Amy Pascal’s soft landing

Steve Ditko's cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Steve Ditko’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Last week, Sony Pictures announced Amy Pascal was stepping down as a studio executive but would get a producing deal. It didn’t take long for her next project to surface: helping produce a new Spider-Man movie as part of a JOINT MARVEL/DISNEY-SONY PROJECT.

Here’s an excerpt from the press on Marvel’s website released issued late Feb. 9:

(Culver City, California, and Burbank, California February 09, 2015) – Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.

Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.

Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.

Pascal drew criticism after hacking of Sony documents revealed how she criticized actors and made racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama. The hacks also included business dealings, including how Sony and Marvel were negotiating about jointly making future Spider-Man movies.

The hacks also included a draft of the script for SPECTRE, the James Bond movie currently in production, and how it stands to be one of the most expensive movies of all time. One email also showed that Pascal preferred Idris Elba as the next James Bond after Daniel Craig.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, according to A STORY IN VARIETY, Marvel’s Kevin Feige may end up doing most of the heavy lifting in this partnership. The story has more details how the deal came together.

Amy Pascal steps down at Sony

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Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, is leaving the studio to be a producer at the studio, THE HUFFINGTON POST REPORTED, citing a Sony statement.

Pascal will take her new position in May, the website reported.

Confidential e-mails by Pascal and other documents — including a draft of the script of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film — were made public last year by hackers. Some of the emails included Pascal making critical comments of actors and racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sony has released 007 films since 2006’s Casino Royale. Pascal has worked closely with Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, and has been viewed as an ally of Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss.

In some of the hacked emails, Pascal sides with Broccoli about SPECTRE’s $300 million-plus budget, the CNN/Money website reported last year. Separately, the Daily Beast last year reported that Pascal suggested Idris Elba be the next Bond after Daniel Craig.

Sony’s contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release Bond movies ends with SPECTRE.

UPDATE: The announcement confirmed a DAILY MAIL STORY that was posted earlier today.

Idris Elba praises Daniel Craig as 007

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Ever since computer hacks at Sony Pictures turned up an executive’s memo saying Idris Elba should be the next film 007, the actor keeps getting asked about it. Elba keeps trying to play it down.

For example, there’s THIS JAN. 28 BLOOMBERG STORY, which contains this excerpt:

“It’s really just a rumor—and it’s not even my rumor!” he says via phone from Germany. He has called me, an auto journalist, because the luxury brand Jaguar recently hired him to drive from London to Berlin in its new XE diesel sedan, the one that gets 75 miles per gallon. He drove it to DJ a Jaguar-sponsored party the night of his arrival in Berlin.

It was a well-timed publicity stunt. While it is true that Elba has long followed car culture—his father worked for years at Ford, and Land Rovers and a Jaguar XJR are his current cars of choice—the drive comes right after revelations from the Sony hack revealed that Elba was being considered for the title role in the next 007 flick.

For the moment, Elba says he is focusing on his life as a DJ.

“I appreciate you saying that I’d be a good James Bond, but Daniel Craig is doing a great job with it right now,” he says. 
”I love working with music, making people dance.”

The Sony executive involved was Amy Pascal. “Idris should be the next bond (sic),” she wrote in a Jan. 4, 2014 email, reported by The Daily Beast website. She’s dealt with Bond since Sony released 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s current agreement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expires after the release of SPECTRE, coming out this fall. Meanwhile, Craig is under contract through Bond 25.

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

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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?

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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.