Bond 25 questions: Ginormous (?) premiere edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1 before another delay was announced.

U.K. tabloids The Sun and Mirror this month reported about supposed plans for big No Time to Die premiere plans this fall.

The Sun wrote that star Daniel Craig will conduct a “whirlwind tour” of personal appearances of No Time to Die premieres. The Mirror said the movie’s producers are planning for a 10-million-pound (almost $14 million) premiere event in London, possibly in a stadium.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should I take these accounts?

As usual, keep in mind U.K. tabloids have a reputation for cutting coners, overhyping things, etc. But that often doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And there are elements of the stories that pass the smell test.

How so?

Essentially, the two stories are talking about larger, but traditional, ways of promoting movies. Also, bear in mind that Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in 2015 that Eon does the heavy lifting in devising Bond film marketing (“We pretty much run the marketing ourselves.”) while studios merely execute it.

Eon is nothing if not traditional.

What do you mean?

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has said she’s opposed to Bond spinoffs. “We want to make these theatrical films,” Broccoli told Total Film published in the outlet’s 2020 Preview issue published in December 2019. “We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

The movie business is feeling a big impact from streaming. Netflix became a big thing, in some times acquiring movies from studios. Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. are stepping up stepping up streaming efforts.

For Eon, the tagline of 2012’s Skyfall (the old ways are the best) is a way of life.

If true, how practical are these plans?

No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of COVID-19. The current release date is the Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. There are multiple COVID-19 vaccinations available.

By this fall, COVID-19 may be under control enough to permit these kinds of large gatherings. There certainly is “COVID fatigue.” One school of thought is there’s much pent-up demand we may see a new “Roaring Twenties” as COVID-19 gets under control.

It should be noted that COVID-19 progress isn’t taking place in a straight line. In the U.S., the current COVID hot spot is Michigan, where cases have skyrocketed since February. There may be more unexpected developments between now and the fall.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

M:I 7, 8 no longer shooting back-to-back, Deadline says

Tom Cruise hasn’t had such luck combatting COVID-19.

The seventh and eighth Mission: Impossible films are no longer filming back-to-back, the Deadline entertainment website reported.

M:I 7 has run into delays stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, M:I star-producer Tom Cruise has other duties.

“Sources said this is simply down to the shifting release calendar,” according to Deadline. Cruise “will now be needed on promotional duties by the studio for Top Gun: Maverick ahead of that film’s planned release on July 2, and will be out of action for a period. Once that film has rolled out – hopefully to packed cinemas in a post-Covid world – production on MI: 8 can begin, meaning the gap shouldn’t be too impactful.”

Over the weekend, the U.K. Sun tabloid reported that M:I 7 had been forced to cut short production in the Middle East for COVID-related reasons. Director Christopher McQuarrie appeared to dispute that in an Instagram post. “Now back to London for a few finishing touches. All aboard for our greatest challenge yet…” the director wrote.

Paramount’s original plan was to film two M:I films at once so they could be released a year apart. Marvel Studios did something similar with two Avengers movies released in 2018 and 2019. At one time, Bonds 24 and 25 were to do the same thing. But star Daniel Craig vetoed such a move. Bond 24 became SPECTRE. Bond 25, years later, is on hold as No Time to Die.

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Bond 25 questions: The pish posh edition

“Wait? What? We’re not relevant anymore?”

There’s a lot of uncertainty concerning when Bond 25/No Time to Die will actually be seen by audiences. Regardless, there’s a lot of inconsequential gossip related to the movie.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Hey, I read that Ben Affleck is breaking up with Ana de Armas. Does that have anything concerning No Time to Die?

Not really.

Are you sure?

Back in August, The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s gossipy U.K. tabloid (the New York Post is Murdoch’s U.S. version) breathlessly reported that the makers of No Time to Die wanted to make sure Affleck didn’t show up to the premiere with de Armas. Other gossipy publications breathlessly picked up on it.

So that means the makers of No Time to Die must be happy, right?

I suppose.

What does that mean?

The makers of No Time to Die have a lot more to worry about. For example: Just when will No Time to Die really come out? Few really think it will be April (the current release date, only the latest among many).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which is on the hook for almost $290 million (as of mid-2020) for No Time to Die is reportedly up for sale and it has more on its mind than Ben Affleck’s volatile love life.

Eon Productions, which actually makes the Bond films, probably isn’t happy that de Armas (who likely has a small part in No Time to Die) is a bigger star than Daniel Craig according to IMDB.COM’s STARmeter. Craig is the star and got paid a reported $25 million.

What makes you think that de Armas has a small part?

Because she wears the same evening dress in all the trailers and TV spots for No Time to Die. At this point, you’d think the editor of the trailers and TV spots could up with different shots of de Armas — if there were any.

Why do you refer to this as “pish posh”?

At this point, there’s not really much substantive to talk about No Time to Die. Gossip, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Author discusses James Bond Movie Encyclopedia

Cover to the new edition of The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia

Steven Jay Rubin has written about the James Bond films since the early 1980s. A new edition of the author’s The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia is out.

The encyclopedia first debuted in the 1990s and the most recent edition was published in 2003. Since that edition, the entire Daniel Craig era has unfolded.

The blog sent Rubin questions by email. Disclosure: I fielded some questions as the author was conducting research to update the encyclopedia and he referenced me in the acknowledgments.

What follows is the interview.

THE SPY COMMAND: What prompted you to update the James Bond Movie Encyclopedia?

STEVEN JAY RUBIN: The last edition had come out in 2003, so I had not covered the Daniel Craig era. Also, the publisher that brought out the 2003 edition was too cheap to re-alphabetize the book, so the latest Pierce Brosnan films were stuffed in the back.

TSC: The last edition of the book was in 2003. What are the challenges involved updating something after that long of a hiatus?

RUBIN: My biggest challenge was re-illustrating. I felt strongly that if anyone was going to buy another edition, it would have to be an almost completely new book.

Over the years, I had met a number of collectors around the world who had amassed huge still collections. I reached out to people like Anders Frejdh in Sweden, Dave Reinhardt in Canada, Michael Van Blaricum in Santa Barbara, Luc Le Clech in France and special effects maestro Brian Smithies in England.

The result was a huge trove of new pictures so that the book is 95 percent new images.

Chicago Review Press also budgeted for color images — my first in a James Bond book. This not only allowed me to use some spectacular color photos, but I had the opportunity to reach out to artists Jeff Marshall and Brian May to use their extraordinary interpretations of the films. They’re just wonderful. 

TSC: It has been almost 40 years since your first Bond book, The James Bond Films. Have your views toward Bond evolved? If so, how?

RUBIN: I must say that Daniel Craig’s era has revitalized my interest in the series.

I grew up with Connery, so, for me at least, the movies that followed never had that level of entertainment. I liked Roger Moore and his films were spectacular – but they were just too funny to be taken seriously.

Timothy Dalton is a fine actor, but The Living Daylights was just fair, and Licence to Kill played like a two-hour episode of Miami Vice. 

I was a big fan of Pierce Brosnan, but, once again, I thought his movies were just fair – my favorite being The World is Not Enough. 

So I came into the Daniel Craig era not expecting much. Casino Royale just blew me away. And although the quality of the scripts has gone up and down, Craig is always good.  Love his Bond. The grittiness, the avoidance of stupid humor, the realism.

Obviously, the series has had to compete with the Bourne films, Mission: Impossible, even the stunts of The Fast and the Furious films, and they’ve been competitive.

TSC: The new edition of The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia is your first analysis of the Daniel Craig era of Bond films. What makes it different from earlier eras?

RUBIN: Realism. We’ve actually come full circle. The very first two James Bond movies – Dr. No and From Russia with Love – were real spy adventures with a story that could have happened in the real world. 

The Craig era Bonds have that quality.  No one is trying to take over the world – many of the stories are about international terrorism and blackmail –- stories that could be in the news right now.

As screenwriter Richard Maibaum once said to me when discussing the motivation for the more realistic For Your Eyes Only, it was decided to pull in the balloon and get away from the big fantastic plots – to do a realistic spy adventure.  It worked back then.  And it continues to work today.

To view the book’s page on Amazon.com, CLICK HERE.

NTTD song to get even more exposure before film debuts

Billie Eilish publicity photo

The title song for No Time to Die will get even more exposure before the 25th James Bond film goes into theaters.

Performer Billie Eilish scored a Grammy nomination for the movie’s title song in the category of Best Song Written for Visual Media. The award show is at the end of January.

Eilish’s involvement with the song has been a buzz among Bond fans for almost a year. The MI6 James Bond website said Jan. 12 of this year that Eilish would become the youngest performer of a Bond song.

Eon Productions confirmed the news on Jan. 14. The song itself bowed on Feb. 13. This was when No Time to Die was scheduled to be released in April.

Then, No Time to Die was postponed to November. The song’s music video came out on Oct. 1.

On Oct. 2, the film’s release date was pushed back to April 2021. Nevertheless, Eilish performed the song on Oct. 5 on The Tonight Show in the U.S. The movie’s star, Daniel Craig, appeared on the same telecast.

The April-November-April delays stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. But, with the Emmys telecast, the song No Time to Die will be one of the most exposed Bond title songs in the history of the film series.

Variety says NTTD’s budget was $301 million

Not that the blog is jumping to conclusions or anything…

No Time to Die’s “net” budget — even taking into account the value of product placement deals and tax breaks — was $301 million, Variety said.

The figure, if accurate, would make the 25th James Bond film the most expensive in the series produced by Eon Productions.

The raw spending on 2015’s SPECTRE exceeded $300 million, according to documents that became public in 2014 after Sony Corp. documents were hacked. But that was before product placement and tax breaks were factored in. The “net” figure for SPECTRE was $245 million.

For months, entertainment outlets have reported No Time to Die’s final budget at $250 million, only slightly more than SPECTRE.

The $301 million figure provides more evidence that No Time to Die may be a financial disaster for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

No Time to Die has been delayed repeatedly. The movie was set to be released in April but was delayed to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the Bond film was delayed again to April 2021.

The Hollywood Reporter carried an Oct. 27 story with behind-the-scenes details of how MGM had talks with Apple Inc. about a one-year lease for No Time to Die to show on Apple’s streaming service. But Apple only offered $350 million to $400 million. MGM wanted $650 million to $750 million or more, THR said.

The THR report said the No Time to Die delay is costing MGM $1 million a month in interest costs. The Variety story carries the same figure.

In addition, according to Variety, star Daniel Craig “and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who control the rights to the series, have generous backend and profit participation deals, limiting the amount of money MGM is able to make on the movie.”

As stated before, No Time to Die was a pre-pandemic movie financed and filmed before COVID-19. But the Bond movie is to come out in the middle of a pandemic which has reduced theater availability.

Nothing exceeds like excess. No Time to Die might be the best James Bond movie ever and still be a financial disaster for MGM.

No Time to Die featured on Tonight Show

The spoiler adverse should simply move on.

No Time to Die was featured on the Oct. 5 installment of The Tonight Show before being put back on the shelf until its new April 2021 release date.

The main new aspect was a brief clip. It’s from the Matera sequence and a bit more could be viewed of the scene where where Daniel Craig’s Bond jumps off a bridge. There was a brief chance to sample the Steve Mazzaro-Hans Zimmer score. (Remember, Zimmer told Variety that Mazzaro should get top billing. I am merely following his wishes.)

Phil Nobile Jr., editor of Fangoria magazine, posted the clip on Twitter. I am not embedding it, particularly if it gets yanked.

(UPDATE: Well, The Tonight Show posted it on YouTube. So no reason to be coy.)

In an interview with host Jimmy Fallon, Craig said the delay was so the 25th James Bond film could be shown worldwide. Now, Craig said, was not the time. The comment was a variation on the Oct. 2 announcement that the movie was being pushed back.

Craig also said he returned for a fifth outing as Bond because there was a story left to tell. This was similar to previous interviews.

The Tonight Show interview also had a 15-year-old anecdote about how Craig had never had a martini until just before the announcement he was taking over the Bond role.

Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas conducted what Fallon hyped as “the first U.S. performance” of the movie’s title song. It sounded pretty similar to all those other performances from months ago when the song first debuted. But the camera work was more interesting than the music video that came out last week.

Tonight also carried a new No Time to Die spot (now saying “in theaters 2021”) as well as Bond-themed Omega and Heineken commercials.

NTTD: Key events, dates that shaped expectations

.

All they need to do is change the “3” to a “2.”

No Time to Die has become one of the longest soap operas in the history of the Eon Productions James Bond film series. But how did it get that way?

What follows are some key events and dates. All of them helped shape outside perspective of the production.

July 24, 2017: Both Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announce that Bond 25 will be released on Nov. 8, 2019. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are onboard as writers.

At this point, MGM had no way of distributing the film. As it turns out, MGM was working to get back into distribution. But that wouldn’t be firmed up for some time. MGM and Annapurna would form a joint venture, later called United Artists releasing, for U.S. distribution. Eventually, Universal would be picked for international distribution.

In any case, the announcement creates the expectation Bond 25 would be out in fall 2019.

Aug. 15, 2017: Daniel Craig, on CBS’s The Late Show, says he’s returning as Bond in the new movie. The July 2017 announcement didn’t specify who was playing Bond.

Craig’s appearance helps create the impression of momentum. The Bond film machine is stirring.

Oct. 31, 2017: MGM and Annapurna announce their joint venture. Bond 25, for now, is not part of the deal. (It would become part of it later.) But again, the news creates the image of momentum.

February 2018: Entertainment news outlets report that Danny Boyle is a contender to direct Bond 25. Ultimately, it turns out Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, have a competing idea for the film and Hodge is working up a script. If that idea gets approved, Hodge is in the director’s chair.

Boyle confirms all this in March.

May 25, 2018: Official announcement is made that Boyle is directing and Hodge is writing Bond 25.

It’s a new day. Now, that’s what you call momentum.

Aug. 21, 2018: Danny Boyle, we hardly ye. He’s out, according to a new announcement. (It later becomes clear Hodge is gone, too.) Now, that’s what you call slamming the brakes on momentum.

Sept. 20, 2018: Bond 25 has a new director, Cary Fukunaga. It also has a new release date, Feb. 14, 2020, according to an official announcement.

That’s a mixed bag, but at least work is moving ahead.

Feb. 15, 2019: New release date is announced, now April 2020. The news was a bit of a letdown to Bond fans who had started their “one year to go” countdowns the previous day.

April 25, 2019: Eon conducts a livestream event in Jamaica ahead of the start of the production of Bond 25. There are some technical hiccups. There’s still no title. But, hey, filming is starting at long last.

We’re on our way now. What could go wrong?

May 22, 2019: Eon confirms Daniel Craig suffered an injury and will have ankle surgery. It’s not the firm time Craig has gotten hurt. Eon says the April release date is still in effect.

June 4, 2019: There’s an explosion at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. No serious injuries but the optics weren’t the best.

007 Stage after the June 4, 2019 incident.

Aug. 20, 2019: Bond 25 gets a title — No Time to Die. This helps re-establish momentum and anticipation. A title helps things seem more real. A movie is actually coming.

Oct. 25, 2019: Eon announces filming has concluded. Whatever bumps took place, the movie is done. Anticipation builds.

Over the next few months, the first trailer comes out, an expensive ad appears during the Super Bowl and plans for a world premiere get announced.

Then, on March 4, Bond 25/No Time to Die is delayed to November 2020. This week, it was delayed again to April 2021. In both cases, the actions stem from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The pandemic has slammed a lot of industries, including the film industry.

The point of bringing all this up is that Bond 25 has had 1) a lot of ups and downs and 2) had those ups and downs for an extended time.

As a result, if fans are feeling a little whipsawed, there’s good reason.

The movie is sitting there, presumably secure and ready to be shown. When that happens, anticipation will build yet again. But nobody should blame fans for feeling a little uneasy at this point.