Bond 25: Reading between the lines edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been much hard news since Daniel Craig said more than a month ago he’d be back for Bond 25. But some reports suggest things if you read between the lines. And so…

Still no director yet: In July, entertainment news websites identified three Bond 25 director front runners (Denis Villeneuve, Yann Demange and David Mackenzie). Variety said Demange was the top ranked contender.

All was quiet until Thursday night when Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye (who has a record of scoops being proven correct) tweeted that Craig was “keen” on Villeneuve as Bond 25 director.

How much influence Craig will have on the voice is subject to debate and conjecture. But if Bamigboye is correct this time, it certainly sounds as if the decision hasn’t been made yet.

Still no distributor yet: On July 24, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of November 2015. It was interesting given that MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation and relies on cutting deals with other studios to get its films into theaters.

Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter broke a story saying tech giants Apple and Amazon were now in the hunt for Bond 25 film rights in addition to traditional movie studios.

Not much since then. Interestingly, news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which follow both Apple and Amazon closely, haven’t weighed in yet.

So some fans are undoubtedly asking, “Why should I care?” 

Here’s the best the blog can come up with: That November 2019 release date can’t be considered solid until a distributor is in place. Also, just because a release date gets announced doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.

To be clear, there’s no reason for panic. To be honest, there’s not enough information at this point to panic about. But, viewing it from the outside, Bond 25 has some peculiar aspects. Or, as Birth.Movies.Death scribe Phil Nobile Jr. (a big Bond enthusiast) put it on Twitter in response to Bamigboye’s tweet:

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UPDATE: 7:55 p.m. New York time: It turns out Baz Bamigboye wrote about this as part of a column in the Daily Mail.

“Bond star Daniel Craig is rooting for thriller film-maker Denis Villeneuve to direct him in his final 007 movie,” Bamigboye wrote.

Villeneuve “has spoken with Craig and Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson about making what is currently known simply as Bond 25….There are several other directors on the ‘wanted’ list, but I’m hearing that Craig is most interested in Villeneuve.”

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Craig ‘keen’ on Villeneuve for B25, Bamigboye says

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Baz Bamigboye, the Daily Mail scribe who has had a number of 007 scoops proven correct, put out a Bond 25 tweet but it’s hard to say how important it is or is not.

Returning 007 actor Daniel Craig “is said to be ‘keen’ for” Denis Villeneuve to do direct the 25th 007 film, Bamigboye said in the post on Twitter.

That’s all Bamigboye said. The tweet went out in the early evening New York time on Thursday. I thought he might be following up with a story later. But as of 11 p.m. New York time, no story had surfaced.

Bamigboye has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct this decade. His most recent one was in March when he said that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to write Bond 25. That was confirmed in a July announcement by Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that Bond 25 would have a release date of November 2019.

Deadline: Hollywood said on July 26 there were three director front runners: Villeneuve, Yann Demange and David Mackenzie. Variety said the same day that Demange was the No. 1 front runner.

Since then, not a peep about a Bond 25 director. For that matter, the movie at this point doesn’t have a distributor.

Anyway, Villeneuve has a big movie, Blade Runner 2049, coming out this fall. He’s also committed to direct a remake of Dune. The latter project might limit Villeneuve’s availability for Bond 25. But who knows?

Meanwhile, it’s unclear the importance of Bamigboye’s tweet. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli clearly wanted him back for a fifth 007 film. And Craig was given the title of co-producer for 2015’s SPECTRE.

But, assuming Craig is indeed “keen” on Villeneuve, is there any more to it? Your guess is as good as the blog’s.

Here’s the tweet if you want to see for yourself.

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Some 007 notes from the Toronto film festival

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Some 007-related tidbits have come out during the start of the Toronto Film Festival.

Barbara Broccoli: The boss of Eon Productions and producer of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool made a few comments.

“I have a few other lower-budget films in mind and a couple of theatre pieces, too,” Broccoli said, according to THE SCREEN DAILY WEBSITE.

“There are a lot of women working on this production [Film Stars] which pleases me very much,” Broccoli said, according to the website. “It’s incredibly important to support change in front of and behind the camera. I love working with women. It’s a different vibe.”

Daniel Craig: Kings, in which Craig stars with Halle Berry, is being shown at the festival.

Craig mostly has been talking about Kings but had a few comments about Bond 25, according to Toronto’s Globe & Mail:

“The Internet is like a noisy pub on a Saturday night,” Craig is quoted by the newspaper. “Ninety per cent of what’s being said is rubbish. There’s a perception that I’m ungrateful, and that’s so far from the truth it’s laughable. I don’t talk to the press a lot. I say things occasionally that I shouldn’t say, which is stupid of me.

“But the timing was right. I’d done [the stage production] Othello, and Steven Soderbergh’s movie [Logan Lucky, where he plays a bleached-blond safecracker named Joe Bang], and Deniz’s movie [Deniz Gamze Erguven, director of Kings], and I was incredibly creatively satisfied. The question of Bond came round, and I said, ‘Let’s have another go, and see if we can produce something wonderful.”

A bit of a reality check: Craig previously said he and director Marc Forster did most of the writing for Quantum of Solace, even though writer Joshua Zetumer was on set to do rewrites. Craig, in a joint interview with Barbara Broccoli in 2012 (search the word “liars”), denied Ben Whishaw had been hired to play Q in Skyfall.

About that remaking OHMSS idea

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post’s Page Six gossip operation succeeded in creating a buzz with a report that Bond 25 will rework part of the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But is it a good idea?

Many fans enthusiastically say yes, because it means a proper adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice novel.

Let’s take a look at some issues involved.

–Another revenge plot? In the Twice novel, Bond is a broken man following the death of his wife Tracy. He’s given an “impossible mission” involving diplomacy instead of guns (trying to get the Japanese to share intel it gathers and decodes using its Magic 44 system).

But through a few twists and turns, it turns out Blofeld is in Japan and Bond gets to go after him.

Eon Productions did Twice first, dispensing with most of the plot while retaining key characters. Majesty’s became the next film in the series. Diamonds Are Forever didn’t make any direct references to Majesty’s. Thus, many fans say they were deprived of a classic revenge plot.

True enough. Eon, over the years, has made up for lost time revenge wise: Licence to Kill (Bond goes after the killers of Leiter’s wife, who also severely maimed Leiter); GoldenEye (Bond, betrayed by 006, goes after him); The World Is Not Enough (Bond is betrayed by Elektra King, goes after her); Die Another Day (Bond is framed and imprisoned, goes after those responsible); Quantum of Solace (Bond swears revenge for the death of Vesper in Casino Royale).

Bond films may have things in short supply, but revenge plots aren’t among them. This time it’s personal (again).

–Chemistry, or lack thereof, with the actors involved. In SPECTRE, Lea Seydoux was very convincing when her Madeline Swann said she hated Daniel Craig’s Bond. Not so much when Swann decided she was in love with Bond.

In 1969’s Majesty’s Diana Rigg as Tracy was very convincing as the character who made Bond feel she was “the one,” his true love. Seydoux wasn’t in that league, a point this blog made in a January 2016 post.

Or, as Philip Nobile Jr. of Birth. Movies. Death wrote: “Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux had absolutely no chemistry on together.”

None of this will matter to advocates of using Majesty’s and Twice as the basis for Bond 25. Blofeld Trilogy, Garden of Death and all that. We’ll have to wait for a couple of years before seeing if there’s anything to all this.

NY Post says Bond 25 reworks OHMSS plot

Daniel Craig

The Page Six gossip operation of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post said Bond 25 may rework the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

“A Hollywood insider tells us that in the film that’s so far been dubbed ‘Bond 25’: ‘Bond quits the secret service, and he’s in love and gets married,'” Page Six said. “The source continues that ‘his wife then gets killed,’ bringing Bond back into action.”

“’The film’s like ‘Taken’ with Bond,’ says the source, who adds the suave spy is trying to avenge his wife’s murder.”

Page Six adds this caveat: “It’s unclear if the writers will rework the plot after the leak.”

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the rebuilt Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux).

A Dec. 1, 2014 draft of the script had Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” But that line isn’t in the film.

That’s the same line Bond (George Lazenby) tells Tracy (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel. Tracy is killed shortly thereafter.

Earlier drafts of SPECTRE included a henchwoman named Irma Bunt, also the name of a major character in Majesty’s. But that character got dropped.

None of this background was mentioned by Page Six. The Page Six item also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade “reportedly boarded” Bond 25. The duo’s return was referenced in a July 24 announcement by Eon Productions that Bond 25 will have a November 2019 release date.

The Post is the U.S. equivalent of British tabloids in its gaudy tone. Page Six said in April that Craig was “ready to sign on to return as 007.” Craig announced he was coming back for Bond 25 last month.

007 by the numbers: Films per decade

An exchange with a fellow James Bond fan got us to thinking about the output of James Bond fans by decade.

There has been a long-term trend of fewer movies. Some say it’s because making films has gotten more complicated.

Anyway, without further analysis, here’s how it breaks down by decade.

1960s: 007 films. This was the decade of Bondmania so, naturally, it’s when output reached its zenith. There were six entries in the Eon Productions series, plus the Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman with fifth credited directors including John Huston.

1970s: 005 films. The Eon series began the decade by bringing back its original leading man (Sean Connery) while spending the rest of the ’70s with Roger Moore.

1980s: 006 films. The Eon series was like clockwork, with a movie every other year. Also, there was Connery’s final Bond film, Never Say Never Again, the non-Eon production that came out in 1983, the same year as Eon’s Octopussy.

Timothy Dalton replaced Moore with 1987’s The Living Daylights (after Pierce Brosnan had been signed but couldn’t get out a contract with NBC). Eon didn’t miss a beat. That would be the last time such a statement would be uttered, though fans didn’t realize it at the time.

1990s: 003 films. A big legal fight between Eon and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shut down production at the start of the decade. Bond didn’t return until 1995’s GoldenEye. But the (by now) tradition every-other-year production schedule still resulted in three entries for star Pierce Brosnan.

2000s: 003 films. MGM gave Eon an extra year to put out Die Another Day in 2002. It was Brosnan’s finale, though he didn’t know it at the time. Eon then went into a period of self-reflection. It got the rights to Casino Royale, opted to ditch Brosnan and hire Daniel Craig as a replacement.

Quantum of Solace in 2008 proved to be the final 007 film produced on an every-other-year schedule. But nobody knew it at the time.

2010s: 003 films (scheduled). The decade began with MGM going into bankruptcy and emerging as a smaller company. Craig, though, stayed onboard with 2012’s Skyfall, followed by 2015’s SPECTRE.

“Everybody’s just a little bit tired,” Daniel Craig said in 2016.

Then, another self-imposed break took hold.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at a New Yorker magazine event in fall 2016, referring to the next Bond film. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli stepped up her involvement with non-Bond films as well as plays, including a production of Othello with Craig.

Craig said last month on CBS’s The Late Show he would be back for Bond 25. “I needed a break,” he told host Stephen Colbert.

Eon has announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. But, for now, it’s not known what studio will actually distribute the film. MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation and cuts deals with other studios.

Bond 25 questions: Lull before the news edition

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

The past few months has had significant Bond 25 news (Daniel Craig confirming his return and a U.S. release date). And some additional news may be made soon.

Until then, some questions to pass the time.

Who is the distributor going to be? This isn’t as sexy as the lead actor (there was plenty of speculation before Craig announced his return on CBS’s The Late Show) or who the title song performer will be (the current focus of U.K. tabloids).

But without a distributor, nobody can see the movie. And, with a U.S. release date of November 2019 being announced by Eon Productions, you’d think one was already in place. If the distributor still hasn’t been decided, well, announcing a release date shows lots of chutzpah.

Back in April, The New York Times reported there were five contenders: Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Universal and upstart Annapurna. Nothing has come out since.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, doesn’t have a distribution operation. And MGM, despite a financial recovery since a 2010 bankruptcy, probably doesn’t have the resources to mount a Bond movie by itself. It needs a studio partner to kick in the money to film Bond 25.

Yes, this blog has raised this question before. It’s still the most important unanswered question at this point.

Which leads us to…..

How much will Bond 25’s budget be?

2012’s Skyfall had a big budget (estimated at $200 million) but less than 2008’s Quantum of Solace (estimated at $220 million to $230 million).

The only significant first-unit location shooting for Skyfall was in Turkey, while a second unit got enough Shanghai shots to make it look as if 007 & Co. actually went there.

With 2015’s SPECTRE, thanks to the Sony hacks of 2014, e-mails about spending exceeding $300 million became known. Thanks to product placement and Mexican tax incentives, the net cost supposed was lowered to $245 million (though nobody involved put their name to that figure).

Even so, SPECTRE was still the most expensive Bond film to date, fattened up by a $36 million “car chase” in Rome and the biggest explosion in motion picture history that wasn’t particularly dramatic. Before the $300 million-plus figure emerged, SPECTRE director Sam Mendes joked (maybe) that the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios is where “budgets come to die.”

So: Does Bond 25 follow the Skyfall model (some economizing) or not? The answer depends on the answer to the previous question.