007 questions: Media consolidation edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Walt Disney Co. is buying the 20th Century Fox studio and most assets of 21st Century Fox. It’s a new media world.

So, here are a few questions from a 007 perspective.

What happens to MGM? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio is a runt among Hollywood studios. Disney agreeing to buy most of 21st Century Fox is the most prominent example yet of companies seeking to get even bigger in the digital age.

So what does MGM do? According to The Wall Street Journal in a February story, it spent much of 2016 trying to sell to a Chinese buyer. No sale.

MGM and Annapurna Pictures, a Hollywood newcomer, said Oct. 31 they were forming a new joint venture to release each other’s movies. Supposedly, the joint venture had the inside track to release Bond 25 in the United States. But that hasn’t been confirmed.

What happens to 007 home video distribution? Fox has an agreement to distribute James Bond films on home video through June 2020. But accords can change when the ownership of the one of the partners changes. Who knows at this point?

Does somebody make a play to control the entire 007 film franchise? When Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars), the bill was in the billions of dollars for each.

But Disney’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox is valued at $52.4 billion. That dwarfs the other deals Disney has negotiated under CEO Robert Iger, 66. Iger has agreed to stick around through 2021 to integrate the Fox assets into Disney.

When companies are throwing around that kind of money, anything is possible.

At the same time, Bond is a complicated animal. Control is divided between Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) and MGM. It’s not just opening the checkbook. Taking control of Bond means, probably, separate sets of negotiations.

Still, Bond is one of the last remaining properties not totally under control of a major studio. Will this week’s events prompt somebody to try seizing control of “the gentleman agent with a license to kill”?

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Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.

Bond 25 talk heats up

Bond 25 may not have an announced director or distributor, but talk about the next 007 film has geared up early this month.

Dec. 2: The Archivo 007 fan website says in a post that Christopher Nolan is “more than likely” to direct Bond 25.

The website said it got the information from two different sources, one from the Untied States and one from the U.K. “They tell us that Nolan will be the director and that he is already working on the film,” according to an English translation of the Spanish website.

–On the message board of the MI6 James Bond website, Archivo 007 was asked about the sources. “One is a film critic with ‘contacts’. The other works in the industry,” Archivo 007 responded. “Sorry, I can’t say much more.”

Dec. 3: Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail reporter who has had a number of 007 scoops proven correct since 2011, is asked on Twitter if there’s anything to Nolan and Bond 25.

“He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Bamigboye said on Twitter.

Dec. 5: The Express newspaper in the U.K. does a story based on the original Archivo 007 post. Archivo 007 isn’t referenced by name.

–A separate tweet said the word around Pinewood Studios is the Bond 25 operation will get to work in a few months.

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–The MI6 James Bond website ran two stories, one about the Express and Nolan, the other about the Pinewood tidbit.

“MI6 understands that shooting on Bond 25 is still expected to start around December 2018,” the website said in the latter story.

–Bamigboye, on Twitter again, is asked about his earlier tweet and why he spoke to Nolan. “I was interviewing him,” Bamigboye said in a Tweet.

Recap of Skyfall, SPECTRE director announcements

The past sometimes is prologue. Sometimes, not. But here are details when the director was officially announced for the past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Skyfall: Sam Mendes officially was announced as the director of the 23rd 007 film produced by Eon Productions on Jan. 11, 2011.

There had been news reports that Mendes was working on the film before that. But the official announcement was made via e-mail on Jan. 11. The same release had the U.S. release date of Nov. 9, 2012. Skyfall began production in November 2011.

SPECTRE: Mendes, after Skyfall was released, said he wasn’t interested in coming back. Nevertheless, on July 11, 2013, Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures, said Mendes would direct the then-untitled Bond 24.

At the time off the announcement, there was no script. Writer John Logan wouldn’t submit that until spring 2014. SPECTRE production didn’t begin until December 2014 after Near Purvis and Robert Wade submitted a rewrite of Logan’s work.

What does this mean? Roughly speaking, Bond 25 is a bit behind SPECTRE’s pace but can still match the pace of Skyfall.

There are still a lot of balls being juggled. Distribution (and therefore financing) still hasn’t been locked down. There’s no director of record. Still, at this point, Bond 25 can still easily make a U.S. release date of November 2019. That’s the date Eon and MGM announced on July 24, 2017.

007: News mostly about the past

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As 2017 enters its final month, James Bond is mostly looking backward, rather than forward.

News item: There’s an expanded soundtrack now available for Die Another Day, a movie that originally came out in 2002 — 15 years ago.

News item: Roger Moore’s diary written during the filming of Live And Let Die is to get a new printing next year. The original was published in 1973 — 44 years ago. The new version will be printed in hardback. It will also feature a forward by David Hedison, a long-time friend of Moore’s who played Felix Leiter in Live And Let Die.

But wait! Isn’t there a new 007 product coming out in 2018? True. That will be the second 007 continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz. It is scheduled to be published sometime in the spring.

However, the literary Bond, in the 21st century, is almost like a distant satellite of the larger 007 entity, the film series.

Which leads us to….

Bond 25’s status: As of this writing, the film officially has a leading man (Daniel Craig), a pair of producers (Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson), a pair of writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) and a release date (Nov. 8, 2019 in the United States).

And not much else. At least not now.

Around this time a year ago, the blog asked if 2016 was 007’s lost year.

2017 has been more eventful, but not by much. While Bond 25 has a release date, nobody knows — for sure — how it will get to theaters.

The Deadline: Hollywood website reported Nov. 12 that a new joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures was close to striking a deal to distribute Bond 25 in the U.S. But there’s been no announcement. And the Deadline report said international distribution hadn’t been decided.

Since then, no news. For most franchises, the distributor isn’t a big deal. The studio involved controls that. MGM, seven years after exiting bankruptcy, is trying to become a “big boy” studio again. But MGM, which controls half the Bond franchise, isn’t there yet.

And for Bond 25, an international distributor (assuming the MGM-Annapurna deal comes to be) is probably going to kick in a large piece of the production budget.

Obviously, there are things happening behind the scenes. Purvis and Wade have had enough time to complete a first-draft script. Whether they have or not is anybody’s guess.

James Bond can look back to a glorious past with certainty. The expanded Die Another Day soundtrack and new printing of Roger Moore’s Live And Let diary are just two of many examples.

An even bigger example: The death of Roger Moore in May naturally spurred a look back at his seven 007 films. He was the first of six screen Bonds in the Eon Productions series to pass away.

The future? That’s still a little fuzzy as 2017 nears its end. We’ll see if that status changes in the year’s final month.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of perspective: General Motors Co. said Nov. 30 it expects to launch a “ride-hailing service” of self-driving cars in the United States by 2019. Self-driving cars are supposed to be the next big thing in autos. If GM is correct, that service could be in business before 007’s next screen adventure.

RE-POST: Why Mendes shouldn’t direct Bond 25

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A year ago, a Sam Mendes film project went up in smoke. That got Bond fans talking whether he might return to direct Bond 25. Then, Mendes was attached to a Disney live-action adaption of Pinocchio.

But now, Mendes is no longer attached to that project. So, again, there’s talk such as THIS STORY in the Express) wondering whether Mendes might direct Bond 25 after all.

Originally the blog was going to ignore it. But, just in case, what follows is the text of a November 2016 post. All points still apply.

A major non-007 Sam Mendes project, a movie adaptation of The Voyeur’s Hotel, has evaporated, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website. That’s because of a documentary coming out concerning the person who is the the same subject as the non-fiction book.

That has gotten some James Bond fans wondering if Mendes could be available to direct Bond 25 (whenever it gets made) after helming Skyfall and SPECTRE.

To quote a retired comic, “Oh, I hope not.” Here are some reasons why.

He’s never sounded enthusiastic about directing a third Bond film: In July 2015, he told the BBC that, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.”

In May 2016, according to a story by The Associated Press, he said: “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

(That AP link has been broken. However, here’s a Deadline: Hollywood story about the same event with the same quote.)

Directing a Bond film is a big undertaking. If he has even the slightest doubt (and it sounds he has big doubts), he shouldn’t attempt it.

Enough with the homages: Skyfall had homages to past Bond films, including bringing back the Goldfinger version of the Aston Martin DB5.

That continued with SPECTRE. The DB5, despite being blown to smithereens in Skyfall, is miraculously put back together in SPECTRE. A fight between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Hinx (Dave Bautista) seemed modeled after a similar scene in From Russia With Love. The Independent published a story listing other homages.

Mendes can’t help himself. The next movie, when ever it may come out, needs a break from homages.

No more boasting:  In an April 2014 interview on The Charlie Rose Show, Mendes said he cast all the major supporting characters, including Tanner.

Problem: Tanner was played by Rory Kinnear, who first portrayed the character in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a film Mendes had nothing to do with.

Mendes also claimed that in Skyfall “for the first time characters were allowed to age.” Problem: He’s wrong, it happened a number of times in Bond films.

Enough already.

If Mendes comes back, that means Thomas Newman comes back as composer: Newman is Mendes’ guy. Fans have mixed opinions about Newman’s work on Skyfall. He did get an Oscar nomination but didn’t win.

However, with SPECTRE, it was clear that Newman had run out of ideas. He recycled a number of Skyfall music bits in SPECTRE. That’s true not just of the compositions, but the sound and orchestration.

John Barry used the 007 theme in five Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker). But it had different arrangements and orchestration each time. The repeated music in SPECTRE sounds the same as it did in Skyfall.

What’s more, based on his other work, it’s clear that smaller-scale dramas (such as Bridge of Spies) are more in Newman’s wheelhouse. He’s a talented composer with such films. Bond films just aren’t his strength.

Let someone else have a try on Bond 25. But that probably won’t happen if Mendes is back as director.

MGM says Bond 25 distribution not resolved

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said today that distribution — and presumably financing — of Bond 25 has not been resolved.

“Distribution plans for Bond 25 still have not been announced and we are continuing discussions with a variety of potential partners,” MGM chief Gary Barber said on an investor call. “We look forward to sharing more details on Bond 25 on future calls.”

Deadline: Hollywood reported Sunday that a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures was close to being named U.S. distributor for the next James Bond film. An international distributor has not yet been selected, Deadline said.

The last four 007 films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 without a distribution operation. MGM films were co-financed and distributed by various studios.

On the call, Barber talked up the joint venture with Annapurna.

“We decided the time was right to be less dependent on co-production partners to theatrically distribute our theatrical films,” Barber said.

The first MGM film to be distributed by the joint venture will be a remake of Death Wish early next year.