Bond 25: The post-Waltz (?) edition

So, actor Christoph Waltz says he won’t be in Bond 25 after playing Blofeld in SPECTRE. Naturally the blog has some questions.

Does he mean it? That’s an appropriate question that can’t really be answered right now.

Waltz, after all, repeatedly denied he was playing Blofeld in SPECTRE.

Also, this decade, Naomie Haris denied she was playing Moneypenny in Skyfall. And, of course, it was revealed in the final scene she was. Thus, comments from actors tend to require the appropriate dosage of salt.

If Waltz really is gone, what does it mean? One possibility: “Waltz seems to be saying Blofeld will be back in Bond 25, but with a new actor in the role,” writes Philip Nobile Jr. of Birth.Movies.Death. (He also notes the possibility that Waltz may have been fibbing again.)

Another possibility is Blofeld’s not in Bond 25, that the movie will be a one-off adventure.

Initially, Skyfall was a one-off not directly died to the preceding installment, Quantum of Solace. Skyfall’s villain, Silva (Javier Bardem) was after revenge against Judi Dench’s M.

In the writing stages of SPECTRE, the creative team decided on a creative arc that would tie all of the Daniel Craig films together. Having secured the rights to the Blofeld character, SPECTRE specified that Blofeld was “the author of all your pain” for Bond.

Prior to the Craig films, the 007 series was light on continuity. You had occasional references to previous films but it wasn’t a major priority. That changed when Eon Productions opted to make Quantum a “direct sequel” of 2006’s Casino Royale.

We’ll see. For now, Bond 25 has no director. Whatever work has been done on a story will likely be reworked once a director is on board.

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Bernie Casey dies at 78

Bernie Casey, as Felix Leiter, with Sean Connery and Kim Basinger in Never Say Never Again

Bernie Casey, who co-starred with Sean Connery in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, has died at 78, TMZ and The Hollywood Reporter said.

Casey was the first African American actor to play CIA agent Felix Leiter. Prior to that, the screen Leiter had been portrayed by white actors.

Never Say Never Again was not part of the Eon Productions 007 series. It featured Connery’s return to the role of James Bond, a dozen years after his last appearance in the Eon series in Diamonds Are Forever.

Eon, in the 21st century, made the same move by casting Jeffrey Wright as Leiter in 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Casey played in the National Football League for eight seasons as a wide receiver with the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. After he turned to acting, he generated almost 80 credits between 1969 and 2007, according to his IMDB.COM entry.

Disney makes 2 moves that may affect Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Walt Disney Co. announced a series of release date changes, according to Variety. Two of them may have something of an impact on Bond 25 in 2019.

Most directly, it set a Nov. 8, 2019 release date for Nicole, where the daughter of Santa Claus takes over the family operation.

Not a lot is known about the movie (its IMDB.com entry is skimpy) other than it stars Anna Kendrick.

Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in July that Bond 25 will be released the same day, despite the fact no distributor has been selected. MGM, which went through bankruptcy, isn’t big enough to release its major films and cuts deals with other studios.

Assuming neither Bond 25 nor Nicole changes dates, it would continue a familiar pattern of Bond opening against a family-oriented movie.

In 2006, Casino Royale opened in the U.S. opposite Happy Feet, an animated movie about Penguins. Happy Feet had the bigger opening. In 2015, SPECTRE opened opposite The Peanuts Movie, another animated film. Bond came out on top that weekend.

The other Disney move, and probably more substantial, is the studio shifted Star Wars Episode IX to Dec. 20, 2019. The movie had been slated for a May 24, 2019 debut.

The change in dates occurred after Disney unit Lucasfilm announced J.J. Abrams will direct Episode IX, replacing Colin Trevorrow.

Having a Star Wars movie come out at Christmas probably narrows Bond 25’s box office window in the U.S. Something like that happened in 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens (also directed by Abrams) dominated the Christmas box office.

In the U.S., SPECTRE had a box office of $200 million, down from the $304.4 million for 2012’s Skyfall.

Website says 007 cinematography of Craig era improved

Apparently pre-Craig era 007 cinematography, like this Alec Mills shot from The Living Daylights, was the work of hacks.

The Film School Rejects website, in a post last month, said the cinematography of James Bond films during the Daniel Craig era was noticeably better than its predecessors.

An excerpt:

All the earlier efforts were, with due respect, vehicles for action sequences, there was little to nothing dynamic about their cinematography otherwise, and even the action sequences were more dazzling for their production design than for the way they were shot.

But with Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell and shot by Phil Mehuex, the cinematography of the franchise leapt forward, becoming every bit as slick, stark, daring, and as fluidly brutal as the character whose adventures it captured. It was a pattern that continued through Quantum of Solace (dir. Marc Forster, DP Roberto Schaefer), Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes, DP Roger Deakins), and Spectre (dir. Mendes, DP Hoyte Van Hoytema) and as a result the Craig-Bond-era has been uniquely successful for the historic franchise. (emphasis added)

A few things:

— Mehuex also photographed 1995’s GoldenEye (which was also directed by Campbell). Was Meheux a hack during GoldenEye who became an artist 11 years later? Was his photography in Casino Royale that much better than his work in GoldenEye?

–Pre-Craig 007 directors of photography weren’t exactly slouches. Ted Moore, the original DOP, won an Oscar for 1966’s A Man For All Seasons. Freddie Young, who photographed 1967’s You Only Live Twice, won three Oscars and was described by director Lewis Gilbert as one of the great artists of British cinema.

Oswald Morris, co-DOP of The Man With The Golden Gun, won an Oscar and had two nominations. (With Golden Gun, he took over for Ted Moore, who fell ill, and photographed interior sequences. Both Moore and Oswald shared the DOP credit.) Claude Renior, who photographed The Spy Who Loved Me, was highly regarded.

–Other 007 DOPs had their moments. Alec Mills, who had been promoted up the ranks until photographing 1987’s The Living Daylights, had a striking shot during that movie’s Afghanistan sequence.

The Film School Rejects’ post includes a video with a sort of “best of” video of shots from the Craig era. See for yourself.

David Arnold discusses Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell (1964-2017)

David Arnold, who scored five James Bond films, discussed his work with singer Chris Cornell  for the title song of 2006’s Casino Royale with the entertainment news website The Wrap.

Cornell died last week. Arnold paid tribute to the performer after Cornell’s death in Detroit.

Here’s an excerpt from the story in The Wrap.

Shortly after signing on…Cornell traveled to the set in Prague to meet with Arnold and the film’s director, Martin Campbell. After reading the script and watching Craig in action via a rough cut of the film, Arnold and Cornell sat down to compare ideas for the song. They agreed that the song couldn’t be called “Casino Royale” and decided that the title “You Know My Name” would fit with Bond’s ego, an element of his character that plays a major factor in the story.

Arnold and Cornell wrote You Know My Name, with Cornell as the singer. Elements of the song were woven into Arnold’s score for the 21st James Bond film. It was the last time (to date) a Bond movie composer collaborated on a 007 title song.

According to The Wrap, Arnold and Cornell “pent 10 days apart writing the song, with Cornell writing lyrics based on his interpretations of (Daniel) Craig’s performance.”

To read the entire story, CLICK HERE.

Chris Cornell dies at 52

Chris Cornell

UPDATE III (6:50 p.m.): The Wayne County (Michigan) Medical Examiner said Chris Cornell died from “suicide by hanging” even though a full autopsy report hasn’t been completed according to The Detroit News.

ORIGINAL POST (4:30 a.m.): Chris Cornell, the rock musician who co-wrote and performed Casino Royale’s title song, died Wednesday night at age 52, The Associated Press reported.

The news service quoted a Cornell representative, Brian Bumbery, as saying the musician’s death was “sudden and unexpected.” No cause of death was known early Thursday. Cornell, who had been on tour, died in Detroit, the AP said.

Cornell was the lead singer for Soundgarden and “helped architect the 90’s grunge rock movement,” AP said in its report. He was also lead performer and songwriter for Audioslave.

In 2006, Cornell became the first title song performer for the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films.

Cornell also co-wrote Casino’s title song, “You Know My Name,” with David Arnold, who also scored the movie.

With Casino, Eon Productions opted for a “reboot,” or starting the series over. The Daniel Kleinman-designed main titles were different that previous entries. Graphic elements for the titles included playing card images as well as silhouettes of violent fights as well as images of Craig, who was making his 007 debut.

UPDATE (4:45 a.m.): David Arnold commented on Twitter:

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UPDATE II (9:30 a.m.): Many tributes have been written about Chris Cornell in the hours after his death became public. Here are tweets by the official James Bond Twitter account and actor Jeffrey Wright, who played Felix Leiter in Casino Royale.

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Writers Guild authorizes strike; will it affect Bond 25?

Writers Guild of America West logo

More than 96 percent of Writers Guild of America members participating voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike during current contract negotiations, according to The Hollywood Reporter and other entertainment news outlets.

The idea of a possible WGA strike makes James Bond fans uneasy. Quantum of Solace was affected by a WGA strike and 007 fans fret it could have an impact on Bond 25 as well.

First, a strike-authorization vote doesn’t guarantee a strike. A union has to conduct such a vote before a strike can happen. Some times, there is an authorization vote but a settlement occurs without a walkout.

On the other hand, if a WGA goes on strike, it could occur as early as May 2.

Quantum’s WGA strike history: The 22nd James Bond film originally had a release date of May 2, 2008. (CLICK HERE to see the text of the July 20, 2006 press release announcing the date. It came out before Casino Royale was released.)

Later, the release date was pushed back to fall 2008. However, the WGA went on strike from Nov. 5, 2007 to Feb. 12, 2008. Screenwriter Paul Haggis dropped off a draft just before the strike began. The strike is blamed for story shortcomings in Quantum, even if it doesn’t explain everything.

Bond 25’s writing history (such as it is): Nothing is official, but the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported last month that veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to write Bond 25.

Naturally, Bond fans wonder if a new WGA strike might disrupt things.

Still there’s one key difference.

The 2007-08 strike began shortly before the beginning of Quantum filming. Bond 25 doesn’t have a director. It doesn’t have a studio to distribute it. It hasn’t cast any actors. It has no production start date.

A strike may delay Bond 25 scripting but that process isn’t anywhere near as advanced as Quantum was just before that WGA strike.

Just to be clear, this post is from the narrow perspective of Bond 25. The WGA negotiations cover serious, broader issues.