SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

The visual impact of GoldenEye

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster


By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer
The gunbarrel opens on a plane that flies over a dam leaving the audience with a breath-taking visual of the landscape. We see a mysterious man running across the dam. More close ups shots follow of the man adjusting a bungee cord.

He jumps. There’s silence as he plunges more than 640 feet.

We are on Arkhangelsk, USSR. The man is trying to gain access to a chemical facility.

We see lots of close-up and detail shots of this man’s blue eyes as well as more takes of his silhouette as he sneaks into the complex’s bathroom.

His face is revealed upside down while greeting a Russian soldier sitting on the toilette right before punching the living daylights out of him. Meet Bond, James Bond.

After a six-and-a-half-year gap in the series, GoldenEye brought James Bond back to the big screen. There were new faces, starting with the secret agent himself, played by Pierce Brosnan in the first of his four Bond films.

GoldenEye also brought to the series a visual impact missing in the five films directed by John Glen, whose basic TV style was one of the few cons of his time in the Bond director chair, in spite of succeeding in bringing the spy back to Earth after the slapstick-ish Moonraker.

Many were responsible for the visual impact of the 1995 film: Director Martin Campbell and his team included cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Terry Rawlings, second unit director Ian Sharp and, of course, veteran production designer Peter Lamont.

GoldenEye’s visuals feature a lot of ethereal blue skies in the Monaco scenes, a warm orange palette during the beach scenes in Cuba (shot in Puerto Rico), colder blues in the snowy Severnaya and a lot of chiaroscuro techniques in the Statue Park scene where Alec Trevelyan is revealed as the movie’s villain.

Méheux does a superb team work with Rawlings, who provided beautiful editing techniques, particularly the transition between the kiss of Bond and Natalya on the Cuban beach fading into the hearth’s fire and a traveling pan to the couple on the bed inside a cottage.

No less impressive is the thrilling plane crash scene, and the subsequent reveal of Xenia Onatopp’s silhouette rappelling down against the sunlight reflected of an unconscious Bond’s forehead in the jungle.

More brilliant editing by Rawlings can be seen during the film’s many action sequences: the shootout in the St Petersburg Military Archives, i.e. the Russian soldier falling through a glass after being gunned down by a runaway Bond, or the secret agent and his girl Natalya running avoiding the bullets from Ourumov’s troops; or the fight between 007 and Xenia on the hotel’s spa, particularly the way Bond’s quick reflexes work by grabbing the girl and throwing her against the wall before the “foreplay” starts.

Another more explicit fist-fight scene, where Bond has his ultimate showdown with the treacherous Trevelyan inside the giant antenna, not only features a sharp editing that harkens back to 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Bond vs Che Che) and 1963’s From Russia with Love (Bond vs Red Grant), but also reworks the Méheux’s chiaroscuro previously seen in the statue park and the nerve gas facility.

The GoldenEye director of photography is equally skilled in choosing unusual and dramatic shots during quick moments: the supine take of Brosnan being frisked by Alec guards, the zoom-in on Bond’s desperate eyes while trying to level off the plane falling through the cliff or the reflection of the Tiger missiles on them later, or the fast shot of the severely wounded Trevelyan right before the whole antenna structure falls over him, a resort he also used effectively in The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005), both directed by Martin Campbell.

Of course none of this could have been done with success if it wasn’t by the perfect tandem ofCampbell and Ian Sharp. Both the dialogue scenes and the action scenes shot by the second unit are joined together in a very effective way. The action scenes in GoldenEye from the bungee jump to the spy vs spy battle above the antenna dish look tidy and planned with intelligence, in a way every action scene has its reason to be in each particular moment.

Last but not least, we owe must credit Peter Lamont the materialization of each one of the locations described in the tale from Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. The interiors like the bottling-room of the Arkhangelsk facility, the Severnaya Space Weapons Center and Janus’ Base computer rooms, all of them built on the Leavesden Studios from scratch, just like the statue park with sculptures by Brian Muir and the recreation of the streets of St Petersburg, when the production was unable to shot the epic tank chase on location in Russia.

The remaining bits of the visual impact of the first Bond film of the 1990s is given by designer Daniel Kleinman, hired after his work on Gladys Knight music video for Licence to Kill. He took the freedom of giving a traditional element like the opening gunbarrel shot a sleek and dynamic digital look and he made history with the film’s opening credits: red, purple and gold are seen while lingerie-clad women destroy soviet icons and statues in synchrony with Tina Turner’s powerful main title song.

GoldenEye breathed fire into the Bond series putting a big step on a new era not only in a historical way, but also in a very sharp graphic and gorgeous way.

Nicolas Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

TWINE’s 15th anniversary: a transition for 007

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 15 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

Bond 24 questions: the writers edition

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back? There’s been no official announcement but it was reported last month by The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that the writers were retained to rewrite John Logan’s efforts.

Bamigboye had a number of Skyfall and Bond 24 scoops proven correct. Example: he wrote that Purvis and Wade were initially not going to be back for Bond 24, while their Skyfall co-scribe John Logan would be the new 007 film’s writer. Purvis and Wade subsequently confirmed they were leaving the series. Until, it now seems, things changed.

How extensive will Purvis and Wade’s Bond 24 script work going to be? If the duo end up getting a credit, you’ll know it will have been substantial.

The Writer’s Guild has extensive guidelines on how much work a scribe (with a team of writers such as Purvis and Wade counted as a single entity) should do to get a screen credit. A writer or writing team must contribute more than 33 percent of the finished product for an adapted script, 50 percent for an original one. Bond 24 falls under the adapted category since it uses a character who originally appeared in a novel.

Getting a credit isn’t as simple as counting lines of dialogue. A credit is supposed to reflect “contributions to the screenplay as a whole,” according to the guild. It’s possible, for example, for a writer to change every line of dialogue but for the guild to determine there’s been no significant change to the screenplay.

In any case, if Bond 24’s credit reads something like, “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” Purvis and Wade will have done more than revamp some dialogue or tweak a scene or two.

Is this unusual?It’s the normal method of operation for both movies in general and James Bond movies in particular. Even 007 films that had only one writing credit had contributions from other writers. For example:

–From Russia With Love had a solo screenplay credit for Richard Maibaum, but also an “adapted by” credit for Johanna Harwood, while Len Deighton did work that didn’t earn a credit.
–You Only Live Twice had a “screenplay by” credit for Roald Dahl but an “additional story material” credit for Harold Jack Bloom, the film’s first writer.
–On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had a Maibaum solo credit for the screenplay but an “additional dialogue” credit for Simon Raven, who rewrote dialogue in some scenes.
–Tomorrow Never Dies had a “written by” credit for Bruce Feirstein. Other writers took a whirl without credit between Feirstein’s first draft and his final draft.

As far as anyone knows, Live And Let Die really represented the work of only one writer (Tom Mankiewicz), and he did plenty of rewrites himself.

Is this any reason to be concerned? The Daily Mail also reported the start of Bond 24 filming was pushed back to December from October. If true, that should still be enough time for Bond 24 to meet its release date of late October 2015 in the U.K. and early November 2015 in the U.S.

What should fans look for next? The date of the press conference announcing the start of Bond 24 filming. There should also be a press release. If Purvis and Wade get a mention in that press release along with John Logan, that’ll be a sign they did a fair amount of work on the script.

Repeat after me, ‘Writing a James Bond movie is hard’

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

John Logan is learning a lesson that the likes of Paul Haggis, Bruce Feistein, Jeffrey Caine and Michael France learned before him. Writing a James Bond movie is hard.

You can be a hero one day (Logan after Skyfall, Feirstein after GoldenEye, Haggis after Casino Royale) and out the door the next (Feirstein for a period during Tomorrow Never Dies until he got asked back, Haggis after Quantum of Solace).

Screenwriting in general is tough. If you’re in demand, you make a lot of money. If you’re not, it can be humbling. Studios make fewer, more expensive movies. With the stakes so high, there are all sorts of people — directors, stars, studio executives — looking over your shoulder. Bond movies take it a step further. You have the Broccoli-Wilson family, which has controlled the franchise for more than a half century. They have definite ideas of what they like and don’t like.

Screenwriters don’t tally up a lot of multiple 007 screen credits. An Oscar winner such as Paul Dehn had only one. Other one-time only scribes include John Hopkins. Roald Dahl and Michael France. Some writers toil without even getting a credit, such as Len Deighton and Donald E. Westlake, hardly slouches as authors.

All of which is a long way of saying it’s remarkable that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been summoned, according to Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, for a sixth turn writing a James Bond movie, taking over for Logan, who, in turn, rewrote their script for Skyfall. The only writer who has more Bond screenwriting credits is Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) with 13. Maibaum had the advantage of a long-standing relationship with producer Albert R. Broccoli.

Maibuam and the Purvis-Wade team have one thing in common. They’ve taken their share of flak over the years. The British film historian Adrian Turner, in a 1998 book about Goldfinger, made it clear he didn’t think much of Maibaum, painting Dehn as the one who brought the Goldfinger script into shape. Purvis and Wade, meanwhile, get criticized on Internet message boards and social media by some fans as hacks. It helps to have a thick skin.

Feirstein, Haggis and Logan were the final writers on three significant 007 hits: GoldenEye (reviving the franchise after a six-year hiatus), Casino Royale (a reboot of the franchise) and Skyfall (the first billion-dollar Bond film). They got invited back but in the cases of Feirstein and Haggis it was hardly easy going. Something similar may be going on with Logan. He was hired to write a two-film story arc, but that plan got scrapped as part of the price to get Skyfall director Sam Mendes back for Bond 24.

The situation undoubtedly is even more complicated and can only really be appreciated by those who’ve gone through the same grind. But the basic lesson still stands. It’s hard to write a James Bond movie.

Aging in James Bond movies

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Skyfall director Sam Mendes this month said his 007 film was the first Bond adventure “where characters were allowed to age.” But was it really?

In 2000, author James Chapman made an observation about the opening of 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. At the start of the film, Roger Moore’s Bond visits the grave of his late wife, Tracy. Her headstone gives her year of death as 1969, the year On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out.

What is unusual, however is not that the film refers back to Bond’s wife…but that it should do so in such a temporally precise way. The dates on the gravestone place the Bond of For Your Eyes Only as being twelve years older than the Bond of OHMSS. Assuming that Bond is usually taken to be in his late thirties, then the Bond of For Your Eyes Only would therefore be approaching fifty. In this sense, the film brings Bond roughly in line with Roger Moore’s own age (he was fifty-three when the film was released) and works better for Moore than it would likely have done for a younger, incoming actor.

Licence to Thrill, Columbia University Press, page 207

Chapman, interacting with fellow 007 fans on Facebook, also mentioned how Desmond Llewelyn’s Q aged. In The World Is Not Enough, he refers to his upcoming retirement and gives Bond a piece of advice before the agent departs on his mission. It would be the last time Llewelyn’s Q would be seen. The actor died after the film was released in the fall of 1999.

This wasn’t the first time such a notion had been considered. In Bruce Feirstein’s first draft script for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, Q is retired. He has been succeeded by a man named Malcolm Saunders. Q even got a retirement gift from the CIA.

However, later in the Feirstein draft, Q interrupts his retirement to help Bond out. In the final version of Tomorrow Never Dies, there is no hint about a Q retirement.

Finally, while it’s not part of the Eon Productions series, 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery returning as Bond, embraced the older Bond concept.

Arguably, though, Mendes’ Bond film addressed the aging issue the most of a 007 story.

Variations of the line sometimes, the old ways are best were repeated. Mendes, in various interviews, quoted himself as telling Daniel Craig before production started that “you’ll have to play this at close to your own age.” Also, Roger Deakins, the movie’s director of photography, seemed to highlight every wrinkle on Judi Dench’s face in some closeups.

UPDATE: Some other examples of aging in the pre-Mendes Bond universe:

–Connery, in a 1971 article in True magazine, indicated he wanted to play an older Bond in Diamonds are Forever. He said how immortality “isn’t anyone’s, not yours, not mine and not James Bond’s.” The article also referenced how Connery would have preferred to portray a balding Bond.

–Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny, in Octopussy, says “as I used to be?” when Moore’s Bond talks about how lovely her new assistant is. Of course, this changed when the part was recast in The Living Daylights.

–In Licence to Kill, David Hedison tells his wife that Bond had been married “a long time ago,” in a reference that’s not as specific as the one in For Your Eyes Only.

From Russia With Love’s 50th Part III: Desmond Llewelyn

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Audiences of the initial release of From Russia With Love didn’t realize it at the time, but they witnessed the start of a character actor’s 17-film, 36-year run.

Desmond Llewelyn took over the role of Major Boothroyd from Peter Burton, who played the part in Dr. No. In the initial 007 outing, Boothroyd presented Bond with his new gun, a Walther PPK. Llewelyn’s Boothroyd gave Sean Connery’s James Bond something more elaborate: a briefcase, if not opened properly, that would emit tear gas. It was also equipped with a sniper’s rifle, 50 gold pieces and a knife.

At this point, the character wasn’t referred to as Q. M mentions “Q branch” and its “smart-looking piece of luggage.” Boothroyd doesn’t reveal much of his feelings toward Bond either.

No matter. The actor’s appearance in From Russia With Love set the stage for his long run in the part. The Guy Hamilton-directed Goldfinger established Boothroyd’s annoyance at Bond regarding the agent’s disrespect of Q-branch equipment. In the 1965 television special The Incredible World of James Bond, the character would be referred to as “the fussy Major Boothroyd.”

Eventually, Llewelyn’s character would just be called Q, though Soviet agent Triple-X reminded viewers of the Boothroyd name in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Llewelyn would play opposite five Bond actors. In the 1990s, the question was how long would the actor continue. Bruce Feirstein’s first-draft screenplay of Tomorrow Never Dies, includes a character named Malcolm Saunders, who is “Q’s successor.”

In his first appearance in the script, Saunders is “looking like a mummy – plaster casts on his left leg, left arm; neck-brace, crutch.” Saunders explains how he received his injuries: “Q’s retirement party. I’d just put the knife into the cake, and – ” However, the retired Q shows up later in the story. In the much-revised final story, we get a standard Bond-Q scene with Llewelyn opposite Pierce Brosnan, except it takes place in Germany instead of MI6 headquarters.

In Llewelyn’s finale, 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, Q/Boothroyd is talking retirement. Brosnan’s Bond doesn’t believe it — or doesn’t want to believe it. Q gives Bond some advice (always have an escape route) and makes his exit.

Llewelyn died in December 1999 of injuries from a car accident.

NEXT: Legacy

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