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.

NTTD: ‘Pip, pip Yankee dollars,’ no love for U.S. fans

An old No Time to Die poster.

Sorry, U.S. Bond fans. You are at the back of the No Time to Die line. Deja vu all over again.

The Deadline entertainment-news website said it was told by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, that international markets, indeed, will get the 25th 007 film starting Sept. 30. But the U.S. will have to wait to the previously announced Oct. 8 date. (Universal is handling distribution outside the U.S.)

Truth be told, the U.S. has long had to wait to see 007 films. In the early years of the franchise, American Bond enthusiasts had to wait months. American Bond fans with pull — like U.S. President John F. Kennedy — could see the films well ahead of their fellow countrymen.

In Kennedy’s case, watching From Russia With Love in November 1963 was one of the last things he did before he was assassinated. But others, such as film director Howard Hawks and cartoon producer Joseph Barbera got early looks at Dr. No. For Barbera, that’s where got the idea of what would become Jonny Quest.

In the past decade or so, there have been announcements of supposed “global” Bond film releases. Yet, that never actually materializes. And the U.S., as usual, goes to the back of the line.

In the 1966 Batman feature film, there was a British inventor known as Commidore Schmidlapp. He’s bringing a “fantastic” invention to the U.S. in the hopes it will yield “pip, pip Yankee dollars.” Naturally, the inventor doesn’t realize he’s been kidnapped and his invention turned into a weapon.

Still, the commodore’s attitude — “pip, pip Yankee dollars” — summarizes the attitude of the Bond franchise and its studios. Yankee dollars? Great. Yankee fans? Meh.

Oscars do Emily Litella impression: ‘Never mind!’

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have pulled an Emily Litella. “Never mind!”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has retreated from a plan of awarding four Oscars during commercial breaks, according to reports from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline: Hollywood.

As Emily Litella (a 1970s reference you can find on Google) might say, “Never mind!”

Originally, the academy planned that Oscars for cinematography, editing, live action short and makeup and hairstyling be given out during commercials, with edited versions being shown later.

This didn’t go over well from academy members of the affected categories, especially cinematography and editing, two crucial parts of movie making.

Had the rule been in effect last year, the broadcast would haven’t included live coverage of director of photography Roger Deakins finally winning after after a long string of nominations. One of Deakins’ nominations was for the 2012 007 film Skyfall, and many Bond fans were pulling for him to finally win in 2018.

Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story:

In a statement on Friday afternoon, the Academy stated that it “has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards – Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling.” The statement continued: “All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”

The move came just nine days before this year’s Oscar telecast. The academy and ABC, which airs the awards show, have been trying to keep the program to three hours.

UPDATE (9:40 p.m., New York time): The statement is on the academy’s website.

A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Last week, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit confusing.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

There it is, contradictions and all. Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft?

 Maybe. But nobody seems to know at this point.

As a result, it’s hard to tell how developed the story really is.