2016: 007’s lost year?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

While there’s a little more than month yet to go, 2016 is shaping up as a kind of lost year for the cinematic James Bond — when pretty much nothing substantial happened.

Decision made about a studio to actually release Bond 25? No.

Release date, if only the year? No. Can’t set a release date without somebody to distribute it.

Script? Not that anyone knows about.

Director? No.

Bond actor cast for sure? Not really. Incumbent Daniel Craig said in October of Bond, ” Were I to stop doing it, I’d miss it terribly.” But that’s not the same thing as saying, “I’ll be back.”

Something else of note that Craig said was, “There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,”

That evokes the 2002-2006 period when Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were going through a creative mid-life crisis.

Or, as Wilson told The New York Times in 2005, describing that period: “We are running out of energy, mental energy. We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

That creative mid-life crisis followed the release of Die Another Day, a big, sprawling and expensive (for the time) movie. The current exhaustion followed the release of SPECTRE, a big, sprawling and expensive movie.

On top of the usual pressures, much of the behind-the-scenes issues on SPECTRE became public knowledge because of the Sony computer hacks in 2014.

Thus, e-mails about the film’s budget, script problems and negotiations for tax incentives in Mexico became public knowledge. The Gawker website described the plot in detail based on a draft of the script made available by the leaks. So, to be fair, you could argue SPECTRE was more stressful than the usual big-budget movie.

Still, nobody — especially this blog — expected that things would seemingly shut down in 2016.

Michael G. Wilson said late last year he thought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would select a new distributor by January or February. Wilson also said MGM had talked with executives at three studios, although he didn’t identify them. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four 007 films but its contract expired with SPECTRE.

By March, MGM said no deal was struck and it wasn’t hurrying to reach one. Studio boss Gary Barber said he expected Bond movies to come out on a “three-to-four year cycle.” Eight months later, that’s still the status quo.

As a result, right now there appears to be no momentum on the 007 film front.

By contrast, in November 2012 (the same month Skyfall was released in the U.S.), a writer (John Logan) had been hired and publicly announced by MGM. In July 2013, a fall 2015 release date for the then-untitled Bond 24 was disclosed, along with an announcement that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would return for an encore.

Much of the year has been taken up by reports of supposed contenders for the Bond role or, conversely, supposed major offers for Craig to come back.

Remember how Tom Hiddleston, among others, was a cinch to be the next 007? Remember how Sony supposedly “should be announcing any day” it had a new deal to release Bond 25 and was offering Craig $150 million for two more movies?

Months and months later, neither has become reality.

Maybe there will be a flurry of news in December, such as MGM finally selecting its studio partner. Still, Bond 25 development is behind the pace of SPECTRE at a similar point three years ago. Maybe 2017 will be more eventful.

Why Sam Mendes directing Bond 25 isn’t a good idea

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

A major non-007 Sam Mendes project, a movie adaptation of The Voyeur’s Hotel, has evaporated, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website. That’s because of a documentary coming out concerning the person who is the the same subject as the non-fiction book.

That has gotten some James Bond fans wondering if Mendes could be available to direct Bond 25 (whenever it gets made) after helming Skyfall and SPECTRE.

To quote a retired comic, “Oh, I hope not.” Here are some reasons why.

He’s never sounded enthusiastic about directing a third Bond film: In July 2015, he told the BBC that, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.”

In May 2016, according to a story by The Associated Press, he said: “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

Directing a Bond film is a big undertaking. If he has even the slightest doubt (and it sounds he has big doubts), he shouldn’t attempt it.

Enough with the homages: Skyfall had homages to past Bond films, including bringing back the Goldfinger version of the Aston Martin DB5.

That continued with SPECTRE. The DB5, despite being blown to smithereens in Skyfall, is miraculously put back together in SPECTRE. A fight between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Hinx (Dave Bautista) seemed modeled after a similar scene in From Russia With Love. The Independent published a story listing other homages.

Mendes can’t help himself. The next movie, when ever it may come out, needs a break from homages.

No more boasting:  In an April 2014 interview on The Charlie Rose Show, Mendes said he cast all the major supporting characters, including Tanner.

Problem: Tanner was played by Rory Kinnear, who first portrayed the character in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a film Mendes had nothing to do with.

Mendes also claimed that in Skyfall “for the first time characters were allowed to age.” Problem: He’s wrong, it happened a number of times in Bond films.

Enough already.

If Mendes comes back, that means Thomas Newman comes back as composer: Newman is Mendes’ guy. Fans have mixed opinions about Newman’s work on Skyfall. He did get an Oscar nomination but didn’t win.

However, with SPECTRE, it was clear that Newman had run out of ideas. He recycled a number of Skyfall music bits in SPECTRE. That’s true not just of the compositions, but the sound and orchestration.

John Barry used the 007 theme in five Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker). But it had different arrangements and orchestration each time. The repeated music in SPECTRE sounds the same as it did in Skyfall.

What’s more, based on his other work, it’s clear that smaller-scale dramas (such as Bridge of Spies) are more in Newman’s wheelhouse. He’s a talented composer with such films. Bond films just aren’t his strength.

Let someone else have a try on Bond 25. But that won’t probably won’t happen if Mendes is back as director.

Four 007 films credited with saving the franchise

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This week’s 10th anniversary of Casino Royale generated a number of stories crediting the 21st James Bond film with saving the franchise.

However, this wasn’t the first time the series, in the eyes of some, had been saved. What follows is a list of four.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Sean Connery returned to the Eon Productions fold for a one-off after 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman weren’t looking for Connery’s return. But United Artists executive David V. Picker was. As a result of efforts by Picker, Connery was offered, and accepted, a $1.25 million salary coupled with other financial goodies. John Gavin, who had  been signed as Bond, was paid off.

None other than Picker himself, in his 2013 memoir Musts, Maybe and Nevers,  said the moved saved the Bond series.

Hyperbole? Maybe. Still, Majesty’s box office ($82 million) slid 26.5 percent from You Only Live Twice and 42 percent from Thunderall. Those percentage change figures won’t warm a studio executive’s heart.

Diamonds rebounded to $116 million, better than Twice but still not at Thunderball levels. Nevertheless. Picker has argued his strategy of getting Connery back kept the series going.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): The 10th 007 film was made after Broccoli and Saltzman dissolved their partnership, with UA buying out Saltzman.

What’s more, the box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, had plunged almost 40 percent from Roger Moore’s Bond debut, Live And Let Die.

As a result, there was anxiety associated with the production. Spy ended up re-establishing Bond, in particular the Roger Moore version. The movie produced a popular song, Nobody Does It Better, and the film received three Oscar nominations.

GoldenEye (1995): The 17th Bond adventure made its bow after a six-year hiatus, marked by legal fights. Albert R. Broccoli, at one point, put Danjaq and Eon on the market, though no sale took place.

As the movie moved toward production, health problems forced Broccoli to yield day-to-day supervision over to daughter Barbara Broccoli and stepson Michael G. Wilson.

The question was whether 007, now in the person of Pierce Brosnan, could resume being a successful series. The previous entry, Licence to Kill, didn’t do well in the U.S., finishing No. 4 in its opening weekend, even though it was the only new movie release released that weekend.

GoldenEye did fine and Bond was back.

Casino Royale (2006): This week, a website called History, Legacy & Showmanship had comments by various Bond students, including documentary maker John Cork, who is quoted as saying, “Casino Royale saved Bond.” Yahoo Movies ran a piece with the headline ‘Casino Royale’: The Movie That Saved James Bond Turns 10.

Meanwhile, GQ.com ran a article saying Casino was the best 007 film while Forbes.com aruged the movie “provides a helpful template in terms of doing the reboot just right.”

If Casino saved the franchise, it wasn’t necessarily in a financial sense. 2002’s Die Another Day was a success at the box officce. But Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were having a creative mid-life crisis.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Wilson told The New York Times in October 2005. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

The something new was casting Daniel Craig in a more serious version of 007 and starting the series over with a new continuity.

Casino was a hit with global box office of $594.4 million compared with Die Another Day’s $431.9 million. In the U.S. market, Casino actually sold fewer tickets than Die Another Day (25.4 million compared with 27.6 million). But, with higher ticket prices, Casino out earned Die Another Day in the market, $167.4 million to $160.9 million.

On Twitter, the blog did an informal (and very unscientific) survey whether fans thought Casino had saved the series. You can see the results below.

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Casino Royale’s 10th: The ‘kids’ make the series their own

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

This month’s 10th anniversary of Casino Royale is best known for the debut of Daniel Craig as James Bond and the 007 film series being rebooted.

But it’s also when the “kids,” Barbara Broccoli, now 56, and Michael G. Wilson, now 74, really made the series their own.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, died in 1996. His wife Dana, mother to both Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, remained a behind-the-scenes presence until she passed away in 2004.

The “kids” (as some fans refer to them) were looking to make their own mark and make changes.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Wilson told The New York Times in October 2005, recalling his thinking on the matter. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

That included the reboot, starting the series over; finally adapting Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel after acquiring the film rights after many years; informing Pierce Brosnan he no longer had the 007 role; and casting Daniel Craig (with Barbara Broccoli as his primary champion), performing a tougher interpretation of the part.

In November 2006, when Casino arrived in theaters, the movie, its new approach and its lead actor received many good reviews. It has a 95 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

“Daniel Craig makes a superb Bond: Leaner, more taciturn, less sex-obsessed, able to be hurt in body and soul, not giving a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred,” movie critic Roger Ebert (1942-2013) wrote of the film’s star.

Of the movie itself, Ebert wrote: “With “Casino Royale,” we get to the obligatory concluding lovey-dovey on the tropical sands, and then the movie pulls a screeching U-turn and starts up again with the most sensational scene I have ever seen set in Venice, or most other places. It’s a movie that keeps on giving.”

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade did the initial adaptation, with Paul Haggis polishing up the story, with all three receiving credit. Martin Campbell came aboard as director. Campbell had helmed Brosnan’s first Bond with GoldenEye and oversaw Craig’s first 007 adventure.

Casino Royale set a high bar for the “new” series to maintain. The challenges of doing that would unfold in coming years.

The main thing in November 2006 was, after a four-year absence, Bond was back — different but still 007. And the “kids” were responsible.

Craig’s post-007 career looking promising, Vulture says

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig is setting himself up for a good post-007 career, whenever that may be, the Vulture entertainment news blog says.

The article, by Kevin Lincoln, is more an analysis than a news story. The blog, part of New York magazine, says three projects comprise “a solid triptych of projects that might begin to usher Craig into the next wave of his career, should he decide to give up martinis and gunplay for good.”

The three are Logan Lucky, a heist movie that was in production this fall; Purity, the 20-episode limited TV series on Showtime set for production in 2017; and Kings, a drama about the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Kings is listed as in development at IMDB.com, with information only available on the professional part of the website. The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment website reported this summer that Craig was in early talks about the project.

Vulture also argues that Craig is benefiting from the rise of comic book-based films.

“With that shift also came an expectation that most major, and even serious, actors would also have their own franchise, making Bond likely less of an albatross for Craig than it might’ve been for his predecessors, who worked in eras when those types of ongoing character obligations weren’t nearly as common,” Lincoln wrote.

Just when Craig’s post-Bond career will start isn’t known. The 48-year-old actor said earlier this month in New York that no decisions have been made about Bond 25, although he said he’d miss the Bond role.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at The New Yorker Festival on Oct. 7.

Also, the 007 franchise is in a bit of a hiatus. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which isn’t big enough to release its own films, hasn’t yet struck a deal with another studio to distribute future Bond movies. Sony Pictures has released all four Craig 007 movies but its most recent deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

To read the entire Vulture analysis, CLICK HERE.

Ritchie may direct live-action Aladdin, THR says

Armie Hammer with U.N.C.L.E. movie director Guy Ritchie in 2013

Armie Hammer with U.N.C.L.E. movie director Guy Ritchie in 2013

Guy Ritchie, mentioned as a possible 007 director, is in talks to direct a live-action version of Aladdin, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER said.

The film would be an adaptation of the 1992 animated movie and “will keep many of the musical elements of the original,” according to the entertainment publication/website.

Normally, this wouldn’t be fodder for this blog. However, THE TABLOID MIRROR said last month that Ritchie was “the front runner” to direct Bond 25.

None of this has been officially announced, The Hollywood Reporter has more “street cred” than the Mirror. At the very least, the notion of a Ritchie-directed 007 film is in doubt.

Ritchie was the director and co-screenwriter of 2015’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

As far as Bond 25 is concerned, there is no director, script or confirmed leading man. Daniel Craig, the current 007, said in New York on Friday that not much is happening on Bond 25 because “genuinely everybody is just a bit tired.”

More from Daniel Craig’s New Yorker appearance

Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz at December 2014 media event.

Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz at December 2014 media event.

Oct. 12: Updated to include a quote from another website in the eighth paragraph from the James Bond Radio website.

After reviewing more accounts of Daniel Craig’s Oct. 7 appearance at The New Yorker Festival, here are additional points that may be of interest.

Did the actor read Ian Fleming 007 stories?

Lee Pfeiffer of Cinema Retro had A DETAILED ACCOUNT  of what Craig said during his 90-minute interview with The New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle. It included this passage:

Craig said that throughout his life he has always enjoyed seeing Bond films but had never read Ian Fleming’s novels.

This differs from comments the 48-year-old actor has said previously. In AN APRIL 29, 2012 STORY IN RETUERS, Craig said he and director Sam Mendes had read the Fleming stories before Skyfall was filmed.

“We were in continued conversation, once Sam agreed to do it,” said Craig. “We weren’t supposed to talk to each other because MGM hadn’t done the deal.

“But we couldn’t shut up. It was a chance for us to reread Ian Fleming, and we started emailing each other, ‘What about this and what about this?’, and that’s how it snowballed.” (emphasis added)

However, THIS JAMES BOND RADIO POST said, “Wilfred (Picorelli, who reported on the event for the website) reports that Daniel said that he had read all the novels and watched all the films.”

OK, let’s say Craig first talked about not reading the novels before being cast, then read them afterward. But then why DID HE SAY IN 2011 that the “name of a Bond film is not about anything. Live And Let Die? Octopussy? What does it mean?”

They’re pretty much explained in the books and sometimes the movies use the titles for characters, such as in Octopussy. If you had read all of the Fleming stories and seen all of the movies, you’d know what (in the short story) or who (in the movie) Octopussy was.

Bond’s attitude toward women: According to the Cinema Retro story, Craig commented about Bond’s attitude toward women.

Asked about long-time criticisms that the character of James Bond was sexist, Craig commented on a clip from “Spectre” in which Bond seduces a character played by Monica Bellucci and pointed out that charges of sexism against Bond were misguided because such scenes are meant to be viewed with a degree of camp.

In 2015, in an interview with a website called The Red Bulletin, Craig described Bond’s attitude toward women this way:

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.

Misogynist is defined as “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.”

Craig confirmed his Star Wars: The Force Awakens cameo: “Craig verified internet rumors that he was indeed in the latest “Star Wars” movie, playing an anonymous Storm Trooper,” according to Cinema Retro.

Tweets by others in attendance also noted Craig’s comments.

To read the entire Cinema Retro account, CLICK HERE.