Manic-depressive days waiting for Bond 25 news

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Nature abhors a vacuum. So in the absence of Bond 25 news, there’s the occasional 007 commentary that can come across as manic-depressive.

On the manic side, Forbes.com contributor Scott Mendelson weighed in with a Jan. 26 post about what a success SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, was at the box office. Part of the introduction read thusly:

So how did James Bond do this time out? Well, pretty darn spectacular, actually…(T)he film earned an obscene $877 million worldwide on a $240m budget, so it’s obviously a huge hit.

Depends on your definition of “obscene,” but SPECTRE did come in at No. 6 worldwide and No. 10 in the U.S. and Canada at $199.3 million. Neither figure was as good as 2012’s Skyfall but clearly SPECTRE was a popular movie.

However, Mendelson (who wrote a review saying SPECTRE was the worst 007 film in 30 years) may have gotten a bit carried away talking about how the film did at the box office.

“The next entry will probably be Daniel Craig’s swan song and will definitely be out by 2017 in order to capitalize on the 55th anniversary of Dr. No,” Mendelson wrote. (emphasis added)

A few things: 1) Daniel Craig is scheduled to be in an off-Broadway production of Othello this fall. The exact schedule hasn’t been announced, according to stories LIKE THIS ONE. But for Bond 25 to be in theaters in 2017, production may need to get started before the end of this year. Will Craig have enough time between Othello and Bond 25?

2) At this point, we don’t know what studio will release Bond 25. Sony Pictures’ contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expired with SPECTRE. It might be a little premature to assume a 2017 release until MGM reaches a new deal, either with Sony or another studio.

3) 55th anniversary? Do people really care about 55th anniversaries? This is the same franchise that passed up a once-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity to have a Bond movie come out in 2007.

Neither Michael G. Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli is anxious to produce movies on an every-other-year schedule (which a 2017 release for Bond 25 would represent). It really seems hard to believe they’d move heaven and earth for a marketing tagline of “the 55th anniversary Bond film!”

On the depressive side, there’s a Jan. 7 commentary on the Cultbox website. The post, by on the artistic side, makes it sound like Bond 25 comes at a critical time.

While entertaining in parts, for many the 24th official Bond adventure was one of the biggest letdowns of 2015. The Blofeld twist was the least surprising reveal since Cumberbatch was Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, and him being Bond’s foster brother somehow added precisely zero depth to the narrative and characters.

Coupled with a fondness for lingering silently on dimly-lit moments of supposed tension for an interminable length of time and Daniel Craig’s unease with playing the lighter moments, audiences were left disheartened with the direction the franchise had taken.

It sounds a little dire. Almost every film generates mixed fan opinion. The post does explore alternate ideas (getting a new Bond, sticking with Craig, making a period piece 007 film) and it makes for an interesting discussion.

Reading the two articles back-to-back makes for interesting reading. With no real Bond 25 news to chew over, we can probably expect more varying interpretations of the state of the franchise.

SPECTRE box office and its future implications Part II

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

By Gert Waterink,
Guest Writer

SPECTRE while one of the most popular movies of the year, won’t be as profitable as 2012’s Skyfall. SPECTRE cost more to make and appears headed to fall short of Skyfall’s $1.11 billion box office.

Part I looked at some factors that may have contributed to this. What follows is an examination of additional issues.

Too liberal producing style?
Current Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson seem to apply a more liberal working ethos as compared to their father/stepfather Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. The creative control over the Bond franchise has become much more a “shared responsibility” between the producers and the biggest cast- and crew members involved.

Daniel Craig is now a co-producer, a title no other Bond actor achieved. Connery wanted to be a full partner, but Cubby Broccoli resisted. Directors seem to have gotten more freedom with their desired cast and crew choices. And now bigger (and more expensive) stars have joined the Bond family and their wishes seem to have become more important too.

The Bond producers had to take some radical measures to rejuvenate the Bond franchise. With Skyfall and Casino Royale, this more liberal producing style really helped. But it does have its flaws, too. Creating the “perfect Bond film” has always been precarious.

With a more liberal producing style, you make that notion prone too much to more different interpretations. One actor wants the film to become a perfect closure in case he leaves the franchise after SPECTRE whereas a producer is adamant on continuing the Bond franchise.

The ambition to make a “perfect Bond film” with SPECTRE was there. For the most part it worked (I gave it 4 out of 5 stars! 7th out of 24 on my ranking list now!). But in the process, the different interpretations of such resulted in a slightly less coherent film near the last 20 minutes of the film.

The Sony leaks
The Sony leaks are a perfect example of a very unwanted bit of publicity. They created a strong narrative that was driving the attention away from the actual film.

Once actor Idris Elba was mentioned by former Sony executive Amy Pascal, the questions from movie journalists shifted away from the actual production of the film. Idris Elba became the “main object of desire” as opposed to current Bond actor Daniel Craig. And perhaps this facilitated some of the negative remarks made by Daniel Craig himself (“I’d rather slash my wrists”).

Secondly, the entire writing process of SPECTRE became public. While this shouldn’t be directly damaging to a film – the production crew of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation started principal photography without a finished script — it didn’t help the publicity of SPECTRE. Within the movie journalism community, “unfinished draft screenplays” were easily read as or changed into “final screenplay is all over the place.”

No one can prove if the Sony leaks damaged the publicity of the film, but it did shift the attention away from the tightly scripted Publicity & Advertising campaign that Sony/MGM/EON envisioned, making the P&A budget more prone to risk.

Reviews
The Sony leaks also made its way to review aggregate sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. It is not hard to find some reviews in which the narrative of the Sony leaks are part of the reviewer’s arguments for the quality of the finished film. Simply put: The ongoing narrative of the leaks made its way into reviews. Make no mistake, P&A departments take great pride in good reviews. They are especially important during award screenings.

Conclusion
It is only logical now that the next Bond film won’t and can’t be as expensive as SPECTRE. With such high cash investments ($350 million) and in comparison low box office returns ($820 million through this weekend), the factual, real profits will be simply too low.

Bond films are an A-brand in the movie business, so financial flops are out of the question. But they can become worrisome investments. The Bond producers know that and have downscaled the production budgets on numerous occasions. Take for instance the movies that followed You Only Live Twice and Moonraker, This will happen now with Bond 25. The rumors that director Guy Ritchie, who is now quite cheap in the market, comes onboard, should therefore be taken seriously.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson need to be careful with using (older) Bond films as a template for future success. The Bond film series is 53 years old. So what may look very familiar, and fun, to Bond fans, might look bland or unimpressive to general audiences. Every new Bond adventure therefore needs to feel entirely fresh. It needs to be a good Bond film but also a good film regardless of the franchise tag.

In an era where movies have shorter cinema runs, it should especially appeal to non-fans. Skyfall has proven that. Although it seems difficult to produce such a movie, I think it’s easier than certain filmmakers want us to think.

Also, the Bond films don’t have the advantage of an extended cinematic universe. It needs to be an instant hit every three years. Unlike Marvel, the Bond franchise can’t get publicity assistance from, let’s say, a Felix Leiter spin-off. With a tighter focus on the above factors, –-original/fresher action, focus on hit scoring anthems and music, tighter creative control & perhaps downscaling on casting/crew budgets -– one can better fight off those unwanted external factors like these ghastly Sony leaks.

PS: I do think it’s a very good idea to include Ian Fleming’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the negotiating process if MGM and EON Productions will sit together with Warner Bros. for a co-financing/distribution deal. There’s no harm in sharing financial risks between Napoleon Solo and James Bond.  :-)

Our final SPECTRE accuracy checklist

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE has been out since Oct. 26, so we decided to do one final checklist of the accuracy of various reports about the 24th James Bond film.

Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny would be “more of a sidekick” as reported by Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail in September 2013.

The scribe wrote that, “Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.”

In the climax of the movie, Moneypenny, M (Ralph Fiennes) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) do assist Bond and at personal risk. Sidekick is too strong a word, but Harris certainly wasn’t desk-bound. Check.

Christoph Waltz would play Blofeld.  The Mail on Sunday, a sister publication to the Daily Mail, REPORTED LATER IN NOVEMBER 2014 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.”

Waltz denied it. But it was true. Check.

–Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, not originally part of the crew, were brought back as writers. The Daily Mail’s Bamigboye reported that in JUNE 2014. It was confirmed in December 2014, at a media event where the title of the movie was disclosed. Check.

–David Bautista would play the movie’s henchman: First reported in LATINO REVIEW in October 2014. Check.

–Hoyte van Hoytema would be the director of photography: This was reported on the evening of Sept. 16, 2014, ON THE HITFIX WEBSITE and the morning of Sept. 17, 2014 at JAMES BOND MAGASINET, a Norwegian 007 publication. Check.

–Hilary Swank would be in the cast: The Independent, IN A NOVEMBER 2014 STORY</a>, 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.”  Didn’t happen.

–Monica Bellucci would be in the cast: The possibility was mentioned in passing  IN A DEC. 2, 2014 POST ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEBSITE</a>. Bellucci’s participation in the movie was announced two days later. Check.

For earlier examples, CLICK HERE for a Dec. 5, 2014 post on this blog.

 

A few questions about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As SPECTRE continues its theatrical run, questions emerge about Bond 25.

In November 2012, after the release of Skyfall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that John Logan had been signed to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. So far, nothing nearly that specific has emerged. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH 20 MINUTEN from Nov. 16 (text is in German) talked about work on Bond resuming “in the spring.”

With that in mind, here are some questions.

What happened to Daniel Craig being signed for Bond 25? Three years ago, the ACTOR TOLD ROLLING STONE, “I’ve agreed to do a couple more, but let’s see how this one (Skyfall) does, because business is business and if the shit goes down, I’ve got a contract that somebody will happily wipe their ass with.” (emphasis added)

Fans at the time read that as meaning Craig had a contract for two more films. In interviews done days after SPECTRE completed production, the storyline was different.

Craig told TIME OUT LONDON and ESQUIRE he didn’t know if he’d do another Bond film after SPECTRE.  Meanwhile, Michael G. Wilson, the other Eon co-chief, SAID IN THIS VIDEO that Craig isn’t under contract although he expects the actor to return for Bond 25.

Will any John Logan story elements be used in Bond 25? Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, said in an April 2014 interview with U.S. television host Charlie Rose that the story originally was envisioned as a two-movie arc.

But Mendes said a condition of his return to SPECTRE was the story had to be self contained. That confirmed a FEBRUARY 2013 STORY by Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail that the two-part movie idea had been eliminated.

It’s not known how much work, if any, Logan did on Bond 25 after the change in plan. Wilson, in the same video where he commented on Craig’s status, said Eon doesn’t have a script, an idea or even a title for Bond 25.

Who will direct Bond 25? Sam Mendes said after Skyfall he wouldn’t return. He recanted and did SPECTRE. He made the following comment IN AN INTERVIEW WITH DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD, that people have interpreted as he’s really, really not coming back to Bond again.

The pronouncements after the last movie were taken seriously and I then had to undo them when I agreed to make this movie. Without giving too much away, the difference here for me is, this movie (SPECTRE) draws together all four of Daniel’s movies into one final story, and he completes a journey. That wasn’t the case last time. There is a sense of completeness that wasn’t there at the end of Skyfall, and that’s what makes this feel different. It feels like there’s a rightness to it, that I have finished a journey.

If that’s really the case, who fills the Bond 25 director’s chair? Some fans would like two-time director Martin Campbell, 72, to return for an encore. He’s done TV work since the 2011 superhero movie Green Lantern, according to his IMDB.COM ENTRY. Meanwhile, Barbara Broccoli has said Eon doesn’t hire “journeymen” directors. So will another “auteur” like Mendes get the job?

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 224 other followers