GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.


SPECTRE: Wilson, Broccoli take the ‘producer’s mark’

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

The Spy Commander saw SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, on Thursday night. There’s something in the main titles of note: Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli use the “producer’s mark” with their on-screen credit.

Back in 2013, the Producer’s Guild of America reached an agreement with major movie studios for a “producer’s mark” to be attached to the names of the principal people responsible for producing a movie. This blog IN A DECEMBER 2013 POST asked if Wilson and Broccoli would accept the credit.

With a “producer’s mark,” the letters “p.g.a.” (for Producers Guild of America and to avoid confusion with the Professional Golfers Association, which is abbreviated PGA) appear after the names of the main producers.

The Producers Guild sought this because of “producer inflation,” where many people could get some kind of producer’s credit because, for example, they were an actor’s agent, or provided some financing even if they weren’t involved creatively or various other reasons.

The “producer’s mark” is voluntary. It has been pretty common on movies since mid-2013.

When SPECTRE’s poster came out, it appeared Wilson and Broccoli had decided against taking the “producer’s mark.” The poster credit just says, “Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”

However, at least with U.S. copies of SPECTRE, the “p.g.a.” mark appears after the names of Wilson and Broccoli during the main titles of the film itself.

Business of Bond: MGM goes studio shopping

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What studio will release the next 007 film?

Even as SPECTRE rolls out, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is gearing up its search for the next James Bond distribution deal, according to stories in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. That deal runs out with SPECTRE.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story by Ben Fritz:

Several studios are planning to pursue those (distribution) rights, according to people familiar with the matter, even though there is surprisingly little profit in releasing Bond films.

The Journal dug up a Sony document that saw the light of day because of last year’s computer hacking at the studio.

With Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, “Sony made just $57 million” on the the 2012 007 film, “a small sum for a movie with such a huge box-office performance,” according to the newspaper.

MGM made about $175 million while the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, made about $109 million, the Journal reported, quoting the same document. MGM and Danjaq, Eon’s holding company, declined to comment to the Journal.

Sony’s take might be even less for SPECTRE, according to the newspaper.

In the same leaked document, a Sony executive projected that if “Spectre” were to cost $250 million to produce and repeat the same box office as “Skyfall,” Sony’s profit would be $38 million.

The budget for “Spectre” is just under $250 million, said a person close to the movie, compared with $209 million for “Skyfall.”

MGM and the Wilson-Broccoli clan co-own the Bond franchise. MGM got its share after it acquired United Artists in the early 1980s. UA, in turn, acquired its stake in Bond when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold it in 1975 because of financial problems.

Despite the relatively small return, other studios are expected to seek to displace Sony as MGM’s 007 distributor.

“Here’s what we hear,” Deadline’s Anity Busch and Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “007 rights gatekeepers (MGM CEO Gary) Barber, and Wilson and Broccoli, will wait until Spectre plays around the world and accumulates an ungodly global gross that will only strengthen their leverage. And then, early next year, they will make the best deal. If that means bidding farewell to Sony, so be it.”

The Deadline Hollywood story does some handicapping about the prospects for different studios striking a deal with MGM. Busch and Fleming, in particular, play up Warner Bros. as a 007 distribution contender.

The duo write “a source sighted” MGM’s Barber and Warners chief “Kevin Tsujihara at the Montage Hotel recently…According to our source, the chatter seemed more intense than a meet and greet. It looked like they were throwing around numbers. Not surprisingly, Warner Bros has been oft mentioned as the most aggressive in this hunt.”

To read the entire Wall Street Journal story, CLICK HERE. To read the Deadline: Hollywood story, CLICK HERE.

Video released to promote SPECTRE title song

The official 007 website released another promotional video today, this one focusing on SPECTRE’s title song and music.

The video shows Sam Smith’s title song, “Writing’s On The Wall,” being recorded. There are also comments from the singer, director Sam Mendes and producer Barbara Broccoli.

A different story is told on the video concerning the creative process of the song. Smith has said previously, “It’s the quickest I’ve ever written a song – it took 20 minutes and they loved it!”

Broccoli’s version: Smith had “many meetings” with Mendes and reading the script thoroughly before writing the song. “I think it will go down as one of the greatest Bond songs in history.”

The video comes one day before a U.K. press showing and the movie’s debut on Oct. 26. It doesn’t come to the U.S. until early November. Here’s the video:

SPECTRE production notes appear online

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

Production notes for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, have APPEARED ONLINE at a website called The Bearded Trio.

Production notes are sent to theaters to promote upcoming films. The SPECTRE promotional notes include plot details and comments from those involved with making the film. Here are some non-spoiler excerpts from the SPECTRE notes.

When approaching the 24th James Bond movie, SPECTRE, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the filmmakers were keen to ensure that the film followed on closely from its predecessor, the $1.1 billion global smash Skyfall. Daniel Craig, of course, is back for his fourth outing as 007, while the characters of Q (played by Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) both return after their reintroduction to the series in Skyfall. The new M (Ralph Fiennes) also returns.

The chance to explore all these characters’ stories was of vital importance to Sam Mendes, who is back for a second stint in the director’s chair. “It all starts from character with me,” begins the Academy Award®-winner, “and I wanted to explore all sorts of different aspects of the characters that I’d left behind in Skyfall. We had populated MI6 with a whole new generation of people — a new M, a new Moneypenny and a new Q. I wanted to let those relationships develop and grow.”

Soon after, the production notes paint a picture of Bond getting his mojo back in SPECTRE.

“Skyfall was an entirely reactive movie as far as Bond was concerned,” explains Mendes. “In the first sequence he was pursuing somebody with all his old focus and drive, but he gets shot before the credits even roll and for the rest of the movie he is one step behind Javier Bardem’s character, Silva. You could even argue that at the end of Skyfall he has failed. He has not kept M alive, and though Silva’s death is a victory for Bond, there are other elements that are failures. Hence, with SPECTRE, I wanted to give him a chance of redemption.”

EON Productions’ Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, long-serving producers of the franchise, agree. “I think this film is very much about the empowerment of Bond,” says Broccoli, “and with Daniel portraying the character, he does this with such enormous integrity that we really feel what he is going through, emotionally as well as physically.”

Of course, we’re also told this isn’t your grandfather’s SPECTRE.

“What we’ve got here is a kind of creation myth at play,” says Mendes. “We are not adhering to any previous version of the SPECTRE story. We are creating our own version. Our film is a way of rediscovering SPECTRE and the super villain, setting him up again for the next generation.”

If you want to read all the production notes (and don’t mind spoilers), CLICK HERE. If you’re spoiler adverse, you can always book mark it and save it for reading later. You won’t see any spoilers when you first open up the page. Included in the notes are biographies of the cast and crew.

The Bearded Trio is a site mostly about “celebrating all the work from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and John Williams.” But it has also printed production notes from movies such as Ant-Man and Pixels.

Caveat Emptor (Cont.): Future 007 films to be set in ’60s?

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery relaxing on the Dr. No set

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during production of Dr. No in 1962

A British tabloid, the Sunday Express, HAS A STORY saying that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer plans future James Bond films to be set in the 1960s.

The change would occur after current 007 Daniel Craig departs the role, according to the story.

The tabloid quotes an MGM executive it didn’t identify as saying, “We’ll go forwards by taking 007 back to the era in which we believe he fits most.” The film series started with 1962’s Dr. No.

If true (a major qualification), such a move would be an even bigger change than 2006’s Casino Royale, which hit the reset button and started the series all over. Even with the reboot, Bond films such as the upcoming SPECTRE continued to be set in the present day, rather than as period pieces.

However, the story hints at the possibility of an even bigger change.

According to the Sunday Express, MGM has asked Matthew Weiner, creator and executive producer of Mad Men, “to head a new team to oversee Bond’s return to his heyday 1960s.”

The story doesn’t mention current 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, who’ve headed up the Bond production team since 1995’s GoldenEye. Wilson, 73, and Broccoli, 55, have been involved with the franchise for decades.

What’s more ownership of the 007 franchise is split between the Wilson-Broccoli family and MGM. That’s a pretty major detail that’s not even mentioned in the story. Do Wilson and Broccoli agree with this? It’s a point that’s not addressed at all.

At this point, caveat emptor — let the buyer beware — applies even more than usual with Bond-related items.

Caveat Emptor Part V: Craig’s ‘kind of secret plan’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

The Telegraph, IN AN ESSAY BY ROBBIE COLLIN has some quotes from another interview with 007 star Daniel Craig where the actor describes the “kind of secret plan” he had for the film series after being cast in 2005.

Here’s an excerpt:

I spoke to Craig around three weeks after he’d completed work on SPECTRE, and we discussed the necessity, as he saw it, of harking back to Bond’s past in order to push the franchise forward. (The actor has taken an unusually hands-on approach to all four films to date – influencing characters, shaping plots, and even reworking half-finished dialogue on the Quantum of Solace set during the writers’ strike.)

“I always had a kind of secret plan when I started doing these movies,” he told me. And this was it: by starting with the “stripped-back” script of Casino Royale, he wanted to reintroduce the series’ more familiar elements gradually, in a way that would make sense in a modern-day context – and “do it in as smart a way as possible, so that they’re not obvious”.

Bond fans who recognised the references would be delighted that traditions were being upheld in unexpected ways, while newcomers to the series would just see them as part of the “rich tapestry” of the world of the films.

“And that’s a lot harder to do than people think it is,” he said. “To do it with subtlety and wit and all of those things takes solid, solid work.”

What role, if any, directors (including Casino Royale’s Martin Campbell) ,screenwriters (including Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who’ve worked on all four Craig films to date) or producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had in the plan were not described in the essay.

Once more, let the buyer beware. Some fans argue Craig likes to have fun with the press. If that’s the case, it’s up to you to decide how much weight to give the actor’s words.

To read the entire essay, which covers quite a bit of ground about the evolution of the series from Pierce Brosnan to Craig, CLICK HERE.


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