A few observations about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No real spoilers but spoiler sensitive fans should stay away.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in production for more than two months. But there’s been a bit of publicity this week. So here are a few observations:

It may be time for some new talking points: Actress Lea Seydoux, in Empire magazine, desecribed her character in SPECTRE thusly: “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, Seydoux’s character is like, among others, Agent Triple-X (agent who was “Bond’s equal in every way” as director Lewis Gilbert described her in The Spy Who Loved Me), Holly Goodhead (CIA agent *and* a trained shuttle rocket pilot in Moonraker), Melina (revenge driven woman who’s deadly with a crossbow in For Your Eyes Only), Pam Bouvier (CIA agent and pilot in Licence to Kill), Wai Lin (Chinese agent in Tomorrow Never Dies), Jinx (NSA agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) and Camille (another secret agent in Quantum of Solace).

Thus, the notion that a woman character is Bond’s equal isn’t unique or even unusual in the 21st century. It might be time to retire that talking point.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”: Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli told Empire that only “a very old version” of SPECTRE’s script leaked out because of the Sony hacks.

That depends on what you mean by “very old.” To the lay person, a very old script might be the first draft that John Logan turned in around March of 2014. Or it might be a draft before veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST (warning: spoilers), described a draft that existed after Logan’s story had been revised as well as memos from studio executives suggesting changes and that rewriting was happening in November, while filming began on Dec. 8.

On the other hand, if you define “very old” as something other than the version the crew has right now (dialogue if often tweaked during shooting), that would be accurate.

The Eon co-chief IN APRIL 2012 denied Ben Whishaw had been cast as Q in Skyfall and IN NOVEMBER 2012 that Logan had been hired to write two Bond movies. Both turned out to be true, though Logan’s scripting effort was judged to need rewriting.

The publicity machine is gradually revealing details: Broccoli acknowledged the title of SPECTRE refers to the organization featured in early Bond movies, but this is a new take. Normally, that’d rate a “duh,” but nobody wanted to say that much when the title was revealed in December.

Director Sam Mendes, in a video released by the official 007 website gave a bit of information about the movie. He even said that SPECTRE has more information about Bond’s childhood. Meanwhile, Whishaw’s Q was seen out in the field. Just like Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in Licence to Kill? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): Adding a question to the mix.

What was the story when Sam Mendes signed on to direct SPECTRE? Sam Mendes, in a video released by 007.com this week, says the reason he opted to direct a second 007 film, or any film, has “all to do about the story.”

But what story? Mendes’s signing as SPECTRE director was announced in JULY 2013. At that point, there even wasn’t a first draft script. John Logan didn’t deliver one until early 2014.

There had to be some kind of treatment, or detailed outline. The announcement also said the movie (then just called Bond 24) had a release date. We know through the reporting of Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail and the Sony hacking that Logan’s story was found insufficient and that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to revamp the script and it greatly changed.

Mendes spoke in a promotional video intended to sell the movie. But it would be interesting the next time an entertainment journalist gets an interview to pursue questions like these: What was appealing about that initial story? Are those elements still there? Was the scripting process tougher for SPECTRE compared with Skyfall?

Empire describes SPECTRE filming

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Mild spoilers, but no plot points. Spoiler adverse folks should just move on.

Empire magazine’s look at SPECTRE is out. While the story isn’t online, fans have been making image scans of the magazine pages.

A few highlights. No plot points discussed in this summary but those the spoiler adverse should stop reading. The magazine itself has more spoiler detail.

–There is a description of a fight involving Bond.

–There is a description of a bigger action sequence filmed in Austria filmed by the second unit.

–In a sidebar, Lea Seydoux repeats a Bond movie talking point going back decades. “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, the same talking points as Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 when describing the Chinese agent working with Bond in that film. Of course, the “Bond’s equal” character goes back to Agent Triple-X in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. In this case, Seydoux says she’s not an agent.

–Eon Productions does admit the title refers to the SPECTRE organization featured in Bond movies before the Daniel Craig reboot that started with 2006’s Casino Royale. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon, says “Okay, now’s the time to explore that (SPECTRE) again in a new and exciting and different way.”

— The film opens in Mexico.

–Barbara Broccoli says the script that got out during the Sony hacks was “a very old version.” The Gawker website on Dec. 12, based on a copy of the script and memos also leaked in the hack, said rewriting continued throughout November. The movie began filming on Dec. 8.

–In SPECTRE, “Bond is on top of his game, top of his form,” Broccoli told Empire.

Amy Pascal steps down at Sony

sonylogo

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.

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.

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.

Our updated SPECTRE accuracy checklist

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

With the Dec. 4 announcement that Bond 24 is now titled SPECTRE, along with disclosures of the cast, the accuracy of more reporting about the 24th James Bond movie produced by Eon Productions can be evaluated.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, not originally part of the SPECTRE crew, returned as writers: Baz Bamigboye, of the U.K. Daily Mail, REPORTED IN LATE JUNE the scribes were summoned to revise John Logan’s script.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012 that Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. Purvis and Wade later said they weren’t returning to the 007 series. Never say never again, as it turns out. To quote the THE OFFICIAL SPECTRE PRESS RELEASE, the script was written “by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.” Check.

David Bautista would play the movie’s henchman: First reported in LATINO REVIEW in October. The actor, who appeared in the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, was announced this week as being in SPECTRE’s case. Check.

Hoyte van Hoytema would be the director of photography: This was reported on the evening of Sept. 16 ON THE HITFIX WEBSITE and the morning of Sept. 17 at JAMES BOND MAGASINET, a Norwegian 007 publication. Van Hoytema confirmed the news in various interviews and his position with SPECTRE was announced this week. Check.

Christoph Waltz was in the cast: Reported by the Daily Mail’s Bamigboye IN NOVEMBER This was confirmed in this week’s SPECTRE announcement. Check.

Waltz will play Blofeld: The Mail on Sunday, a sister publication to the Daily Mail, REPORTED LATER IN NOVEMBER that Waltz would play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the new movie but be announced as portraying “an unknown character called Franz Oberhauser, son of the late Hans Oberhauser, a ski instructor who acted as a father figure to Bond.:

The official 007 Twitter feed said Waltz’s character IS NAMED OBERHASER. No additional details. Half right, so far. The other half remains to be seen.

Hilary Swank would be in the cast: The Independent, IN A NOVEMBER STORY, said, “Recently, the web has spawned wild rumours that she will be the next Bond girl, starring opposite Daniel Craig in the forthcoming Sam Mendes-directed 007 film.” Nothing was mentioned about Swank during this week’s announcement. Fail, at least for now, unless she pops up unexpectedly the way Matt Damon did in Interstellar.

Monica Bellucci would be in the cast: The possibility was mentioned in passing IN A DEC. 2 POST ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEBSITE. Bellucci’s participation in the movie was announced two days later. Check.

Examples from earlier posts (before the announcement of the SPECTRE title) follow.

Bond 24 and Bond 25 originally were to comprise a two-part story but the plan was jettisoned: The DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD site said in October 2012 that Bond 24 and Bond 25 were to be a two-movie story arc.

Then, BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL WROTE in February 2013 the plan was deep sixed and they’d be stand alone movies.

SPECTRE director Sam Mendes, in an April 10 interview on the PBS Charlie Rose show confirmed pretty much all of this. The move away from the two-part approach was part of the reason why the Skyfall director agreed to come back for Bond 24, he told the host starting around the 18:00 mark of the show.

Unfortunately, Mendes was in the middle of explaining that when Rose interrupted him with a question and no more was said on the subject. Check

John Logan hired to write both Bond 24 *and* Bond 25: Reported by the Deadline Hollywood Web site on OCT. 26, 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED? Barbara Broccoli in an interview on the Crave Online Web site published NOV. 12, 2012 denied it.

Congratulations on signing John Logan for two more scripts.

Barbara Broccoli: Well, we are working on another film in the future but we actually haven’t announced that we’re going to do two. We don’t know what we’re going to be doing.

Oh, so what was the news that he had a two-story arc?

Barbara Broccoli: That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.

However, the same week, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said on a conference call with investors that Logan had been hired to write the next two Bond films. Check.

Sam Mendes, after saying he wouldn’t direct Bond 24, is considering doing just that: reported by Deadline Hollywood in a story on May 28, 2013.

WHAT HAPPENED. Mendes, in an interview on the Stage News Web site published June 12, 2013 confirms that’s happening.

Mendes, whose Bond debut as director of Skyfall last year turned out to the most commercially successful of all the 007 films, grossing more than £100 million at the domestic UK box office alone and over $1 billion globally, added that he is in discussions to direct the next Bond film.

“But nothing is going to be determined until Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [now previewing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane] has opened,” he said. “I’m literally here from 8.30am to midnight every day, and it occupies every inch of my attention. So we’ll make decisions about that once Charlie has opened.”

Mendes ended up signing on for the project and an announcement of that, along with a fall 2015 release date for Bond 24 was announced last year. Check.

The Daily Mail was the first to report (also in a 2012 story linked above) that the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were departing the Bond film series. The writers confirmed that development with on Collider.com. Check.

Bond 24 title is SPECTRE, cast includes Waltz, Bellucci

SPECTRE LOGO
Bond 24’s title is SPECTRE, director Sam Mendes announced this morning at Pinewood Studios.

The director also confirmed the casting of actors Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Lea Seydoux and Andrew Scott, all of which had been reported but not officially acknowledged until today. It was an announcement only, with no questions taken from reporters.

The title appears to indicate that villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld will return to the film series. Mendes, however, declined to comment on the significance of the title.

Blofeld and SPECTRE were part of several previous Bond films but haven’t been in Eon’s series for decades because of legal complications. Rights to the character were secured last year in a settlement with the Kevin McClory estate. Blofeld’s last film appearance was in Never Say Never Again, the 1983 non-Eon Bond film where McClory had the title of executive producer. The U.K. Mail on Sunday has reported that Waltz will play Blofeld in the film.

Scott will play a “member of the Whitehall family,” Mendes said. Batista will play Mr. Hinx. Mendes didn’t specify what Mr. Hinx does but it has been widely reported Batista would be the movie’s henchman.

Mendes and Barbara Broccoli began the announcement but the co-boss of Eon Productions let the director do all the talking.

Besides the actors, Mendes confirmed the return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to the writing team.

Mendes only said SPECTRE has the same writing team as Skyfall, with John Logan, Purvis and Wade. The Daily Mail in the U.K. reported over the summer that Purvis and Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s draft. Purvis and Wade will now get a sixth Bond movie scripting credit. Only Richard Maibaum, with 13, has more.

Also coming back is Mendes’ preferred composer, Thomas Newman. Newman becomes only the third composer, after John Barry and David Arnold, to score multiple Bond films.

Daniel Craig was introduced last, with Mendes saying the movie would be “built around” Bond as all 007 movies “should be.”

Mendes also disclosed Bond will drive a new Aston Martin DB10 in the film. SPECTRE will have a seven-month shooting schedule.

UPDATE: Scott Hand of the 007 Forever page on Facebook passed along a press release that includes a plot summary:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

UPDATE II: The Bond Lifestyle website has a copy of THE SPECTRE PRESS RELEASE.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers