New Bond 25 observations after Variety’s story

Daniel Craig in a 2000s publicity still

UPDATE (Feb. 21): Post updated to note that Variety removed mention of Annapurna Pictures from its story.

Variety is reporting that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are keen to have Danny Boyle direct Bond 25.

A few observations:

Eon’s auteur director phase may continue: Beginning with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon has been enamored with “auteur” directors: Marc Forster (Quantum) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

Employing the services of Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire, would continue that streak.

Over the past decade, Eon has sought more prestige for the long running Bond film series. It hired writer Peter Morgan in the early stages of pre-production of Skyfall.

Morgan had an enviable resume, including writing Frost/Nixon. But, in a 2010 interview, he seemed ambivalent about writing for Bond. ““I’m not sure it’s possible to do it.” He cited the lack of ” social reality” in Bond films Morgan exited the project but apparently he had the idea of Judi Dench’s M being killed.

Bond 25 may still be unsettled: According to Variety, when it was first posted, Boyle surfaced as a candidate after Annapurna Pictures emerged as a piece of the movie’s distribution puzzle.

In late October, MGM and Annapurna announced they were forming a joint venture to release each other’s movies. However, Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

In November, Deadline: Hollywood reported that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to securing the U.S. distribution rights to Bond 25. But MGM hasn’t confirmed that and hasn’t commented publicly at all about Bond 25 distribution.

In this week’s Variety story, there was this passage:

“Sources tell Variety that ‘White Boy Rick’ director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but after Annapurna won the distribution rights, there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

Later, Variety removed any mention of Annapurna from the story. That passage was changed to read: “Sources tell Variety that “White Boy Rick” director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

The story then had this passage at the end: “UPDATED: Domestic distribution rights are currently held by MGM.”

Bond 25 financing is still a big question: With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony Pictures was the distributor and supplied half of the production budget. However, Sony only got 25 percent of the profits while MGM got 75 percent.

It would appear that things have changed with Bond 25. But how so remains unknown.

Is MGM more like a “big boy” studio now and actually financing Bond 25 on its own? Is MGM splitting the budget with Annapurna (assuming Annapurna becomes involved)? Will yet another studio take on the international distribution (and perhaps a portion of the production budget)?

Nobody knows. Until the financing is nailed down, Bond 25 still has a long way to go.

Advertisements

Danny Boyle may direct Bond 25, Variety says

Director Danny Boyle, who helmed Slumdog Millionaire as well as directing a 007-themed sequence for the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies, may direct Bond 25, Variety reported.

Variety reporter Justin Kroll wrote that “no formal offer has yet been made.” At the same time, Variety said, Boyle is high on the list for both Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which jointly control the 007 film franchise.

Boyle directed a segment for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics, held in London, where Daniel Craig’s Bond escorts Queen Elizabeth to the games. Stunt doubles for Craig and the queen parachuted to the ceremonies.

“Boyle has keen interest in the project and has always wanted to direct a Bond film,” Kroll wrote. The Variety story says Annapurna Pictures “is expected to distribute.”

MGM and Annapurna announced in late October they formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies but said at that time that Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

UPDATE: Here’s the segment from the 2012 Olympics:

UPDATE II (Feb. 21): Variety later removed mention of Annapurna. It added this line: “UPDATED: Domestic distribution rights are currently held by MGM.”

Our Bond 25 timeline debuts

The blog has compiled a timeline of significant (and some not-so-significant) for Bond 25.

The movie still is a long ways off. But the project has taken so many twists and turns, it’s hard to keep it all straight.

With that in mind, the timeline runs from May 2016 (when things began to intensify, at least at times) through the present.

The timeline doesn’t have every turn of the screw. It doesn’t include references to all those stories about U.K. bookies changing the odds for Bond actors, for example. It also left out a drama involving a helicopter that Eon Productions bought which, from all appearances, had nothing to do with Bond 25.

It does give you a flavor of some of the wildly different things that had been reported. I had forgotten, for example, there was a tabloid report that director Guy Ritchie supposedly was in the picture to direct Bond 25.

Anyway, to view the full timeline, CLICK HERE. Because of the length (which will grow as additional developments take place), it’s being housed at the blog’s sister site, The Spy Command Feature Story Index.

A 007 film moment almost without precedent

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been a Bond movie moment quite like this one.

On the one hand, the incumbent Bond actor (Daniel Craig in this case) has said he’s coming back. And a release date (early November 2019) has been announced.

On the other hand, It has been more than 190 days since that release date was announced. We still don’t know who will get the movie to theaters.

The distributor issue is a moving target. At one point, 20th Century Fox was in the mix. But Walt Disney Co. struck a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of the rival film studio.

Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, which has released the last four 007 films, was also in the mix. Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai has announced his retirement. Now, there’s renewed speculation that Sony Corp. may sell off its film and TV business.

Also, Eon Productions, which produces the Bond films, hasn’t been this busy with non-Bond projects. Eon suffered a setback with its non-007 spy film, The Rhythm Section, had to suspend production following an injury to star Blake Lively.

At this point, there isn’t much firmly known about Bond 25, the next installment in the 007 film series. Craig told CBS’s Stephen Colbert in August he’s coming back; Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced the 2019 release date in July 2017; and veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on the Bond 25 story.

The Hollywood Reporter said in September that tech giants Apple and Amazon were in the hunt for Bond rights, but nothing has been heard from since then.

Before now, the 2009-2011 period was the most uncertain for the Bond franchise. MGM, which controls half of the franchise, filed for bankruptcy.

Still, MGM completed bankruptcy. On Jan. 11, 2011, Eon and MGM announced that Bond 23 (later titled Skyfall) was back in production after being suspended because of MGM’s uncertain financial situation.

Today, more than seven years later, MGM is more healthy financially. It’s moving toward becoming a “big boy” studio again. Last year, it struck a deal with Annapurna Pictures to form a joint venture to release each other’s movies. But, at least for now, that deal doesn’t cover Bond 25.

Despite that, Bond 25 distribution (and financing) issues aren’t resolved. The industry is changing quickly. The Disney-Fox deal, for example, would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

Is this crying wolf? No. It’s just a recognition things are more complicated than 2010-11, the last time when Bond’s film future was unsettled.

Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

(snip)
The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

Eon’s new normal (cont.): Q’s comments analyzed

Publicity still of Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

So, this week, actor Ben Whishaw, Q in the two most recent James Bond movies, made a few comments to Metro which were deemed news about Bond 25.

“I haven’t had an update for a while. I would imagine, I think they have a release date for next year, so I think by the end of this year we have to have started filming something,” Whishaw was quoted by the website. “Although it has gone strangely quiet, but that’s often the way it goes.”

This was analyzed by Birth. Movies. Death (“Q Is Standing by for BOND 25“) and Screen Rant (“Ben Whishaw Expects Bond 25 To Begin Filming Later This Year“).

And, yes, it was news, at least of a sort. Neither Eon Productions (which makes Bond movies) nor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which controls half of the 007 franchise) have said a whole lot for months. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of a news blackout, a nugget becomes news.

It’s another reminder about Eon’s new normal. The Bond franchise has franchise has transitioned from being a film series to more like occasional events not on a set schedule.

In the 1970s, even 1980s, it probably wouldn’t have been much of a story if Desmond Llewelyn, the longest-serving film Q, commented about an upcoming film.

Imagine in that time period if Llewelyn said, “I guess they’re getting ready. They have a release date. So they’d have to start filming something before too long.” That wouldn’t have been a blip.

Also, consider this line from the Screen Rant story: “Whishaw may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Ralph Fiennes (M) or Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In the 1970s, the equivalent would have been: “Llewelyn may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Bernard Lee (M) or Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In those days, it’s not a question a lot of people would have been asking. The show was James Bond and whoever was playing him. Connery is back! (Diamonds Are Forever) Who will be the new Bond? Can Roger Moore make it as the new Bond? (Live And Let Die)

This isn’t a complaint. The world is as it is. And Eon’s new normal is what it is.

Anatomy of crappy 007 journalism

Barbara Broccoli

In mid-December, The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast had a wide-ranging interview with Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli.

After almost an hour, there was this brief exchange:

SCOTT FEINBERG (Host): Would you ever hire a person of color or even a woman to play James Bond one day? Could it be Jamie Bond?

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Anything is possible. Right now it’s Daniel Craig and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig, but who knows what the future will bring? That’s what is so exciting about Bond.

OK. Almost two weeks later (Dec. 28, to be precise), the DAILY MAIL ran a story under the headline, “Next James Bond could be black or a woman, says 007 producer: Barbara Broccoli says ‘anything is possible’ once Daniel Craig walks away.”

That story says Broccoli “was asked if we could expect to see a female Bond or a black 007.” (emphasis added). The Broccoli quote: “Right now it’s Daniel Craig, and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig, but who knows what the future will bring?”

In other words, the Mail reproduced Broccoli’s comments. She was asked, but it appears she was not asked by the Daily Mail. Of course, to know that, you would have to listen to the original podcast (it’s around the 1:36:34 mark). Also, the Daily Mail has a reputation for ripping off other outlets, as detailed in a 2015 Gawker story.

Nevertheless, the Daily Mail story (such as it was), spurred other outlets to hammer the same idea.

ESQUIRE.COM (James Bond Producer Barbara Broccoli Says The Next 007 Could Be Female): Same Broccoli quotes, but attributed to the Daily Mail, not the original podcast.

SCREEN RANT (The Next James Bond Could Be a Woman or Person of Color): Same Broccoli quotes, but attributed to the Daily Mail, not the original podcast.

CINEMA BLEND (Will James Bond Continue To Be A Handsome White Dude After Daniel Craig Leaves?): You guessed it, same quotes but attributed to the Daily Mail.

MOVIE WEB (Earlier headline: Next James Bond Probably Won’t Be a Straight White Male): Once more with feeling — same quotes from the podcast, attributed to the Daily Mail. But, hey, at least the website’s headline took it even further. (HEADLINE CHANGED JAN. 4 TO Anything’s Possible When It Comes to Casting the Next James Bond. For more details, see update below).

OBSERVER (Will We Ever See a Non-White Male James Bond? It’s ‘Possible’): You guessed it. Same quotes as the podcast, attributed to the Daily Mail.

Just to be clear, this blog has never been mistaken as an extension of Eon’s PR operation. On occasion, the blog has noted when Broccoli denied things that turned out to be true (Ben Whishaw playing Q in Skyfall, John Logan being signed, initially, to write Bond 24 and 25).

But on this one, it’s pretty clear the Eon boss deflected the question. But that hasn’t stopped various entertainment outlets from running with it.

UPDATE (Jan. 4): Movie Web said today in two posts on Twitter that it changed its headline and is now crediting THR.

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