Idris Elba: The 2018 007 wave

Idris Elba

UPDATE (4:50 p.m., New York time): The Hollywood Reporter quotes a representative for Fuqua as saying the supposed conversation with Barbara Broccoli never happened and the Daily Star story was “all made up stuff.”

Justin Kroll, a writer for Variety, had the following:

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ORIGINAL POST (tweaked to incorporate Fuqua’s denial): Three years ago, the blog said the Idris Elba/James Bond “debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.” Talk about an understatement.

It’s 2018 and this week the idea of Elba playing 007 was trending all over social media. It began a story in the Daily Star. The tabloid’s article said director Antoine Fuqua “chatted to Barbara (Brocccoli) about who will take over from Daniel Craig, 50, if he hangs up his gun after the next Bond film, due next year.”

Antoine, 52, revealed Barbara feels “it is time” for an ethnic minority actor to star as 007 and she is certain “it will happen eventually”.

He added: “Idris could do it if he was in shape. You need a guy with physically strong presence. Idris has that.”

There was no indication the Daily Star reached out to Eon for comment (and now we know why).

Back in December, Broccoli said the following in a Hollywood Reporter podcast.

Question: Would you ever hire a person of color or a woman to play James Bond one day?

Broccoli: Anything is possible. Right now, it’s Daniel Craig and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig.

Meanwhile, the Fuqua quote got cited in summaries produced by CNN.com (which asked Eon for comment), People, and Esquire. Almost immediately there after (but before Fuqua’s denial), fans debates ensued. Temperatures up in a thread on The Spy Command’s Facebook page.

Like the movie groundhog day, many of the same comments uttered before were stated again.

–Bond is white/it’s political correctness run amok/it’d be like casting a white guy as John Shaft. Of course, people of color have seen the opposite (“whitewashing”) occur for many decades. White guys (Olivier Welles) playing Othello, white guys playing Asians (like Mickey Rooney’s less-than-subtle performance in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s) or Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman in the title role, who was half Chinese, half German.

–Read the books! Where Bond has a scar down his cheek and Felix Leiter (played by two different black actors in a combined three movies, including two made by Eon) was a Texan with straw-colored hair.

–Elba is too old to play James Bond. Elba turns 46 on Sept. 6. Of course, last month saw the debut of Mission: Impossible-Fallout starring 56-year-old, age-defying, skydiving Tom Cruise.

–Elba is too old to spend a decade playing 007. The traditional expectation is a new Bond actor will be at it for about a decade. However, the hiatus between 007 films is growing. Eon will barely make three 007 movies in the 2010s, assuming Bond 25 meets its scheduled fall 2019 release date.

Assuming Eon doesn’t sell itself, will it mount, say, only two Bond films in the 2020s? Is the “Bond actor spends a decade in the role” model up for reappraisal? Could future Bond actors do one-offs?

Not that any of this is going to change minds. But it looks like this latest wave — goofy tabloid stories and all — is as strong as previous ones.

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Bond 25: Corbould returns, villain may be Russian

Veteran special effects man Chris Corbould has said he’ll participate in Bond 25 while the villain of the movie may be Russian, according to separate reports on Tuesday.

Corbould was quoted by The Express about working on Bond 25.

“I can’t remember being so excited about going on to a Bond,” Corbould said, according to The Express. “It’s going to be very, very special.”

Corbould has 007 special effects credits going back to 1987’s The Living Daylights.

The newspaper said Corbould spoke at a “roundtable interview” at the opening of 007 Elements. That facility, a kind of James Bond museum in Austria, opened last week.

“It’s still very early days and we’re still kicking ideas around,” The Express quoted Corbould as saying.

The MI6 James Bond website, which has a relationship with Eon Productions, published details of a Bond 25 casting call.

No character names were included. Parts were a “male leading role” (age range 30s-60s) who’s Russian; a “female leading role” (age range 30-45), also Russian; and a “male supporting role” (age range 35-55) who is “Authoritative, cunning, ruthless & loyal.” That character is a Maori.

It “appears that Bond 25 will feature a Russian male villain, a Russian female (likely be the villain’s partner and a ‘Bond Girl’ part),” MI6 said.

Bond 25, to be directed by Danny Boyle, begins filming in December.

Bond 25 has new production designer, fan publication says

Bond 25 will have a new production designer, with incumbent Dennis Gassner not returning, James Bond-magasinet said, citing comments made at the opening of the 007 Elements museum in Austria.

“Dennis Gassner is not doing the production design on Bond 25,” the publication said in an Instagram post. “The new production designer is Mark Tildesley. The news was confirmed by art director Neal Callow at the opening for @007elements.”

Gassner told International Cinematographers Guild Magazine last year that he was “about to do my fourth James Bond film.” Gassner took over from Peter Lamont starting with 2008’s Quantum of Solace through 2015’s SPECTRE.

However, that was before Danny Boyle emerged as Bond 25’s director earlier this year. Tildesley has been production designer on Boyle-directed movies such as 28 Days Later and T2 Trainspotting.

When the 007 film series began, Eon Productions had regular crew members such as Ken Adam (production designer), Peter Hunt (film editor) and Ted Moore (director of photography). When Adam was unavailable for From Russia With Love, art director Syd Cain essentially took over.

In recent decades, Eon has deferred selections for key posts to the directors it hired. That has been the case with directors of photography for years. Now, that trend is spreading to other posts. Thomas Newman, for example, scored Skyfall and SPECTRE because he was director Sam Mendes’ choice.

UPDATE (3 p.m. eastern time): Other fan groups have posted on social media while not mentioning the production designer news. Apparently, today was a press event at 007 Elements. The actual opening is July 12.

Daniel Craig visits the CIA

Daniel Craig

James Bond actor Daniel Craig visited the Central Intelligence Agency last week, the agency said on its website.

Craig was hosted by the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs on June 25 at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Here was the agency’s explanation for the visit:

Why have an international movie star and filmmaker visit the CIA? Because the CIA does not exist in a vacuum. The Agency is held accountable by Congress and scrutinized by the American people. While secrets must be kept and the clandestine nature of the CIA’s work held sacred, the CIA works, where appropriate, with the film industry to combat misrepresentations and assist in balanced and accurate portrayals. Visits such as this and the recent Reel vs. Real event at UCLA open the door to engaging with the public to humanize the workforce and demonstrate the many ways CIA’s work enhances national security.

Craig “met with our leadership and workforce,who explained that real life espionage is a lot more ‘cloak’ and a lot less ‘dagger’ than presented in the entertainment world of spy vs. spy,” according to an agency post.

The actor had talks with CIA “subject matter experts” and “learned about the many facets of intelligence collection and how our five directorates work together to advance CIA’s mission.”

Craig will play Bond for a fifth time in the yet-to-be-titled Bond 25, which begins filming in December.

For more about the CIA’s Reel vs. Real program, CLICK HERE. 

Bond 25 speculation heats up via Mark Strong video

Screen capture of now-withdrawn Instagram post by Mark Strong’s trainer.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So do James Bond fans interested in news — any news — about the next 007 film adventure.

In this case, the trainer of actor Mark Strong posted a video of Strong working out on Instagram. “Me and Mark Strong working to a new project,” read the caption. What followed was a series of Bond-related hashtags such as #bond25, #DanielCraig, #MarkStrong, #DannyBoyle and more.

The Instagram post was deleted as was a post on Twitter. Didn’t matter. In the absence of confirmed Bond 25 casting news, it took on a life of its own.

After appropriate qualifications, the Birth.Movies.Death website said this:

Mark Strong, meanwhile, is a great choice for Bond 25, particularly in any kind of action capacity. He’s a rock-solid performer with range, easy-going charm and a great comic sensibility, not to mention a known quantity for Boyle, who directed him in Sunshine.

Or, put another way, “We don’t really know, but here’s why it’s a good idea.”

It should be noted that Strong is a friend of 007 star Daniel Craig. Strong made comments in 2016 that Craig was done as Bond. It wasn’t a correct prediction.

In April, there was a similar reaction, when Dave Bautista put out an Instagram post of himself with a SPECTRE tattoo on his finger where a SPECTRE ring should be. Naturally, there was speculation whether he’d be back in Bond 25.

A year earlier, actor Jeffrey Wright put out a photo of himself from Quantum of Solace which geared up speculation he was going to be in Bond 25.

All of this was taken very, very seriously at the time.

So, we’ll see.

So who is going to buy 007’s home studio?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

It seems as if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s days are numbered as an independent studio. So who ends up with 007’s home studio?

A new era of media consolidation is underway. And MGM is a small fry.

AT&T Inc. has completed its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and other media properties. The move comes after a U.S. court approved the deal earlier this week.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, is trying to buy most of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

Comcast is offering $65 billion in cash after 21st Century Fox agreed in December to accept $52.4 billion in stock from Walt Disney Co. An all-out bidding war is expected from the two media giants.

MGM supposedly is trying to go it alone. But, in this new media reality, that seems a long shot at best.

MGM is mostly owned by hedge funds following the company’s 2010 bankruptcy. Hedge funds rarely invest for the long run. They mostly look for a quick turnaround. The fact that the hedge fund owners have held on to their ownership for eight years is remarkable enough.

Given how volatile the situation is, making a prediction about who will buy MGM seems foolhardy. But it seems likely somebody will at some point.

Comcast’s Universal recently won the rights to distribute Bond 25 outside the U.S. So Universal may have a foot in the door. Maybe.

Here’s another question worth asking.

Would a bidder for MGM get out its checkbook and buy out Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions?

After all, if you’re going to go to the trouble of buying MGM, shouldn’t you buy all the James Bond film rights? Especially if media companies are throwing around tens of billions of dollars for acquisitions?

Some Bond fans feel the Broccoli-Wilson family would never sell out. Star Wars fans used to say to the same thing about George Lucas before he sold the franchise to Walt Disney Co.

Interesting days may lay ahead.

MGM pays ex-CEO a lot of money to go away

Gary Barber, former MGM chief, has reason to smile.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has bought shares and options from former CEO Gary Barber essentially to make him go away, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Barber received $260 million for 274,392 shares the former chief owned plus options for almost another 3.9 million shares, according to the entertainment news website.

That was on top of about $15 million in severance compensation that Barber received after being fired in March.

Deadline said in return Barber agreed “not to engage” with MGM for three years. Reuters reported last month that Barber was looking into making a bid for MGM. This new deal would preclude that.

What does this mean for Bond 25? Not much. The main effect is Barber goes away, albeit with a lot more money in his bank account.

Had Barber actually mounted a takeover bid, it had the potential to be a sideshow as MGM and Eon Productions are in the midst of getting Bond 25 off the ground. Sideshow averted.