John Logan provides a peek behind the 007 film curtain

John Logan

John Logan, co-screenwriter of Skyfall and SPECTRE, provided a glimpse behind the James Bond film curtain in a guest essay for The New York Times.

Logan’s article primarily is a plea for Amazon, which last week agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the $8.45 billion deal is subject to regulatory review) to leave the cinematic Bond alone. MGM is Bond’s home studio but it only has half of the Bond franchise, with the Broccoli-Wilson family having the other half.

Where Logan raises the curtain (some) is in describing how the making of Bond films works. One example:

Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the champions of James Bond. They keep the corporate and commercial pressures outside the door. Nor are they motivated by them. That’s why we don’t have a mammoth Bond Cinematic Universe, with endless anemic variations of 007 sprouting up on TV or streaming or in spinoff movies. The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on.

Logan’s specific example concerns Skyfall where Bond finally meets Silva, the film’s villain.

Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms. (Think about Bond first meeting Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld, all classic scenes in the franchise.) Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. 

Now, this is an opinion piece and Logan is certainly entitled to his opinion. But the scribe overlooks a few things.

When Skyfall began production, Mendes declared the movie was not connected to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the first two films starring Daniel Craig.

That didn’t last long. SPECTRE, where Logan was the first screenwriter, decided that Silva wasn’t an independent menace but rather was a part of Quantum/SPECTRE. And SPECTRE, after the fact, opted to make all of the Craig films one big arch.

In short, Bond was following the Marvel Cinematic Universe route that Logan appears to decry in his New York Times essay. And Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have doubled down on Marvel-style continuity that with No Time to Die, directed and co-written by Cary Fukunaga.

What’s more, it’s not like Bond has ignored popular trends prior to this. Albert R. Broccoli (father of Barbara Broccoli and stepfather of Michael G. Wilson) was involved with 007 films that referenced blaxploitation films (Live And Let Die), kung fu movies (The Man With the Golden Gun) and Star Wars and science fiction (Moonraker).

And it was under Cubby Broccoli’s watch that Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan yell (originally recorded for a 1930s Tarzan movie) showed up in Octopussy.

Logan’s essay is worth reading for Bond fans. But it should be read amid a larger context.

Fukunaga shows WSJ pre-titles for No Time to Die

Of course it’s a spoiler. If you don’t like spoilers, go away.

The Wall Street Journal today published a feature story about No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga. And Fukunaga showed the Journal’s scribe the pre-titles sequence of No Time To Die.

The story is behind a paywall but I saw a version of the full story. As it says above, leave if you don’t like spoilers. No more warnings.

In the story, there’s a description of Fukanaga instructing one of the movie’s editors to show the Journal reporter the pre-titles sequence.

“It’s slow-paced, visually arreting, subtitled with dialogue in French and entirely Bond-free,” the story says. “Focusing instead on Madeline (Swann’s) backstory, the opening is a terrifying episode from her childhood in which Safin, wearing a Japanese Noh mask, kills her mother, persues Madeline through the home and hunts her down on a frozen lake.”

Fukunaga also comments to the reporter: “Some clown chasing a child around the house. Yeah, it’s like I brought back It in the first five minutes of Bond.”

One quick note: This isn’t the first time Bond hasn’t been in a pre-titles sequence. The Journal story mistakenly says Bond has been in every pre-titles sequence.

From Russia With Love had a fake-out and had a Bond double instead of Bond. Live And Let Die didn’t have Bond. And The Man With the Golden Gun had a (supposed) Bond statue, but not Bond.

Still, based on the Journal story, this is a departure from a typical Bond pre-titles sequence.

Meanwhile, Fukunaga declined comment on the following possibilities for the movie: Bond is a father, Bond saves the world from a biological weapon and global pandemic.

The director also says he won’t feel closure with the project until it’s in front of audiences. Last week, No Time to Die’s release date was pushed back again, this time to April 2021.