A modest proposal for Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is in pre-production and is scheduled for a February 2020 release. What happens after that?

Here’s a modest proposal: What if the 007 film series becomes a series of one-offs — a series of anthology movies, not a continuing series, per se.

Every time a new Bond actor is cast, the assumption is they have to be around for a decade or longer. But what if that were no longer the case?

Consider this: Eon Productions is taking longer and longer to make 007 film installments. In previous decades, there were stretches when the series went into hiatus. But that was because of legal conflicts or studio financial problems (1974-1977, 1989-1995, 2008-2012).

With the 2015 and counting gap, there is no such external factor. This gap is a matter of Eon’s choice. It has enabled Eon boss Barbara Broccoli to make small-scale, intimate dramas such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool ($1 million U.S. box office) and Nancy ($80,000 U.S. box office).

At the current rate of production, there may be two, maybe three, 007 films a decade. Thus, the question arises whether it’s necessary for a Bond actor to commit to a decade-long stint.

If the one-off model were adopted, new possibilities arise. Perhaps you could do a one-off with Idris Elba to satisfy the market who’d like to see him play Bond. He’d be around 50 when such a movie would be made, but it’s only one and the Eon series has had actors (Roger Moore and now Daniel Craig) in the same age range.

Also, with a one-off model, you could try out a period Bond. a film set in the 1950s or ’60s, when Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories were published. You’d at least see how it plays out. And if it doesn’t work out? Well, you change the format the next film, no problem.

Is this going to happen? Not likely. But it’s worth thinking about given the current reality of the 007 film series.

Eon’s new normal: Update

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This isn’t your father’s James Bond film franchise.

Hire a new director? Great! Except, Cary Fukunaga has to deal with a new television project at more or less the same time.

Got your leading man back on board? Great! Except he began filming a movie just a month (or so) before the latest Bond movie originally was to start filming. Thankfully (from the actor’s standpoint, anyway) the Bond film got delayed until March.

Your latest James Bond film project moving ahead? Great! Except we have to get our latest non-007 project (The Rhythm Section) out of the way first.

When Eon Productions started operations, the idea was to make 007 films every year with other project in between. That lasted as far as 1963 (Dr. No, Call Me, Bwana, From Russia With Love).

Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman went off and did non-007 films (the Harry Palmer series, Battle of Britain) on his own. Albert R. Broccoli, the other co-founder, did one more non-007 project (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) while devoting the rest of his life to the Bond film series.

Saltzman, of course, is long gone, having sold his interest in the mid 1970s. Broccoli, before he died in 1996, yielded control to his daughter (Barbara Broccoli) and stepson (Michael G. Wilson).

Now, the main figures of the Bond series juggle 007 among their various projects. Fukunaga, hired in September to direct Bond 25, is only the latest. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have been doing it for years. Writer John Logan juggled various enterprises in 2013 and 2014 before delivering a first draft for SPECTRE.

One reader of the blog pointed out on Twitter that Marvel Studios directors Joe and Anthony Russo are cutting deals for future projects even while the untitled Avengers 4 is in post-production.

That’s true enough. Still, by 2019, the Russos will have directed four movies (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4) in five years for Marvel. During that same period, there will have been just one James Bond film (SPECTRE).

In the 21st century, the 007 film series is like Paul Masson wine. No wine (or film) before its time.

Questions for a Barbara Broccoli interview

Barbara Broccoli

The Metro website, in a story labeled “exclusive,” quotes Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli as saying things are just fine with Bond 25. “No, it’s film making,” she told the website. “We’re very excited about Bond and can’t wait.”

There really isn’t much more than that. The story has some background about Bond 25’s pre-production and some Broccoli quotes that previously appeared in The Guardian about how 007 will main a man. The new quotes apparently were generated thusly:

But producer Barbara Broccoli has laughed off fan worries, asking Metro.co.uk ‘concerned about what?’ when queried about the difficulties the production has come under.

Not that the blog is ever going to get the chance, but here are some questions interviewers might want to ask Broccoli if they get the chance in the future.

–You told a Hollywood Reporter podcast in December 2017 that “my heart was breaking” before Daniel Craig agreed to come back for Bond 25. Was it ever in doubt that Craig would come back? If so, when did the situation change and why?

Why did you announce in July 2017 that Bond 25 had a release date when no distributor was lined up yet?

Do you have regrets about the whole Danny Boyle-John Hodge situation? That appears to have cost Bond 25 months in pre-production time.

–Is the big Boyle-Hodge idea still part of Bond 25 or not?

–What can you say about Boyle’s departure from the project?

–What was the back story of how you signed on Bond 25’s new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga?

–What is it like working with MGM? The studio still hasn’t named a successor to the departed Gary Barber. What was Eon’s relationship with Barber?

–Will Bond 25 be Daniel Craig’s last 007 film? Or do you think you can get him back for future installments?

–Are intervals of four or more years what we should expect from now for the 007 film series?

Broccoli tells The Guardian 007 ‘probably’ will remain a man

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian that the cinematic 007 “probably” will remain a man.

“Bond is male,” Broccoli, 58, told the British newspaper. “He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.

“And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”

Over the past few years, various publications have speculated about women who could play Bond. Among them: Vogue (“6 Women Who Would Make a Killer 007”), The Independent (“James Bond: The Women Who Could Play a female 007 When Daniel Craig Steps Down”), Maxim (“10 Amazing Actresses Who Could Play a Killer James Bond”) and Newsday (“Jane Bond: 10 actresses who could play a female James Bond”).

A number of recent pieces along this line were published when Broccoli and her leading man, Daniel Craig, were taking an extended break from the 007 film series. The most recent Bond film, SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015 while Bond 25 won’t be released until February 2020.

Still, the question has come up long before now. In the late 1990s, there was a gathering at Northwestern University near Chicago where 007 continuation author Raymond Benson spoke. One of the questions from the audience was when Bond would be played by a woman or a person of color.

In The Guardian interview, there was also this passage:

Yes, she concedes, Bond cannot be considered a feminist property, but mostly because people tend to “reference those early (Bond) movies. It was written in the 50s, so there’s certain things in [Bond’s] DNA that are probably not gonna change.”

“But look at the way the world has changed. And I think Bond has come through and transformed with the times. I’ve tried to do my part, and I think particularly with the Daniel [Craig] films, they’ve become much more current in terms of the way women are viewed.”

Broccoli previously has taken credit for updating the way the film 007 interacts with women. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she said in a 2012 interview with the London Evening Standard.

Bond 25-related odds and ends

Since last week’s announcement that Bond 25 was getting pushed back to Feb. 14, 2020, there have been some related moves by other studios.

–A third Kingsman movie has grabbed Bond 25’s former U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019, according to multiple outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter.

Baz Bamigboye, entertainment news scribe for the Daily Mail (known for his 007 scoops) said in a Sept. 21 tweet that the movie would be set in World War I.

In response to questions on Twitter, he specified the following day the film would be a prequel to the first two Kingsman movies. So we’ll see.

–Originally, Warner Bros. had an untitled movie based on DC Comics characters slated for Feb. 14, 2020. Subsequently, Warners named the project — Birds of Prey, with Margo Robbie as Harley Quinn — according to various outlets, including Deadline: Hollywood.  “Mr. Warner” also moved it up one week to Feb. 7.

Meanwhile, not directly Bond related, but Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has a new non-007. It’s titled Till. The movie is “centered around Mamie Mobley Till, the mother of Emmett Louis Till, a Black teen who was lynched after being accused flirting with a white woman in the Jim Crow-era South,” according to a Deadline description.

Till will mark the feature film directing debut of Jesse Williams. Broccoli is one of five producers attached to the project, according to the Deadline story.

Bond 25 may decide Barbara Broccoli’s legacy

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

For Barbara Broccoli, Bond 25 may determine her career legacy.

Broccoli has produced a number of plays and non-Bond films. But being in the driver’s seat of the 007 film series will outweigh that.

Put another way: Her eventual obit will NOT have a headline of “Barbara Broccoli, producer of plays and dramas, dies.” It will read (more or less), “Barbara Broccoli, James Bond producer, dies.”

For the record, Broccoli, 58, is co-leader of Eon Productions with her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 76. In official Eon press releases, Wilson’s name is first, hers second. And, since 1995’s GoldenEye, the title card reads, “Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”

However, the Dec. 1, 2014 press event for SPECTRE made clear it was Broccoli was now in the lead position. Wilson wasn’t present. He would show up at later SPECTRE press events.

Nevertheless, the December 2014 event cemented a narrative that Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. and Dana Broccoli, was the lead figure of the franchise. For example, there’s this April 20, 2017 New York Times story that had this passage:

“…Barbara Broccoli, who runs Eon Productions. Moviemaking is a collaborative process, but Ms. Broccoli and her older half brother, Michael G. Wilson, have final say over every line of dialogue, casting decision, stunt sequence, marketing tie-in, TV ad, poster and billboard.”

Note The Times listed Broccoli first, Wilson second, the reverse of their title cards on 007 films.

However, that control doesn’t extend to financing. Eon has never financed its own movies. Others have always paid the bills. United Artists carried that responsibility in the early years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after it acquired UA in 1981.

MGM financial problems caused the longest hiatus in the 007 film series, 1989-95. An MGM bankruptcy was a major issue in the 2008-2012 gap.

The gap between 2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the franchise. This time, though, MGM financial issues aren’t a reason. Both Broccoli and her preferred leading man, Craig, wanted a break. They took one from Bond while pursuing other projects.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at during an October 2016 event sponsored by The New Yorker. “The producers are just…Barbara (Broccoli) is making a movie. I’m doing (the play) Othello, Barbara’s producing that.”

Contributing to the current gap was how Eon this year pursued Danny Boyle as a director for Bond 25. This occurred after long-time 007 screenwriters delivered a Bond 25 treatment, according to multiple media reports. But Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, supposedly pitch a spectacular idea that Eon wanted. On May 25, Eon said that version was full speed ahead. On Aug. 21, Boyle was gone because of “creative differences.”

Now, a new director (and writer), Cary Joji Fukunaga, has come aboard. “We are delighted to be working with Cary,” according a quote attributed to both Wilson and Broccoli in a press release. “His versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice for our next James Bond adventure,”

(Reminder: Press release quotes are written by those charged with drafting the statement. The principals then approve the quotes or suggest/demand changes. In this case, it’s unlikely either Broccoli or Wilson actually said this. That’s not unique to Eon. It’s true of virtually every corporate press release.)

The thing is, if Bond 25 proves an outstanding entry in the series and/or is a huge financial success, none of this will matter much. Pro-Broccoli fans will say, “I told you so!” The worst-case scenario, likely, is a popular film that fans have second thoughts about (like SPECTRE).

Nevertheless, Broccoli’s legacy does have a lot riding on Bond 25. Her chosen Bond, Craig, will have an unprecedented run as Bond (albeit one with delays).

Nothing succeeds like success. A combination critical and popular success (similar to or exceeding 2013’s Skyfall) will cause most to forget the various bumps. For Barbara Broccoli, a spectacular Bond 25 would put her at the front of the line to take credit.

No pressure.

A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Last week, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit confusing.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

There it is, contradictions and all. Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft?

 Maybe. But nobody seems to know at this point.

As a result, it’s hard to tell how developed the story really is.