About that Christopher Nolan directing 007 film thing

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

There’s been another breakout of “Christopher Nolan directing James Bond fever.”

The subject comes up every so often. It’s well known the London-born Nolan likes James Bond movies. His Batman trilogy (2005-2008) contains references to Bond films. So does 2010’s Inception.

In May 2013, Nolan’s name was briefly mentioned as a possibility for directing Bond 24 (eventually titled SPECTRE) by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail. Nolan’s representatives were supposed to have been approached. But, two months later, the return of Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, was announced.

The newest outbreak of Nolan fever occurred Jan. 15 after actor Tom Hardy told the Daily Beast website that it “would be so cool” to play Bond with Nolan directing. Hardy has been in several Nolan-directed movies, including the upcoming Dunkirk.

With all that in mind, here are some observations and a question.

Skyfall was Nolan-lite:  Mendes, during Skyfall’s production, acknowledged The Dark Knight (the second of Nolan’s trilogy) was an inspiration for Skyfall. As a result, there are a number of similarities.

There are two ways to look at this. One, you already have an idea what a Nolan-directed Bond film would be like. Or two, why not have the real thing?

Nolan would work with some familiar faces: For SPECTRE, Eon Productions hired a Nolan director of photography (Hoyte Van Hoytema) and film editor (Lee Smith). Both worked with the director on Dunkirk.

What’s more, veteran Eon special effects man Chris Courbould also was a crew member on Nolan’s Batman films and Inception.

Nolan still would make changes: The director likes to write his own movies. No Bond director has also had a writing credit on the 007 film he helmed. It also seems likely Nolan would want to bring Hans Zimmer aboard as composer. They’ve worked together a number of times, also including Dunkirk.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan's production company

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Does Eon bring Syncopy into the Bond mix? With Nolan, you typically also get the involvement of his production company, Syncopy. Nolan gets a producer’s credit. So does his wife, Emma Thomas.

Bond films traditionally were a producer-driven operation. Since the late 2000s. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has been more enthused by “auteur” directors (Mendes and Quantum of Solace’s Marc Forster). But would Eon accommodate Nolan’s production company in a Bond film?

Many 007 fans reply something like, “Nolan loves James Bond so of course he will!”

This blog is a little more skeptical of that. At this point, though, there’s not much point in speculation. Bond 25 doesn’t have a director or a confirmed leading man. So we’ll see.

Hardy says being 007 with Nolan directing would be cool

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Actor Tom Hardy gave an interview to The Daily Beast website where, in effect, he says playing 007 with Christopher Nolan would be cool.

Before anyone’s blood pressure rises, here’s the key excerpt:

You know, when I interviewed Christopher Nolan he discussed his life-long desire to direct a Bond film. What about Chris directing you in a Bond film—maybe with your old drama school pal Michael Fassbender as the villain?

Oh, wow, Chris would be amazing! Wow, that would be cool. That would be so cool.

Do you want to play Bond? I tend to see your name on a lot of these wish lists, although I’m sure they’re just sort of dreaming up any and all talented Brit actors who look the part.

You know, there’s a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting, and in the fellowship of my peer group, that if you talk about it you’re automatically out of the race. So I can’t possibly comment on that one! If I mention it, it’s gone. But Chris Nolan, what a fantastic director for a Bond movie. Because Daniel [Craig] is so good, and what [Sam] Mendes and Barbara [Broccoli] have done has been so impressive, that it would be a very hard reimagination to follow after. I wonder what the next installment of that franchise would become, and I think when you mention someone like Christopher Nolan, that’s a very powerful figure to bring into that world who could bring something new and create something profound—again.

That’s it. It’s not actual news. It’s all hypothetical, as far as anyone knows.

In recent years, some fans have protested that Hardy, 39, is too short to play James Bond. At five-foot-nine, he is about (give or take) an inch shorter than incumbent Daniel Craig, who turns 49 in March.

UPDATE (Jan. 16). Gerry Conway, a veteran writer who has scripted comics for Marvel and DC as well as writing for television series, weighed in approvingly on Twitter. His credits include co-creating the Punisher for Marvel during a run of scripting Spider-Man in the 1970s.

 

Forbes raises idea of a Nolan-directed 007 film

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

In the absence of any actual James Bond news, Forbes.com made the case for how Christoper Nolan could enter the world of 007.

The post by Forbes contributor Mark Hughes says Warner Bros. is the studio best situated to strike a new 007 film distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. If that happens, according to Hughes, it could be the catalyst for Nolan to enter the picture.

Mr. Warner (this blog’s nickname for Warners, based on the studio’s cartoons who addressed the unseen Jack L. Warner) “is pursuing the rights full steam and has much to offer — enough, in fact, that I think it makes them the most likely studio to secure the Bond rights,” Hughes wrote. “Warner could use another solid, reliable franchise right now. I also believe Warner is in a strong position to put forward a better deal than other contenders.”

Mr. Warner, meanwhile enjoys a good relationship with Nolan. The director helmed a Batman trilogy for the studio from 2005 to 2012. As a reward, Warner Bros. financed Nolan’s 2010 Inception movie. Nolan, 45, is currently directing a World War II film, Dunkirk, for Warners.

“Warner seems the most likely to bring Christopher Nolan aboard the franchise, and that’s a big chip in the studio’s favor,” Hughes wrote for Forbes.

Nolan has said he likes Bond and 2008’s The Dark Knight includes Bond-inspired bits. Also, Inception included an homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Some fans are intrigued by the idea of a Nolan-helmed Bond film and Nolan’s influences were seen in the Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall and SPECTRE.

In May 2013, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who had a history of being correct about his 007 scoops, reported Nolan had been approached about directing what would become SPECTRE. But it became a moot issue when Mendes agreed to a second turn in Bondage.

However, there is a potential barrier to Nolan taking on 007 which would have to be addressed.

Nolan also produces movies, via his production company Syncopy. His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on those films. Would Eon Production co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson agree to such an arrangement on a Bond film?

Eon, in the 21st century, has given directors more freedom than the early years of the franchise. Still, it seems unlikely Broccoli and Wilson simply would yield to Thomas. Could they work out a deal where they’d work together, similar to the way Kevin McClory worked with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman on Thunderball?

Some fans figure Nolan loves Bond so much, he’d simply come aboard without his Syncopy associates. As Tracy said in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “I wouldn’t go banco on that.”

Again, there’s no actual news here. It’s just the speculation about Bond 25 is now branching out from potential successors to Daniel Craig (who has not actually publicly said he’s quitting the Bond role) to other matters.

Chris Corbould concludes work on SPECTRE

SPECTRE LOGO

Long-time 007 special effects man Chris Corbould took to Twitter to say he’s finished up his work on the 24th James Bond film.

Corbould isn’t a prolific Twitter user. He had put out only 36 tweets as of early Thursday afternoon. But he used his THIRD TWITTER POSTING in October to announce he’d be on the movie’s crew.

You can see an image below of Corbould’s tweet announcing wrapping up work on the film. Corbould won an Oscar for the Christopher Nolan-directed Inception and worked on Nolan’s Batman movies.

Should 007 and Batman share the same cinema universe?

NOT an actual comic book cover

NOT an actual comic book cover

It was reported this week that Warner Bros. may be in a good position to replaced Sony Pictures as the studio that releases James Bond movies. That got some fans to wonder whether 007 and Batman (and Superman and the Justice League) could share the same cinema universe.

Necessary background: 007’s home studio is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But, after emerging from bankruptcy, it’s a relatively small company and cuts deals with other studios to release its films.

Sony Pictures’ current two-picture deal with MGM for Bond expires once SPECTRE is released in November. Sony wants to strike a new deal, but the studio knows it’ll have competition for post-SPECTRE 007 projects.

Variety reported Warner Bros. is a leading contender because its executives have a good relationship with MGM’s top executive, Gary Barber.

Anyway, on THE SPY COMMAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE, a reader asked if Warners really does secure the 007 releasing deal whether Bond could be included in a planned two-part Warner Bros. Justice League movie, even if it’s just a cameo.

For the uninitiated, the Justice League is a group of DC Comics heroes, headed by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. DC Comics has long been part of Warners’ parent company and the comic book company now is actually part of the studio. Next year’s Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice will help set up the even bigger Justice League project.

It seems like a stretch that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, would go along with such a concept. In AN INTERVIEW WITH COMING SOON.NET, Broccoli and Wilson did not warm up to the idea of Bond sharing a fictional universe with any other character.

Q: The notion of cinematic shared universes are increasingly popular in Hollywood these days. Any chance of seeing the Bond franchise go after something like that?

Broccoli: I think Bond lives in his own universe. I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else.

Wilson: Like Bond and Mission: Impossible? I think that’s the stuff for comic books. More power to them.

Beyond the Eon leadership, there’s the question of 007 fans.

It’s hard to know how many, but — via Internet message boards and social media outlets — there are a lot of vocal 007 fans critical about “comic book movies.” For these fans, Bond is above that sort of thing. For them, “comic book movies” are glorified cartoons. Except, of course, when director Sam Mendes acknowledged that The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, INFLUENCED 2012’s SKYFALL.

Humility is not part of the 007 fan’s DNA. Bond is the best. Any other spy entertainment that has been created since 1962 is merely a “James Bond knockoff.” Bond in the same universe as Batman and Superman, even if it came via a cameo? Untold billions of brain cells around the world would explode.

Meanwhile, a note about the illustration with this post. It APPEARED ON THIS WEBSITE. The actual cover The Brave and The Bold No. 110 LOOKED LIKE THIS.

REVIEW: The sequel that doesn’t seem like a sequel

Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor vs. the Hulk, a highlight of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Concept art of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor vs. the Hulk, a highlight of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Director Joss Whedon, in his farewell to Marvel movies, has come up with a rarity: a sequel that doesn’t seem like a sequel.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, while not a perfect film, achieves something unusual. It’s a sequel that’s more introspective (at least for a time) than the 2012 original Marvel’s The Avengers, that Whedon directed and co-wrote. There’s a substantial attempt at demonstrating what makes its main characters tick that’s deeper than what came before.

It’s rare these days where there’s a “written and directed by” credit, but that’s what Whedon has here. It’s even more rare in genre movies not to mention a studio (Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel) that isn’t known as a haven for “auteur” filmmakers.

Still, the movie is all that and more. Whedon successfully walks a tightrope. He successfully balances commercial concerns (the 2012 movie had worldwide ticket sales of $1.5 billion), throws more than a few bones to the hard-core Marvel Comics fan base (including Tony Stark’s “Hulkbuster” armor, a popular bit from late 1970s comic books) to giving his main actors plenty of material to work with.

Concerning the latter point, the introspection occurs relatively early in the movie, something even more surprising. The super hero group encounters a set of brother-sister twins, who’ve been experimented upon by the evil organization Hydra. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) can mess with the minds of people.

Whedon uses that as a device to explore the personalities of his main cast (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner).

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Downey Jr. and Ruffalo) have been working on something they believe can result in good. As it turns out, they’ve crossed into Dr. Frankenstein territory (and Whedon provides a couple of references for those not familiar with that story). As a result, Ultron (James Spader) is born, a robot with artificial intelligence who decides humans should be exterminated.

Since 2008, Marvel Studios has been on an amazing run of movies that have been highly successful (and then some) at the box office. At the same time, those movies haven’t been paint-by-the-numbers. That’s especially true with Whedon’s second Avengers movie. He shakes things up (though not too much).

Whedon has indicated that after five-plus years of living with the Avengers he wants to movie on to developing projects featuring his own characters. That’s very understandable. Nevertheless, he has set a high bar for his successors.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo will helm a two-part Avengers movie due for release in 2018 and 2019. They’ve already directed one Captain America movie and are about to begin filming another featuring a Cap/Iron Man clash.

Yet, Whedon has demonstrated what can be accomplished in a genre film. Sam Mendes, director of the 007 film Skyfall and the currently filming SPECTRE, has been using Christopher Nolan’s Batman films as a guide to making James Bond movies. It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance check out Whedon’s work on the two Avengers movies as well.

Avengers: Age of Ultron has flaws. It’s a bit long and gets exhausting at times. For all that, it’s worth a look. GRADE: A-Minus.

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.