State of the Bond franchise: Mid-2022

I just did one of these posts in April. I really thought that would take care of things for a long time. I was wrong.

Comments from Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, originally reported by Deadline, suggest the Bond movie franchise is adrift.

If Broccoli is to be believed, Eon doesn’t know who should play Bond following Daniel Craig. It hasn’t determined the direction of future 007 films after Craig has retired from the part with 2021’s No Time to Die.

The key Broccoli quotes from the Deadline story

“We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond. We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Eon has been adrift before. Following Die Another Day in 2002, the company that has made 007 films had no idea where to go.

The source of this? Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli’s half-brother in a 2005 New York Times story.

“I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” said Michael G. Wilson, the producer of the new Bond film, “Casino Royale,” with Ms. Broccoli. He even told that to Pierce Brosnan, the suave James Bond who had a successful run of four films, he said.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

In a 2012 speech, Wilson further described the period involved.

“We had been working on a new script for a year and getting absolutely nowhere,” he said then.

As told by Wilson, Eon got out of its funk at that time when he and Barbara Broccoli talked and each wanted to adapt Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, start the film series over and recast the Bond role. The result, 2006’s Casino Royale, was a highlight of the Eon series.

What is old is new again. Except, for now, there hasn’t been an attempt at a script. Also, there’s no complete Fleming novel to use. Eon didn’t get the rights to the Casino Royale novel until a few years before pre-production began on the 2006 movie.

Michael G. Wilson turned 80 earlier this year. Barbara Broccoli is 62. Wilson has been involved *full-time* with Eon for 50 years. Broccoli has been involved *full-time* with Eon for 40 years.

The movie business is in flux. It is being battered by streaming and new technology. Bond (created by Ian Fleming in 1952) and its movie makers (whose first movie came out 60 years ago this year) are anchored in the 20th century.

Eon has had a lot of time to ponder a post-Daniel Craig future. No Time to Die, Eon’s most recent effort, wrapped filming in fall 2019.

If you take Barbara Broccoli at her word, in mid-2022, the Bond filmmakers still haven’t figured out where to go.

To be sure, keeping a film franchise going for 60 years is a great achievement.

Yet, where does it go from here? We don’t know. And the answer won’t be known soon.

NTTD’s reactions from its co-stars

No Time to Die poster

h/t to MI6.HQ.COM which compiled this.

Daniel Craig’s James Bond met his end in No Time to Die. If Craig’s co-stars are to be believed, they had no idea this was happening.

Lea Seydoux, Den of Geek: “I still can’t really believe that that’s what they decided, that he’s gone…It made me sad, actually, it made me really sad…But I hope they will find a new way to—you know they will find something else.”

Naomie Harris, Radio Times: “Because there’s so much secrecy around all of the Bond movies, I thought, ‘Is this a joke? Am I being sent, like, the wrong ending, and then they’re gonna send me a new one?’. I really thought that, because I just thought… this doesn’t happen. Bond doesn’t die. It’s sacred that Bond should never die.”

A reminder: No Time to Die’s script began development in 2017. That’s when Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine met his end in a film. Earlier, Craig and Jackman had appeared together in a play in New York.

Prior to No Time to Die, Craig’s Bond had unhappy endings. At the end of SPECTRE, he finally (or so it seemed) had a happy ending with Seydoux’s Madeline Swann. Instead, No Time to Die threw that out the window.

Observations of a No Time to Die rewatch Part II

No Time to Die poster

The family theme: James Bond traditionally wasn’t known as a family man. But No Time to Die makes a big deal about a family theme.

That’s not me talking. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli played up that idea in a podcast interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She talked about Bond’s “MI6 family” and “his real family.”

Rewatching the movie, that comes through. Safin’s villainous scientist refers to Madeleine Swann and her daughter as “your family” to the villain. Bond (according to the closed captions for the movie) refers to them as his family.

Revisiting the SPECTRE scripts: There were some drafts of the script for SPECTRE (2015) where Bond shot Blofeld in the head. One draft (completed shortly before filming began) ended with Bond telling Madeline, “We have all the time in the world.”

Neither made it into the final film. But with No Time to Die, Eon doubled down.

In the pre-credit sequence of No Time to Die, Bond tells Madeline that, “We have all the time in the world.” Toward the end, just before Bond is blown to smithereens, Bond tells her, “You have all the time in the world.” And, of course, just before that, Bond blasts Safin away.

Scooby Gang gets to emote: It’s not just Bond (Daniel Craig) who gets a big death scene. Lea Seydoux as Madeline gets to emote. So do the Scooby Gang: Ralph Fiennes’ M, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Rory Kinnear’s Tanner.

“You promised”: Just before he dies, Bond tells Madeline he’s not going to make it. She replies: “You promised.”

At this point, Bond has apparently lost a fair amount of blood and isn’t moving around very well thanks to a few bullet wounds courtesy of Safin.

Did Bond really have to die? That’s almost irrelevant. The whole movie was designed to have Bond die. Quibbling about nanobots (couldn’t Bond’s EMP watch rid him of the nanobots?), etc., etc. doesn’t really matter. Bond was going to die. The question was how.

Observations of a No Time to Die rewatch Part I

One of the many No Time to Die posters

The movie has some nifty image composition/photography.

In the pre-titles sequence, Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) writes a secret, burns it and sends the embers into the night air. The camera follows it until the Matera landscape turns to day. Very classy.

Bond isn’t very bright, is he?

Let’s face it, Bond has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer. In Dr. No, he has no real plan for when he gets to Crab Key. In From Russia With Love, he’s easily taken in by Grant’s less-than-sophisticated set up of Kerim and a Soviet agent supposedly killing each other. In the film, Kerim has a knife in his side, hardly the easiest way of killing oneself.

But in No Time to Die, Bond falls for Blofeld’s frame of Madeline. This propels the plot through much of the movie.

That curious music title card

“Music by Hans Zimmer, Score produced by Steve Mazzaro.”

Zimmer, on mulitiple occasions, said the score was a collaboration between himself and Mazzaro. One thinks the the title card should have had a footnote. “Sorry, Steve. We know you did half or so of the score. This is the best we could do.”

Bond knows his Jamaican home has been invaded. Does his outside shower and toothbrushing lead to Safin getting his DNA?

The scene around the 47:00 mark (the scientist who has been working for Safin) suggests so. Then against the scientist substitutes a sample of all the SPECTRE leadership. Hard to tell.

Which M made the bigger mistakes? Judi Dench in Skyfall or Ralph Fiennes in No Time to Die?

Judgment call.

“Come on, Felix. we’ve been in worse than this. Let’s go.”

How many times have Bond and Felix Leiter been in jeopardy *at the same time*? Not many in either the first 20 Eon films or the Craig era. Going back to Kevin McClory’s first Thunderball scripting efforts, there were more attempts to go give Felix more to do.

Broccoli: Decision on new Bond will ‘take some time’

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told Variety that selecting a new James Bond actor is “going to take some time.”

“It’s a big decision,” the Eon chief said. “It’s not just casting a role. It’s about a whole rethink about where we’re going.”

The Variety story was posted today. The interview was conducted Thursday in New York when a new version of Macbeth reopened after a temporary shutdown due to COVID-19. The play stars former Bond Daniel Craig and is produced by Broccoli.

Broccoli again sang Craig’s praises.

“He’s just the greatest actor ever, and I think audiences will be thrilled by this portrayal because he’s funny, he’s dangerous, he’s all the things you would want,” Broccoli told Variety.

The Bond franchise is in flux. Craig has departed after doing five films released over 15 years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, was sold to Amazon last month. The deal was announced last year.

What’s more, MGM’s two top film executives, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, are now gone. Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times last year that they wanted De Luca and Abdy to stay at MGM. That advice wasn’t heeded.

Separately, Amazon made a regulatory filing on Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing valued MGM’s film and TV library at $3.4 billion. Amazon also said it paid off $2.5 billion in debt it assumed from MGM.

MGM film execs favored by Eon to depart studio, Variety says

MGM logo

Two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives favored by Eon Productions are departing the studio, Variety reported.

Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, the top two executives in MGM’s film division, “have both been let go of the company,” the entertainment news outlet said. An excerpt:

De Luca had recently made overtures to David Zaslav about coming to Warner Bros. Discovery, according to an insider. The rumor mill has been swirling in recent weeks about the executives long-term future, with many predicting that he would be headed for the exit soon.

In July 2021, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times after Amazon agreed to buy MGM. “Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this.”

The statement quoted the Eon duo as saying, “Amazon has assured us that Bond will continue to debut” in movie theaters, according to the Times. “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered.” 

De Luca’s title was chairman of MGM’s motion picture group while Abdy was his deputy. Amazon already had its own film operation.

Executive changes are common after corporate acquisitions. Amazon’s $8.45 billion deal for MGM was announced last year and became final in March.

For Eon, the departure of De Luca and Abdy means the company that produces James Bond films will have yet another MGM executive team to deal with. It remains to be seen how this will affect the development of Bond 26. Actor Daniel Craig has exited the role of Bond after five movies from 2006 through 2021.

About that John Hodge script for Bond 25

Last month, The Guardian published a story about John Hodge’s scripting efforts for a new television version of The Ipcress Files. But the scribe made a few comments about Bond 25, later to be titled No Time to Die.

Hodge’s comments suggest there was, perhaps, less than met the eye.

In 2018, there was hype, led by Deadline: Hollywood, that Hodge and director Danny Boyle had a spectacularly wonderful idea for Bond 25. So wonderful that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would set aside a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script in development for almost a year.

In May 2018, Eon and MGM announced Boyle was directing Bond 25, with Hodge writing. Previous announcements referencing Purvis and Wade were forgotten. Then, in August 2018, Boyle was gone, departing over “creative differences.”

What happened? Here are Hodge’s limited comments to The Guardian:

“I think it was me they really wanted rid of, but Danny took the bullet, too,” says Hodge. Do non-disclosure agreements cover their departure? “No. Just decent British discretion!”

At the time Hodge and Boyle learned they would not write another day, there were suggestions they had spooked the producers by pitching an incredibly subversive storyline. But the released movie contains a twist at least as dramatic, which seems to disprove the rumour they had gone too far. “My understanding was that that twist had been decided even before we came on board because Daniel Craig wanted it. I think, with us, it was that old cliche “creative differences”. It felt very dramatic at the time but it was just another bump in the road of the Bond franchise.”

The twist, of course, was James Bond would die at the end of the movie. British tabloids carried stories that either Eon wanted Bond to die or Boyle desired it.

Hodge’s comments suggest this was always going to be the case. That doesn’t mean there weren’t differences in the Boyle-Hodge version and the final film. At one point, there were Russian gulag sets being constructed in Canada as well as a mockup of a rocket (as disclosed by production designer Mark Tildesley in a 2020 video interview).

Hodge’s comments also raise the question whether his and Boyle’s idea was all that wonderful. In the end, Eon’s infatuation with Boyle and Hodge cost untold amounts of money as well as several months of precious time.

Had Eon been more efficient in the production process, No Time to Die would have avoided multiple delays stemming from COVID-19. The movie’s original release date was for the fall of 2019.

Admittedly, hindsight is perfect. Still, to cite a World War II slogan, was this trip really necessary?

Daniel Craig contracts COVID-19

Daniel Craig, who played James Bond in movies produced by Eon Productions from 2006-2021, has contracted COVID-19.

Here is an excerpt from the Deadline: Hollywood website.

There will be no Daniel Craig appearances in the latest Broadway staging of Shakepeare’s Macbeth for a while. The Longacre Theater announced that the actor has tested postive for Covid-19 and will be out for a while

Ticket refunds are available at place of purchase, according to the show producers. “We apologize for the inconvenience this causes ticket holders,” said a tweet announcing Craig’s illness. “But the safety of our audiences, the cast and crew remains our highest priority.”

Bond 26 questions: MGM’s new owner edition

James Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, has a new owner, Amazon. The deal, under regulatory review for months, is now final.

You’d think this would have some effect on the Bond franchise. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happens next? Now the real work begins.

How so? Eon Productions, which actually makes Bond films, has been publicly lobbying Amazon on a couple of fronts.

First, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have said repeatedly that Bond films need to debut in movie theaters. They don’t want Bond movies to be on streaming services (like Amazon’s) first.

Second, the Eon duo has spoken up in favor of two MGM film executives, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. Broccoli and Wilson have said they want De Luca and Abdy to stay.

The thing is, anytime you have a major acquisition, there is almost always change, including executives. It remains to be seen if Amazon merges MGM into its Amazon Studios unit. The fate of current MGM executives, including De Luca and Abdy, is uncertain for now.

Something else? While Broccoli and Wilson have lobbied publicly, Amazon has stayed quiet. That makes sense while you’re an owner in waiting. Now, Amazon is the owner. With the acquisition complete, we’ll see what changes Amazon intends to make.

How might this affect Bond 26? It’s too early to tell. Eon doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Eon has been engaged in a long goodbye with now-former Bond Daniel Craig. First, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli wanted to celebrate Craig’s long run as the British agent. Now, she’s producing a stage production with the actor.

By the time, Eon is ready to even think about Bond 26, Amazon may have implemented changes at MGM. As usual, we’ll see.

Broccoli & Wilson complain about lack of Craig nominations

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions told The Times of London in a story pubished March 2 they’re not happy Daniel Craig didn’t get major acting nominations in his final turn as James Bond in No Time to Die.

An excerpt:

“You’re always happy to get nominated,” Wilson says. “But Daniel not getting any nods is really amazing to me.” Broccoli adds: “I think the problem is that he’s so convincing, and so good in the role, that nobody sees him acting.” She has a point. Craig’s wordless projection of heartache and confusion in the opening scenes with Léa Seydoux (the sequence in Matera, Italy) is as accomplished as anything else on this year’s list of Bafta best actors.

“But people need to remember that Daniel is also a producer on this film,” Broccoli says. “So it takes the sting out a little bit for me. He wasn’t nominated as an actor but the film was, and so he is, because he’s in every cell of this film.”

Life can be worse. You could be living in the Ukraine with Russia invading you and attacking nuclear power plants.