A 007 film moment almost without precedent

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been a Bond movie moment quite like this one.

On the one hand, the incumbent Bond actor (Daniel Craig in this case) has said he’s coming back. And a release date (early November 2019) has been announced.

On the other hand, It has been more than 190 days since that release date was announced. We still don’t know who will get the movie to theaters.

The distributor issue is a moving target. At one point, 20th Century Fox was in the mix. But Walt Disney Co. struck a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of the rival film studio.

Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, which has released the last four 007 films, was also in the mix. Sony Corp. CEO Kaz Hirai has announced his retirement. Now, there’s renewed speculation that Sony Corp. may sell off its film and TV business.

Also, Eon Productions, which produces the Bond films, hasn’t been this busy with non-Bond projects. Eon suffered a setback with its non-007 spy film, The Rhythm Section, had to suspend production following an injury to star Blake Lively.

At this point, there isn’t much firmly known about Bond 25, the next installment in the 007 film series. Craig told CBS’s Stephen Colbert in August he’s coming back; Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced the 2019 release date in July 2017; and veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on the Bond 25 story.

The Hollywood Reporter said in September that tech giants Apple and Amazon were in the hunt for Bond rights, but nothing has been heard from since then.

Before now, the 2009-2011 period was the most uncertain for the Bond franchise. MGM, which controls half of the franchise, filed for bankruptcy.

Still, MGM completed bankruptcy. On Jan. 11, 2011, Eon and MGM announced that Bond 23 (later titled Skyfall) was back in production after being suspended because of MGM’s uncertain financial situation.

Today, more than seven years later, MGM is more healthy financially. It’s moving toward becoming a “big boy” studio again. Last year, it struck a deal with Annapurna Pictures to form a joint venture to release each other’s movies. But, at least for now, that deal doesn’t cover Bond 25.

Despite that, Bond 25 distribution (and financing) issues aren’t resolved. The industry is changing quickly. The Disney-Fox deal, for example, would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

Is this crying wolf? No. It’s just a recognition things are more complicated than 2010-11, the last time when Bond’s film future was unsettled.


Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “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,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

Eon’s new normal (cont.): Q’s comments analyzed

Publicity still of Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

So, this week, actor Ben Whishaw, Q in the two most recent James Bond movies, made a few comments to Metro which were deemed news about Bond 25.

“I haven’t had an update for a while. I would imagine, I think they have a release date for next year, so I think by the end of this year we have to have started filming something,” Whishaw was quoted by the website. “Although it has gone strangely quiet, but that’s often the way it goes.”

This was analyzed by Birth. Movies. Death (“Q Is Standing by for BOND 25“) and Screen Rant (“Ben Whishaw Expects Bond 25 To Begin Filming Later This Year“).

And, yes, it was news, at least of a sort. Neither Eon Productions (which makes Bond movies) nor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which controls half of the 007 franchise) have said a whole lot for months. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of a news blackout, a nugget becomes news.

It’s another reminder about Eon’s new normal. The Bond franchise has franchise has transitioned from being a film series to more like occasional events not on a set schedule.

In the 1970s, even 1980s, it probably wouldn’t have been much of a story if Desmond Llewelyn, the longest-serving film Q, commented about an upcoming film.

Imagine in that time period if Llewelyn said, “I guess they’re getting ready. They have a release date. So they’d have to start filming something before too long.” That wouldn’t have been a blip.

Also, consider this line from the Screen Rant story: “Whishaw may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Ralph Fiennes (M) or Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In the 1970s, the equivalent would have been: “Llewelyn may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Bernard Lee (M) or Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In those days, it’s not a question a lot of people would have been asking. The show was James Bond and whoever was playing him. Connery is back! (Diamonds Are Forever) Who will be the new Bond? Can Roger Moore make it as the new Bond? (Live And Let Die)

This isn’t a complaint. The world is as it is. And Eon’s new normal is what it is.


Anatomy of crappy 007 journalism

Barbara Broccoli

In mid-December, The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast had a wide-ranging interview with Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli.

After almost an hour, there was this brief exchange:

SCOTT FEINBERG (Host): Would you ever hire a person of color or even a woman to play James Bond one day? Could it be Jamie Bond?

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Anything is possible. Right now it’s Daniel Craig and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig, but who knows what the future will bring? That’s what is so exciting about Bond.

OK. Almost two weeks later (Dec. 28, to be precise), the DAILY MAIL ran a story under the headline, “Next James Bond could be black or a woman, says 007 producer: Barbara Broccoli says ‘anything is possible’ once Daniel Craig walks away.”

That story says Broccoli “was asked if we could expect to see a female Bond or a black 007.” (emphasis added). The Broccoli quote: “Right now it’s Daniel Craig, and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig, but who knows what the future will bring?”

In other words, the Mail reproduced Broccoli’s comments. She was asked, but it appears she was not asked by the Daily Mail. Of course, to know that, you would have to listen to the original podcast (it’s around the 1:36:34 mark). Also, the Daily Mail has a reputation for ripping off other outlets, as detailed in a 2015 Gawker story.

Nevertheless, the Daily Mail story (such as it was), spurred other outlets to hammer the same idea.

ESQUIRE.COM (James Bond Producer Barbara Broccoli Says The Next 007 Could Be Female): Same Broccoli quotes, but attributed to the Daily Mail, not the original podcast.

SCREEN RANT (The Next James Bond Could Be a Woman or Person of Color): Same Broccoli quotes, but attributed to the Daily Mail, not the original podcast.

CINEMA BLEND (Will James Bond Continue To Be A Handsome White Dude After Daniel Craig Leaves?): You guessed it, same quotes but attributed to the Daily Mail.

MOVIE WEB (Earlier headline: Next James Bond Probably Won’t Be a Straight White Male): Once more with feeling — same quotes from the podcast, attributed to the Daily Mail. But, hey, at least the website’s headline took it even further. (HEADLINE CHANGED JAN. 4 TO Anything’s Possible When It Comes to Casting the Next James Bond. For more details, see update below).

OBSERVER (Will We Ever See a Non-White Male James Bond? It’s ‘Possible’): You guessed it. Same quotes as the podcast, attributed to the Daily Mail.

Just to be clear, this blog has never been mistaken as an extension of Eon’s PR operation. On occasion, the blog has noted when Broccoli denied things that turned out to be true (Ben Whishaw playing Q in Skyfall, John Logan being signed, initially, to write Bond 24 and 25).

But on this one, it’s pretty clear the Eon boss deflected the question. But that hasn’t stopped various entertainment outlets from running with it.

UPDATE (Jan. 4): Movie Web said today in two posts on Twitter that it changed its headline and is now crediting THR.



What we think (hope?) will happen with Bond 25 in 2018

Happy 2018! After the “lost year” (2016) and the year of mostly looking backward (2017),  we’re in a year where the James Bond film franchise should advance forward.

With that in mind, a look at what we think (perhaps hope) will finally be settled about Bond 25.

Resolve the distribution/financing: This is practically the only 007-related site that even brings this up. Some have accused the blog of sounding like a broken record. Maybe so. But once more with feeling:

–You can’t get a movie into theaters without someone to get it theaters.

–Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, is taking steps to become a “big boy” studio capable of releasing films. But it’s not there yet. (MGM formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to release each other’s movies but, for now, Bond 25 is not part of that deal.)

–Moreover, Sony, which distributed Skyfall and SPECTRE, also supplied half of the production budget for each of those movies.

–Unless, MGM is willing to go all in to pay the bills (which it has not indicated yet), Bond 25 financing won’t be settled until the distributor issue is settled.

–Until the financing is settled, nobody is going to get paid for working on the movie.

Select a director: You can’t film a movie without a director. MGM and Eon have announced a Bond 25 release date (November 2019 in the United States) but haven’t gotten around to naming a director.

Denis Villeneuve (who in an interview with Screen Crush said yet again he’s working on a new version of Dune and can’t work on Bond 25) ? Yann Demange? David Mackenzie? Somebody else?

At this point, Eon Productions has had months and months to decide. To make that November 2019 release date it announced, Eon needs to move relatively soon.

Cast the movie: Bond 23 (later titled Skyfall) was officially announced in January 2011. Over the next several months, there were stories about casting of the movie that pretty much turned out to be correct (Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw, among others).

Again, if all parties are serious about that Noveber 2019 release date for Bond 25, you would expect to hear possible casting stories in the next six months or so.

Begin production: Skyfall started principal photography in November 2011 for a fall 2012 release. SPECTRE began filming Dec. 8, 2014 for a fall 2015 release.

Once more, if everyone is serious about the announced November 2019 release date, it would seem production would be underway by the end of 2018.

Happy New Year, everyone.


When character genders change

Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson with Cary Grant as editor Walter Burns in His Girl Friday

Every so often, the idea is raised about having James Bond be played by a woman. It came up again just last week, raised by none other than British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Her comment was prompted, in part, by how Jodie Whittaker is the new Doctor Who.

“I think it’s a great move forward for girl power that there is going to be a female Doctor Who,” May told reporters on board her RAF plane Voyager, according to The Guardian. “And one day there should be a female James Bond.”

Other British newspapers ran similar accounts. And when it’s coming from the PM, it’s naturally going to be reported widely. Just as certain, many James Bond fans complained, in effect saying, “Here we go again….”

The thing is, male characters do get transformed into female ones on occasion.

His Girl Friday (1940) was the second film adaptation of the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. In the Howard Hawks-directed movie, newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) became a woman and the ex-wife of editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant).

There was a similar setup in 1988’s Switching Channels, also based on the Hecht-MacArthur play, but transporting the story to television and changing the character names.

Meanwhile, Whittaker has come aboard as Doctor Who. The BBC even posted the end of a Doctor Who Christmas special on YouTube:


For now, changing 007’s gender isn’t on the table, with actor Daniel Craig announcing in August he’s coming back for a fifth Bond film. But chances are the idea will get raised again at some point.


Broccoli says major B25 decisions to be made in 2018

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in a long interview with the THR Awards Chatter podcast, said major Bond 25 decisions won’t occur until sometime in early 2018.

Given it’s mid-December of 2017, that’s not terribly surprising. But the podcast is a chance for fans to hear things for themselves.

Asked if “we know” Bond 25’s title or director, she replied: “I don’t. It’s still to be determined.”

Asked about who will distribute the movie, she said, “It’s exciting to be courted. We’ll hopefully be making that decision early next year.”

Gary Barber, CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “is leading this whole crusade,” Broccoli said, referring to the distributor issue.

MGM is home studio to the Bond franchise. The last four 007 films were released by Sony Pictures. With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony also co-financed but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution seven years after exiting bankruptcy. It formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies. But, for now at least, that joint venture isn’t involved with Bond 25.

Broccoli was asked whether Bond 25’s distribution may be split between the U.S. and internationally. “That’s all to be decided in the future,” she said.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

The producer went into more detail about how went to work for Eon, co-founded by her father, Albert R. Broccoli. Broccoli, 57, doesn’t do a lot of interviews and this one is longer than most. Among the highlights:

Working in her teens on The Spy Who Loved Me: “My job was captioning stills.” She had to do through a lot of film and “you’d have to come up with captions.

Working on Octopussy as an assistant director: “I was basically a runner. I was a third assistant (director).” One of her responsibilities was dealing with a large group of young actresses. “I was responsible for herding them and get them around.”

Associate producer Tom Pevsner was “a mentor to me.” Broccoli said she learned the art of production scheduling from Pevsner. “He taught me about breaking down scripts…He was an incredible man.”

Pevsner joined the series with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. With 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill both Broccoli and Pevsner had the title of associate producer. Pevsner’s final Bond film was 1995’s GoldenEye, where he had the title of executive producer. Pevsner died in 2014.

On her working style with half-brother Michael G. Wilson: “Michael and I are very different. Strangely enough, when it comes to Bond, we always agree.”

On 007 actor Daniel Craig: “He brought humanity to the character…making Bond relevant to today.”

Broccoli said she first saw Craig in the 1998 film Elizabeth. “He has the most incredible presence on the screen,” she said of Craig. “He’s lit from within. I remember thinking, ‘What a force.’ I just watched everything he did.”

Craig announced in August he’d return for a fifth film as Bond. Before that announcement, Broccoli said, “My heart was breaking.”

To check out the podcast, CLICK HERE. The Broccoli interview begins at the 40:36 mark and lasts almost an hour. She also discusses her non-Bond movie, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in detail as well as talking Bond.