State of the Bond franchise: Mid-2022

I just did one of these posts in April. I really thought that would take care of things for a long time. I was wrong.

Comments from Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, originally reported by Deadline, suggest the Bond movie franchise is adrift.

If Broccoli is to be believed, Eon doesn’t know who should play Bond following Daniel Craig. It hasn’t determined the direction of future 007 films after Craig has retired from the part with 2021’s No Time to Die.

The key Broccoli quotes from the Deadline story

“We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond. We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Eon has been adrift before. Following Die Another Day in 2002, the company that has made 007 films had no idea where to go.

The source of this? Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli’s half-brother in a 2005 New York Times story.

“I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” said Michael G. Wilson, the producer of the new Bond film, “Casino Royale,” with Ms. Broccoli. He even told that to Pierce Brosnan, the suave James Bond who had a successful run of four films, he said.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

In a 2012 speech, Wilson further described the period involved.

“We had been working on a new script for a year and getting absolutely nowhere,” he said then.

As told by Wilson, Eon got out of its funk at that time when he and Barbara Broccoli talked and each wanted to adapt Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, start the film series over and recast the Bond role. The result, 2006’s Casino Royale, was a highlight of the Eon series.

What is old is new again. Except, for now, there hasn’t been an attempt at a script. Also, there’s no complete Fleming novel to use. Eon didn’t get the rights to the Casino Royale novel until a few years before pre-production began on the 2006 movie.

Michael G. Wilson turned 80 earlier this year. Barbara Broccoli is 62. Wilson has been involved *full-time* with Eon for 50 years. Broccoli has been involved *full-time* with Eon for 40 years.

The movie business is in flux. It is being battered by streaming and new technology. Bond (created by Ian Fleming in 1952) and its movie makers (whose first movie came out 60 years ago this year) are anchored in the 20th century.

Eon has had a lot of time to ponder a post-Daniel Craig future. No Time to Die, Eon’s most recent effort, wrapped filming in fall 2019.

If you take Barbara Broccoli at her word, in mid-2022, the Bond filmmakers still haven’t figured out where to go.

To be sure, keeping a film franchise going for 60 years is a great achievement.

Yet, where does it go from here? We don’t know. And the answer won’t be known soon.

Bond 26 questions: The how long (?) edition

Not coming to a theater near you anytime soon

So Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions, says (in remarks reported by Deadline) that James Bond is about to be reinvented and that filming of Bond 26 won’t take place for at least two years.

Also, she said, there’s no actor and no script. Neither will happen until the reinvention occurs.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

So when might Bond 26 come out? The MI6 James Bond website estimates “2025, possibly later.”

That makes sense. Two years from now is 2024. The film would then go into post-production and may not be out until 2025.

Are there potential complications? Amazon, the new owner of studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is yet to be heard from. Would Amazon try to pressure Eon to move faster? Or is the tech company satisfied with all the Bond programming Amazon Prime has?

Is this a surprise? No. Eon is not known for advanced planning.

Some Bond fans hoped it’d be different this time. No Time to Die completed filming in fall 2019. It then went on the shelf until fall 2021.

Eon had time to look to the future if it wanted to do so. But Barbara Broccoli said after No Time to Die came out she was celebrating the tenure of Daniel Craig as Bond. She didn’t sound as if she were in a hurry to deal with a post-Craig era.

What might take place because of this? No Time to Die stirred a strongly mixed reaction in the fanbase. For some, Craig/Bond’s death was a bold creative choice. Others strongly did not like it.

Now, that mixed atmosphere will linger, with at least a four-year gap between No Time to Die and Bond 26.

Anything else? It’s getting harder to imagine the likes of Idris Elba (who turns 50 in September), Henry Cavill, 39, or Tom Hardy (who turns 45 in September) being cast as Bond.

Yes, Roger Moore was in his mid-40s when he began his Bond run but that was a different era.

Yes, Craig was in his 50s when his run finally ended. But he’s a special case, given Broccoli’s strong admiration for the actor. She spoke more than once about being in denial that Craig’s time as Bond was ending.

Broccoli says Bond to be reinvented, Baz reports

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli says Bond 26 will be “a reinvention of Bond,” Baz Bamigboye of Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Broccoli said it will be at least two years before Bond 26 starts filming, according to Bamigboye. The Eon chief said there is no script and a search for the next cinematic James Bond hasn’t begun.

Bamigboye formerly worked for the Daily Mail and scored some Bond scoops that proved correct.

Broccoli made the remarks “at a star-studded private event in central London to honor Broccoli and her brother Michael G. Wilson for their BFI Fellowships.”

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

“Nobody’s in the running,” she disclosed. “We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond. We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Last year’s No Time to Die ended Daniel Craig’s five-film run as Bond. The movie ended with the Craig version of Bond being killed. The end titles still proclaimed, “James Bond Will Return.” Craig’s first Bond, Casino Royale, started the series over.

Much of the article is a description of the event, including former Bond composer David Arnold playing the piano.

Broccoli, Wilson receive British medals

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson today received Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) medals at Buckingham Palace.

According to a U.K. website, the medal is for “a conspicuous leading role in regional affairs through achievement or service to the community, or a highly distinguished, innovative contribution in his or her area of activity.”

The Eon producers received the Order of the British Empire in 2008, according to the Daily Mail. They have been in charge of the James Bond film franchise starting with 1995’s GoldenEye.

Here was the announcement from Eon’s James Bond feed on Twitter.

Broccoli, Wilson to receive BFI award

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions “are set to receive the BFI Fellowship, the top honor from the British Film Institute,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

An excerpt from the article:

The BFI said it was recognizing the pair’s “extraordinary achievements and enormous contribution to cinema, with arguably the best loved and most enduring film franchise in the world — James Bond — celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.” The two will receive the fellowship at the BFI Chair’s Dinner, hosted by BFI Chair Tim Richards, on June 28 in London.

Wilson turned 80 earlier this year. He has spent the past 50 years in full-time service in the Bond film franchise.

Broccoli, who turns 62 on June 18, has spent 40 years in full-time service for the Bond film franchise. Barbara Broccoli worked part-time in the 1970s writing captions for publicity stills for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Die Another Day’s 20th: Eon discovers CGI is hard

Die Another Day’s gunbarrel, complete with CGI bullet

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Die Another Day, the James Bond film where Eon Productions decided to go all-in on computer-generated imagery.

Eon had dabbled with CGI before, including the title designs of Daniel Kleinman who had taken over for the late Maurice Binder.

But Die Another Day was another matter entirely. First up was a CGI bullet fired at the audience by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in the opening gunbarrel sequence. Evidently, Bond was a better shot than anyone knew. He was able to fire a bullet into the barrel of another person’s gun.

Later, U.S. operative Jinx (Halle Berry) supposedly dives backward into the ocean from a cliff — supposedly being the operative word.

There was also an Aston Martin that could turn invisible. For Bond, it helped that the thugs of villain Gustav Graves didn’t notice the tracks the invisible car was putting in the snow.

But, of course, the movie’s most famously bad use of CGI came as Brosnan/Bond surfs to avoid being swallowed up by a tidal wave. Much of the sequence looks like a mediocre video game with insert shots of Brosnan gamely trying to sell the audience he’s actually concerned about the proceedings.

Director Lee Tamahori was a big enthusiast of what digital imagery would bring to the table of the 20th James Bond film.

The “manipulations” enabled by CGI “are endless and effortless,” Tamahori said. “The high-end action sequences that are done for real are still going to exist.” The rest, he said, might move into entirely digital effects. These comments were once on the Haphazard Stuff website but have since been yanked.

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

Tamahori was indeed correct that digital effects would become more prominent in future Bond movies. Safety cables for stunt performers can be hidden, for example. Also, mice can be created and rail cars can be added to trains. (For the latter two examples, CLICK HERE for a post about CGI use in 2015’s SPECTRE.)

Unfortunately for Die Another Day, the director and production company found out CGI is hard. Better execution of CGI in a Bond would movie would have to wait for another day.

Poor CGI wasn’t the movie’s only problem. For the first time, Eon decided to make a big deal about a 007 film anniversary (2002 being the series’ 40th anniversary). Tamahori & Co. opted to put all sorts of Bond film references that tended to distract from the film’s plot. Look, a set based on a Ken Adam set from Diamonds Are Forever! Look, there’s the Thunderball jet pack! Look, there’s the same electronic noise that accompanied the Dr. No gunbarrel! Look, there’s a Union Jack parachute! And on, and on, and on, and….

At the same time, Die Another Day proved to be the end of the line for Pierce Brosnan.

When the film was released, Brosnan said during talk show appearances that Eon wanted him back for a fifth Bond film and he was looking forward to it. Two years later, Brosnan got a telephone call from Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson informing the actor that his services were no longer required.

Brosnan was the last Bond chosen by Albert R. Broccoli. “The kids” were about to pick their own.

Tomorrow Never Dies’s 25th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new storyline. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released theatrically under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.

Mission: Impossible 7 (and Bond) questions

The trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is out. For understandable reasons, fans of the James Bond films are interested.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is Tom Cruise’s M:I series ripping off Bond? You might not want to throw bricks from inside a glasshouse.

Live And Let Die evoked “Blaxploitation” films of the early 1970s. The Man With the Golden Gun evoked kung fu films from the same period. Moonraker evoked Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (even using the same musical notes from John Williams’ score from the latter movie). Moonraker also has similarities to the 1966 movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

So how would you phrase it?

It depends on how well the ideas are executed.

Movie audiences, generally, don’t care about what ideas are borrowed from whom. They care about whether they like the movie or not.

What makes Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films different from the most recent Bond movies?

The most recent M:I movies (2011, 2015, 2018) are, for the most part, more fun than the Bond installments of the same period. According to Barbara Broccoli, No Time to Die was a “cinematic masterpiece” (source: No Time to Die official podcast).

No Time to Die enthusiasts would agree. Others may or may not say they had a better time viewing the three M:I films of the 2010s.

That’s all a subject for debate. The seventh M:I film won’t be out for more than a year. We’ll see how it goes.

Observations of a No Time to Die rewatch Part II

No Time to Die poster

The family theme: James Bond traditionally wasn’t known as a family man. But No Time to Die makes a big deal about a family theme.

That’s not me talking. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli played up that idea in a podcast interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She talked about Bond’s “MI6 family” and “his real family.”

Rewatching the movie, that comes through. Safin’s villainous scientist refers to Madeleine Swann and her daughter as “your family” to the villain. Bond (according to the closed captions for the movie) refers to them as his family.

Revisiting the SPECTRE scripts: There were some drafts of the script for SPECTRE (2015) where Bond shot Blofeld in the head. One draft (completed shortly before filming began) ended with Bond telling Madeline, “We have all the time in the world.”

Neither made it into the final film. But with No Time to Die, Eon doubled down.

In the pre-credit sequence of No Time to Die, Bond tells Madeline that, “We have all the time in the world.” Toward the end, just before Bond is blown to smithereens, Bond tells her, “You have all the time in the world.” And, of course, just before that, Bond blasts Safin away.

Scooby Gang gets to emote: It’s not just Bond (Daniel Craig) who gets a big death scene. Lea Seydoux as Madeline gets to emote. So do the Scooby Gang: Ralph Fiennes’ M, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Rory Kinnear’s Tanner.

“You promised”: Just before he dies, Bond tells Madeline he’s not going to make it. She replies: “You promised.”

At this point, Bond has apparently lost a fair amount of blood and isn’t moving around very well thanks to a few bullet wounds courtesy of Safin.

Did Bond really have to die? That’s almost irrelevant. The whole movie was designed to have Bond die. Quibbling about nanobots (couldn’t Bond’s EMP watch rid him of the nanobots?), etc., etc. doesn’t really matter. Bond was going to die. The question was how.

Broccoli: Decision on new Bond will ‘take some time’

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told Variety that selecting a new James Bond actor is “going to take some time.”

“It’s a big decision,” the Eon chief said. “It’s not just casting a role. It’s about a whole rethink about where we’re going.”

The Variety story was posted today. The interview was conducted Thursday in New York when a new version of Macbeth reopened after a temporary shutdown due to COVID-19. The play stars former Bond Daniel Craig and is produced by Broccoli.

Broccoli again sang Craig’s praises.

“He’s just the greatest actor ever, and I think audiences will be thrilled by this portrayal because he’s funny, he’s dangerous, he’s all the things you would want,” Broccoli told Variety.

The Bond franchise is in flux. Craig has departed after doing five films released over 15 years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, was sold to Amazon last month. The deal was announced last year.

What’s more, MGM’s two top film executives, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, are now gone. Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times last year that they wanted De Luca and Abdy to stay at MGM. That advice wasn’t heeded.

Separately, Amazon made a regulatory filing on Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing valued MGM’s film and TV library at $3.4 billion. Amazon also said it paid off $2.5 billion in debt it assumed from MGM.