Embrace Léa Seydoux, look forward to Madeleine Swann

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer

When Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail this week that French actress Léa Seydoux would reprise her role as Madeleine Swann, Bond fandom was instantly “menstruating” blood and fire.

I leave it to you to find this either preposterous or a sheer exaggeration. But let me first tell you that time is not treating SPECTRE nicely so far. (Look out for the big #JamesBondTOP2018 Poll to see exactly what has happened.)

Was it the SonyLeaks that immediately brand marked it as the worst Bond-film “evva”? Was it Christoph Waltz’ performance as Oberhauser/Blofeld that left Bond fans cold and bitter? Or, and that I can understand, was the writing not good enough?

Madeleine Swann: Better than we thought?
All I saw was an actress that played a wonderful blond elegant psychiatrist, who had the bad luck to be born out of a father whose sole career was crime (remember Tracy’s father in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?). In my honest opinion Léa Seydoux did magnificent acting work with the script she was given.

She showed off an Honey Ryder-esque vulnerability in the third part of the film that was credible enough to me. Her anger at the start of the film was absolutely delightful (Vesper Lynd could have learned a few lessons from her to that respect). And because of Bond’s complex background, it only made sense that, like Vesper, Bond and Madeleine fell in love.

The problem to me with regard to writing was only the rather sudden change from fierce, angry woman into a sexual passive object of desire that didn’t feel convincing. But that was mostly the case because of lackluster writing, not bad acting.

Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade simply wanted too many narrative twists and turns and character’s back stories to put in a film that should have been divided into two parts (it was Craig who eventually insisted on not doing that). The film also needed some more explanations and not leave certain important events and moments to the viewers imagination.

Let’s be old-fashioned, let’s be patient
Having sad all that, please let us trust Léa’s acting capacities. They are exquisite and above all mesmerizing and convincing. We should not write off Madeleine Swann’s character that soon.

For all we know Danny Boyle’s departure resulted in some more firm brainstorming about the story as compared to the writing process of SPECTRE. Let’s not “Facebook” and “Twitter” Léa/Madeleine to death.

There are luckily no “UniversalLeaks” this time around to strengthen all our presumptuous theories about why Madeleine Swann should not return.

Instead let’s ask ourselves how we can bring back Madeleine Swann in a wonderful way, both for short and longer screen times.

And perhaps it sounds a bit old-fashioned during this digital social media age, but for those people who can still be patient, let’s just wait and see.

If you still want to discuss the film like I do, do it in a positive-spirited, inspiring fashion. Because James Bond will return — and there are fresh new chances to make Bond 25 even better than Casino Royale and Skyfall.

Gert Waterink is the editor of the James Bond Nederland website.

Bond 25: “This time, it’s repetitive!”

Bond mourning the death of Madeline Swann in Bond 25?

With the news that Lea Seydoux, the female lead of SPECTRE, will make a return appearance in Bond 25, the “Writing’s on the Wall” where the next 007 film is heading.

Unlike the usual Bond news, this isn’t from an unidentified source. It comes from Bond 25’s director himself, Cary Fukunaga via Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye.

What can we expect?

Madeleine Swann’s life expectancy won’t be very long in terms of screen time. SPECTRE was a kind-of, sort-of remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  One of the trailers even used a new recording of John Barry’s main theme for the 1969 film.

And, a draft of the script, dated one week before the start of filming, had Bond telling Swann, “We have all the time in the world.” While that didn’t make the final film, it was pretty clear that Swann was supposed to be the 2.0 version of Tracy from Majesty’s.

Thus, Swann is likely to get bumped off, perhaps in the pre-titles sequence.

“But you don’t know that!” No, I don’t. But it’s pretty pointless to bring Seydoux back for a scene where she and Bond break up. When Ian Fleming had Bond break up with Tiffany Case, it happened between the novels Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia With Love.

Meanwhile, it’d be even worse if Seydoux is dragged throughout Bond 25. In SPECTRE, Seydoux’s Swann was convincing when she hated Bond. She was less than convincing when she supposedly fell in love with him. Imagine that for an entire movie. It’ll be bad. B.A.D.

If Swann gets bumped off, Bond is out for revenge — again. Or, put another way, the series will again fall back on a trope it has used multiple times beginning with 1989’s Licence to Kill.

“But if that happens, we’ll finally get a faithful adaptation of the You Only Live Twice novel!” The thing about the novel You Only Live Twice is that Bond fell apart once. That’s what made it so special.

Eon has already cherry picked the You Only Live Twice novel (and The Man With the Golden Gun novel) for Skyfall. The 2012 film had Judi Dench’s M writing Bond’s obiituary, a la You Only Live Twice, just substituting “Turkey” for “Japan.” Bond was a broken man who has to get his mojo back.

So now, Eon gets to cherry pick the novel again, like fixing a meal from Thanksgiving leftovers. Will Daniel Craig’s 007 be a broken man again? If Swann gets killed early in Bond 25, how much screen time will Craig have of being on the edge?

“Mind you, all of this is pure guess work,” as M said in the movie You Only Live Twice. But if these guesses are at all close to what’s in store for Bond 25, the film’s advertising slogan is obvious. “This time, it’s repetitive!”

Lea Seydoux will be in Bond 25, Bamigboye says

Lea Seydoux with Daniel Craig in a SPECTRE poster.

Lea Seydoux, the female lead in 2015’s SPECTRE, will be in Bond 25, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported, citing comments from director Cary Fukunaga.

The key excerpt:

Bond star Daniel Craig wanted her back — and so did film-maker Cary Joji Fukunaga, who will be directing his first Bond picture.

Fukunaga told me exclusively that ‘Lea will be returning’; as will regulars Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris.

The news undoubtedly will revive speculation that Bond 25’s plot will be similar to the Ian Fleming novels On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

In the OHMSS novel, Bond marries Tracy, who is killed at the end. The 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service film replicated that. In the You Only Live Twice novel, Bond has fallen apart. He’s about to be fired from the British Secret Service. He’s given a “last chance” mission that puts him on the trail of Blofeld, now in Japan having established a “garden of death” for suicide-inclined Japanese.

SPECTRE (kind-of, sort-of) was a bit of an OHMSS remake. While Seydoux’s character had a different name (Madeline Swann), she was apparently intended as Tracy 2.0. In a Dec. 1, 2014 draft of the script, Bond event tells her at the end, “We have all the time in the world.” The line was cut from the final film.

Bamigboye’s report doesn’t get into such details. The obvious question is whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld from SPECTRE will also return.

Bond 25 director says script still being written

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director

The script for Bond 25 still is being written with major issues, including characters, yet to be determined, director Cary Fukunaga said in an interivew with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Fukunaga was asked whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld or Ben Whishaw’s Q would return in Bond 25.

“We haven’t finished the screenplay, so there is no way that anyone could know that,” he told the outlet. “Those are two extraordinary actors, so if there is space for them in the story, I would absolutely want them there. But I don’t know yet what it’s going to be.”

The story doesn’t specify who is doing the writing.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time 007 screenwriters, were announced as Bond 25 scribes in July 2017. Then, early this year, Danny Boyle emerged as the main contender to direct the film. He had devised an idea with his writer of choice, John Hodge.

When Boyle was announced in May 25, the press release said Hodge was writing and Purvis and Wade weren’t mentioned. Then Boyle exited because of creative differences. Last word was from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye (with Variety and Deadline: Hollywood confirming) that things went back to Purvis and Wade and a treatment (essentially a detailed outline) that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture.

Fukunaga is a writer himself. He may or may not be directly writing Bond 25 himself. Even if he isn’t, a director usually has a big voice in how a script is developed.

There was also this passage.

“In terms of what I can bring to change the character, Bond is on a character arc that started with ‘Casino Royale,’ and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”

2006’s Casino Royale was Daniel Craig’s first 007 film. 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a “direct sequel.” But 2012’s Skyfall initially didn’t pick up any plot points from Craig’s first two Bond films. Then 2015’s SPECTRE sought to connect the four films together.

Bond 25 isn’t scheduled to begin filming until March 2019 and be released in February 2020.

h/t @Bond25Film

MGM briefly mentions Bond 25 on investor call

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, during an investor call this week, briefly referenced Bond 25, mostly about the hiring of Cary Fukunaga as director.

“We wouldn’t be more excited about the creative direction of our next installment of our treasured evergreen franchise, Bond 25,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said in prepared remarks. MGM is “thrilled to add Cary’s versatility and innovation to the next James Bond adventure.”

Fukunaga’s hiring was announced in September. He got the job after Danny Boyle departed in August in the midst of Bond 25 pre-production. Fukunaga has directed both streaming television series and feature films. Brearton also referenced Bond 25’s release date being delayed to February 2020.

Other MGM subjects weren’t discussed. The company has been run by a committee of executives since Gary Barber was fired as CEO in March. There were no comments whether he’ll be replaced or not.

Also, MGM’s partner in a U.S. film distribution joint venture, Annapurna Pictures, has been hit with financial troubles. But Annapurna’s name didn’t come up. The joint venture is scheduled to release Bond 25 in the U.S. while Universal will distribute the film internationally.

There were no questions from investors on the call.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter for the heads up.

Eon’s new normal: Update

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This isn’t your father’s James Bond film franchise.

Hire a new director? Great! Except, Cary Fukunaga has to deal with a new television project at more or less the same time.

Got your leading man back on board? Great! Except he began filming a movie just a month (or so) before the latest Bond movie originally was to start filming. Thankfully (from the actor’s standpoint, anyway) the Bond film got delayed until March.

Your latest James Bond film project moving ahead? Great! Except we have to get our latest non-007 project (The Rhythm Section) out of the way first.

When Eon Productions started operations, the idea was to make 007 films every year with other project in between. That lasted as far as 1963 (Dr. No, Call Me, Bwana, From Russia With Love).

Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman went off and did non-007 films (the Harry Palmer series, Battle of Britain) on his own. Albert R. Broccoli, the other co-founder, did one more non-007 project (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) while devoting the rest of his life to the Bond film series.

Saltzman, of course, is long gone, having sold his interest in the mid 1970s. Broccoli, before he died in 1996, yielded control to his daughter (Barbara Broccoli) and stepson (Michael G. Wilson).

Now, the main figures of the Bond series juggle 007 among their various projects. Fukunaga, hired in September to direct Bond 25, is only the latest. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have been doing it for years. Writer John Logan juggled various enterprises in 2013 and 2014 before delivering a first draft for SPECTRE.

One reader of the blog pointed out on Twitter that Marvel Studios directors Joe and Anthony Russo are cutting deals for future projects even while the untitled Avengers 4 is in post-production.

That’s true enough. Still, by 2019, the Russos will have directed four movies (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4) in five years for Marvel. During that same period, there will have been just one James Bond film (SPECTRE).

In the 21st century, the 007 film series is like Paul Masson wine. No wine (or film) before its time.

Bond 25 director will juggle another project

Cary Fukunaga, director for Bond 25

Cary Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director, will also be juggling another project, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Fukunaga and David Lowery will write a pilot script for the Paramount Channel cable outlet based on the 1985 Joe Dante-directed film Explorers, the entertainment news website said.

Either will “direct the pilot should it get to that,” according to Deadline.

Deadline referenced how Fukunaga is directing Bond 25, but didn’t specify when the new scripting effort would occur. Bond 25 is scheduled to begin production on March 4 for a February 2020 release.

Daniel Craig, scheduled to return to play 007 in Bond 25, is in a new mystery movie Knives out, directed by Rian Johnson. That will film before Bond 25 starts production. (According to IMDB.COM, filming is underway.)

Eon Productions, meanwhile, has a non-007 spy movie, The Rhythm Section that’s due for a February 2019 release by Paramount.