Bond 25 questions: Full speed ahead edition

Bond 25 is full speed ahead, with a director, new screenwriter and a new distribution lineup. So, it’s time for the blog’s specialty — questions.

What was that story idea (turned into a script by John Hodge) that was so good Eon Productions dropped a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script?

Throughout the Bond 25 saga to date, this has been one of the most intriguing angles.

Eon announced 10 months ago that Purvis and Wade were back as 007 screenwriters. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a December podcast from The Hollywood Reporter that Purvis and Wade were ““busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

Not fantastic enough. Danny Boyle, now officially named as Bond 25’s director, and Hodge pitched Eon an idea. Boyle would direct if a script based on the idea were selected. (Boyle spoke about this in public, even if Eon didn’t until this week.)

Boom! Here we are.

This week’s official announcement about Boyle’s and Hodge’s participation in Bond 25 didn’t reference any plot points. The guess here is we’ll get some kind of brief synopsis when production starts in early December.

Who will compose Bond 25’s score? Some directors have a strong relationship with composers. That’s why we got Thomas Newman for Skyfall and SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

A variety of composers have worked on Boyle’s films, including David Arnold (A Life Less Ordinary), John Murphy (28 Days Later…), A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs).

Arnold, of course, is a 007 film veteran, working on five films from 1997 through 2008. Does he get a chance at a sixth?

Will Bond 25’s budget expand or contract compared with SPECTRE?  SPECTRE’s budget was an estimated $245 million (after including tax credits in Mexico and product placement deals). A car chase scene in Rome alone cost about 24 million British pounds, or $36 million at the time. Also, Eon boasted how the movie had the biggest explosion in motion picture history.

By contrast, 2012’s Skyfall had an estimated budget of $200 million. That’s still a lot of money but there was economizing. The first unit only traveled to Turkey. Sequences set in China were filmed with a second unit, with interiors filmed either at Pinewood Studios or U.K. locations doubling for China.

Presumably, Bond 25’s budget has been taken into account by the new distribution setup: A joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (007’s home studio) and Annapurna Pictures for the U.S. and Universal for international.

The previous four 007 films were distributed by Sony Pictures. For Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony contributed 50 percent of the production budget but only got back 25 percent of the profit, while MGM kept 75 percent.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part III)

After Danny Boyle this week confirmed his involvement in Bond 25 (he’ll direct if a script being written by John Hodge is approved), the director’s comments generates even more questions about the next 007 film.

Who will be the composer? Some directors have a long-running collaboration with composers. The duos of Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini along with Steven Spielberg and John Williams come to mind.

The 007 film series isn’t immune. Thomas Newman did the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE because director Sam Mendes wanted him.

Boyle has worked with a variety of composers.

Some examples: Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (1997) was scored by David Arnold, the five-time 007 film composer. A.R. Rahman scored Boyle’s 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire. Daniel Pemberton scored 2015’s Steve Jobs.

Arnold, of course, knows his way around scoring a Bond film. Pemberton, in scoring 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was under orders from director Guy Ritchie to avoid a James Bond sound. To know how to avoid a 007 sound, you have to know what the Bond sound is to begin with.

Then again, Boyle might have a new choice up his sleeve. Assuming Boyle makes it to the Bond 25 director chair, the composer question may be one of the biggest wild cards in the production.

Why Boyle, and why now? Boyle wasn’t asked this question and nobody else is talking for the record.

A guess: For what ever reason, the powers that be (Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were looking for something different. 

In March 2017, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that six-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired for yet another go. That was confirmed in July 2017 and, as recently as December, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast the writers were still going at it.

P&W was a safe choice. Eon, which has employed P&W’s services since 1998, when they began work on the World Is Not Enough’s first draft, knows what P&W can do. By this time, P&W knows the ups and downs of working for Eon.

Boyle (and writer Hodge) evidently pitched something that caught the interest of Eon and MGM.

Is everything locked down? In the words of Sheriff J.W. Pepper: “Helllllllllll no!”

Outsiders don’t know when Hodge will deliver his first draft. Regardless, it’s doubtful that draft will be ready to go before the cameras. In movies, there is much rewriting after the initial draft is delivered.

What would be the strangest thing you could imagine regarding this process? If P&W were brought in to rewrite whatever Hodge delivers.

 

007: News mostly about the past

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As 2017 enters its final month, James Bond is mostly looking backward, rather than forward.

News item: There’s an expanded soundtrack now available for Die Another Day, a movie that originally came out in 2002 — 15 years ago.

News item: Roger Moore’s diary written during the filming of Live And Let Die is to get a new printing next year. The original was published in 1973 — 44 years ago. The new version will be printed in hardback. It will also feature a forward by David Hedison, a long-time friend of Moore’s who played Felix Leiter in Live And Let Die.

But wait! Isn’t there a new 007 product coming out in 2018? True. That will be the second 007 continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz. It is scheduled to be published sometime in the spring.

However, the literary Bond, in the 21st century, is almost like a distant satellite of the larger 007 entity, the film series.

Which leads us to….

Bond 25’s status: As of this writing, the film officially has a leading man (Daniel Craig), a pair of producers (Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson), a pair of writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) and a release date (Nov. 8, 2019 in the United States).

And not much else. At least not now.

Around this time a year ago, the blog asked if 2016 was 007’s lost year.

2017 has been more eventful, but not by much. While Bond 25 has a release date, nobody knows — for sure — how it will get to theaters.

The Deadline: Hollywood website reported Nov. 12 that a new joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures was close to striking a deal to distribute Bond 25 in the U.S. But there’s been no announcement. And the Deadline report said international distribution hadn’t been decided.

Since then, no news. For most franchises, the distributor isn’t a big deal. The studio involved controls that. MGM, seven years after exiting bankruptcy, is trying to become a “big boy” studio again. But MGM, which controls half the Bond franchise, isn’t there yet.

And for Bond 25, an international distributor (assuming the MGM-Annapurna deal comes to be) is probably going to kick in a large piece of the production budget.

Obviously, there are things happening behind the scenes. Purvis and Wade have had enough time to complete a first-draft script. Whether they have or not is anybody’s guess.

James Bond can look back to a glorious past with certainty. The expanded Die Another Day soundtrack and new printing of Roger Moore’s Live And Let diary are just two of many examples.

An even bigger example: The death of Roger Moore in May naturally spurred a look back at his seven 007 films. He was the first of six screen Bonds in the Eon Productions series to pass away.

The future? That’s still a little fuzzy as 2017 nears its end. We’ll see if that status changes in the year’s final month.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of perspective: General Motors Co. said Nov. 30 it expects to launch a “ride-hailing service” of self-driving cars in the United States by 2019. Self-driving cars are supposed to be the next big thing in autos. If GM is correct, that service could be in business before 007’s next screen adventure.

Expanded Die Another Day soundtrack coming

La-La Land Records will offer an expanded, limited edition soundtrack of David Arnold’s score for Die Another Day, the company said on Twitter.

The soundtrack will be offered beginning at 12 noon, Los Angeles time (3 p.m. New York time) on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at the La-La Land Records website, http://lalalandrecords.com/.

The original 2002 soundtrack for Die Another Day was issued on a single disc. The expanded soundtrack will be on two discs.

The price is $29.98, according to La-La Land’s Facebook page (which also has a track list). The expanded soundtrack is being limited to 5,000 sets. The expanded soundtrack has more than 148 minutes of music.

The announcement on Twitter, which was made shortly after midnight Los Angeles time by La-La Land to coincide with the start of “Black Friday,” the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

La-La Land Records earlier this year began selling a four-disc soundtrack set from The Wild Wild West (limited to 1,000 sets). It also previously began offering a six-disc soundtrack from the Mission: Impossible television series (limited to 1,500 sets).

David Arnold discusses Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell (1964-2017)

David Arnold, who scored five James Bond films, discussed his work with singer Chris Cornell  for the title song of 2006’s Casino Royale with the entertainment news website The Wrap.

Cornell died last week. Arnold paid tribute to the performer after Cornell’s death in Detroit.

Here’s an excerpt from the story in The Wrap.

Shortly after signing on…Cornell traveled to the set in Prague to meet with Arnold and the film’s director, Martin Campbell. After reading the script and watching Craig in action via a rough cut of the film, Arnold and Cornell sat down to compare ideas for the song. They agreed that the song couldn’t be called “Casino Royale” and decided that the title “You Know My Name” would fit with Bond’s ego, an element of his character that plays a major factor in the story.

Arnold and Cornell wrote You Know My Name, with Cornell as the singer. Elements of the song were woven into Arnold’s score for the 21st James Bond film. It was the last time (to date) a Bond movie composer collaborated on a 007 title song.

According to The Wrap, Arnold and Cornell “pent 10 days apart writing the song, with Cornell writing lyrics based on his interpretations of (Daniel) Craig’s performance.”

To read the entire story, CLICK HERE.

Chris Cornell dies at 52

Chris Cornell

UPDATE III (6:50 p.m.): The Wayne County (Michigan) Medical Examiner said Chris Cornell died from “suicide by hanging” even though a full autopsy report hasn’t been completed according to The Detroit News.

ORIGINAL POST (4:30 a.m.): Chris Cornell, the rock musician who co-wrote and performed Casino Royale’s title song, died Wednesday night at age 52, The Associated Press reported.

The news service quoted a Cornell representative, Brian Bumbery, as saying the musician’s death was “sudden and unexpected.” No cause of death was known early Thursday. Cornell, who had been on tour, died in Detroit, the AP said.

Cornell was the lead singer for Soundgarden and “helped architect the 90’s grunge rock movement,” AP said in its report. He was also lead performer and songwriter for Audioslave.

In 2006, Cornell became the first title song performer for the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films.

Cornell also co-wrote Casino’s title song, “You Know My Name,” with David Arnold, who also scored the movie.

With Casino, Eon Productions opted for a “reboot,” or starting the series over. The Daniel Kleinman-designed main titles were different that previous entries. Graphic elements for the titles included playing card images as well as silhouettes of violent fights as well as images of Craig, who was making his 007 debut.

UPDATE (4:45 a.m.): David Arnold commented on Twitter:

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UPDATE II (9:30 a.m.): Many tributes have been written about Chris Cornell in the hours after his death became public. Here are tweets by the official James Bond Twitter account and actor Jeffrey Wright, who played Felix Leiter in Casino Royale.

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Tomorrow Never Dies’s 20th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new story line. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.