Manic-depressive days waiting for Bond 25 news

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Nature abhors a vacuum. So in the absence of Bond 25 news, there’s the occasional 007 commentary that can come across as manic-depressive.

On the manic side, Forbes.com contributor Scott Mendelson weighed in with a Jan. 26 post about what a success SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, was at the box office. Part of the introduction read thusly:

So how did James Bond do this time out? Well, pretty darn spectacular, actually…(T)he film earned an obscene $877 million worldwide on a $240m budget, so it’s obviously a huge hit.

Depends on your definition of “obscene,” but SPECTRE did come in at No. 6 worldwide and No. 10 in the U.S. and Canada at $199.3 million. Neither figure was as good as 2012’s Skyfall but clearly SPECTRE was a popular movie.

However, Mendelson (who wrote a review saying SPECTRE was the worst 007 film in 30 years) may have gotten a bit carried away talking about how the film did at the box office.

“The next entry will probably be Daniel Craig’s swan song and will definitely be out by 2017 in order to capitalize on the 55th anniversary of Dr. No,” Mendelson wrote. (emphasis added)

A few things: 1) Daniel Craig is scheduled to be in an off-Broadway production of Othello this fall. The exact schedule hasn’t been announced, according to stories LIKE THIS ONE. But for Bond 25 to be in theaters in 2017, production may need to get started before the end of this year. Will Craig have enough time between Othello and Bond 25?

2) At this point, we don’t know what studio will release Bond 25. Sony Pictures’ contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expired with SPECTRE. It might be a little premature to assume a 2017 release until MGM reaches a new deal, either with Sony or another studio.

3) 55th anniversary? Do people really care about 55th anniversaries? This is the same franchise that passed up a once-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity to have a Bond movie come out in 2007.

Neither Michael G. Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli is anxious to produce movies on an every-other-year schedule (which a 2017 release for Bond 25 would represent). It really seems hard to believe they’d move heaven and earth for a marketing tagline of “the 55th anniversary Bond film!”

On the depressive side, there’s a Jan. 7 commentary on the Cultbox website. The post, by on the artistic side, makes it sound like Bond 25 comes at a critical time.

While entertaining in parts, for many the 24th official Bond adventure was one of the biggest letdowns of 2015. The Blofeld twist was the least surprising reveal since Cumberbatch was Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, and him being Bond’s foster brother somehow added precisely zero depth to the narrative and characters.

Coupled with a fondness for lingering silently on dimly-lit moments of supposed tension for an interminable length of time and Daniel Craig’s unease with playing the lighter moments, audiences were left disheartened with the direction the franchise had taken.

It sounds a little dire. Almost every film generates mixed fan opinion. The post does explore alternate ideas (getting a new Bond, sticking with Craig, making a period piece 007 film) and it makes for an interesting discussion.

Reading the two articles back-to-back makes for interesting reading. With no real Bond 25 news to chew over, we can probably expect more varying interpretations of the state of the franchise.

The Ballad of James and Madeleine

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

“As the daughter of an assassin, she can understand Bond in a way others cannot.”

This is how the official SPECTRE synopsis describes Madeleine Swann, the female lead character of the 24th James Bond adventure, about to hit the stores in DVD and Blu Ray home video formats.

Played by French actress Léa Seydoux, known for movies like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the acclaimed Blue is the Warmest Color, her character was built by scribes Jez Butterworth, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan to –- apparently –- give Daniel Craig’s James Bond the first and only happy ending he’s ever had in the series.

The first encounter 007 has with Madeleine Swann is at the Hoffler Klinik in Austria. Posing as a patient, Bond visits her and suspects that Swann, a doctor in psychiatry graduated in the Sorbonne who worked with Medicine Sans Frontiers, is hiding from someone in the clinic. Of course, the secret agent was led there by her disgraced father, none other than his previous Quantum nemesis Mr. White, who took his life right after Bond promised to protect her of the tentacles of SPECTRE.

She first resists to Bond, but ultimately she sees he’s the only one who can keep her alive after her hideout clinic is discovered by SPECTRE agent Mr. Hinx.

Much in the way of previous Bond girls Natalya Simonova (from GoldenEye) and Octopussy, she dislikes 007’s violent life, seeing him as a man who is the same kind as her father: determined to leave him right after he returns for a final assignment to stop Denbigh, the mole placed at the British Intelligence by the organization leader Franz Oberhauser, aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

There is, in contrast to the previous affairs of Craig’s Bond, a happy ending this time as 007 opts to leave the wounded Blofeld alive instead of shooting him. As the Special Forces arrest the SPECTRE leader, the happy couple walk together -– holding hands — across the Westminster Bridge.

Madeleine Swann is no match for Vesper Lynd, Tracy Di Vicenzo or even Paris Carver when it comes to exploring Bond’s human side. Yet, the idea of Madeleine’s persona was originally very good and sadly more of her connection with 007 would have been explored a lot better.

“Is this really what you want? Living in the shadows, hunting, being hunted, always looking behind you? Always alone?” the doctor asks a white tuxedo-clad Bond as they have a soft-light dinner travelling in the Oriental Desert Express trough Morocco.

In one of the first drafts of the (leaked) script, the couple had a conversation that included Vesper, Eva Green’s ill-fated character from Casino Royale, the film that opened the arc that SPECTRE has apparently closed.

“You’re not like my father at all. He was cold, but you’re wounded,” the doctor said. As she asks him if he has ever been in love, he replies “Once. She died.” Quickly, he tells her he “dealt with it.”

The Bond-Swann relationship would have had a bigger emotional impact if more deep dialogue was added as the first draft shows. If Vesper Lynd and her death were the main subjects of the first two films of Craig era, the girl who makes him move on should have deep-delved into his emotions.

Show the audiences how Vesper was important then and why Madeleine is important now. A contrast between the two characters and how Bond slowly recovers what he lost during that black day in Venice nine years before. In the same way the connection between SPECTRE and the previous villains isn’t fully explained, the importance of Madeleine can’t overshadow the image of Vesper in an emotional context.

The barn scene between Bond and Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or the Pierce Brosnan-Izabella Scorupco scene at the Cuban beach in GoldenEye, or Bond’s love declaration to Vesper at the Lake DiGarda in Casino Royale, just to name a few scenes. These are wonderful examples on how to explore Bond’s feelings.

SPECTRE is a celebration of all things Bond in terms of excitement, perhaps the closest one to “a classic one” so far. Daniel Craig is a wonderful actor and the role now fits him as a tailored Tom Ford tuxedo. Léa Seydoux also has great acting talents as she proved in movies such as The Lobster, Blue is The Warmest Color and La Belle Personne.

The James Bond and Madeleine Swann relationship is not wasted at all. But, surely, should have been better exploited and contextualized.

Our modest proposals for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Since the British tabloids are stirring the pot, what better time for this blog to weigh in with some Bond 25 ideas? So here goes.

Consider adapting one of the better continuation novels: For years, Eon Productions has resisted this path. Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has bad mouthed the John Gardner novels.

However, Eon itself opened the door with SPECTRE. The 24th James Bond film includes a torture scene based on the one in 1968’s Colonel Sun novel. So much so, there’s a “special thanks” credit for “The Estate of Kingsley Amis” in the end credits.

Generally speaking, it’s easier to use a novel as a starting point. The movie You Only Live Twice didn’t have much in common with its namesake novel, but characters, names, situations, etc. did figure into the movie. Given the soap opera of SPECTRE’s scripting process, any step to simplify the process would be a help.

At this point, there are plenty of continuation novels to choose from.

Worry about the script first, actor second: Various “making of” documentaries about 007 films discuss how scripts are tailored to their lead actor.

How about this? Write a James Bond story first, tweak it later after your actor has been cast. James Bond is the star. The series has seen six different actors play Bond. Some day, there will be a seventh.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon, always felt 007 was the star, the rest came later. Words to live by.

Or, put another way: story, story, story.

If you have a good story but it conflicts with continuity, go with the story: Let’s be honest. Continuity isn’t a strong point for the Bond film series. Michael G. Wilson said Quantum of Solace took place “literally an hour” after Casino Royale.

Yet, Quantum couldn’t be bothered with the slightest effort to tie together with Casino. Casino took place in 2006. Quantum in 2008. Did it really take Bond *two years* to track down Mr. White? Only if Bond and Mr. White are idiots.

Continuity isn’t in Eon’s wheelhouse. If you have a great Bond story but it doesn’t match up with earlier films? Go with the story. If fans exit the theater thinking, “That was one of the best Bond movies I’ve ever seen,” nobody will really care about the continuity.

Have a great Bond 25 idea that doesn’t immediately tie in with SPECTRE? Go with the great idea. You can always bring Blofeld back later, even if he’s not played by Christoph Waltz.

But what about the “Blofeld Trilogy”?: That ship has sailed. It was a lost opportunity. Meanwhile, you might find the part of the You Only Live Twice novel that Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and their cohorts didn’t use might make for difficult filming. Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel trying to recapture the past.

Put yet another way: How many people leaving the theater after seeing SPECTRE really thought Daniel Craig’s Bond loved Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine as much as George Lazenby’s Bond loved Diana Rigg’s Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? This blog’s guess: Not many.

Caveat Emptor: Tabloid writes of new effort to keep Craig

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Another day, another British tabloid report of 007’s film future. This time, THE SUN is reporting Daniel Craig will be offered the chance to film Bond 25 and Bond 26 at the same time.

The tabloid quotes “a film insider” as saying Craig’s concerns with continuing as Bond is “the amount of time it takes to shoot as he’s away from his family. They hope this way the filming will be shorter.”

Also, according to the story, Bond 25 would end with a cliffhanger.

Here’s why the blog is applying the Caveat Emptor label.

–Originally Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25 were supposed to be a two-picture story. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012 that John Logan had been hired to write both. However, before that announcement, CRAIG WAS QUOTED IN OCTOBER 2012 as saying, ““It’s impossible to do a two parter…We can only do them one at a time, they take six months to shoot.”

The two part plan for Bond 24 and Bond 25 was later jettisoned to entice Skyfall director Sam Mendes to return.

Anyway, as it relates to The Sun’s story, if Craig didn’t like the idea of filming a two parter before, why would it appeal to him this time? SPECTRE was a seven-month shoot. Marvel Studios plans a nine-month shoot for a two-part avengers movie coming out in 2018 and 2019.

A Bond movie relies on its leading actor more than an ensemble project like the Avengers. While nine months (or 10, or whatever) would be a shorter time for *two* movies, it also means doing twice the action sequences, etc. Craig suffered a knee injury during SPECTRE’s filming.

–The Sun, over the past two movies, has had some 007 scoops, but not major ones. For example, IN 2011, The Sun said Craig’s Bond would have a beard in Skyfall. It was more like a lot of stubble, but OK, we’ll give them that one. But the major scoops proven to be true for that film and SPECTRE were reported elsewhere.

The king of British tabloid reporters for Bond scoops used to be Baz Bamigboye, but he hasn’t been on the 007 beat for over a year.

Caveat Empor: Waltz supposedly signed for 2 more Bonds

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

Two days into the New Year, we have the first British tabloid report about the future of 007 films: that Christoph Waltz has signed on for two more Bond films but will only do it if Daniel Craig returns as 007.

This comes via THE MIRROR, which in turn is rewriting another tabloid, The Daily Star. But the story doesn’t appear to be ON THE STAR’S WEBSITE.

Here’s an excerpt from the Mirror’s summary of The Daily Star.

“Christoph could make a brilliant ongoing man for Bond to battle like in the old days,” a source told the Daily Star.

“But the important clincher of it is that Blofeld can only work with Daniel back in the role to keep continuity.”

Up front, it should be noted that while the British tabloids have an often-deserved reputation for being trashy and cutting corners ethically, they’re often right about what they report about developments in 007 land. At least they’re often enough times it’s not just chance.

Example: THE MAIL ON SUNDAY reported in November 2014 that Waltz was playing Blofeld in SPECTRE. The publication was proven correct despite various denials by Waltz LIKE THIS ONE, and THIS ONE.

At the same time, there’s an element of P.R. in this latest report, as if the source involved is part of the public relations machinery.

A Bond source said: “Daniel has been a huge success as 007 and is loved by fans so he isn’t going anywhere yet.

“The directors know they would be daft to replace him at a stage where he is so popular. It’s almost certain he will do one more outing as Bond.

And with the potential for Judi Dench to return in flashback form as M, the storyline for Daniel Craig as Bond appears far from over.

The timing of this report also is a little interesting. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which co-owns the 007 franchise, is negotiating with studios interested in releasing and co-financing 007 films. Sony Pictures’ contract expired with SPECTRE.

Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, which makes the Bond movies said last fall he expects Craig to return but that the actor isn’t signed for future installments.

Bond 25 news to watch for in 2016

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As SPECTRE winds down its run in theaters, here’s a look at some events related to Bond 25 that may take place in 2016.

MGM selects its studio partner for Bond 25: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s deal with Sony Pictures to distribute 007 movies is expiring. A lot of people expect the decision whether to continue with Sony or to go with another studio to occur early in the year.

Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, said during an appearance this year, that he expected the decision in “probably in January, February.”

Under the now-expiring Sony deal, it co-financed Bond films with MGM and paid for advertising costs in return for 25 percent of profits. With 2012’s Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, Sony got a profit of $57 million, according to an Oct. 30 story in The Wall Street Journal, citing an internal document that surfaced in the Sony hacks.  MGM received $175 million and Danjaq, holding company for Eon, got $109 million, the Journal said, citing the document.

Sony’s profit for SPECTRE will be smaller because the box office will be less (almost $837 million through Sunday) and its budget was bigger.

In any case, there’s not much that can happen until the decision is made. You need a distributor to set a release date. MGM, which emerged as a much smaller company after exiting bankruptcy, doesn’t have a distribution arm. And it needs a partner to shoulder Bond movie production budgets.

Daniel Craig decides whether he’s coming back or not: Wilson has said Craig isn’t under contract for Bond 25. The actor, in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone had made it sound like he was under contract through Bond 25.

Wilson has said he’s optimistic Craig will return. The actor isn’t necessarily in a hurry. Still, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise there’s some kind of announcement about Craig and Bond 25 after the studio partner question has been dealt with.

Bond 25’s release date is revealed: Eon, MGM and Sony jointly announced the release date of the then-Bond 24 in July 2013. The studio partner question might slow things up this time. Still, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if MGM and whatever studio partner it selects sometime next year stake out a release date for Bond 25. (Our guess is that date will be sometime in 2018, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Bond 25’s director is revealed: If a Bond 25 release date actually is announced, it’d be good public relations to have a director signed. The July 2013 announcement was a double dip, providing the Bond 24 release date and the news that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would return for another film.

Of course, things don’t have to play out that way. The original Bond 22 release date release ARCHIVED AT THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER  didn’t have a director’s name and said the movie would come out on May 2, 2008. The release date was later changed to fall 2008.  

 

Some 007-Star Wars connections over the years

Poster for the original Star Wars in 1977

Poster for the original Star Wars in 1977

Something trending on social media on Friday was whether James Bond actor Daniel Craig appears as a storm trooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as reported in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Some fans say it sounds as if Craig did the role, but at least one entertainment journalist who occasionally reads the blog says it’s not.

Regardless, there are a number of ties between the Star Wars and 007 film series. That’s not a surprise because Star Wars movies are produced at London’s Pinewood Studios, the home base for most 007 films.

What follows are some of the major connections, though it’s not intended as a comprehensive list. To streamline things, this post shortens the Star Wars titles to take out the various chapter numbers.

John Stears: The special effects guru for the early 007 films traded Walther PPKs for light sabers when he was part of the special effects crew for the original 1977 Star Wars film.

Stears shared an Oscar (with John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack) for special effects for his work on that movie. It was Stears’ second Oscar. He won the special effects Oscar for 1965’s Thunderball.

Irvin Kershner: The American-born director helmed the second Star Wars epic, The Empire Strikes Back, considered by some fans and critics as the best Star Wars film. In that 1980 film, things got complicated when it was revealed Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.

The director’s next project was 1983’s Never Say Never Again, a Bond film not part of the series produced by Eon Productions. Its main asset was Sean Connery’s final movie as 007. The director had a relationship with the actor, having directed him in 1966’s A Fine Madness.

Alan Hume: Hume photographed three 007 films in the 1980s — For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. Between assignments for Bond, he was director of photography of Return of the Jedi. In the summer of 1983, his Bond and Star Wars work could be viewed essentially as the same time when Return and Octopussy were in theaters.

Anthony Waye: He was an assistant director on Star Wars. In the 1980s, he started out doing similar duties on Bond and worked his way up to associate producer (on GoldenEye), line producer (on Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough) and executive producer (Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace).

Julian Glover: The actor was a minor villain in The Empire Strike Backs and the lead villain in For Your Eyes Only.

Alf Joint, Paul Weston (and who knows how many other stunt performers): Joint’s most famous 007 stunt work was in the pre-credits sequence of Goldfinger, but he also did Star Wars movies. Weston did as well and with Bond worked his way up to stunt supervisor in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.

Christopher Lee: The British actor and relative of Ian Fleming was the title character in 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun. In 2002 (in Attack of the Clones) and 2005 (Revenge of the Sith), he appears as a villain (though very briefly in the latter film).

Max Von Sydow: The actor played Blofeld in Never Say Never Again and has a small role in The Force Awakens.

Chris Corbould: Part of the special effects crews of numerous Bond films going back to the 1980s, including this year’s SPECTRE. He’s also credited with special effects for The Force Awakens.

 

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