About that SPECTRE budget

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

As Eon Productions decide what to do next with the 007 franchise, one issue is whether the series can sustain SPECTRE-sized budgets.

In early December 2014, director Sam Mendes joked that Pinewood Studios’ 007 Stage was, “The stage where budgets go to die.”

Not long after, the humor faded as the hacking at Sony Pictures revealed a memo by a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive saying the SPECTRE budget was heading well above $300 million, various outlets reported, including CNN Money. Efforts were underway to reduce the budget and gain, among other things, incentives from Mexico to help defray costs.

Before the movie came out in fall 2015, reports (citing studio representatives who weren’t identified) had the budget down to $240 million or so. Regardless, the movie was expensive, putting it in the neighborhood of comic book-based movies such as Marvel Studios’ two Avengers films and Warner Bros.’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

There were, no doubt, lots of reasons for the outlay. But two scenes spring to mind.

One was a Rome car chase, which cost 24 million British pounds (around $36 million at the time). Eon seemed rather proud of the spending, giving the Mail on Sunday  lots of access to describe how it was filmed.

The thing was, the chase was mostly plot exposition. During much of the chase, Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the phone to Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) asking her to check out the supposedly dead Franz Oberhauser. It wasn’t exactly in the class of 1968’s Bullitt or a more recent film such as 1998’s Ronin.

The other scene came near the end of Bond’s escape from a SPECTRE lair. The agent blows it up. In November 2015, after the movie’s U.S. release, the Bond team uploaded a YouTube video saying the explosion was a world’s record:

 

 

“Largest explosion in the history of movies,” a pleased Mendes says in the video.

Except, was it that dramatic a moment? Bond and Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) already had made their escape. Obviously, blowing up SPECTRE headquarters would require a big explosion. But did the extra cost of making it a world’s record actually add to the story? Was the extra spending an artistic choice or ego?

Just to remind everyone, this blog had a favorable review of SPECTRE. At the same time, in some respects SPECTRE indicates that Eon should at least review its spending.

Put another way, would SPECTRE have been harmed if, say, only 12 million pounds had been spent on the car chase? Would artistic integrity been compromised if the SPECTRE lair explosion not been a world’s record?

What’s more, the series on occasion has dialed back — most famously with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only which followed 1979’s Moonraker.

It’s going to be a long while before Bond 25 comes out. Consider this post food for thought.

 

Watching the 007 sausage getting made

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No SPECTRE spoilers in this post.

There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t watch laws or sausage being made.

With the recent hacking at Sony Pictures, there’s been an opportunity to watch sausage production as it relates to SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions.

The CNN/Money website reported about hacked emails CONCERNING SPECTRE’S BUDGET. The Gawker website reported about hacked emails DEALING WITH ISSUES ABOUT THE MOVIE’S SCRIPT. (Warning: if you’re spoiler adverse, don’t click on either link).

Movie making can be a messy business. There are countless decisions to be made all the time. Different ideas get floated and what, to the lay person, seems like a terrible idea can even be seriously considered.

Until now, the sausage making, as it concerns Bond films, has emerged well after the movies came out. Books such as Steven Jay Rubin’s The James Bond Films, Adrian Turner’s Adrian Turner on Goldfinger and Charles Helfenstein’s The Making of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service showed how the 007 movies didn’t always go smoothly. Even studio-approved documentaries on DVDs of the films detailed problems with the productions.

Thus, fans have become familiar with stories how screenwriters wanted to dump Ian Fleming’s Dr. No character and have a villain with a pet monkey named Dr. No; how screenwriters sweated bullets to explain why Goldfinger just didn’t kill Bond when he had the chance; how screenwriter Paul Dehn turned in a draft where Goldfinger would end with “red velvet curtains” coming down as if the movie were a play; how some drafts of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service included an amphibious Aston Martin. One resource in uncovering all this has been the papers of 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum at the University of Iowa.

With the Sony hacking, the information about the script and budget came out shortly after SPECTRE began principal photography. A seven-month shoot is scheduled, so the movie is a long way from being finished.

Meanwhile, Eon has a history of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Maibaum didn’t begin a draft that solved the storytelling problems of inserting SPECTRE into the plot of From Russia With Love until filming was underway. The screenplays of The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies had chaotic histories but things turned out all right in the end.

Thus, it’s certainly possible that SPECTRE could well turn out fine. It’s just that 21st century technology (and hazards such as the Sony hackers) makes things more anxious until there’s an actual movie to judge.

SPECTRE may be one of most expensive movies ever made

SPECTRE LOGO

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film made by Eon Productions, may be one of the most expensive movies ever made, not adjusted for inflation, based on one movie data base.

The CNN/MONEY WEBSITE reported Dec. 10 that hacked Sony Pictures documents indicate SPECTRE is on pace to cost more than $300 million. (Note: the CNN/Money story does contain plot spoilers.)

The story quoted an e-mail by a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive as saying the budget “sits in the mid $300Ms,” while efforts were being made to get it back down to $250 million. Sony Pictures will release SPECTRE next year while Eon and MGM own the franchise.

THE NUMBERS WEBSITE, which compiles various movie financial data, includes a list of the 20 most expensive films it has information on. At $300 million, SPECTRE would tie Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End for No. 2 at that list. Only Avatar, at $425 million, is higher.

Other films of note that are high on the list: The Dark Knight Rises, John Carter and 2013’s The Lone Ranger, all at $275 million, and three Hobbit movies at $250 million each.

Quantum of Solace, the 2008 Bond film, is No. 14 on the list at $230 million.

The website has this caveat: “Budget numbers for movies can be both difficult to find and unreliable. Studios often try to keep the information secret and will use accounting tricks to inflate or reduce announced budgets.”

Also, as mentioned before, the list doesn’t adjust for inflation.