Rise of the ‘Scooby Gang’ in 007 films

SPECTRE publicity still featuring part of the fan-dubbed “Scooby Gang,” Tanner (Rory Kinnear), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw).

There’s a fan-generated 007 nickname that has gotten traction these days.

That would be the “Scooby Gang.” It’s shorthand for how supporting characters in the Eon Production film series join Bond out in the field. It’s based on the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, where the Scooby Gang of young people and a dog go out and solve mysteries together.

“Scooby Gang” was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, referring to the cartoon show.

Formerly, Bond was a lone-wolf. M would give 007 the mission. Q would provide some gadgets and Moneypenny would flirt before Bond departed the office.

That’s been changing for a while. In 1989’s Licence to Kill, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) goes rogue, as Bond (Timothy Dalton) has. He not only brings along some gadgets, he acts as 007’s assistant.

After Judi Dench came aboard as M in 1995’s GoldenEye, her character’s screen time expanded. That process started with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough where M’s kidnapping is a major aspect of the plot.

Finally, with 2012’s Skyfall, we got a rebooted Moneypenny (now with a first a name, Eve) who we initially see as a field agent. Also, the Judi Dench M scores more screen time than before because she’s a mother figure for both Bond (Daniel Craig) and the villain Silva (Javier Bardem).

In 2013, there was an early indication the Scooby Gang would come together in SPECTRE.

“Naomie Harris is getting more  of the action in the next James Bond film, which starts shooting next year,” Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a story published on Sept. 12 of that year.

Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.

‘The idea formulating in Bond-land is for Naomie to be much more of a sidekick to James, and for her to get out and harm the bad guys,’ an executive close to the production told me.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench/M perished at the end of Skyfall and was succeeded by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who has his own impressive military background.

By the end of SPECTRE, M, Moneypenny, Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all out in the field helping Bond. And, thus, the Scooby Gang nickname was born. It has appeared on 007 message boards and elsewhere on the internet.

Now, there has been recent fan speculation/questioning whether Fiennes can return to play Mallory/M because of other acting jobs.

In the “old days,” few fans wondered about the availability of Llewelyn, Bernard Lee or Lois Maxwell. The actors only had a few days of work and the focus was on Bond. Llewelyn was absent from Live And Let Die, but most of the publicity and fan attention was on Roger Moore’s debut as 007.

We’ll see what happens next. Meanwhile, here’s an amusing tweet from Phil Nobile Jr., former writer for Birth. Movies. Death and now editor of a new incarnation of Fangoria magazine. He’s a big 007 fan and has written extensively about Bond films in the past.

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Bond 25: Will Ralph Fiennes be available?

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes “is in talks” to join the cast of The Forgiven, a project expected to begin filming early in 2019, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Fiennes has appeared in the past two James Bond films, Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015). For some 007 fans, The Forgiven raises the possibility whether Fiennes would be available for Bond 25.

Currently, Bond 25 has an announced U.S. release date of November 2019. The project supposedly will begin filming in late 2018. At the moment, it has no announced distributor.

From a distance, if Fiennes is in The Forgiven, it might be a conflict for him to remain as Mallory, the newest M in the 007 film series.

However, with the absence of a confirmed distributor or financing, both the release date and start of production start for Bond 25 seem less than firm.

Actor Daniel Craig said in August 2017 he’d be back to play 007 in Bond 25. Director Danny Boyle has said he may direct the film if a story idea he developed with John Hodge is accepted.

Some Bond fans are convinced more is happening behind the scenes. That may be. But there isn’t much confirmed about Bond 25, so that’s not a high bar.

About that Bond 25 release date

“This is an old friend of mine. And it tells me…something smells!”

During the past week, there’s been a buzz that the pregnancy of Rachel Weisz, the wife of Daniel Craig, may push back the November 2019 release date of Bond 25.

As Keim Bey would say: “This is an old friend of mine. And he tells me something smells!”

This latest notion began when Weisz, 48, gave an interview to Marueen Dowd of The New York Times that went online April 20.  The actress revealed she was pregnant. From the Times story;

“I’ll be showing soon,” she says, with a radiant smile.

On April 26, The Sun weighed in with a story that Bond 25’s U.S. release date of November 2019 might be pushed back because of the pregnancy.

A film source said: “Pushing back the schedules suits all parties.

“Daniel (Craig) can concentrate on matters at home with Rachel, which are pretty life-changing, to say the least.”

Let us count the ways this smells:

–The Bond 25 release date was announced in July 2017 before a distributor was in place.

–It’s not unheard for women in their late 40s to utilize the services of fertility specialists to become pregnant. We don’t know that happened in this case. But it’s rare for women in their late 40s to suddenly become pregnant.

–Daniel Craig announced in August 2017 he would return for another James Bond film. At the very least, he and Weisz may have already been trying to have a child.

That said, there are other reasons why Bond 25’s release date could be pushed back.

–Danny Boyle became a late contender to direct Bond 25. Whether that happens depends on whether a story idea Boyle and writer John Hodge gets approved for the film.

–A non-007 spy project being made by Eon Productions, The Rhythm Section, has been delayed because of an injury to star Blake Lively.

–Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, reportedly is trying to sell itself, according to an April 4 story by The Hollywood Reporter. One of MGM’s selling points, according to the report, is the studio’s film rights to 007.

Put another way, there are multiple reasons to suspect Bond 25’s release date could be pushed back.

The pregnancy angle is not the most convincing. Weisz’s due date would be before Bond 25 begins filming (end of the year is the earliest estimate).  Meanwhile, MGM hasn’t been a stable studio for decades.

It’s more likely that a Bond 25 delay would be related to MGM than Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz welcoming an addition to the family.

Bond 25: Annoying stories edition

Daniel Craig

This week, Daniel Craig talked (very, very) briefly about Bond 25. He didn’t say much, except to say (again) he’d be doing the movie. However, that didn’t stop a number of stories with very annoying passages. Here’s a look at some.

VANITY FAIR, APRIL 11: “Bond 25 Is Coming Sooner Than You Think,” the magazine proclaimed in a headline on its website. In the first paragraph, it said, “Break out your martinis and Omega watches, because Bond 25 is upon us.”

No, no it’s not. Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said last year the movie would have a U.S. release date of November 2019. MGM, last month on an investor call, said Bond would return in 2019. Bond 25 is not upon us.

In other words, nothing has changed. The only people who are surprised are the scribes and editors at Vanity Fair who, from a 007 perspective, have been in a slumber to rival that of Rip Van Winkle’s.

DEN OF GEEK!, APRIL 11: The entertainment news website examines the release slate of Sony Pictures and ponders whether Sony might end up distributing Bond 25.

“We’ve learned that indie outfit Annapurna Pictures will team with MGM and EON Productions for US distribution, but last we heard, the international rights are up for grabs,” Den of Geek! said.

Well: 1) Eon Productions isn’t involved in distribution. It may or may not have a say, but distribution is an MGM decision. 2) Clearly, Den of Geek! has fallen behind in its reading, including last week’s STORY BY THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER that no Bond 25 distribution decision has been made and that MGM is using its Bond rights to attract buyers.

To be sure, MGM and Annapurna last year formed a joint venture to distribute each other’s movies in the United States. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal. Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that joint venture was close to getting the U.S. Bond 25 deal. But hasn’t happened yet.

Note to Den of Geek!: There’s this site affiliated with the blog called the Bond 25 Timeline. You might want to check it first before doing your next article on Bond 25. h/t to reader @CorneelVf on Twitter for pointing out the Den of Geek! story.

OBSERVER, APRIL 10: The story isn’t bad for the most part. It notes for example, the lack of a distributor for Bond 25. But there is one line that was annoying.

“We can only assume that franchise producer Barbara Broccoli is paying Craig handsomely for his fifth and final Bond installment,” the Observer said.

Ultimately, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t pay the bills. The studio (or studios with co-financing deals) handles that chore. Eon has never financed Bond movies. Whatever money it has fronted has been returned once a studio (beginning with United Artists in the early 1960s, MGM after it acquired UA in the 1980s) OK’s the movie and started paying.

VARIETY, APRIL 10: The entertainment publication/website essentially summarized an Associated Press video of what Craig said this week. So far, so good. Then, there was this passage:

“At one point  (Craig) said he would ‘rather slash my wrists’ than play Bond again and said he would only do another film ‘for the money.’ Apparently, the studio paid him handsomely.”

At least Variety understands the studio foots the bills. However, this falls into the annoying category because Variety ignored the scoop of its rival (The Hollywood Reporter) about MGM seeking to be acquired and putting off a Bond 25 distribution deal.

I’m sure Craig is in line for a big pay day if Bond 25 is made. But it won’t get made unless it is financed (something at least somewhat in doubt until the distribution situation is ironed out). It might have been a better use of time for Variety to find out what really is going on than to write a snarky line.

Daniel Craig (briefly) discusses Bond 25

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz made an appearance Monday night at a charity event. Craig didn’t say much about Bond 25, except to confirm yet again he’ll be in it. Craig first said in August 2017 he’d be back for a fifth turn as 007.

The actor ducked a question whether Danny Boyle will direct. Boyle has said he will if a script by John Hodge is accepted.

The Associated Press posted a short video. You can view it below.

A look at some 007 #MeToo moments

#MeToo went viral last year as the result of workplace sexual harassment and assault, a lot of it media related such as now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

With the 25th James Bond film (slowly) in development, there has been speculation about how Bond will be affected by the Me Too movement. We won’t know for some time.

However, certain scenes from previous Bond films were cited in THIS ARTICLE from The Scotsman.

“Almost as soon as Harvey Weinstein’s dressing-gown fell open, and the first gruesome revelations of sexual coercion and assault in Hollywood spilled out, a debate was sparked about the future of Bond,” wrote Aidan Smith of The Scotsman.

With that in mind, here are some Bond movie scenes that get cited in #MeToo conversation.

“Dink, say goodbye to Felix.”

“Man Talk” (Goldfinger, 1964)

After the main titles of Goldfinger, the CIA’s Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) makes contact with Bond (Sean Connery).

Bond is with Dink (Margaret Nolan, who also participated in the main titles as the “Golden Girl” of the title song).

Bond sends Dink on her way saying he has to engage in some “man talk” with Felix. As she walks away, Bond slaps her on her buttocks, accompanied by an Oscar-winning sound effect.

Not something you could do in the 21st century.

“You don’t mean…”

“I’d Lose My Job” (Thunderball, 1965)

Bond (Connery again) is almost killed after Count Lippe sets a device intended to stretch the spine on full speed and the agent is helpless to do anything about it.

Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters), a nurse who had strapped Bond into the machine in the first place, returns early and saves the agent’s life.

As he’s recovering, Bond says somebody will regret this day. He’s referring to Count Lippe but there’s no way for Patricia to know that.

She urges Bond to stay silent or else she could lose her job.

Bond immediately seizes upon the situation. “I suppose my silence could have a price…”

“You don’t mean…”

“Oh, yes…”

According to the stage directions of the script:

The steam rises higher and higher making is even more difficult to see anything at all.

This is probably just as well.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. After having sex with Patricia, Bond gets even with Count Lippe. However, the villain doesn’t meet his demise until it is administered by another SPECTRE operative who figures into our next example.

Interplay between Bond and Fiona in Thunderball.

“Would You Please Give Me Something to Put On?” (Thunderball)

SPECTRE executioner Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) uses her sex appeal as part of her work for the criminal organization.

For example, posing as the “social secretary” for a NATO pilot, she arranges for him to be killed so a SPECTRE double can take his place. This enables SPECTRE to steal two atomic bombs.

Later, Fiona has encountered Bond but finally decides he needs to be eliminated.

She’s naked in a bathtub when Bond enters. “Would you please give me something to put on?” Fiona says. Bond hands her a pair of sandals and sits in a chair.

Not much later, they have sex. After they get dressed, SPECTRE thugs enter the hotel room. Eventually, Bond escapes. Fiona catches up, but she’s killed when one of the thugs tries to shoot Bond.

This is stretching things a bit in terms of #MeToo. Fiona knew exactly what she was doing and sex was part of her M.O. Also, Luciana Paluzzi had played a very similar character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fiona absolutely was a strong, independent character. She just came up short going against Bond.

“I like you better without your Beretta.”

Bond and Severine in Skyfall (2012)

This example is one of the most controversial, certainly among recent 007 films.

Severine (Bérénice Marlohehad been forced into the sex trade at a young age. Bond (Daniel Craig) deduces this from a small tatoo of hers.

She tells Bond her bodyguards will try to kill him as soon as she departs. But in case she survives, she tells Bond the name of the yacht she’ll be on, where to find it and that it will be casting off in an hour.

Severine waits in her cabin, with a bottle of champagne on ice. The yacht casts off. But when she decides to take a shower, Bond is there as naked as she is.

However, for Severine, things go downhill from there. Silva (Javier Bardem) has her roughed up. Later, there’s a William Tell bit where Bond and Silva try to shoot a glass of Scotch off her head. Silva doesn’t bother to really try and just shoots her to death.

Bond fights his way out this and helicopters descend to capture Silva.

Why this is controversial: I’ve seen some fans on 007 message boards compare Bond’s encounter with Severine in the shower to rape. But the shot of Severine with the bottle of champagne on ice suggests she was wanting Bond to get to the yacht.

On the other hand, Bond shows no remorse whatsoever that Severine was killed. After he gets the upper hand, Bond gloats to Silva. But he doesn’t acknowledge Severine’s ultimate sacrifice.

By comparison, both Thunderball (with the death of MI6 agent Paula) and You Only Live Twice (with the death of Japanese agent Aki) depict Bond acknowledging the deaths of the women, which is emphasized by John Barry’s music.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part IV)

Danny Boyle

Apologies. The blog is suffering from Lt. Columbo-itis. Little things bother it. So here are some more questions about Bond 25.

Why did Danny Boyle go public with his involvement with Bond 25 now?

Without a mind reading machine, there’s no way to know for sure. But Boyle’s behavior is a lot different than his predecessor in the 007 director’s chair, Sam Mendes.

In January 2010, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Mendes mostly about other topics. But the paper asked if it was true he’d be directing the next James Bond film.

“It’s only speculation and, you know, at the moment there isn’t even a studio to make the James Bond movie, because MGM is for sale.”

The thing was, at almost the same time, Mendes’ U.K. publicist, Sara Keene, confirmed to The Guardian that Mendes was in talks about directing what would become Skyfall. “I can confirm that he has had a meeting, but Sam always has lots of projects on the table that he might direct next,”

In contrast, Boyle’s comments to Metro and other outlets were relatively straight forward. He said he planned to direct Bond 25 if a script being written by John Hodge is accepted. If that occurred, the plan would be to start production toward the end of 2018.

Just to be clear, the blog likes straight forwardness. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to comment, you say, “No comment.” That’s because when you deny things that turn out to be true (i.e. Ben Whishaw was playing Q in Skyfall, etc.) it hurts your credibility in the long run.

On the other hand, intentionally or not, Boyle may have pressured Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer a bit. If the Hodge script were rejected (and Boyle ended up not directing Bond 25), both would get questions about what happened.

Do you think Eon/MGM will turn down the script when Hodge finishes it?

Not likely. Supposedly, actor Daniel Craig is really keen on Boyle directing. For now, the blog suspects Eon boss Barbara Broccoli will move heaven and earth to keep him happy.

She’s repeatedly expressed her admiration for Craig. If Hodge delivered 110 pages of chicken tracks as a script, sure it’d be rejected. But if the Boyle-backed story is even remotely acceptable, it will get approved and off we go. At least, that’s the blog’s guess.

How does the pace of Bond 25 development compare with recent 007 films?

It’s lagging.

Bond 23 (Skyfall) was suspended because of MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy. In January 2011, there was an announcement the movie was back on, finally confirming Mendes’ involvement. Principal photography started in November 2011.

Bond 24 (SPECTRE) had a first draft script submitted in March 2014. Principal photography originally was slated to begin in October 2014, but was pushed back to December 2014.

At this point, Hodge is still writing his first draft. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had worked on a Bond 25 script for the better part of a year, but that’s been put aside for the Boyle-backed Hodge script.

Also, at the start of 2011 and 2014, it was known what studio (Sony Pictures) would be distributing Skyfall and SPECTRE respectively. No announcement has been made concerningt what what/which studio(s) will be distributing Bond 25.