Odds and ends from Empire’s NTTD story

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

No real spoilers but people determined to read nothing about No Time to Die before April should skip.

Empire magazine’s February 2020 has reached subscribers and there are now scans of its entire No Time to Die story.

The issue goes on sale on Dec. 27. The blog ran one post yesterday. What follows is a summary of a few additional things:

–There are a couple of passages that partially explain scenes that are included in the movie’s trailer (Bond’s black tie scene and a seaplane).

–Director Cary Fukunaga supposedly lobbied for the Bond 25 director’s job right after SPECTRE.

–Producer Barbara Broccoli on why Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld came back (despite Waltz’s claims at one point that he wasn’t in the movie): “When you’ve got Christoph Waltz you don’t want to throw him away and you don’t want to kill him off too fast.”

–Fukunaga on Safin, the villain played by Rami Malek: “He’s someone who’s lived in the shadows. Waiting for the right moment to take the position he thinks is his rightful position: running the underworld.”

–Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson say they haven’t thought at all about Bond 26.

‘No comment’ trumps a falsehood

Rami Malek

Earlier today, I saw some social media accounts express exasperation that the idea that Rami Malek may be playing a rebooted Dr. No in No Time to Die.

Malek, in a recent interview, said he wasn’t playing Dr. No. Shouldn’t that be the end of it?

Under normal circumstances, yes.

But Malek’s Dr. No denial comes after Eon Productions, and the actors it hired, denied things that were true.

–Naomie Harris denied she was playing a new version of Moneypenny in Skyfall. But she was.

–Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and star Daniel Craig, in a joint interview during the production of Skyfall, denied Ben Whishaw was playing Q in Skyfall. This came after Whishaw’s agent said his client had the part.

“Agents are liars,” Craig said. “You know that.” The actor laughed, according to the transcript.

–Christoph Waltz denied he was playing Blofeld in SPECTRE. But he was.

It may well be true that Malek isn’t playing Dr. No. The timeline for the Malek-is-playing-Dr. No is a bit odd. See THIS DEC. 6 SPY COMMAND POST for some background.

The thing is, once a pattern is established of denying things that are true, you lose the benefit of the doubt. You don’t get to unring a bell. You don’t get a do-over.

Put another way, credibility once lost is hard to get back. With Malek as Dr. No 2.0, fans may be going down a rabbit hole. But Eon Productions and its publicity department have only themselves to blame.

“No comment” is always a better alternative to a falsehood.

About that Dr. No vibe for No Time to Die

Rami Malek in the No Time to Die trailer

There are fan questions whether Rami Malek is playing a rebooted version of Dr. No in No Time to Die. But how did that get started?

Well, back on April 25, Malek appeared on Good Morning America. He was asked if he had a favorite James Bond film.

“I liked Dr. No quite a bit,” Malek replied.

Later in the day, CBS posted an online story that originally said Malek would play Dr. No. However, that reference was deleted and this added to the end of the story: “Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that it is unclear which James Bond villain Malek will be playing.”

Regardless, the idea remained in the background, even after Malek’s character name was revealed to be Safin.

This week, the No Time to Die trailer debuted, providing a first look of Malek in character. The trailer did little to put the Dr. No vibe to rest. For example, Joe Darlington of Being James Bond noted this similarity.

Dr. No: BOND (Sean Connery): Our asylums are full of people who think they’re Napoleon — or God.

No Time to Die trailer: BOND (Daniel Craig): History isn’t kind to men who play God.

However, Malek, during an interview seemed to want to wind back the Dr. No angle. He said he watched previous Bond films but “it was not as if I was going back o play an exact character. I was not playing  Dr. No again.”

You can see it below, starting around the 7:23 mark.

Normally, that would be that.

Except, during production of Skyfall, Naomie Harris denied she was playing Moneypenny while Daniel Craig and Barbara Broccoli in a joint interview denied Ben Whishaw was playing Q (even though Whishaw’ agent had let the cat out of the bag). Also, during production of SPECTRE, Christoph Waltz denied he was paying Blofeld.

As a result, maybe Malek means it. But, based on recent history, maybe he doesn’t.

We’ll see.

Blofeld: Why the character deserves fan admiration

Spoiler adverse should stop reading now.

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer
Last week, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE, would reprise the role in Bond 25.

I support Waltz’s return. Yes, SPECTRE wasn’t a masterpiece of a Bond film. Far from it. The foster brother plot element was far fetched and perceived as a forced effort to bring back a new kind of Blofeld.

Most Bond fans and general movie audiences didn’t buy it. Nor did they buy the rather convoluted scheme from SPECTRE to sell large amounts of intelligence data packed in a new intelligence IT system to its highest bidder: the British intelligence community.

Execution, Smart Writing
Still, Blofeld is alive and Bond’s links to that man and his heritage have compromised the British Secret Service.

The history of Daniel Craig’s Bond (young bloke in Casino Royale while being an orphan from Scotland in Skyfall) is in place. Some sense needs to be made out of that.

By completely ignoring those elements, you risk producing an adventure that doesn’t do justice to Bond as a a fully rounded character.

Turning Bond 25 into an action flick reminiscent of the last 007 films of Roger Moore and Sean Connery doesn’t work.

I find it plot wise more logical to do something with the radical (and badly executed) fact that a legendary Bond villain (Waltz’s Blofeld)  has been left alive with a broken leg and a bloody scar on his face.

Only now it must be executed better.  Blofeld’s return will admittedly be a precarious affair..

Anthony Dawson (with Eric Pohlman dubbing the voice)  played puppet master Blofeld in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

His uncredited Blofeld managed to have a tiny amount of screen time, while at the same time being a pivotal plot device to the overall villainous scheme and infusing some much needed horror and scare to movie audiences.

Add to that James himself, who after retiring from M6 isn’t aware about Blofeld shaking and stirring a new and much better executed villain’s plot. A return of Blofeld can become more palatable for even the most orthodox Bond fan.

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

Respect for an Antagonist
Apart from bringing back Blofeld, some fans should also try and find some love for a character that was, indeed, (co-)devised by Ian Fleming himself.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the books was the head of SPECTRE, but he introduced the character foremost to get out of too much political waters (an antagonist not bound to any nation has got its advantages).

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman found that admirable. They changed the plot of the cinematic adaptation of From Russia With Love in such a way that Russia wouldn’t be the prime aggressor.

Instead, it was Blofeld all along! He was, together with Kronsteen, the author of all that humiliation to James Bond! Ian Fleming eventually was very pleased with the film.

Blofeld: A ‘Push the Buttons’ Villain
There is also a larger-than-life quality to Blofeld that makes his actions more defensible than many fans would like to see.

Blofeld has weird psychotic traits. Blofeld is much more the man who acts out of sheer psychotic…..fun. Just revisit The Garden Of Death in Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice, and we are back with both feet on the ground: the world of Bond isn’t that logical sometimes!

Even in the first Bond films, Blofeld was the man who took great pleasure in torturing and killing his adversaries in an all too theatrical way. Pressing a button here, drilling a little hole in Bond’s skull there: that’s Blofeld. But it was fun, entertaining and, admittedly, slightly gory. And Fleming knew that aspect too.

More Logic, Better Explanations
Yes, I think it’s pivotal to get rid of that bit of foster brother backstory. It turned Blofeld and Bond into two brotherly losers who could not stay professional within their own organisations: MI6 and SPECTRE.

Yet, I think it’s not a big problem to simply ignore that aspect while at the same time let Blofeld return with some of the aforementioned brilliance.

Let us also not forget that the prime villain of Bond 25 will be played by Rami Malek. So we should also not panic like headless chickens now Christoph Waltz has been seen at Pinewood Studios.

It is Rami Malek who gets more screen time in Bond 25. It is his role who probably devises an ingenious plot, which, rumour has it is about genetic warfare.

Such a scheme, and a hopefully rich performance by Rami Malek, will probably leave not too much space for more complicated revelations about Bond and Blofeld’s failed childhood.

Patience, Please
In any case, ignoring SPECTRE is one way to create a more critically acclaimed Bond film in cinemas as of next year. But there are more ways to Rome, more ways to produce a masterpiece of a Bond film.

So patience is a virtue too. Perhaps the Bond fan community should look into that a bit more often, so that we don’t write off a film before it’s even released.

Bond 25 questions: The SPOILER edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If you haven’t guessed by the headline (where “SPOILER” is in all capital letters), this post has spoilers. If you’re spoiler adverse, scram. I don’t care how much shows up in the preview image on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

So, it seems pretty certain that Christoph Waltz will be in Bond 25 again playing the BROfeld version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (i.e. Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother).

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is this trip really necessary? Not really. But it seems as if Eon Productions and its army of screenwriters is going to double down on one of the worst aspects of 2015’s SPECTRE — namely that Waltz’s Blofeld was Bond’s foster brother and has a personal reason to torment Bond.

What would you have done? Ignore SPECTRE and move on with a new story. Instead, it would appear we will get a version of SPECTRE Part II. It won’t be called that, of course.

Are you serious? All we need now is a “reveal” that Dave Bautista’s Hinx will be back as Hinx, the lead henchman in SPECTRE. At this point, he might as well be. Remember, he appeared to be lobbying for that to happen.

It’d be natural for him to join Jeffrey Wright (last seen in a 007 film in Quantum of Solace) and Lea Seydoux (as Bond’s supposedly everlasting love). Hey, let’s have Eva Green (Vesper in Casino Royale) appear in a flashback sequence while we’re at it.

Any other thoughts? Yes. It’s perhaps time to finally dispense with the trope that the Daniel Craig Bond films are the “closest” to Ian Fleming.

Craig started out with Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. Since then, we’ve seen the death of Mathis (not in a Fleming book).

Mathis may have been a double agent (at least that’s the implication of his Quantum of Solace death scene), which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

And, of course, we have Blofeld/BRO-feld as Bond’s foster brother in SPECTRE, which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

Even if you love all these films, they’re not what Fleming had in mind. Bond 25 may end up an entertaining film. (That’s my inner optimist speaking out). Just don’t bring Fleming into the discussion.

Any suggestions for Bond 25? Perhaps some new character could “reveal” that himself (or herself) was the real Blofeld all along and the “foster brother” nonsense was a way to mess with Bond’s mind. But I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Familiar face to return for Bond 25, Baz says

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

If you haven’t guessed, this is a spoiler. I even wrote the headline to not give it away. So scram if you don’t like spoilers.

SPACE….OK….

Christoph Waltz will again play Blofeld in Bond 25, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye said on Twitter.

Waltz played Blofeld in 2015’s SPECTRE.

Exclusive:Hello Mr Waltz… we’ve been expecting you.#ChristophWaltz is back as #Blofeld in ⁦@007 #Bond25 , shooting scenes at Pinewood studios,” Bamigboye wrote . “When a visitor spotted him , Waltz insisted , ‘You haven’t seen me.'”

Bamigboye had a number of scoops proven correct on Skyfall and SPECTRE. He has been relatively quiet on Bond 25.

Bamigboye also is not the first scribe to say Waltz was returning as Blofeld. Rodrigo Perez, editor of The Playlist, said as such in an April 25 tweet.

Perez was the first to report that Scott Z. Burns had been employed as a Bond 25 screenwriter. That was confirmed in the late April “reveal” event Eon Productions had in late April.

Waltz said in 2017 he wouldn’t be back as Blofeld. Then again, he originally said he wasn’t playing Blofeld in SPECTRE.

As I write this, Bamigboye only has his tweet out. The post will be updated if and when the Mail posts a story.

Here’s Bamigboye’s tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

UPDATE (8:20 p.m. New York time): Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist does a victory lap.

There was more and something I revealed on The Words Are Not Enough podcast ‏—a 007 podcast run by Playlister Griffin Schiller and pal Brody Serravalli—back in April: Christoph Waltz would be returning to the series and reprising his role as Blofeld. Tonight that’s been confirmed by trusted U.K. writer Baz Bamigboye.

Personally, I find it odd that Perez wrote about Waltz on Twitter and mentioned it on a podcast but never got around to doing a story. “Twitter scoop I shoulda posted as a story long ago, but life got in the way and I’m way too exhausted now,” he wrote in that April 25 tweet linked above.

Anyway, since we’re in spoiler territory, Perez adds this in tonight’s story.

” I’ve heard that Blofeld returns in a kind of “Silence Of The Lambs”-like appearance; Clarice Starling (in this case Lea Seydoux), visiting him in prison and trying to mine him for information about (Rami) Malek’s sadistic character.”

“I’ve heard” isn’t the strongest attribution. Heard according to people associated with the production? You can still provide an idea of how strong your information is without identifying your sources. But all the story provides is “I’ve heard.”

UPDATE II (10:15 p.m.): Bamigboye’s story was posted by the Daily Mail earlier in the evening.  Here’s an excerpt:

Waltz’s involvement as Blofeld has been kept top secret . . . until now. When visitors to the set spotted him, the Austrian-born star put a finger to his lips and in hushed tones told them: ‘You haven’t seen me. I’m not here.’

An executive on the film told me: ‘There’s unfinished business between Bond and Blofeld. If I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.’ That may not even have been a joke.

As noted above, it hasn’t been top secret “until now.” And once again, we get a variation on the “I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you” cliche. Whatever.

The scribe did add one tidbit: “Extra post-production technicians and other experts have been drafted in to ensure that Bond 25 makes its scheduled April 3 release date next year.”

Why it may be time for Eon to modernize its P.R.

Eon Productions logo

You are making a major action-adventure film. Your star injures himself. What do you do?

If you’re making Mission: Impossible-Fallout, you get ahead of the story. Your writer-director Christopher McQuarrie gives an interview to Empire magazine to explain how things are under control even though star Tom Cruise broke his ankle.

Confirming that Cruise had broken his right ankle, McQuarrie assured Empire that his star remained in good shape, in spite of his injury. “Tom is great,” McQuarrie said. “He’s in very good spirits.”

Meanwhile, if you’re Eon Productions and your star, Daniel Craig, has suffered (apparently) a lesser injury, you stay quiet.

This week, The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, ran a story about how Craig hurt his ankle during Bond 25 filming. Other outlets summarized The Sun’s story, including Variety.

Throughout all this, there was no word from Eon, which has produced the 007 film series since 1962.

Finally, after about 24 hours, The Sun produced a follow-up story saying Craig’s injury wasn’t that bad and he’ll be back at work in a week or so.

Still, for that 24 hour period, others were dictating the Bond 25 story line to the general public.

The thing is, this is par for the course. Eon has a history of denying things that are true such as Ben Whishaw being cast as Q, Naomie Harris being cast as Moneypenny, John Logan being hired to write Bond 24 and 25 (before things changed), Christoph Waltz being cast as Blofeld and so on and so forth.

For that matter, Eon spun a fairy tale in the 1970s that Roger Moore was always the first choice (rather than Sean Connery) to play Bond. For that matter, in the 1980s, Eon’s principals said with a straight face that Pierce Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond and Timothy Dalton was always its first choice to succeed Roger Moore as 007.

We’re now almost one-fifth into the 21st century. Things change. What worked in the past, doesn’t necessarily work now.

You need a communications strategy where your viewpoint is made clear and plain at all times. If you’re making a movie that costs more than $200 million, you can’t be passive.

Truth be told, a big chunk of the 007 fan base acts as if this is still 1965 and Bond is the biggest thing on the planet. There are times that Eon appears to believe the same thing.

Whatever you believe, you can’t be passive in an age where social media helps shape the perception of your product. For one 24-hour period this week, Bond fans genuinely were wondering what was going on.

With silence from Eon, the notion that Craig suffered an injury serious enough to affect Bond 25 filming began to take hold.

This particular dust-up already is fading. But it still points to the need for a more pro-active public relations approach.