‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

UPDATE (May 25): Alyssa Rosenberg, a pop culture blogger for The Washington Post, has weighed in with an essay titled “No, a woman shouldn’t play James Bond.”  Here’s an excerpt:

If our goal is for Hollywood to create action-oriented jobs for women that will be available for decades to come, then we need franchises that are built around women. We need roles like Bond’s, or Jack Ryan’s, or Captain Kirk’s that are designed to be occupied by a rotating series of women. Borrowing Bond’s tux might be a fun fantasy. But real power means a role we don’t have to give back to the men.

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.

007 homages in Angelina Solie’s Salt

The big movie opening this weekend is the U.S. is Salt with Angelina Jolie. We haven’t seen it yet, but those who have are noting various James Bond homages.

A.O. Scott, film critic for The New York Times (whose review you can read by CLICKING HERE) provides this comment:

Not that “Salt” matters much. Despite an overlay of geopolitics, the movie is as loud and empty as James Newton Howard’s score, which I don’t mean entirely in a bad way. The music does what it needs to do to amplify and inflect the action, while also paying subtle sonic homage to the brassy Bond-style soundtracks of the past.

Meanwhile, one Times readers posting comments to Scott’s review notes an early scene (Salt being tortured in North Korea) is similar to Pierce Brosnan’s 007 farewell Die Another Day. Another reader posted a comment that compared Salt and Bond in some detail.

And in the comments section of yesterday’s post on this weblog, Mark Henderson provides his own list of Salt-007 homages.

It should also be notes that Bond film veterans worked on the film. John Anderson’s review in The Wall Street Journal noted the work of one such crew member while not mentioning his work on 007 films:

Watching Ms. Jolie do her own acrobatics, under the direction of her longtime stunt coordinator Simon Crane, is a kick, especially in an era when our knowledge of special effects have so diluted the vicarious thrills of high-wire moviemaking.

Crane has done similar duties on Bond films and shows up in some of the documentaries on 007 film DVDs. You can read Anderson’s review by CLICKING HERE.

Salt was photographed by Robert Elswit, who performed the same duties on Tomorrow Never Dies and one of the editors is Stuart Baird, who edited 2006’s Casino Royale.