What is Wilson’s role in the 007 franchise?

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Over the past year, a narrative has taken hold that it’s Barbara Broccoli who calls the shots for the James Bond franchise. Period. Full stop.

Perhaps the person most responsible for shaping that narrative is Sam Mendes, director of the past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

“It’s not the X Factor, it’s not the EU referendum, it’s not a public vote,” Mendes said in May at an event sponsored by The Telegraph, which ran a story about the director’s remarks. “Barbara Broccoli chooses who’s going to be the next Bond: end of story.”

The comments were picked up by the likes of Vanity Fair and the BBC, among others.

As a result, there’s the perception that Broccoli, 56, is the driving force of 007 land. Meanwhile, her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 74, doesn’t get mentioned much, even though the half-siblings are supposed to be the co-bosses of Eon.

In December 2014, when it was announced SPECTRE would be the title of Bond 24, Broccoli was present with Mendes but Wilson wasn’t. However, when the production shifted to Mexico in early 2015, Wilson was involved in publicity.

This weekend, the tabloid Mirror ran a story saying Guy Ritchie was in talks with Eon to direct Bond 24. One element that caught the blog’s eye was how the Mirror said Ritchie supposedly was meeting with Wilson, rather than Broccoli. (Note: we slapped the Caveat Emptor label on it.)

It’s hard to tell how accurate, or significant, the Mirror story is. It’s simply interesting that Wilson is being depicted as a major decision maker after the way Mendes made it sound as if nobody’s opinion except Broccoli’s matters.

Of late, stories about the 007 franchise discuss Broccoli but don’t get around to Wilson.

Wilson, since the 1990s, have periodically complained about the grind of making James Bond movies. That’s something his step father, Albert R. Broccoli, never said publicly.

Wilson has spent longer than anybody else working on the 007 franchise, even co-founder Cubby Broccoli. If Wilson were to retire tomorrow, nobody could argue that he wasn’t a major figure in 007 movies.

Neither Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli revel in publicizing Bond movies the way Cubby Broccoli did. Eon is a very private outfit, not wanting to open the curtain very much on its operations.

Still, the Mirror story (whether it was accurate or not) was a reminder that Wilson is a big wheel in the 007 franchise. It would be interesting to know whether Mendes is indeed correct about Barbara Broccoli’s 007 status or if reality is more complicated.

Caveat Emptor: Tabloid says Ritchie may direct Bond 25

Armie Hammer with U.N.C.L.E. movie director Guy Ritchie in 2013

Armie Hammer with U.N.C.L.E. movie director Guy Ritchie in 2013

Guy Ritchie is in talks to direct Bond 25, the tabloid Mirror said in a story this weekend.

The director purportedly had meetings with Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, according to the tabloid.

As you might expect, the only person quoted isn’t identified.

“Guy has moved up the shortlist and is now the front runner,” the Mirror quoted an unidentified source as saying. “He’s meeting Michael (Wilson) this week to try to do a deal and see if they can agree on a shared vision for the film.”

The Mirror first raised the notion of Ritchie directing Bond 25 in a December story.

Reasons for the Caveat Emptor label concerning this newest story:

–The Mirror says, “Following on from the success of last year’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Guy caught the attention of the Bond team.”

What success? The $75 million production had worldwide box office of less than $110 million. Does Eon check out directors of flops as future Bond directors?

This blog had a positive review of the U.N.C.L.E. movie. But it was still a flop at the box office.

–The story depicts Michael G. Wilson as being actively involved. Given his status at Eon, that should be expected. However, over the past year, Barbara Broccoli has been depicted (by Sam Mendes, among others) as the driving force at Eon. Wilson hardly gets mentioned any more.

The Mirror story is a deviation from a story line that has taken hold for some time now. Wilson is concerned with the vision of Bond 25? Again, that shouldn’t be a surprise. However, supposedly, Barbara Broccoli deals with vision and is the only one who selects Bond actors.

Craig angered MGM chief, Vanity Fair says

Poster for SPECTRE

Poster for SPECTRE

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top executive was angered last year when SPECTRE star Daniel Craig said he’s rather “slash my wrists” than play James Bond again, Vanity Fair reported.

The disclosure was part of a broader story mostly intended to knock down last weekend’s Radar Online story that the actor is being offered $150 million to do two more 007 films. (The publication says the offer is “is as fictional as Francisco Scaramanga’s third nipple”).

Here’s an excerpt that concerns MGM’s CEO, Gary Barber:

Craig’s “slash my wrists” comment didn’t exactly endear him to MGM’s chief executive and chairman Gary Barber who, Vanity Fair has learned, personally contacted the actor last year to express his frustration in no uncertain terms. (An email to Craig’s publicist was not immediately returned.)

“Gary hit the ceiling when he read the story,” says a source with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. “He called up Daniel to yell at him. He was furious.”

Quick recap: Craig made the mark in an interview with Time Out London. The interview was conducted a few days after the seven-month shoot of SPECTRE was completed but not published until October.

The article was in Q&A format and the “slash my wrists” comment was in response to the 17th of 22 questions. Neverthless, other outlets jumped on the quote, leading with it in their summaries of the interview. Craig fans have been crying foul ever since on social media.

This isn’t the first time something like this has been reported. The New York Post’s Page Six gossip page  said 11 months ago that executives at Sony Pictures, which co-financed SPECTRE with MGM, had told Craig to shut up.

Vanity Fair, though, is considerably higher brow than the tabloid New York Post. The Vanity Fair story also says Craig still is contractually obligated to do another Bond movie. Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, said last year that Craig is not.

To read the entire Vanity Fair story, CLICK HERE.

Celebrating 35 years of Eon-MGM dysfunction

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the uneasy alliance between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After all this time, the relationship doesn’t appear to be getting any easier.

In 1981, MGM acquired United Artists after insurance conglomerate Transamerica Corp. threw up its hands, opting to get rid of UA and exit the movie business. UA had just dropped a big flop, Heaven’s Gate. Transamerica, which acquired UA in 1967, had enough.

Eon (and its parent company Danjaq) had a reasonably warm relationship with UA.

United Artists simply released the first nine Bond films made by Eon. The studio (which coughed up the money to actually make the movies) occasionally influenced the films. Most famously, it was UA that insisted on bringing Sean Connery back to play 007 in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. But for the most part, Eon had a pretty long leash.

The two sides grew closer after UA bought out Harry Saltzman’s stake in the 007 franchise in 1975 when the Danjaq-Eon co-founder ran into financial trouble. Still, UA executives thought a lot about Eon chief Albert R. Broccoli, including maintaining an office for him at UA headquarters in New York.

When MGM bought UA, things changed. The 2015 book Some Kind of Hero by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury goes into some detail about this. Budgets tightened, as did studio oversight. There was a Danjaq-Eon lawsuit when MGM ownership changed at one point, a catalyst in the 1989-1995 hiatus in 007 film production.

Even after the lawsuit was settled, there was tension. Things were never as warm between Eon and MGM as when Broccoli and Saltzman cut their first deal with UA in 1961.

It didn’t help that MGM was long past its prime even in 1981, when it first got into the Bond business. By that point, MGM simply didn’t have the resources as other major studios.

By the mid-2000s, MGM was barely a studio. Sony Pictures actually released the last four James Bond movies, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s Columbia Pictures logo appeared with MGM’s Leo the Lion logo at the start of 007 films.

After a 2010 bankruptcy, MGM was mostly a television company, making series for cable channels. It financed a few movies annually, but released none of them. MGM cut deals with other studios to co-finance them, with the partner studios actually releasing them.

While in bankruptcy, MGM produced a business plan saying it would ramp up 007 film production to every other year. That may have helped get bankruptcy court approval. But Barbara Broccoli, current co-boss of Eon, made clear in 2012 she had no plans to make Bond films that quickly.

MGM chief Gary Barber

MGM chief Gary Barber

Gary Barber, who became MGM chief during the bankruptcy, backed off. These days he doesn’t even mention that bankruptcy court business plan. Earlier this year, he said 007 films would come out on a “three-to-four-year cycle.”

Occasionally, on investor conference calls, Barber refers to “our partners at Danjaq.” Barbara Broccoli, meanwhile, doesn’t talk about MGM much.

Barber is trying to demonstrate that MGM is a viable company beyond James Bond. In part, that’s because MGM wants to sell stock to the public in three to five years.

This weekend, however, MGM got a reality check. Its Ben-Hur remake (released by Paramount) flopped badly. MGM only makes a few movies a year, so any flop is more painful compared with major studios.

For now, Eon/Danjaq and MGM are more or less in the same place they were 35 years ago.

MGM needs Eon to make James Bond films, still the studio’s biggest asset. Meanwhile, Barbara Broccoli wants to make dramas that have nothing to do with James Bond.

At the same time, Eon/Danjaq can’t make James Bond films without doing business with MGM, as much as Eon/Danjaq might like to do so.

It’s a cliche, but true. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

Craig’s Purity television series will be completed in 2017

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

Daniel Craig’s Purity limited television series on Showtime will complete production in 2017, according to the DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD entertainment news website.

The site quotes Showtime CEO David Nevins as saying Purity “will largely be completed during the course of 2017.” As a result, Nevins said, the series doesn’t preclude Craig, 48, from doing another 007 film depending on “when they do the next James Bond movie.”

Craig is the star and an executive producer of Purity. The series will run for 20 episodes, to be telecast in 2017 and 2018.

Purity is the most time-intensive of Craig’s current non-007 projects. He’s a cast member of Logan Lucky, a heist movie directed by Steven Soderbergh that begins filming in the fall. He also is in the cast of an off-Broadway production of Othello, which runs Dec. 5 through Jan. 15.

As for Bond 25, no schedule has been announced as Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli produces non-007 films.

About the SPECTRE gunbarrel logo

RIP classic 007 gunbarrel (1962-2002)

Original gunbarrel as seen from Dr. No through Goldfinger.

Back in 2012, this blog ran a post that raised the question whether the gunbarrel logo would ever begin a James Bond movie again.

In 2015, the answer, finally was yes with SPECTRE.

At the time, this blog didn’t comment much. After all, it doesn’t seem like good form to complain about getting something you wanted.

Since then, we’ve been reminded there were a few oddities about SPECTRE’s gunbarrel. For example, the Being James Bond website, IN THIS VIDEO, noted that Daniel Craig’s 007 wildly swings his right arm so that you can see Bond openly is carrying a gun. Not exactly an inconspicuous wielding of a firearm by a secret agent.

The website also noted that the three-dimensional gunbarrel effect that began with GoldenEye wasn’t used in SPECTRE.

Something else to consider: The SPECTRE gunbarrel uses a different musical arrangement from previous Bond movies. There’s a soft arrangement of The James Bond Theme that plays under the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures/Sony logos.

Back in the “old days,” there was no music over studio logos. Music didn’t begin until the white dots began moving across the screen.

With SPECTRE, the music with the studio logs is followed by the start of gunbarrel music per se. But there’s a delay between the start of the white dots going across the screen and the time the last dot opens up to reveal Bond on the right side of the screen.

On the Being James Bond video, there’s speculation that the filmmakers really didn’t want to put the gunbarrel at the start of the film.

We guess Being James Bond is correct. With Skyfall, there was a song and dance about how a gunbarrel at the beginning just wouldn’t, couldn’t, etc. work. IN A 2012 INTERVIEW, Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli clearly was NOT promising the gunbarrel would be at the start of the next movie. “It will vary from film to film,” she said at the time.

As an aside, it should be noted that Daniel Craig is the only Bond to get to film a different gunbarrel for each 007 film he did.

Prior to Craig:

–Stuntman Bob Simmons’ gunbarrel was used for the first three Bond films.

–The same Sean Connery gunbarrel was used for three movies (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever).

–George Lazenby only did one, naturally. (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)

–Roger Moore did two (one for Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, the other for his other five 007 films)

–Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan only had one on-screen gunbarrel in their films (although Brosnan got another for a trailer only).

Regardless, the SPECTRE gunbarrel will have to do. It doesn’t appear we’ll be seeing another version anytime soon.

Eon’s new normal, the sequel

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Almost three years ago, this blog had a post titled Eon’s new normal which said, “The new normal: A Bond film maybe every third year (Bond 24, the next movie is scheduled for the fall of 2015), with various other projects in-between.”

In March of this year, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in effect confirmed that was the case concerning Eon, the company that makes 007 films and is a partner with MGM in the Bond franchise.

The 007 films have “been on a cycle of every three to hour years and I anticipate it will be on that same three-to-four year cycle,” Barber said on a conference call with investors and analysts. (MGM reported second-quarter 2016 results on Wednesday but had no 007 news.)

Essentially, Eon can’t make Bond films without MGM and vice versa. This goes back to the early 1980s when MGM acquired United Artists. UA, in turn, had acquired Harry Saltzman’s share of the 007 franchise in the mid-1970s.

Since our 2013 post, it has become evident that Eon, and its co-boss Barbara Broccoli, do not want to be rushed into making James Bond films. Eon’s current production is Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, a drama about American actress Gloria Grahame.

In the “old days,” Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, the Eon co-founders, pursued non-Bond projects while cranking out classic 007 films on a regular schedule.

In the second decade of the 21st century, not so much. There was a four-year gap between Die Another Day and Casino Royale (2002-2006). Quantum of Solace came just two years later. But another four-year gap followed, mostly because of an MGM bankruptcy (2008-2012) between Quantum of and Skyfall.

Skyfall was a huge hit, and the first (and so far only) Bond to crack the $1 billion club. An executive of Sony (which released the movie for MGM) said the next film would be out in two years. However, Broccoli and star Daniel Craig told Collider.com in 2012, in effect, that exec didn’t know what he was talking about.

Broccoli won out. SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, came out three years later, in 2015.

Some fans, to this day, insist that three-year gap was because Eon was waiting on Sam Mendes to direct another film. But it’s very clear that Barbara Broccoli does not want to resume an every-other-year schedule, including comments she made in a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

On internet message boards, 007 fans debate whether Daniel Craig will come back or not for another Bond film. The real debate is whether Bond movies will come out three times a decade, or just twice.

A related question: Is the 007 fan base growing or static? Skyfall, in a way, was helped by its four-year gap. Fans were anxious to finally see another James Bond film. Is that the right approach for the future?

Regardless, as we said three years ago, there’s a new normal for Eon. The details are still being hammered out.