About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Peter Lamont, 007 art department mainstay, dies

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont, who worked in the art department of 18 James Bond films, has died. He was 91.

Reuben Wakeman, a Bond collector, in response to an inquiry by me, said on Twitter he had been informed directly by Gareth Owen of Bondstars LLP, who was also a friend of Lamont’s. Owen also assisted Roger Moore on his memoirs.

Lamont began on the Bond series as a draftsman on 1964’s Goldfinger.

One of his first assignments was to make blueprints for the Ken Adam-designed replica of the exterior of Fort Knox’s depository building.

“There were no measurements, just odd bits of information from the little bits of paperwork that Fort Knox” provided to Adam, Lamont said in the home video documentary Designing Bond: Peter Lamont.

He rose through the ranks to become a set decorator, art director and, beginning with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only as production designer.

“I never got bored of the Bond films,” Lamont said in a special issue of MI6 Confidential magazine in 2019.

“They’re fun, action-packaged adventures, they’ll offer challenges for even the most experienced filmmakers and they never take themselves too seriously.” The issue provided Lamont commentary about working on the last film in his career, 2006’s Casino Royale.

Octopussy set

A Peter Lamont-designed set in Octopussy

Working on Bond films also provided Lamont with other surprises.

“I was sitting in the office one day and the phone went,” Lamont said for the 1995 home video documentary The Thunderball Phenomenon. “A voice said he was Captain So-and-So from the Royal Engineers and did I know anything about Thunderball.”

The inquiry concerned a supposed miniature underwater breathing device used by Sean Connery in the 1965 film. The caller wanted to know how much of an air supply it had.

“‘I can tell you exactly,'” Lamont said, recalling the conversation. “‘As long as you can hold your breath.’ I can imagine this poor fellow going white.”

Lamont was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning for 1998’s Titantic, directed by James Cameron. That movie caused him to step aside as production designer for the 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Lamont also was nominated for another three BAFTA awards.

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale, praised Lamont in a forward to the 2019 MI6 Confidential issue.

“Peter designed both my Bond films and made my life so simple,” Campbell wrote. “I loved his concepts and, apart from maybe a few technical adjustments, I left him alone.”

The art department of the Bond series was a family affair for Lamont. His younger brother, Michael (who died in 2007), also worked on the series as did his son, Neil.

Peter Lamont’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists credits going back to 1950.

UPDATE (11:47 a.m., New York time): Eon Productions put out a statement on social media.

UPDATE II ( 4:40 p.m. New York time): The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put out a tribute to Peter Lamont:

The canard that haunts the Bond franchise

The prototype for the “reveal” of SPECTRE (2015)

Last week, a website called The Ringer became the latest outlet to repeat the canard that the James Bond films were forced to change in tone to be more serious.

The article was called “Austin Powers Still Haunts the James Bond Franchise.” Here’s an excerpt:

But as excellent as some of (Daniel Craig’s) Bond films have been, fun probably isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Craig’s take on the character; that was a point unto itself. “Mike Myers fucked us,” Craig told the Bond fan site MI6 Confidential Magazine in 2014. “I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong—but he kind of fucked us.”

He’s referring to—what else?—the Austin Powers franchise, Myers’s iconic spoof of Bond and the larger spy genre.

The problem with this often-repeated trope is Austin Powers was hardly the first to poke fun at Bond’s expense.

As early as 1964, future Bond Roger Moore played 007 in a variety show skit.

In 1965, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), a wildly successful, if improbable, situation comedy, featured man-child Jethro Bodine returning from the theater after seeing Goldfinger. Jethro recites the plot to his rich uncle Jed Clampett, who has lost none of his common sense despite his sudden wealth.

After listening to Jethro, Jed has one question: “Why didn’t he just shoot him?” Jethro, who had been smiling moments before, is crestfallen.

Despite that, Jethro decides that being a “double-naught spy” is his life’s calling because double naughts engage in a lot of “fightin’ and lovin’.” Jethro takes the Clampett family truck and adds a bulletproof shield (a meta tub), defensive weapons (two rifles that can be fired when Jetro pulls on strings tied to the rifles) and an ejector seat. Naturally, the latter figures into the episode’s final gag.

In fact, Jethro’s quest to be a “double naught” became a running gag for multiple episodes. There was a follow-up story the next season as Thunderball was coming out.

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the only show to poke fun at 007. It happened all the time during the 1960s. Another example: A 1966 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show titled “The Man From My Uncle,” in which Godfrey Cambridge played a character named Harry Bond. (“Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.”)

And, of course, there was Get Smart, a parody of Bond and the spy craze that ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS).

So, the Austin Powers series, consisting of three movies, was hardly plowing new ground in making light of Bond. Indeed, the Austin Powers series ended (for now) with Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002, the same year as Die Another Day.

The first new serious, Daniel Craig film, Casino Royale didn’t come out until 2006. Casino Royale had been influenced (in terms of a more serious tone) by the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon. With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the Bond series went full Bourne, bringing in Dan Bradley as second unit director, who had the same job on the Bourne films.

By Casino Royale, and certainly by Quantum of Solace, Austin Powers was receding into memory.

Meanwhile, with 2015’s SPECTRE, the Bond series embraced one of the Austin Powers tropes. It had been revealed that Austin Powers and his arch-enemy Dr. Evil were really brothers. In SPECTRE, it was revealed that Craig/Bond and Blofeld were foster brothers. And SPECTRE came out more than a decade after Austin Powers in Goldmember.

In the words of Daniel Craig, if Austin Powers “fucked us,” it was self-inflicted.

Documentary about Craig 007 films in the offing

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

A documentary about the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films has been produced, it was announced at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

MoMA held an event where the documentary was referenced.

Marcos Kontze, webmaster of the James Bond Brasil website, published a post on Twitter that included a short video.

According to that post, the documentary titled Being James Bond would include Craig’s screen test for 2006’s Casino Royale, the first of his five Bond films. The Arts Commented blog had another post on Twitter that said the event included a short clip from the documentary.

There were no details how soon the documentary would be available.

Bond 25 questions: The potpourri edition

New No Time to Die poster

We’ve had a few No Time to Die developments recently. Naturally, the blog has a couple of questions.

Will the gunbarrel be at the beginning?

Hard to say, but this week’s Cary Fukunaga video suggests it’s a strong possibility.

“The white dots on the screen…the adrenaline starts pumping,” Fukunaga’s voiceover says, accompanying the Daniel Craig gunbarrel from SPECTRE. “Settle in and get ready for a ride.”

That sounds like a description of the first 20 Bond films when the gunbarrel was at the start of the movie. Things got changed up with 2006’s Casino Royale, which began a new, rebooted timeline. The gunbarrel appeared at the end of the pre-titles sequence.

Then, for Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the gunbarrel appeared at the end of the film. There was some pushback from fans. That generated pushback to the pushback where other fans questioned how dare fans question the artistry of the films. The comments section of this 2012 post demonstrates both sides of the argument.

The gunbarrel was back at the start of SPECTRE, although it wasn’t the best executed, including having Daniel Craig swinging his arm wildly showing he’s holding a gun.

In any case, Fukunaga at least sounds more appreciative of the gunbarrel logo than his Bond directing predecessor Sam Mendes. We’ll see.

Why didn’t Scott Z. Burns get a script credit?

Supposedly, the ace Hollywood “script doctor” in early 2019 was on his way to save No Time to Die’s script. Certainly, The Playlist website made it sound that way in a February 2019 story.

To give credit where credit is due, The Playlist was the first to report Burns participating in the writing of the film. Saving the script? Not so much. Burns ended up not getting a credit while Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge did.

Ultimately, script credits are decided by the Writers Guild of America. The rules are a bit complex but in general favor the early writers over those who rewrite. There is also a cap on the number of credits available. In this case, Burns had no seat when the WGA musical chairs of writing credits ended.

A No Time to Die reality check

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Adapted, updated and expanded from previous blog posts.

Ben Whishaw, who has played Q for three James Bond films, has told Collider.com that No Time to Die will be a “summing up” of Daniel Craig’s 007 films.

There has been some fan discussion of how the Craig films will now be this five-film epic, something the series had never attempted. Under this idea, No Time to Die will conclude five Bond films, similar to how Avengers: Endgame was the conclusion of more than 20 Marvel Studios movies.

No Time to Die may be presented that way. But this is just a reminder that Craig’s tenure was never planned this way unlike Marvel.

Let’s go back some years.

Sam Mendes said Skyfall “didn’t connect” to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace: At a November 2011 press conference, Mendes was asked whether Skyfall was related to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

“It’s its own story,” the Skyfall director said of Skyfall. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

After the fact, things changed.

The filmmakers once told us SPECTRE was passe: Here’s a quote from Barbara Broccoli in a 2012 interview with CRAVE ONLINE:

Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new. (emphasis added)

The filmmakers told us Quantum was better than SPECTRE: Here’s a summary by the JAMES BOND INTERNATIONAL FAN CLUB of an article that originally appeared in SPX magazine.

Interestingly, Wilson and Broccoli told SFX that they have not abandoned the Quantum organisation, but also confirmed that it is not used in ‘Skyfall’. Wilson also revealed that they have the rights to bring back Blofeld and SPECTRE. ‘We believe we can use them. They’re a little dated at the moment. We went for the Quantum organisation, which was more business oriented, trying to corner the market on scarce resources, rather than a criminal organisation that did blackmail and bank robberies…’.

But Wilson’s co-producer Barbara Broccoli added, cautiously, that they needed a little more time to pass before they could go back to ‘extortion and blackmail! The Quantunm organisation does seem far more realistic. (emphasis added)

In 2006’s Casino Royale, the mysterious organization that Bond battled didn’t have a name. In Quantum of Solace, we found out it was called Quantum. In SPECTRE, we learned there was a tie between Quantum and SPECTRE via Mr. White.

The 2013 settlement with the Kevin McClory estate that gave Eon Productions the ability to use SPECTRE was an opportunity. That changed everything,

With SPECTRE, we got a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity).

I saw a tweet from a fan who wondered whether No Time to Die was SPECTRE Part II. Essentially, many fans are buying into the idea (seemingly voiced by Whishaw in his Collider interview) that No Time to Die is Casino Royale Part V.

None of this means No Time to Die won’t be an entertaining James Bond. Still, let’s not get carried away.

Broccoli says Eon resisting doing Bond spinoffs

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions chief Barbara Broccoli says in a recent magazine story that the production company has been pressured to make James Bond spinoffs but is resisting such a move.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure to make spinoffs,” Broccoli told Total Film, whose 2020 movie preview issue went on sale this month.

“Bond is Bond, she added. “We want to make these theatrical films. We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

Broccoli didn’t specify where the pressure was coming from. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) share custody of Bond.

Marvel Studios, which has produced more than 20 inter-connected movies since 2008 is branching into TV series for the Disney + streaming service.

The entire Total Film article is not online but scans of it are showing up on internet bulletin boards. There is a preview of the story online.

Eon has avoided planning long story arcs. Quantum of Solace was always intended to be a “direct” sequel to Casino Royale. But Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a 2011 news conference that his movie wasn’t tied to the two earlier Daniel Craig films.

Then, with SPECTRE, the filmmakers did a “retcon,” making Skyfall connected to Casino and Quantum after all. Skyfall villain Silva became part of SPECTRE/Quantum after the fact. Now, all four are connected to the upcoming No Time to Die.

In the 2000s, Eon developed a proposed Bond spinoff movie featuring Jinx, the character played by Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Nothing came of the project.

Meanwhile, Eon has stepped up its production of non-Bond movies, including the upcoming The Rhythm Section being released by Paramount in January.

Bond 25 questions: The miscellaneous edition

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

We seem to have completed a wave of No Time to Die marketing that included the release of the film’s first trailer. However, as is often the case, the blog has some questions.

How long will the movie be?

The Daniel Craig era of the James Bond film series has been known for long movies.

2006’s Casino Royale came in at 144 minutes, edging out On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (142 minutes) for the longest film in the series up to that time.

Six years later, Skyfall came in at 143 minutes, according to its IMDB.com listing. Then, in 2015, SPECTRE seized the crown of longest-running Bond film at 148 minutes.

The one exception in the Craig era was 2008’s Quantum of Solace at a slender106 minutes, the shortest movie in the series made by Eon Productions.

Based on recent history, it would seem a longer movie is more likely than a shorter one. But how long? Two-and-a-half hours? Longer? Is three hours a possibility? There’s no way to know, obviously, at this point.

Who will do the title song?

To be honest, this isn’t something I personally get excited about. It used to be the title song was an integral part of the movie. Now, it seems to be little more than part of the marketing.

The last time a Bond film composer helped write a title song was Casino Royale’s You Know My Name, where David Arnold collaborated with singer Chris Cornell. When that happens, the composer can weave the title song into the movie’s score.

Now? Music from the song does show up in the underscore, but it doesn’t sound particularly smooth.

When No Time to Die’s title song composer is announced, it’ll get a lot of attention. But, speaking only for myself, it’s hard to get that excited. Which leads up to the next question….

Who is scoring the movie?

In July, IndieWire reported that Dan Romer, who had worked with director Cary Fukunaga on some projects, was the composer. Romer put out a tweet that appeared to confirm the report.

Then, in November, fansite James Bond Radio said it heard Romer had left the production.

Nothing has been heard of since then. There has been no announcement about a No Time to Die composer. So who knows at this point?

Henry Cavill on Bond, U.N.C.L.E. and Superman

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (art by Paul Baack)

Men’s Health is out with a long feature story about actor Henry Cavill. He was once up for playing James Bond (losing out to Daniel Craig), played Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was Superman in three films.

Various entertainment outlets have chewed up the story into bite-sized pieces about various topics. Here’s a roundup.

On auditioning for Bond in Casino Royale: Cavill was in his early 20s when he tested for the role of Bond. Chances are he didn’t stand much of a chance given how Eon Productions boss was pushing for Daniel Craig. The story has this passage:

To screen-test, he had to walk out of a bathroom wrapped in a towel and reenact a scene from one of the Sean Connery–era films. “I probably could have prepared better,” Cavill says. “I remember the director, Martin Campbell, saying, ‘Looking a little chubby there, Henry.’ I didn’t know how to train or diet. And I’m glad Martin said something, because I respond well to truth. It helps me get better.”

Sounds like he was probably talking about the seduction scene of From Russia With Love, which is one of the standard Bond screen test scenes.

On The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015): The article says the movie, while not a big hit, helped Cavill’s career.

It wasn’t until the big-screen remake of the TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that viewers got an idea of the actor’s innate playfulness. Cavill played a swanning, conning American agent named Napoleon Solo. And although it wasn’t a hit, it marked a crucial moment in his career. As Solo, he was droll, at ease, and effortlessly sexy.

Watching U.N.C.L.E., says director Christopher McQuarrie, led him to cast the actor as the evil-genius villain of Mission: Impossible—Fallout. “Something in Henry’s comic timing told me he had talents that weren’t being exploited,” says McQuarrie. “I found he had a charming sense of humor—at which point I knew he could be a villain. The best villains enjoy their work.”

Whether he’s still Superman: Cavill played Superman in Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017). There are no outward signs whether he’ll be back. An excerpt:

“I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see.”

Ian Fleming Foundation shows off some of its 007 vehicles

A YouTube video was posted on Oct. 30 showing off some of the James Bond film vehicles the Ian Fleming Foundation has custody of. It runs a little over 16 minutes.

Note: The foundation doesn’t actually own the Ford Mondeo from Casino Royale. It’s a long-term loan from the automaker. The Mondeo in the movie wasn’t a street-legal vehicle. Normally, an automaker crushes a pre-production vehicle. (Disclosure: The foundation asked me, circa 2006, for help in contacting Ford about the Mondeo.)

The video includes one of the foundation’s more recent acquisitions, a piece of heavy equipment from Caterpillar that appeared in the pre-titles sequence of 2012’s Skyfall.

The vehicles are stored about 90 minutes south of Chicago.