Bond 25 questions: The half-time edition

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Principal photography on Bond 25 has been underway for a little over three months. That’s about the halfway point.

So now’s a good time as any for some more Bond 25 questions.

“Are we there yet?! Are we there yet?!”

No kids, we’re only about halfway done.

While it’s only been a little over three months, it has seemed longer.

There are been multiple tabloid stories about how the movie is either doomed or struggling or whatever.

There has also been intense fan debate after the Mail on Sunday said July 13 that Lashana Lynch’s character would get the 007 code number after James Bond (Daniel Craig) retired at the end of 2015’s SPECTRE. That has resulted in an exhaustive, soul-sucking time.

In years past, the filming of a Bond movie was enjoyable for fans. This time out? Not so much.

What happened to the title?

Your guess is as good as the blog’s. This weekend, there were some unconfirmed possibilities courtesy of a tweet by James Bond Brasil’s Marcos Kontze. But nothing solid yet. (If you’re spoiler adverse, don’t click on that link; or if you do don’t complain here.)

What’s up next?

Apparently filming will shift to Italy this month. That’s been reported before and local Italian outlets have written about it previously.

What about the trailer?

Who knows? There was a fan theory that a Bond 25 teaser trailer would be attached to Hobbs & Shaw (released by Universal, which is handling international distribution for Bond 25)

That didn’t happen. This weekend saw a trailer for Sam Mendes’s new movie, 1917, a World War I drama. There apparently was a trailer for Christopher Nolan’s next movie (but it wasn’t available online).

The Nolan film will be released in July 2020, or more than three months after Bond 25. But no trailer for Bond 25 yet.

Spy fans engage in throwing bricks from glass houses

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Late next week, Mission: Impossible-Fallout reaches theaters. Some 007 fans aren’t happy, feeling the movie is, well, a ripoff.

Specifically, based on trailers, there are at least two segments of M:I-Fallout that seem “inspired” from previous Bond films:

–A villain appears to make an escape similar to the way Franz Sanchez did in Licence to Kill (1989).

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes a HALO (high altitude, low-opening) parachute jump, similar to how B.J. Worth did one doubling for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

The resemblances are undeniable. In fact, the current Hawaii Five-0 series did an “homage” to the Licence to Kill sequence at the start of its third season in 2012. So Mission: Impossible-Fallout doing it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, memories may be short. So the following should be noted.

–Live And Let Die (1973) when it was released was seen as inspired by “blaxploitation” movies of the early 1970s. While Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel featured a black villain, the movie utilized a few characters but dispensed with the book’s main plot.

–The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was seen as 007’s answer to Kung Fu movies of the 1970s. Fleming’s 1965 novel of the same name was mostly set in Jamaica and didn’t have any Kung Fu.

–Moonraker (1979) was seen as 007’s answer to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fleming’s 1955 novel concerned a rocket but no space travel was involved.

–Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) were said to be influenced by the Jason Bourne movies that were popular at the start of this century.

Javier Bardem’s Silva in a Joker-like moment in Skyfall

–Skyfall (2012) was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Director Sam Mendes even said so. Javier Bardem’s Silva definitely seemed influenced by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

If fans want to accuse another franchise of copying, it can be a matter of throwing bricks from a glass house.

Filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time. Directors channel their inner-Alfred Hitchcock (or Stanley Kubrick, or whoever) all the time.

Christopher Nolan, who helmed The Dark Knight, channeled 007 films in his Batman trilogy. Example: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) giving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gadgets more than slightly resembled Bond-Q scenes from earlier 007 films.

Chances are, if you see a shot or sequence that reminds you of a famous movie sequence, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

The key difference is what does the director do with it? Does it work? Does it contribute to an entertaining film?

In the case of The Dark Knight, whatever you might think of it, Nolan delivered a memorable movie. With Skyfall, whatever was “borrowed” from Nolan, audiences found it an interesting take on a Bond film.

I can’t judge Mission: Impossible-Fallout. I haven’t seen it, other than the trailers.

The question is where M:I-Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his star, Tom Cruise, have delivered a good movie. “Borrowing” happens all the time in film. We’ll see soon.

Bond 25 pre-announcement accuracy scorecard

A reader of the blog, @EiriniMakr on Twitter, suggested a post about inaccurate things published about Bond 25.

Well, we’ll go one step further. What follows is a look at major examples of what panned out, what didn’t and what was muddy.

DEFINITELY RIGHT

Craig was coming back: The Page Six gossip operation of the New York Post said Feb. 22, 2017 that Daniel Craig was indeed coming back to play 007 in Bond 25. It had another item to that effect on April 3, 2017. The New York Times has its own story about Craig’s return on July 24, 2017.

All of these were published before Craig announced in mid-August 2017 that he was returning (2:06 mark).

Purvis & Wade were (initially) hired to write Bond 25: Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported on March 9, 2017 that six-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to write Bond 25. This was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 announcement that the movie would have a November 2019 release date in the United States.

Danny Boyle would direct Bond 25: Variety reports Feb. 20 that Boyle was in contention to direct Bond 25. Deadline: Hollywood comes back Feb. 21 with a story that Boyle’s participation depends on whether an idea he has developed with writer John Hodge (and that Hodge is writing as a script) is accepted.

On May 25, it was announced Boyle is directing from a script by Hodge.

DEFINITELY WRONG

The Daily Mail says May 18, 2016 that Daniel Craig turned down an offer of 68 million British pounds to play Bond in two more films. Problem: Craig says in a public appearance in New York in October 2016 that there are “no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Also, Craig ended up coming back.

Radar Online says Sept. 3, 2016 that Sony Pictures was offering Daniel Craig $150 million to do two more James Bond film. Problem: Sony’s involvement as a Bond film distributor ended with 2015’s SPECTRE. The Bond 25 distribution wouldn’t be settled until last month and Sony wasn’t part of it.

The Mirror says July 29, 2017 that Bond 25 will be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson titled Never Dream of Dying. Problem: Benson says on social media that he was never contacted by the Mirror and that he can only assume the story was a fabrication. Also, Eon Productions has been notoriously adverse to using Bond continuation novels as the basis of its films. A sequence from Kingsley Amis’ Colonel Sun was adapted for SPECTRE but you have to dig deep into the end titles to find acknowledgment of it.

Archivo 007, a fan website, says Dec. 2, 2017 Christopher Nolan is “more than likely” to direct  Bond 25. Problem: Didn’t happen. Nolan said in a BBC interview in February he wasn’t going to direct the film.

The Sun says April 26 that filming on Bond 25 “has been put back to later next year” because Daniel Craig’s wife, actress Rachel Weisz, is pregnant. ProblemThe May 25 official announcement about Boyle, Hodge, et. al., specifies that Bond 25 is to begin production Dec. 3.

MUDDY

This section involves stories that are plausible but aren’t likely to be confirmed definitively

Deadline: Hollywood says on July 26, 2017 that  Denis Villeneuve, Yann Demange and David Mackenzie are the “frontrunners” to direct Bond 25. Variety says the same day that Demange is the leading contender. (Variety also said Daniel Craig was likely to return.)

Some Bond fans were extremely enthusiastic about Villeneuve. And the director said in a November podcast that, ” “I had some contact” regarding Bond 25. But Villeneuve said he was is working on a new version of Dune and that was that.

So taking Villeneuve at this word, one of those three directors had been contacted about directing Bond 25. Were Demange and Mackenzie also under consideration? No way to know at this point.

Nolan says he’s not directing Bond 25

Christopher Nolan

Director Christopher Nolan has said he’s not directing Bond 25.

“I won’t be,” Nolan said on a broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Feb. 18. “No, no categorically. I think every time they hire a new director I’m just rumored to be doing it.”

There has been a fan theory expressed on internet message boards that Nolan had committed to Bond 25 but it was being kept under wraps until after the Oscars ceremony on March 4.

Nolan is one of the nominees for Best Director for last year’s Dunkirk. Under the fan theory, the thinking is an announcement that Nolan is directing Bond 25 might ruin the director’s chances.

In December, the Archivo 007 fan webite said it was “more than likely” that Nolan would direct Bond 25. The site cited two sources it didn’t identify (one from the U.S. and one from the U.K.) as saying Nolan already was working on the 007 project.

Nolan has said he’s a fan of James Bond films, something he repeated in the BBC Radio 4 interview. The director said in a 2017 interview with Playboy magazine that he has talked to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions “over the years.”

“I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it,” Nolan told Playboy. “Maybe one day that would work out. You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean. It has to need reinvention; it has to need you. And they’re getting along very well.”

Many fans have always been intrigued about what his take on 007 would be like. Director Sam Mendes has said Nolan’s Batman films were an influence on 2012’s Skyfall.

The Black Panther’s 007 vibe

Black Panther poster

No meaningful plot spoilers but the extremely spoiler adverse should skip.

Black Panther, which is debuting this weekend in the United States, also has a James Bond vibe.

Director Ryan Coogler, was quoted in stories appearing in January like this one and this one as saying Black Panther was intended to be the Marvel film universe’s version of 007.

Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the new king of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda.

The country is the only source of vibranium, a material with various properties which is the reason why Wakanda is so advanced. Wakandan leaders have long kept the country’s technology a secret. All of this is established in a short prologue that takes the form of a story being told a child.

T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) develops weapons and gadgets. Shuri is clearly this movie’s Q.

Because the movie is dealing with a fictional material, Shuri’s devices are more science fiction that what you see in a Bond movie.

What doesn’t work in a Bond movie (Die Another Day’s invisible car) is kid’s stuff compared to Black Panther, including a uniform with vibranium for T’Challa that stores kinetic energy that can be redirected against his opponents.

It’s similar to what director Christopher Nolan, a Bond film fan, did with his trilogy of Batman films.

In those films, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox kept Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne supplied with devices. Some of the Freeman-Bale scenes played very similar to their 007 counterpart sequences, where Wayne can’t wait to play around before Fox completes his briefing.

More broadly, Black Panther has espionage undertones. Because Wakanda is trying to keep its technology advances secret — and keep control of its vibranium — it employs a large network of spies deployed throughout the world. As a result, there’s an element of international intrigue. The movie has a lot more going than that, but it makes an interesting subtext.

UPDATE: I should have noted this earlier. At the very end of the film, after the final post-credits scene, there was something displayed that would warm the heart of old-time Bond film fans.

“BLACK PANTHER will return in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.” It’s not the first time Marvel has done this sort of thing, but first-generation Bond movie fans probably appreciate it. In this case, the next Avengers film will be out in less than three months.

007 film veterans get Oscar nominations

Oscars logo

Nominations for the Oscars were released this morning. A few had connections to the 007 film series.

Cinematography: The directors of photography for the last two James Bond movies received nominations. Roger Deakins (who worked on Skyfall) got a nomination for Blade Runner 2049. Hoyte van Hoytema (who worked on SPECTRE) received a nomination for Dunkirk.

Production Design: Dennis Gassner shared a nomination with Alessandra Querzola for Blade Runner 2049. Gassner has been the production designer on the Bond series since 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Gassner has said he’ll be back for Bond 25.

Film Editing: Lee Smith, who is part of director Christopher Nolan’s regular crew, received a nomination for Dunkirk. Smith worked on SPECTRE.

Visual Effects: Chris Corbould was among four people getting a nomination for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Corbould has Bond film credits going back to the 1980s.

As an aside, Nolan — who some 007 fans would like to helm a Bond film — received a directing nomination for Dunkirk. That film also received a nomination for Best Picture.

Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.