Film and literary 007: Is there a plan going forward?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

In the next year, James Bond fans (hopefully) will get to view a new film (No Time to Die) and a new novel (title yet to be chosen).

What happens after that? Does either the cinematic Bond or the literary Bond have a plan for the future?

No Time to Die was filmed in 2019 after starting pre-production two years earlier. A third 007 continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz was announced today by Ian Fleming Productions.

The thing is, the film and literary franchises are on the same track. Each pushes out “events” with no regular releases.

Back in the day, Ian Fleming cranked out novels annually. This was copied during the continuation novel eras of John Gardner and Raymond Benson. Since then? Not so much.

Once upon a time, James Bond movies came out every two or three years. Today? Absolutely not. If No Time to Die makes its (current ) release date, it will have been a six-year gap since SPECTRE.

With the novel, Anthony Horowitz has made an impact with readers. But he operates in the original Ian Fleming timeline. He’s done mid-career (Trigger Mortis) and and the start of his career (Forever And a Day). The new novel picks up with the end of Fleming’s final novel, The Man With the Golden Gun.

Back in 2010, Ian Fleming Publications hired Jeffery Deaver to do a new novel (Carte Blanche) that was supposed to be a start of a new, timeshifted series. Remember that? Well, here’s a video where he talked about the concept:

Never mind. Deaver’s novel was never followed up upon.

Is there anyplace yet to go with the current course? Horowitz comes out with another novel with Bond at the one-quarter phase of his career? His three-quarter phase? His five-sixth phase?

With the films? Who knows. Eon opted to reboot things with 2006’s Casino Royale. No Time to Die (apparently) deals with many loose ends after 2015’s SPECTRE.

Fine. But what happens with Bond 26, whenever that comes out?

Netflix is paying more than $400 million for two Knives Out sequels. It’s hard to imagine Daniel Craig (who has suffered various injuries playing Bond) coming back to play Bond again when he can make good money with less stress. That won’t make Eon boss Barbara Broccoli happy.

The point is both the film and literary Bond franchises are at a key point. There’s a lot to anticipate the next couple of years. But is there much after that?

We’ll see.

A ridiculously early list of possible Bond 26 directors

Susanne Bier

British bookmakers love to set odds on who the next James Bond actor will be to generate bets. The blog decided, instead, to ponder who the director for Bond 26 — whenever that happens — will be.

So here’s a look at some possibilities. It’s far from a comprehensive list.

Susanne Bier: Bier directed The Night Manager, a television adaptation of a John le Carre novel. In mid-2016, The RadioTimes outlet reported Bier was on a shortlist of candidates to direct Bond 25, later No Time to Die.

That, of course, didn’t happen. First, Danny Boyle was hired to direct, then after “creative differences,” Cary Fukunaga came aboard.

Still, if Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli wants to make more James Bond history, hiring Bier as the franchise’s first woman director would accomplish that. Bier also has admirers who cite The NIght Manager as a significant work.

Denis Villeneuve: In 2017, Villeneuve’s name was reported to be a leading contender to direct Bond 25. The Daily Mail even had a report that Bond 25/No Time to Die star Daniel Craig wanted Villeneuve.

The director told a podcast the possibility came up but he was already busy working on a new version of Dune.

 “It’s a matter of timing, I guess,” he said on the podcast. Will the timing be better for Bond 26?

Christopher Nolan: This is a perennial possibility. Nolan is a Bond fan. He’s done homages to Bond movies in his own films. A Bond fan site in 2017 claimed Nolan was “more than likely” to direct Bond 25. That got shot down pretty quickly, including by Nolan himself in a BBC interview in February 2018.

The main question concerns how Nolan works. He typically gets complete control over his projects with his Syncopy company handling production. Can Syncopy and Eon egos co-exist?

Guy Ritchie: Ritchie’s name also came up as a Bond 25 director possibility in 2016, thanks to a Mirror story. There’s no sign Ritchie actually met with Eon.

Ritchie’s box office success the past decade has been mixed. However, Eon has a history of signing directors who haven’t had a hit in a while (Michael Apted and Sam Mendes). So who knows?

Cary Fukunaga: Eon has a history of every so often bringing directors in for consecutive films: Terence Young for Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Guy Hamilton for three consecutive films, Lewis Gilbert for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, John Glen for five straight films and Sam Mendes for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Does Fukunaga rate similar treatment? He certainly took on a daunting task directing No Time to Die after Danny Boyle exited the project.

To read more about how these four came up during the development of No Time to Die, check out PART ONE of The Bond 25 timeline.

Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond fans are waiting for another delay for the release of No Time to Die/Bond 25. If/when (probably when) that happens, the bigger question is for Bond 26 and beyond.

No Time to Die was a pre-COVID-19 movie with pre-COVID-19 finances. The 25th James Bond film ran up costs approaching $290 million as of mid-2020, according to a U.K, regulatory filing.

But, hey, it was a contender for a theatrical box office of $1 billion or more (split with theaters). Certainly Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and Danjaq LLC (parent company of Eon Productions) were working on that assumption.

Then, of course, COVID-19 changed everything. Theaters were shut down in many regions. And the virus — despite the emergence of vaccines — has not been brought to heel. At least not yet and maybe not soon.

Perhaps you can just kick the can. Delay the release date one, two, who knows how many times? Eventually, everything will be back to normal.

Won’t it?

No Time to Die is on the shelf. It will get shown. Sometime.

The big question is what happens with Bond 26, whenever that gets made, and in whatever form.

Studios such as Walt Disney Co. and AT&T’s Warner Bros. have embraced the streaming model model. MGM reportedly shopped No Time to Die around for a streaming deal but couldn’t get the price it wanted.

What’s more, MGM reportedly has put itself up for sale. The studio’s association with Bond will reach its 40th anniversary this year. The Bond-MGM association has been a rocky one, dysfunctional even.

Danjaq/Eon controls the rights to Bond. But Danjaq/Eon needs MGM (whether by itself or in alliance with other studios) to get 007 movies made.

Put another way, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before you can even talk about future Bond adventures.

Example: Is the traditional model of a big theatrical release followed by home video revenues even practical now? Or do studios need to reduce the costs of big “tentpole” films?

Of major tentpoles, Bond seemingly is in a good position to ramp down and do more cost-effective productions. The early 007 films such as Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, were pretty lean films.

Still, that was almost 60 years ago. Things change.

No Time to Die may be a rousing James Bond film. But Bond’s future still is being determined — and things are more uncertain than James Bond emerging triumphant at the end of a movie.

About that Christopher Nolan directing a Bond film thing

Christopher Nolan

There are a number of Hollywood types upset with Warner Bros.’s plans to debut its 2021 film slate simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming service as well as theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And one of the most prominent is writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan.

Nolan directed a financially successful trio of Batman movies released by Warner Bros. He also shows up as a favorite among some James Bond fans to direct a Bond film at some point.

After all, he’s worked in Bond-inspired bits among his Batman films as well as 2010’s Inception and this year’s Tenet. Meanwhile, Bond films such as Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) had Nolan influences. A marriage made in heaven, right?

In a statement to THR, Nolan made clear how unhappy he is about the HBO Max news. The streaming service will show the Warner Bros. movies for 31 days. It’s a way to boost HBO Max.

“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak,” Nolan said. “They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”

So here’s the question: Does this mean that Nolan is looking for the exit from his long-standing Warner Bros. relationship?

If so, does this make it more likely he might direct a Bond movie in the future? Or does it show he’s more than willing to bite the hand that feeds him?

Nolan had a pretty good deal at Warners. Nolan’s Syncopy company produced his movies. Nolan’s wife, Emma Thomas, gets a producer credit on his films.

That’s a lot to walk away from. Bond fans who clamor for Nolan to direct Bond say he likes Bond so much he might well turn away such perks. He’d surely be happy to work for Eon Productions, so the thinking goes.

Who knows? It’s still early days of the shakeup that’s going on in the movie business. And when might Bond 26 get off the ground?

Bond 26 questions: Future of the franchise edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There has been a lot of James Bond film news the past week. Naturally the blog has questions.

What decade will Bond 26 come out in?

If we’re lucky, the 2020s.

Oh, come on! That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?

In 2012, when Skyfall came out, did you think there’d only be two Bond films in the 2010s?

Put another way, can you be sure there will be two Bond films in the 2020s?

Never mind. But why such a negative vibe?

Because there are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the future of movies.

No Time to Die (plus Marvel movies, plus DC Comics movies, plus Fast and the Furious films plus Jurassic World movies) were pre-COVID-19 movies scheduled to debut in a post-COVID-19 world.

Studios counted on big “tentpole” epics to bring paying customers into movie theaters to supplement on-demand and home video releases. Meanwhile, mid- to small-budgeted projects have gone over to streaming services.

There have been many, many delays of “tentpole” epics during COVID-19. No Time to Die alone was pushed back from April 2020 to November 2020 to April 2021.

But movie theaters are under a lot of financial strain. What happens if many theaters — the same theaters studios rely on for a major tentpole revenue stream — go under?

At one time — say a year ago — people weren’t talking in those terms. Now? It’s a possibility.

What are you saying?

As the saying goes, “James Bond will return.” But will it return as a $250 million-budget “tentpole”? Or does Bond return in a form similar to his 1962 film debut, i.e. a more modestly budgeted film adventure.

Time will tell.

About that whole Bond 26 thing

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This week, a website I am totally unfamiliar with stated that Tom Hardy is definitely the next film James Bond.

Naturally, Bond fans jumped in to debate, argue and discuss whether this was so. I’m not going to link to it because there has been enough heat and no light.

Perhaps a better subject would be under what circumstances a Bond 26 movie would occur.

Specifically, with the advent of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is making a $200 million to $250 million movie practical anymore?

The Christopher Nolan-directed Tenet was supposed to save cinema. It’s not happening in the United States (still a major movie market). Warner Bros., Tenet’s studio, has responded by delaying (again) Wonder Woman 1984 to Christmas.

But, Bond fans say, James Bond is different. It’s an established intellectual property (known as IP).

Sure. But a second COVID-19 wave is occurring internationally. And the U.S. as a whole, still has yet to get the pandemic under control. Major states such as Florida, Texas and Georgia are a big mess. Theaters in New York and California are still closed.

The traditional business model was movies came out in theaters, followed by video on demand, followed by home video. All of those sources were vital.

Movie studios (including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio) were grappling with the future before COVID-19. Netflix was the main source of pressure and the studios were coming out with their own streaming competitors.

The pandemic puts more pressure than ever on studios. What’s the future for movies in theaters?

Tom Hardy is guaranteed to be the next James Bond? The question is whether James Bond movies are guaranteed in the future.

No Time to Die is a pre-COVID-19 film trying to come out amid COVID-19. The future for Bond is uncertain — as uncertain as it is for movies generally.

Waller-Bridge being ‘wooed’ for Bond 26, Baz says

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge “is being wooed” to write Bond 26, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye wrote in a story published Thursday.

Earlier this week, Amazon Studios announced it signed Waller-Bridg to create and produce new shows for the streaming service, a deal Variety reported is worth $20 million a year. That deal was disclosed after Waller-Bridge won three Emmys for her Fleabag series.

Bamigboye previously had a number of scoops proven direct during production of Skyfall and SPECTRE. He hasn’t been reporting on Bond films as much in recent years and hadn’t written at all about No Time to Die for months.

His newest story quotes a source he didn’t identify as saying Waller-Bridge’s contributions to No Time to Die were “great — far greater than we’d anticipated. She’s the savior of Bond really.”

The tone of the story was considerably more cheerful that a piece Bamigboye did in May that described No Time to Die’s script as being written by committee.

Waller-Bridge was one of several writers who worked on the 25th Bond film made by Eon Productions. Others included Scott Z. Burns and the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Bamigboye’s new story provided no details about when Bond 26 might come along except to say it will be “years” from now.

It remains to be seen whether the busy Waller-Bridge will be available for Bond 26.

The Bond series has a history where a writer comes aboard to rewrite and gets a lot of credit for improving the story. However, in some cases, (Bruce Feirstein after GoldenEye, Paul Haggis after Casino Royale and John Logan after Skyfall) they ran into problems with their second Bond effort.

Bond 26 (!) questions: The Pinewood deal edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the weekend, Pinewood Studios announced that Walt Disney Co. had signed a deal to lease almost all of the revered London-area studio sound stages and production facilities.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but the deal may run for 10 years.

Given that Pinewood is the traditional home to James Bond film productions, the blog has questions how this may affect future James Bond films, starting with Bond 26.

OK. What does this mean for Bond 26?

There’s a good chance that Bond 26 — whenever that goes into development — may have to look for another home studio base.

But, couldn’t Disney sub-lease space at Pinewood to Eon Productions for Bond 26?

It could. But then again, why would Disney do so? Disney wouldn’t have cut such a deal unless it had production plans where it would need all that Pinewood space.

Put another way, Disney has never been known for sentimentality, even when “Uncle Walt” was running the place.

After Disney animators went on strike in 1941, some were fired. The Magic Kingdom may be part of Disney. But the Magic Kingdom is, in the end, a fairy tale.

Some of the Disney strike participants were among the founders and contributors of United Productions of America (UPA). UPA went on to win some Oscars and created characters such as Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing.

Is there back story we should be aware of?

Pinewood is exiting Pinewood Atlanta, a joint venture. Pinewood is selling out to its partner. That operation will retain the Pinewood Atlanta name for up to 18 months.

Pinewood Atlanta has been the home base of some major productions by Disney-owned Marvel Studios, including the last two Avengers films. But that appears to be a things of the past.

What happens next?

No Time to Die, aka Bond 25, still is in production. We won’t know about Bond 26 for a long time, perhaps years.

With the increasingly long time in-between Bond films, Eon Productions will have plenty of time to look for a new home production base.

If something bigger happens — some kind of sale that would shake up the Bond status quo — that will have to play out before a search for new studio quarters. If Bond became part of the Disney fold, then presumably it could again film at Pinewood.

Meanwhile, Pinewood has just secured rent for the 007 Stage, the Roger Moore Stage and other studio facilities for years. That’s business.

UPDATE (11:35 a.m. New York time): The BBC has weighed in with a story about the deal. It has this line:

“Despite the Disney deal, it is believed that there is a possibility that, given its history, future James Bond films will still be filmed there.”

First of all, who believes this? Secondly, “a possibility” is less than definitive. Possibilities are not certainties.

UPDATE II (Sept. 11): This slipped by me at the time. In July, Netflix reached an agreement to lease almost all of the space at Sheppterton Studios (owned by Pinewood’s parent company). A July story in The Guardian has details. In effect, there’s now an arms race to lock up U.K. studio space.

A letter to 007 fans: Chill

Original James Bond film gunbarrel

To: James Bond fans
From: The Spy Command

Take it’s easy. Relax.

The 25th entry in the Eon 007 film series is being filmed. But, viewing various comments on social media, a number of fans seem to be uptight.

What follows is a summary of Bond social media comments.

There is a serious movement to trash Bond 25 before it’s released.

As the blog has noted, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. and U.S. tabloids have run critical articles. That’s interesting, but keep this in mind: THEY ARE TABLOIDS. They traffic in sensationalism. They always have, they always will. Don’t get too worried about it.

Why are people criticizing Daniel Craig?

The last time Bond fans were, more or less unified behind a Bond actor was Sean Connery in the 1960s.

George Lazenby? Some fans argued he was too stiff, too raw.

Roger Moore? Too lightweight! (This sentiment was particularly concentrated in the U.S. where some fans looked at old Moore publicity stills from the 1950s and said he wasn’t manly enough.) Not worthy of the role that Connery originated!

Timothy Dalton? Some fans thought he was too theatrical.

Pierce Brosnan? He was trying to split the difference between Connery and Moore and not being his own man.

It goes with the territory. If you like Craig’s interpretation of Bond, just let it go. You’re going to get a fifth movie and who knows? He may still come back for Bond 26.

“You’ll be sorry — you rats!” 

Some James Bonds don’t have much of a sense of humor. When they see other fans kid around, they say things like those other fans will be sorry when Bond 25 turns out to be the best Bond film in years!

Well, when Bond films come out every four or five years, that’s not a huge accomplishment. Of course, it’ll be the best Bond film in years

If you want to be a smart alec, at that pace, a new entry is guaranteed to be the worst Bond film in years. The blog prefers to take a realistic approach overall.

If you’re a true Bond fan, you shouldn’t criticize the movie!

The blog’s general rule is you shouldn’t criticize something before it comes out. So, yes, you shouldn’t say Bond 25 sucks before, well, there’s a Bond 25 to view.

At the same time, Bond 25 has had more than its share of odd developments. There have been various delays, including a director (Danny Boyle) coming aboard and then departing. Those are all legitimate topics of fan conversation.

A final cautionary note

The Bond franchise has a history of tense moments. Dr. No was a troubled production. So was From Russia With Love. The Spy Who Loved Me. Tomorrow Never Dies.

In the end, all of those films turned out well.

Yet, you can never assume success. The Flying Wallendas were a spectacular high-wire act. But some of their members died when things went wrong despite numerous successful performances.

Bond 25, of course, is just a movie. But success is never guaranteed, no matter how long the winning streak is.

To sum up: Don’t get bent out of shape about tabloid articles. Relax while filming progresses. Still, keep everything in mind. Just keep it in the proper perspective.

Broccoli not giving up on Craig for Bond 26, Sun says

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and her star Daniel Craig

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t given up on Daniel Craig returning for Bond 26, the tabloid Sun newspaper said.

“My Bond insiders insist boss Barbara Broccoli has not seriously considered a single name from the raft of potential replacements that have been touted,” columnist Dan Wootton wrote.

But Broccoli has ignored the chatter because she is “loyal to Daniel” while he remains 007, according to sources. Further, she feels that hunting for a replacement while he is in the job would be “disrespectful”.

(snip)
The insider – who has revealed a string of exclusives about the Bond world – added that Broccoli has not even officially drawn a line through the possibility of Craig making another film.

The Sun didn’t specify what “string of exclusives” has been revealed by the insider. Among U.K. tabloids, the Daily Mail (mostly via writer Baz Bamigboye) has had substantive 007 film scoops proven correct. The Sun, though, on Oct. 21 2011 reported that James Bond would have a beard in Skyfall. (Sorry, original link has gone dead.) So there’s that.

The Sun, in a story by a different writer, said in an August 2018 story that Broccoli and Craig wanted Bond to die at the end of Bond 25. From that story:

It would be a final hurrah for Daniel, and leave fans hanging.

“It would also leave it open for a twist in the next instalment — either Bond hadn’t died or there could be a Doctor Who-esque regeneration with a new actor.

Supposedly, according to that August account, director Danny Boyle objected and that was a reason he left the project.

Both Broccoli and Craig took a longer break after 2015’s SPECTRE to pursue non-Bond projects. Bond 25 is scheduled for a February 2020 release. At the current pace of 007 film production, Bond 26 won’t be out until at least 2023, maybe 2024.

h/t to @CorneelVF on Twitter for pointing out the latest Sun effort.