Bond 26 questions: The lot of noise edition

Image that the official James Bond feed on Twitter has used in the past

As far as Bond 26 is concerned, there is more noise than light.

Some websites claim to know what’s going on. But the main tidbit from the powers that be is a Barbara Broccoli comment that filming on Bond 26 won’t occur until at least two years from now.

Still, nature abhors a vacuum. So there are questions out there, even if there aren’t real answers.

Who will be the next Bond actor?

Who knows? Supposedly, Eon wants a tall actor (after 15 years of Daniel Craig, who is shorter than six feet tall). Supposedly, Eon wants a young (say early 30s) actor who can hold the role for a while.

Craig was 38 when he started his tenure. The youngest Bond actor was George Lazenby (29 when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service started filming). Sean Connery was 31 when cameras rolled on Dr. No. Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan were in their 40s.

Last week, a website called Giant Freakin Robot claimed it had sources that the next film Bond will be a person of color and a search was underway.

Whatever. As stated before, there’s more noise than light at this point.

Why is it taking so long?

In the “old days,” Eon Productions could recast the role and implement a major change in direction quickly.

Between A View to a Kill (1985) and The Living Daylights (1987), Eon went to a more serious creative direction. Eon also cast not one, but two, actors. Pierce Brosnan was initially cast but NBC renewed the TV series Remington Steele. Timothy Dalton then got the role.

Now, Barbara Broccoli says a serious rethink is taking place and a script can’t even be started. She has said Bond is being “reinvented.”

What should we expect?

In the near term, more noise. Bookies and tabloids in the U.K. have an interesting relationship when it comes to Bond.

The bookies change odds to generate more bets. That churn provides the tabloids the opportunity to publish clickbait articles.

And it’s not just the tabloids in the mix. Remember back in January when a reporter for Deadline: Hollywood tweeted that he had talked to someone that, “I think we here (sic) who it is after the Oscars.”

The Oscars have come and gone with no word.

To be fair, the Deadline writer then published a follow-up tweet: “Obviously taking this with a grain a salt as putting an ETA on these types of decisions never works out but interesting that some believe this won’t be an all year wait.”

From the standpoint of Bond fans, it will be a long, hard slog.

State of the Bond franchise: Mid-2022

I just did one of these posts in April. I really thought that would take care of things for a long time. I was wrong.

Comments from Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, originally reported by Deadline, suggest the Bond movie franchise is adrift.

If Broccoli is to be believed, Eon doesn’t know who should play Bond following Daniel Craig. It hasn’t determined the direction of future 007 films after Craig has retired from the part with 2021’s No Time to Die.

The key Broccoli quotes from the Deadline story

“We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond. We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Eon has been adrift before. Following Die Another Day in 2002, the company that has made 007 films had no idea where to go.

The source of this? Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli’s half-brother in a 2005 New York Times story.

“I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” said Michael G. Wilson, the producer of the new Bond film, “Casino Royale,” with Ms. Broccoli. He even told that to Pierce Brosnan, the suave James Bond who had a successful run of four films, he said.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

In a 2012 speech, Wilson further described the period involved.

“We had been working on a new script for a year and getting absolutely nowhere,” he said then.

As told by Wilson, Eon got out of its funk at that time when he and Barbara Broccoli talked and each wanted to adapt Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, start the film series over and recast the Bond role. The result, 2006’s Casino Royale, was a highlight of the Eon series.

What is old is new again. Except, for now, there hasn’t been an attempt at a script. Also, there’s no complete Fleming novel to use. Eon didn’t get the rights to the Casino Royale novel until a few years before pre-production began on the 2006 movie.

Michael G. Wilson turned 80 earlier this year. Barbara Broccoli is 62. Wilson has been involved *full-time* with Eon for 50 years. Broccoli has been involved *full-time* with Eon for 40 years.

The movie business is in flux. It is being battered by streaming and new technology. Bond (created by Ian Fleming in 1952) and its movie makers (whose first movie came out 60 years ago this year) are anchored in the 20th century.

Eon has had a lot of time to ponder a post-Daniel Craig future. No Time to Die, Eon’s most recent effort, wrapped filming in fall 2019.

If you take Barbara Broccoli at her word, in mid-2022, the Bond filmmakers still haven’t figured out where to go.

To be sure, keeping a film franchise going for 60 years is a great achievement.

Yet, where does it go from here? We don’t know. And the answer won’t be known soon.

Broccoli says Bond to be reinvented, Baz reports

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli says Bond 26 will be “a reinvention of Bond,” Baz Bamigboye of Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Broccoli said it will be at least two years before Bond 26 starts filming, according to Bamigboye. The Eon chief said there is no script and a search for the next cinematic James Bond hasn’t begun.

Bamigboye formerly worked for the Daily Mail and scored some Bond scoops that proved correct.

Broccoli made the remarks “at a star-studded private event in central London to honor Broccoli and her brother Michael G. Wilson for their BFI Fellowships.”

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

“Nobody’s in the running,” she disclosed. “We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond. We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Last year’s No Time to Die ended Daniel Craig’s five-film run as Bond. The movie ended with the Craig version of Bond being killed. The end titles still proclaimed, “James Bond Will Return.” Craig’s first Bond, Casino Royale, started the series over.

Much of the article is a description of the event, including former Bond composer David Arnold playing the piano.

About that John Hodge script for Bond 25

Last month, The Guardian published a story about John Hodge’s scripting efforts for a new television version of The Ipcress Files. But the scribe made a few comments about Bond 25, later to be titled No Time to Die.

Hodge’s comments suggest there was, perhaps, less than met the eye.

In 2018, there was hype, led by Deadline: Hollywood, that Hodge and director Danny Boyle had a spectacularly wonderful idea for Bond 25. So wonderful that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would set aside a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script in development for almost a year.

In May 2018, Eon and MGM announced Boyle was directing Bond 25, with Hodge writing. Previous announcements referencing Purvis and Wade were forgotten. Then, in August 2018, Boyle was gone, departing over “creative differences.”

What happened? Here are Hodge’s limited comments to The Guardian:

“I think it was me they really wanted rid of, but Danny took the bullet, too,” says Hodge. Do non-disclosure agreements cover their departure? “No. Just decent British discretion!”

At the time Hodge and Boyle learned they would not write another day, there were suggestions they had spooked the producers by pitching an incredibly subversive storyline. But the released movie contains a twist at least as dramatic, which seems to disprove the rumour they had gone too far. “My understanding was that that twist had been decided even before we came on board because Daniel Craig wanted it. I think, with us, it was that old cliche “creative differences”. It felt very dramatic at the time but it was just another bump in the road of the Bond franchise.”

The twist, of course, was James Bond would die at the end of the movie. British tabloids carried stories that either Eon wanted Bond to die or Boyle desired it.

Hodge’s comments suggest this was always going to be the case. That doesn’t mean there weren’t differences in the Boyle-Hodge version and the final film. At one point, there were Russian gulag sets being constructed in Canada as well as a mockup of a rocket (as disclosed by production designer Mark Tildesley in a 2020 video interview).

Hodge’s comments also raise the question whether his and Boyle’s idea was all that wonderful. In the end, Eon’s infatuation with Boyle and Hodge cost untold amounts of money as well as several months of precious time.

Had Eon been more efficient in the production process, No Time to Die would have avoided multiple delays stemming from COVID-19. The movie’s original release date was for the fall of 2019.

Admittedly, hindsight is perfect. Still, to cite a World War II slogan, was this trip really necessary?

Spider-Man passes NTTD for No. 1 non-Chinese movie

Spider-Man No Way Home has passed No Time to Die for the title of No. 1 box office among non-Chinese movies, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Spider-Man’s most recent global box office figure is $813.9 million, Deadline said.

Until now, No Time to Die held the mantle of No. 1 non-Chinese movie at $774 million. The 25th James Bond film has mostly ended its theatrical run. No Time to Die this week became available for sale for home video release.

Spider-Man No Way Home, essentially, is a live-action version of Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse, a 2018 animated film that featured different versions of Spider-Man in different dimensions. The new live-action Spider-Man movie features multiple Marvel Comics characters. The film was made by Sony Pictures (which has the rights to Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios.

The new Spider-Man movie was expected to do well at the box office. But since its release last week, it has performed better than expected.

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.

A sampling of No Time to Die Reviews

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

Hours after the premiere of No Time to Die, an embargo for reviews lifted. What follows are excerpts without spoilers.

PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD: “Bond is back with a vengeance, and that means Daniel Craig taking on the assignment just one more time in a film that proves a fitting finale for the actor who invests the role with more emotion, power, and style in a movie that not only marks a milestone as the 25th time around, but also one not afraid to take some twists, turns, and yes, risks.”

STEVEN WEINTRAUB, COLLIDER (TWEET): No Time to Die “is LOADED with everything you expect in a Bond film but also has a lot of surprises. Was on the edge of my seat for like half the movie. You def want to have the events of #Spectre fresh in your mind before watching. Loved Daniel Craig as James Bond. Great sendoff.”

PETER BRADSHAW, THE GUARDIAN: “(C)raig’s final film as the diva of British intelligence is an epic barnstormer, with the script from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge delivering pathos, action, drama, camp comedy …heartbreak, macabre horror, and outrageously silly old-fashioned action in a movie which calls to mind the world of Dr. No on his island. Director Cary Fukunaga delivers it with terrific panache, and the film also shows us a romantic Bond, an uxorious Bond, a Bond who is unafraid of showing his feelings, like the old softie he’s turned out to be.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Yes, it’s a better 007 film than Spectre, and yes, it’s a better series finale (relatively speaking) than The Rise of Skywalker, but if anything, the two years of release-date delays may have helped the film. In October 2021, critics and audiences may be so thirsty for water that they’ll drink the sand, and frankly I don’t entirely blame them/us. Had this film opened in late 2019 or early 2020, it would have paled in comparison to other series finales and other ‘take stock in our legacy’ sequels that opened around that time.”

MIKE REYES: CINEMA BLEND: “With a runtime that is nearly three hours, No Time To Die’s story gets off to a rousing start and doesn’t let up. In the run up to its debut, there have been promises that the Daniel Craig era of films was going to have a proper ending, tying together the five movie saga in an epic conclusion. That claim has absolutely been fulfilled, as the usual franchise antics are mixed in with a story that very much has history, especially Casino Royale, firmly in mind.”

BRIAN LOWRY, CNN: “After 25 movies over 60 years, billing a James Bond adventure as the end of something requires a certain leap of faith. Still, Daniel Craig’s yeoman service comes to its conclusion with ‘No Time to Die,’ a big and length-wise bloated epic that includes the desired bells and whistles, which, despite its flaws, should buy the movie considerable goodwill from an audience that has waited (and waited) for it.”

NTTD footage shown at CinemaCon

One of the many No Time to Die posters

Some No Time to Die Footage was shown at CinemaCon, a gathering for theater owners.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t been at CinemaCon for 20 years, according to Deadline: Hollywood.. Another entertainment site, The Wrap, had a more detailed description of the No Time to Die footage shown. (Avoid if you don’t like spoilers.). Most of this describes footage seen in previous trailers.

In the footage, Daniel Craig’s Bond wakes up on top of a building, disoriented, and the sound is muffled. Calling someone on the phone seems fruitless, so Bond begins to run through the city only to be on the receiving end of gunfire from Spectre agents. He ropes himself off the side of a bridge to escape, but he soon runs into the people chasing him. A fight ensues in typical Bond fashion.

Next, we see Bond with Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann, and Bond asks her how Spectre knew he was in the city. He thinks she betrayed her, and there’s nothing she can say to persuade him otherwise. The two get into a beautiful vintage Aston Martin that Bond fans will recognize as the DB5 from “Goldfinger,” with all of Q’s weapons included. However, it unfortunately gets completely destroyed by gunfire in the middle of a town square by the Spectre agents..

Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, last week confirmed No Time to Die’s world premiere will be Sept. 28. The 25th James Bond film is scheduled to debut Sept. 30 in the U.K. and other countries and Oct 8 in the U.S.

Broccoli, Wilson sing Seydoux’s praises

No Time to Die poster featuring Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions praise Lea Seydoux in a Deadline: Hollywood feature story about the actress.

“Léa’s portrayal of Dr. Madeleine Swann explores the complexity of what it is like to be in a relationship with James Bond,” Deadline quoted Broccoli and Wilson as saying. The entertainment news website didn’t specify whether this was in a written statement or an interview.

 “Given the background of her character being the daughter of a SPECTRE assassin, she understands Bond’s world, the dark forces that he is up against, and his psyche. We wanted to challenge Bond emotionally and Léa’s character does this in No Time to Die,” the Eon duo said. “Léa is very committed to her profession and gives 100 percent. She always illuminates the characters she plays and makes you feel the connection with them because she makes them feel real.”

Seydoux, in turn, praised star Daniel Craig. “Because he comes from the theater, I think he wanted to create a more interesting character,” she said. “He’s made him vulnerable and let him show his flaws. By seeing the character’s imperfections, the audience can relate to him.”

Seydoux first played Swann in 2015’s SPECTRE. She returned for the upcoming No Time to Die.

An old Hollywood hand opines on Bond amid Amazon deal

Peter Bart’s Twitter avatar (@MrPeterBart)

h/t to David Leigh and Phil Nobile Jr. who brought this to my attention. The post below is my responsibility alone.

Peter Bart is an old Hollywood hand. He has worked both sides of the fence, serving as a studio executive and an entertainment industry trade journalist (he was a long-time editor of Variety). Currently, he writes columns for the Deadline: Hollywood site.

This week, he opted to weigh in on Amazon’s announced deal to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. He told an anecdote or two, drawing on his studio executive experience.

 I was personally introduced to the Bond bonanza in 1983 when a cadre of business affairs executives invaded my office with packets of documents. “When you sign the top document, you’ll be greenlighting the next Bond movie,” instructed the first executive. “The film is titled Octopussy.”

“Is the script as bad as the title?” I asked.

“Probably,” came the reply. “But you’re signing as president of United Artists and we need your signature, not your opinion. A Bond deal is a special deal.”

I promptly signed. I’d heard the legend of how Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, heirs to the Bond dynasty, had constructed a web of contracts that tightly controlled every creative and marketing element of their franchise, and also kept half of the action. I had no stake in intruding in this cozy arrangement.

That’s all very interesting but, as of 1983, Barbara Broccoli had a junior role in the franchise. Her father, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions, still controlled operations. Barbara Broccoli graduated college and went to work on Octopussy in 1982. She got an on-screen credit but it was part of the end titles.

Bart also took a shot at Octopussy star Roger Moore “who, at 55, came across more as a stylish maître d’ than as a master spy.” Bart also wrote that Octopussy “performed torpidly at the worldwide box office,”

The movie finished 1983 with a global box office of $187.5 million. While behind 1981’s For Your Eyes Only ($195.3 million), it was ahead of Never Say Never Again, a competing Bond film starring Sean Connery ($160 million). Those were big numbers four decades ago.

The article by Bart, who turns 89 in July, reflects a broader unease among entertainment types with Amazon and its outgoing CEO, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos is planning to spend more time with his rocket company.) Hollywood is being rocked by streaming services (such as Amazon Prime) and is still adjusting to the new reality.

Bart also offered this observation about No Time to Die, the upcoming 25th film in the Eon-produced series:

A $300 million theatrical release, the latest Bond represents a tangle of rights agreements dating back 60 years that reflect the legalistic compromises of the past rather than the slick streamer dealmaking of the present…Some ticket buyers may also see its plot as a creaky reminder of white-bread misogyny.