigboye’s story, the only ones with access to the materials are Eon co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Mendes, star Daniel Craig and “a handful” of executives at MGM and Sony.

July 11, 2013: In a PRESS RELEASE, Eon, MGM and Sony announce Mendes will indeed return “to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.”

Broccoli and Wilson are quoted as saying they’re “really excited to be working once again with Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and John Logan.” Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal are quoted as saying “EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL.”

At this point, there isn’t even a draft screenplay, which everyone learns in…..

March 2014: John Logan TELLS EMPIRE MAGAZINE that the first draft of Bond 24 “is almost done.”

The scribe tells the magazine he has been “working very closely” with Sam Mendes. (Emphasis in original.) He also says Daniel Craig “is very involved” in the scripting process. “It behooves no-one to write a character the lead actor doesn’t want to play.” Logan says Bond 24 “continues the themes of Skyfall.”

June 2014: Trouble in paradise. THE DAILY MAIL’S BAMIGBOYE reports writer Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are in the 007 fold once more.

Bamigboye asks “an executive associated with the Bond films” if there’s turmoil with the production “Let’s call it ‘polite turmoil,'” Bamigboye’s source (who isn’t further identified) replies. “People are getting on with their work but we have to wait for the script.” Purvis and Wade were brought in to “punch up” the script, according to the story.

July 2014: Bamigboye produces ANOTHER STORY saying Purvis and Wade have delivered a draft that’s “substantially different” than the Logan script.

“There was an awful lot of work to do,” Bamigboye quotes one of his informants as saying. “It was a big job.” Production is to begin by early December, according to the story.

November 2014: The New Yorker, IN A PROFILE OF PLAYWRIGHT JEZ BUTTERWORTH includes the tidbit that he’s been working on Bond 24’s script and had also contributed to Skyfall’s.

December 2014: A media event is held at Pinewood Studios ahead of the start of production of the film, which is now titled SPECTRE. The natural question is whether this means the film will have a rebooted version of 007 arch foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The PRESS RELEASE says the movie is written by “John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” marking the first official confirmation that Purvis and Wade had returned.

Later in the month, stories are written by entertainment and news sites about SPECTRE details in hacked Sony documents. THE GAWKER WEBSITE on Dec. 12 has a post with most details of the plot of a version of the script. (If you click on the link there are many spoilers.)

According to the story, filmmakers and executives at MGM and Sony were still grappling with the last third of the story and that revisions were going on into November.

On Dec. 13, Eon put out A STATEMENT saying “an early version” of SPECTRE’s screenplay had been stolen by the Sony hackers. It says MGM and Danjaq LLC will protect their rights to the script.

Daily Beast: Sony exec says Elba should play 007

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

The Daily Beast Website IN A POST QUOTING A SONY EMAIL reported that Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal said actor Idris Elba should be the next actor to play James Bond.

The Daily Beast post backs into this piece of news. Here’s the key excerpt.

It seems Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal is a big fan of the idea, too.

An email sent on January 4, 2014, from Pascal to Elizabeth Cantillon, former executive vice president of production for Columbia Pictures, which distributes the Bond films, simply says, “Idris should be the next bond.”

Sony was hacked last month. Hackers demanded Sony stop release of the comedy The Interview that included a scene depicting the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This week, Sony did just that after theater chains said they wouldn’t show the film after threats from the hackers.

Meanwhile, the hackers put out a copy of a script for the new Bond film SPECTRE as well as e-mails discussing how the movie’s budget was on pace to exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Sony Pictures has released Bond films starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s current agreement to distribute 007 movies runs through SPECTRE, which is scheduled to come out in November 2015. The 007 franchise is controlled by Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

SPECTRE began filming last week, marking actor Daniel Craig’s fourth film in the Bond role. He also played 007 IN A 2011 VIDEO for International Women’s Day produced by Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli.

Variety, CNN examine journalistic issues with Sony hack

sonylogo
No SPECTRE spoilers in this post.

Variety and CNN have examined the issues facing journalists covering the unfolding implications of the computer hacking at Sony Pictures.

Various Sony documents have been made public by hackers, including personal information of Sony employees, emails by executives and unreleased movies. The hacked materials include a draft script of SPECTRE, the James Bond film currently in production.

“It’s getting harder for me to report on the contents of Sony’s leak without wondering whether I’m somehow complicit with these nefarious hackers by relaying the details of seemingly every pilfered terabyte,” Andrew Wallenstein, Variety’s co-editor-in-chief, wrote IN A COMMENTARY published Dec. 11.

Wallenstein’s commentary discusses the journalistic desire for scoops and newsworthiness of the information versus the circumstances of the Sony hack. He says he has “arrived at an uneasy peace with why the leaks can’t just be ignored.”

“Unfortunately, the data is in the public domain for all to consume,” the Variety editor wrote. “Should information from a leak force someone like (movie producer Scott) Rudin to make a public apology, how do you report on the apology without citing what he is apologizing for?”

Rudin was involved in an exchange of emails with Sony executive Amy Pascal where they joked about the race of U.S. President Barack Obama.

At the same time, Wallenstein wrote, “Let’s get real: The hackers are playing the press as pawns.” To read the entire commentary, CLICK HERE. The leaks involving SPECTRE aren’t mentioned.

On Dec. 14, CNN’s Reliable Sources media-review show included a segment about the Sony hacks. Host Brian Stelter disclosed e-mails he sent to Sony executives while working on stories had been part of data dumps by the hackers.

“None of my communications were embarrassing but it does not feel good to know now the world can see who my sources were,” the host said.

“This is stolen material,” Stelter added. “So should journalists like I and many others feel free to republish something that was taken illegally?” That led into a segment with Variety’s Wallenstein and Don Lemon, a CNN anchor.

To view the Reliable Sources segment, CLICK HERE., It doesn’t mention SPECTRE specifically, either. The CNN/Money website last week published a post about SPECTRE’s budget based on e-mails that were part of the Sony hacking.

UPDATE: Writer Aaron Sorkin wrote a commentary in THE NEW YORK TIMES arguing the press shouldn’t be reporting anything from the hacked Sony information.

SONY WATCH: Is 007-friendly exec’s position imperiled?

sonylogo

Thanks to hackers, the past few weeks haven’t been good for Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Group and president of that entity’s film unit. James Bond fans have reason to follow the Pascal saga.

Pascal is a Sony executive who works closely with Eon Productions, which produces the James Bond film series. Sony has released the Bond films starting with 2006’s Casino Royale.

It’s a complicated relationship. The Bond franchise is owned by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Sony doesn’t have the control it has over its other movie properties. But Bond is a positive for Sony.

Many Sony documents were hacked, including emails where Pascal made racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama. There were other emails that referred to actress-director Angelina Jolie as a “spoiled brat,” which led to an extremely uncomfortable meeting between Pascal and Jolie.

Why should Bond fans care? The LOS ANGELES TIMES has raised the question whether all this bad publicity will force Pascal to take the fall and yield her job.

Here’s an excerpt (in the second quote “she” refers to Pascal):

“Typically, somebody senior’s head rolls when there is a hacking scandal, and the embarrassing email disclosures just help determine who that is going to be in this case,” said Laura Martin, senior media analyst for Needham & Co. “If she becomes the weak link because people believe she can’t actually work in the business, it’s just, OK, now we know who it is going to be. None of it is particularly fair, but if somebody’s head has to roll, they are looking for the path of least resistance.”

Publicly, at least, Pascal has been very supportive of Barbara Broccoli, the co-boss of Eon. In October 2005, when Daniel Craig was cast as Bond — a choice spearheaded by Broccoli — Pascal defended the choice.

Some fans, at the time, had criticized Craig (listed as 5-feet-10) as being too short to play Bond. Pascal told THE NEW YORK TIMES that Craig was “the same size as Sean Connery.” Connery is listed as 6-foot-2.

More recently, Pascal sided with Broccoli over the budget of SPECTRE, the 24th Eon 007 film that began filming this week.

Some of the hacked Sony emails detailed a conflict between MGM and Eon over the size of SPECTRE’s budget, according to THE CNN/MONEY WEBSITE. The emails indicate that SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, which would make it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

According to the CNN/Money story, Broccoli attempted to fight off cost-cutting suggestions from MGM and Pascal chimed in, siding with Broccoli.

The SPECTRE disclosures aren’t nearly as serious compared with how hackers have disclosed Social Security numbers and other information about Sony employees. Afterall, how would you like it if your personal data suddenly showed up on the Internet?

Meanwhile, from a 007 perspective, Pascal’s ultimate fate is worth following.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: the long and the short and the tall

"Who's going to play me?" "Looks like you're getting the short end of it this time, Napoleon."

“Who’s going to play me?”
“Looks like you’re getting the short end, Napoleon.”

There’s the possibility that 5-foot-7 Tom Cruise may be paired with 6-foot-5 Armie Hammer in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., according to a story this week on the DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

You’d think it’d be hard to film the pair together. But it’s actually only the latest twist in a spy property that’s had its ups and downs when it came to the subject of height.

It began with executive producer Norman Felton, who began work on U.N.C.L.E. in 1962. The 1950s and the early 1960s were a period when Westerns, with stars such as 6-foot-7 James Arness and 6-foot-6 Clint Walker, dominated U.S. television. Even in other genres, other stars might be tall. Felton himself had cast 6-foot-1 Richard Chamberlain as the title character in the television version of Dr. Kildare.

Felton, in a 1997 interview (portions of which can be seen on U.N.C.L.E. DVD extras), said he wanted a different type of lead character for U.N.C.L.E. and not “big, ballsy men.” He was looking for heroes who were more average looking.

Eventually, the producer cast 5-foot-10 Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (who had worked on the Felton-produced The Lieutenant) and 5-foot-8 David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. They were hardly runts, but definitely not built like Arness’s Matt Dillon.

Supposedly, according to dossiers held by the evil Thrush organization (in The Thrush Roulette Affair in the show’s FOURTH SEASON), Solo the character was 6-foot while Kuryakin was 5-foot-10 1/2.

Thrush clearly had some faulty information. In the FIRST SEASON episode The Never-Never Affair, 5-foot-8 1/2 guest star Barbara Feldon wears flat shoes to appear shorter than the leads. Even wearing the flat shoes, there is an Act II scene where her Mandy Stevenson character is clearly taller than McCallum’s Kuryakin.

That doesn’t mean McCallum was insecure was his height. The late writer-actor Stanley Ralph Ross, in a 1997 INTERVIEW with THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. EPISODE GUIDE said McCallum used his height to his advantage in a scene where Ross played a thug.

Question: What was it like for you a pretty tall fellow, working with a somewhat shorter David McCallum?

Ross: David asked me to stand on a box. I am already 6-6 and said that he would look like a midget but he replied the taller I was, the stronger and more macho he would seem for having beaten me up.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. began almost 50 years ago but even in the 21st Century, height or the lack of it can still create a stir. In 2005, Amy Pascal, a Sony Pictures executive, told THE NEW YORK TIMES that the newly cast 007 Daniel Craig “is tall. He’s the same size as Sean Connery.” Craig is 5-foot-10 while Connery is 6-foot-2 and change. Eight years later, the subject doesn’t come up that much, at least with Craig.

In any case, U.N.C.L.E. fans have been buzzing about the possibility about a new movie, and are getting worked up whether Cruise and Hammer have the right look, etc. For now, we’ll bide our time and have a cocktail — maybe a short one — while we wait for things to develop.

2005: a new 007 is cast; past is prologue

Seems hard to believe but it has been more than five years since Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond. While researching something else, we came across how The New York Times reported the story. There were a few things that caught our eye.

First, there was a comment from producer Michael G. Wilson, yet another refrain by Wilson of something he has been saying since the 1990s:

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

Yes, Wilson could not let the announcement pass without complaining about how tired he was. We’ve written before about Wilson’s complaints about how exhausting it is to make James Bond movies, as close as a movie producer can be to having a guaranteed sale. So add this to the list.

Next, then-NYT reporter Sharon Waxman (now editor-in-chief of The Wrap, an entertainment-news Web site) quoted studio executives she didn’t identify concerning the new direction the 007 film series would take now that it had a new leading man:

For both Ms. (Barbara) Broccoli and Sony, executives said, the model was Jason Bourne, the character Matt Damon successfully incarnated in two gritty spy movies for Universal Pictures, “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

Note, this was published in Ocotober of 2005, months before cameras would start rolling on Casino Royale. There wasn’t a public hint that Eon Productions was even thinking about emulating the Bourne films, something that reached its peak in the first 20 minutes or so of 2008’s Quantum of Solace. In that film, the Eon team even hired Dan Bradley, second unit director of the Bourne movies. After Casino Royale, producer Broccoli said Bourne was never a consideration in interviews SUCH AS THIS ONE WITH UGO.COM and that Casino was inspired by From Russia With Love, not Jason Bourne.

Finally, there was this passage in the NYT story, citing Amy Pascal, chairman of Sony’s Columbia Pictures:

Ms. Pascal said fans would have to wait to see the movie before judging Mr. Craig. As for the online criticism, she observed: “Well, he is tall. He’s the same size as Sean Connery.”

Now, for the record, HMSS gave both Daniel Craig and Casino Royale a number of favorable reviews. So what we’re about to say isn’t a jab at Craig. It should be noted what Pascal said is demonstrably incorrect.

Connery, depending on your source, is generally listed at 6-foot-2 or so. Daniel Craig, again depending on the source, at around 5-foot-10. Now 5-foot-10 isn’t a midget by any means. But it’s a good four inches shorter than 6-foot-2. If Pascal wanted to brush off criticism of the choice, there were all sorts of other things to say. Don’t say something that doesn’t stand up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny.

Sony on verge of Bond 23 deal with MGM, Deadline says

Sony Corp., whose Columbia Pictures unit released Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, is on the verge of striking a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release Bond 23, the Deadline entertainment Web site reported.

That story, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, starts out thusly:

Deadline hears that Sony Pictures is close to landing distribution rights to MGM’s James Bond franchise again, and specifically for the next untitled Bond #23, even though several studios are still very much in the hunt.
(snip)

The new (MGM) brass, Spyglass Entertainment co-owners Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum who are now the Co-Chairmen and CEOs of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, are finishing negotiations to co-finance a number of films with Sony.

The story says such a move would please the heads of Eon Proudctions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. That’s not surprising. Sony cut a check for $230 million for Quantum of Solace’s budget, the most expensive film in the Bond series. Whywouldn’t they be pleased? Maybe Bond 23 won’t face budget cutting after all, which might have occurred if other studios won the rights to distribute Bond 23. Here’s how Deadline puts it:

(Sony studio executive) Amy Pascal in particular has developed a strong personal and professional relationship with (Barbara) Broccoli when they were making the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig. Broccoli and Wilson found Craig among a list of possible 007s, and the choice wasn’t popular at first. But Pascal supported Craig. Also Sony has a reputation for spending big to market Bond: for Casino Royale, Sony spent a humongous sum worldwide to introduce the new Bond. MGM was supposed to distribute the 23rd Bond film itself, until the studio was pushed into bankruptcy.

Sony also isn’t a stickler for continuity in films such as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. So that may also suit Eon just fine, as well.