Broccoli: No steps toward selecting new Bond

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli spoke to The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast in an episode posted this week. The Eon Productions boss celebrated Daniel Craig’s long run as James Bond and again said she’s not in a hurry to pick his sucessor.

“To be honest, we’re not looking right now. We’re not in the conversation right now,” she said toward the end of a 30-minute interview. “We are living in the present moment and it’s a joyful moment, it’s a celebratory moment. We’re celebrating Daniel’s extraordinary achievement over 16 years.”

“We want to live in this moment for as long as possible and really applaud Daniel and really enjoy it. At some point later, we’ll sit down and think about the future. Right now, I want to live in the present and it’s a very happy place to be right now.”

The podcast also featured an interview with Craig of about an hour.

No Time to Die was released last year following five delays, three related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 25th Bond film made by Eon had a global theatrical run of $774 million and is now available on home video.

Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, last year agreed to be acquired by Amazon for $8.45 billion. That deal hasn’t closed yet. It’s uncertain whether Amazon will make major changes at MGM. Broccoli has repeatedly said she’s not interested in streaming show spinoffs related to Bond.

The 355 flops as spy movies struggle to find an audience

The 355 movie poster

The 355, a spy movie with a mostly female cast, flopped over the weekend in its U.S. debut.

The film’s opening U.S. weekend totaled an estimated $4.8 million, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data. It was the first film of 2022 with a “wide” opening (3,000 screens or more).

The 355 shows it’s hard for spy movies not part of the James Bond or Mission: Impossible films series to get much traction.

At one time (the early 2000s), Jason Bourne was a big success, even prodding Eon Productions to change the tone of its 007 productions and dump Pierce Brosnan in favor of Daniel Craig as Bond. In the mid- to late-2010s, director Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman series, mixing violence and comedy, appeared to be something new.

However, Bourne’s success has been difficult to extend without Matt Damon. In 2016, there was another Bourne entry with Matt Damon (simply titled Jason Bourne). But nothing has happened since then. 2017 saw Atomic Blonde with a global box office of $100 million. However, no sequel resulted. And Matthew Vaughn’s most recent Kingsmen effort, The King’s Man, flopped.

Other spy film attempts have been a mixed bag.

Salt (2010) had a respectable $293.5 million at the global box office but never generated a sequel. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015), (loosely) based on the 1964-68 TV show, had a global box office of $107 million. Hopes for a revived U.N.C.L.E. disappeared.

The Rhythm Section (2020), made by Eon Productions, had a worldwide box office of not quite $6 million. Clearly, the makers of the Bond films weren’t able to duplicate the success of the 007 movies.

We’ll see. Matthew Vaughn has another spy project titled Argylle which will star Henry Cavill (who played Solo in the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. movie).

Hope springs eternal when it comes to spy films.

About genre movies fighting for Oscars love

No Time to Die poster

Studios are in the midst of their blitz to get some love from the Oscars. And that includes lobbying efforts for genre movies to gain some recognition.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, has been lobbying for No Time to Die to get awards while the ultimate goal is the Oscars. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are moving to get Spider-Man No Way Home some Oscar love.

Once upon a time, popular movies did pretty well at the Oscars. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), a Cecil B. DeMille schlockfest *won* the Best Picture Oscar. I like Greatest Show but there’s no denying the schlock factor.

Star Wars (1977) was nominated for Best Picture. The movie won Oscars for art direction and score among other awards but fell short of actually winning Best Picture.

In more recent decades, it’s been hard for genre movies to get a lot of Oscar recognition outside of technical awards. There were some exceptions such as Best Actor awards for The Dark Knight (2008) and The Joker (2019). Ironically, both actors involved (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix) played different versions of the same character.

It’s kind of tough to get Oscar love for playing a hero in a genre movie.

One big exception was Black Panther (2018), a Marvel film that was a big hit while highlighting a Black cast. It got a Best Picture nomination and won a few Oscars, including best score.

All of which brings us to the current situation. MGM is pushing a bit of everything, including star Daniel Craig, director Cary Fukunaga, the writing team and, of course, Best Picture.

Meanwhile, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman (who said he hates Spider-Man No Way Home) presented a somewhat cynical reason why the academy should nominate the comic book movie anyway.

 If you want an Academy Awards telecast that wins more eyeballs than it loses, you’re going to have to nominate some of the movies that win eyeballs. I don’t disagree with that argument, and in a sense it’s the one I’m making. But this isn’t simply about numbers. It’s about a perception that drives the numbers. Sure, if “No Way Home” gets nominated, a swath of its vast fan base might tune into the Oscars that wouldn’t have otherwise. But what I’m really talking about is the essential idea that movies are, and always have been, a populist art form. If that dimension of cinema isn’t respected, something has gone wrong.

We’ll see how this turns out. The Bond films went almost 50 years between Oscars wins (special effects for Thunderball and two awards for Skyfall). Skyfall got five nominations and won two. But the Bond series has never been nominated for acting or directing.

As for Spider-Man No Way Home? Who knows? Actors and directors love to dump on comic book-based movies but a number of stars have signed on comic book-based movies.

Bond questions: 2022 (and beyond?)

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There are still a few weeks before the end of the year. Still, the natural temptation is to shut things down sooner than later.

Questions about the future of the James Bond film franchise remain. Of course, the blog has questions.

When will we know the next Bond film actor?

Fans tend to expect major announcements on Oct. 5 (when Dr. No debuted in 1962). Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes not. Don’t assume one way or the other.

What should we look out for?

Amazon agreed earlier this year to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. That deal hasn’t closed yet. Assuming it passes regulatory review, the acquisition might change things.

How?

That remains to be seen. Amazon has agreed to spend $8.45 billion (cash and assumption of MGM debt). You don’t spend that kind of money to leave things exactly as they’ve been.

Any signs of tension?

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has done multiple interviews where she and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson say they aren’t interested in Bond spinoffs. (Even though Wilson was deeply involved in the 1990s James Bond Jr. cartoon show.)

It appears to have to look of Eon drawing a line in the sand. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Still, on the surface, something seems to be up.

Anything else?

Eon has said repeatedly that 2021 was the year of celebrating the end of Daniel’s Craig’s 15-year run as Bond.

However, Craig’s theatrical run is ending. We’re into the No Time to Die digital release. We’re within days of DVD/Blu Ray/other physical media release.

A new era of Bond is on the horizon. It will begin sooner than later.

Author discusses her James Bond fashion book

Llewella Chapman, author of Fashioning James Bond

Film historian and academic Dr. Llewella Chapman is out with a new book, Fashioning James Bond.

For a character with a license to kill, fashion in the form of suits, dinner jackets, etc., has always been important. The new book examines the costumes and the fashions of the James Bond film franchise, starting with 1962’s Dr. No and running through 2015’s SPECTRE.

According to the book’s listing at Amazon, Fashioning James Bond “draws on original archival research, close analysis of the costumes and fashion brands featured in the Bond films, interviews with families of tailors and shirt-makers who assisted in creating the ‘look’ of James Bond, and considers marketing strategies for the films and tie-in merchandise that promoted the idea of an aspirational ‘James Bond lifestyle.'”

The blog interviewed Dr. Chapman by email. It was edited to go with “American” English rather than English English.

THE SPY COMMAND: There are various books about James Bond. What makes yours different?

LLEWELLA CHAPMAN: There are! And one of my favorites is Dressed to Kill: James Bond the Suited Hero (authored by Jay McInerney, Nick Foulkes, Neil Norman, and Nick Sullivan (1995). I also really enjoyed Peter Brooker’s and Matt Spaiser’s co-authored book From Tailors With Love: An Evolution of Menswear through the Bond Films (2021). The key difference with Fashioning James Bond is that I not only analyze Bond’s costumes but also the costumes worn by the villains, the “Bond girls,” the henchmen, and many others besides.

Hopefully, there will be something in there for everyone! Everyone has a favorite character, of course, and so I’m sorry if yours isn’t analyzed in my book. Unfortunately, I had a word limit and had to stop somewhere!

In many ways, of course, and as Julie Harris, the costume designer for Casino Royale (1967) and Live and Let Die (1973), summarized the key difference between fashion and a costume designer’s role to The Times in 1967: “fashion is the big pitfall in costume design. Not only because the time lag between drawing the designs and the film’s showing averages a year, time enough for anything to have happened in fashion … film designers have to keep a sharp and beady eye on fashion. They have to develop a flair for fashion futures, for the average time between starting designs and the actual appearance of the film can be anywhere between nine months and a year.”

In direct relation to Bond, the character’s suits evolved depending on need and not just fashion. From Sean Connery until the end of Roger Moore’s tenure, Bond wore bespoke tailored suits. From Timothy Dalton onwards, we see Bond dressed the majority of the time in made-to-measure and off-the-peg suits. The main reason for this was the sheer amount of suits needed for the films, particularly since Dalton’s, and the timescale required to make them.

TSC: As you researched your book, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

CHAPMAN: I compiled my research for this book from many different archives, libraries, and repositories, and one of the surprises and rather fun anecdotes was discovering a connection between Bond and the multiple menswear firm Montague Burton. The company attempted to capitalize on the “Bond mania” of the mid-1960s following the release of Goldfinger in the U.K. by briefly hiring Anthony Sinclair as a consultant, and producing a small range of 007 suits.

However, Montague Burton quickly realized that ‘young people, although they may like Bond, do not want to dress like him, and middle-aged men don’t want a coat that has pockets for hand grenades, and so the range was swiftly dropped before the release of Thunderball in the U.K. You can find out more about this story in Chapter 3 of my book.

TSC: Who had the biggest influence with the style of James Bond? Anthony Sinclair and his suits? Someone else?

CHAPMAN: I think that it mainly depends on who made the decision to go with a particular tailor or menswear firm to dress Bond in his suits. With Sean Connery, Terence Young recommended his personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and similarly with George Lazenby, Peter Hunt elected to dress George Lazenby in Dimitrov “Dimi” Major’s suits.

Roger Moore is the first actor to play Bond who had his own agency over the way the character was dressed, owing to his interest in menswear and him being an established television star. It is somewhat appropriate that he also had three tailors dress him over the course of his Bond films: Cyril Castle, Angelo Vitucci, and Douglas Hayward.

With Timothy Dalton, he particularly influenced Bond’s style, wanting a more casual look for the films, and for Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s first film, Casino Royale (2006), it was Lindy Hemming, the costume designer, who elected to dress Bond in Brioni. For Quantum of Solace, costume designer Louise Frogley explained that she chose Tom Ford to provide Bond’s suits owing to “needing to solve a problem,” and from Skyfall until No Time To Die, we see Craig possess more agency over the way his Bond was dressed.

TSC: How would you characterize the James Bond style?

CHAPMAN: In three words, I think that the “James Bond style” should be: classic, elegant, and timeless. Though ultimately, Bond should be a chameleon in any situation in which he finds himself: fitting into the scene seamlessly and in order to obtain what he needs.

TSC: What do you think accounts for Bond’s continuing popularity?

CHAPMAN: Good question! I think because the films aim to not only present a fun, often humorous, and thrilling story for audiences worldwide with the money “spent on the screen,” but also because over the past 60 years the films have continuously evolved to reflect the political, social and cultural contexts during the time they were made.

Cover to Fashioning James Bond

You can order Fashioning James Bond at Amazon’s U.S. site by CLICKING HERE. Or you can order from the U.K. Amazon site by CLICKING HERE. Another option is ordering through the website of Bloomsbury (the book’s publisher) by CLICKING HERE. I’ve been advised this may be a quicker method for customers in the U.S.

Bond 26 questions: Bond’s return

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Spoiler for No Time to Die

At a recent event sponsored by the Deadline entertainment news site, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli said Eon has yet to figure out how James Bond will return after the events of No Time to Die.

By the end of the 25th Bond film, Bond has been blown to smithereens and other characters are in mourning. Yet, in the end titles, it says “James Bond Will Return.”

“We’ll figure that one out, but he will be back,” Broccoli said. “You can rest assured James Bond will be back.”

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Another reboot?

This would be the easiest route. With 2006’s Casino Royale, Eon started things over. Eon finally had its hands on the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So one continuity ended after Eon dismissed Pierce Brosnan, another began after it brought on Daniel Craig.

Having multiple continuities is not unprecedented. Look at Warner Bros. and its various Batman movies.

Four movies from 1989 through 1997 were one continuity (multiple actors played Batman but all four had the same actors as Alfred the butler and Commissioner Gordon). Films from 2005 through 2012 were another continuity. And various films with Ben Affleck as Batman comprise yet another continuity. Now, yet another continuity is in works with Robert Pattinson as Batman.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, you can’t complain about reboots. Yes, Eon fudged things at times, primarily with the Aston Martin DB5. But a new reboot may be the way to go.

What about the “code name theory”?

That would be another way to go.

For the uninitiated, the “code name theory” is a way of explaining all the different actors who’ve played Bond in the Eon series. Under this scenario, “James Bond” is a code name assigned to different people.

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have said there’s only one Bond, just played by different actors. Besides, 007 is Bond’s code number. Why does he need a code name on top of that?

Nevertheless the “code name theory” refuses to die. It traces its origins to the development of the 1967 Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman. The original James Bond (David Niven) orders all British agents to be named “James Bond” to confuse enemies. This notion may be the 1967 movie’s legacy.

You’re not serious, are you?

To be clear, I am NOT advocating for it. However, “code name theory” would be one way to retain Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Rory Kinnear as Tanner.

What would be the drawbacks?

A new Bond actor would be burdened by the Craig continuity. Remember, Craig’s Bond was burned out from Skyfall on. Personally, I would start fresh with a reboot. You DO NOT have to another Bond origin story. Just introduce your new Bond and go from there.

Sean Connery’s Bond never had an origin story. That worked out pretty well.

NTTD passes $758M in global box office

No Time to Die has surpassed the $758 million mark in worldwide box office as the 25th James Bond film’s theatrical rollout begins to wind down.

The Bond movie was at $758.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That included $600 million outside the U.S. It is the No. 1 global film among non-Chinese-made movies.

No Time to Die debuted in late September in the U.K. and came out in Australia earlier this month. The international release, handled by Universal, accounts for 79.1 percent of the total box office. The U.K. alone has generated $127.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

In the U.S., No Time to Die was No. 9 for the Nov. 26-28 weekend at $1.7 million. The movie’s U.S. total is an estimated $158.1 million. That puts No Time to Die at No. 6 in the U.S. so far in 2021. That accounts for 20.9 percent of the global total.

No Time to Die already is available on premium video on demand. The movie’s home video debut is scheduled for next month.

The Bond film is the fifth, and final, to feature Daniel Craig as James Bond.

No Time to Die’s Oscar push is underway

No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists Releasing (the MGM-Annapurna joint venture that distributed No Time to Die in the U.S.) are inviting people to screenings of No Time to Die in Los Angeles and New York as part of a push to get the 25th James Bond movie Oscar nominations.

The Los Angeles screenings are today (Nov. 5), Nov. 12, Nov. 13 and Nov. 15. The New York showings are Nov. 14, Nov. 18 and Nov. 24.

The invitations include “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES” including:

BEST PICTURE: Michael G. Wilson, p.g.a, Barbara Broccoli, p.g.a. (That’s Producers Guild of America)

BEST ACTOR: Daniel Craig

BEST DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Purvis, Wade, Fukunaga, Waller-Bridge

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Malek, Waltz, Wright, Fiennes, Whishaw, Magnuson

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Seydoux, Lynch, Harris, de Armas.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

BEST EDITING

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

BEST SOUND

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (listing only Hans Zimmer, not Steve Mazzaro, his co-composer)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

This is the summary of the movie included in the invitations:

Daniel Craig concludes his five-film portrayal of James Bond in NO TIME TO DIE, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Joining forces with his MI6 team (Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris) and a new generation of agents (Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas), Bond faces the highest stakes of his espionage career confronting a global threat devised by Safin (Rami Malek) that has estranged his beloved Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) and emotionally explores the sacrifices of heroism. The adapted screenplay is by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The original song “No Time to Die” is written and sung by Billie Ellish.

Bond 26, etc.: The real question going forward

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

A Forbes.com article out today says that James Bond still is popular and relevant. That really isn’t the correct question.

The real question is whether the series can continue to grind out new entries at $300 million a pop.

There is certainly a market for James Bond films. Even if the audience is aging, fans turn out for Bond. But at what price?

In 2012, there was a market for a movie featuring John Carter (another character from the creator of Tarzan). But not one that cost $200 million or more to make. Walt Disney Co. had to report a big charge against earnings.

In 2013, there was a market for a Lone Ranger movie (even a Tonto-centric one). But not one that cost $240 million to make. With the Lone Ranger, the special effects budget should have mostly been for squibs to simulate gun shots. But the makers of the movie went way beyond that.

Back in the day, Cleopatra (1963) was a very popular film. Financially, not so much. As big as the audience was, 20th Century Fox couldn’t earn a profit on its theatrical release.

I’ve seen some fans say they have no personal stake in how No Time to Die does at the box office. So it doesn’t matter to them.

Maybe so. With No Time to Die, it’s doing better in the U.K. and Europe than in the U.S. The final numbers remain to be seen. But spending $300 million (or so) makes it harder to earn a profit.

The question facing Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the studio’s future owner, Amazon (assuming Amazon’s planned acquisition of MGM gets regulatory approval) is whether it’s time rethink and re-evaluate Bond film budgets.

Presumably, Bond 26’s leading man won’t be paid $25 million (Daniel Craig’s reported salary for No Time to Die). Perhaps Eon’s Barbara Broccoli will remember how her father did business and negotiate harder than she did with Craig. Presumably Bond 26 won’t have pandemic-related delays that added to the tab.

Perhaps. Presumably. We’ll see.

Non-spoiler NTTD review

No Time to Die logo

This is intended as a very quick review of No Time to Die. No spoilers here but I’m preparing a post that deals with the No. 1 spoiler.

After all this time, was it worth it? Yes, very much so. I am going back and forth whether it’s a B-Plus or A-Minus.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Craig/Bond, you’ll love it. If you don’t care for Craig/Bond, it won’t change your mind.

No Time to Die was in a position to take liberties knowing it would be the last movie featuring Craig, who is adored by Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. Knowing that, you can take more chances. That’s all I will say until later.

The movie is mostly executed extremely well. The score by Hans Zimmer (and Steve Mazzaro) is better than I thought it would be. They even found a way to get Mazzaro into the main titles.

It weaves bits from the title song by Billie Eilish and Finneas throughout. We haven’t experienced that so much since 2006’s Casino Royale, where David Arnold did the score and co-wrote the title song.

As I get older, I tend to appreciate the more talkative scenes more. One of my favorite scenes is when Bond, gone from MI6 for years, goes to M’s office. It’s quite good, with both sides of the conversation getting in their points.

And, for those who were concerned Bond was emasculated in this movie? Well, it didn’t happen. The trailers didn’t give away everything.

The movie mostly moved faster than a film running 163 minutes. It could have tightened some action scenes. But, these days, you can say that about most movies.

Hours after I saw the movie, I began to think about plot holes, questions, etc. But it’s a success when you don’t ponder that during the movie.

My main concern, if you want to call it that, is the movie is too self-referential. To examine that in more detail requires spoilers.

The blog will get to a more spoiler post soon.