Octopussy’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Adapted from a May 2013 post with an epilogue added at the end..

Thirty-five years ago, there was the much-hyped “Battle of the Bonds.” Competing 007 movies, the 13th Eon Productions entry with Roger Moore and a non-Eon film with Sean Connery, were supposed to square off in the summer.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. In June 1983, Eon’s Octopussy debuted while Never Say Never Again got pushed back to the fall.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli was taking no chances. He re-signed Moore, 54 at the start of production in the summer of 1982, for the actor’s sixth turn as Bond. It had seemed Moore might have exited the series after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Broccoli had considered American James Brolin, and Brolin’s screen tests surfaced at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles. But with Never Say Never Again, a competing 007 adventure starring Connery, the original screen Bond, the producer opted to stay with Moore.

Also back was composer John Barry, who been away from the world of 007 since 1979’s Moonraker. Octopussy would be the start of three consecutive 007 scoring assignments, with A View To a Kill and The Living Daylights to follow. The three films would prove to be his final 007 work.

Barry opted to use The James Bond Theme more than normal in Octopussy’s score, presumably to remind the audience this was the part of the established film series.

Meanwhile, Broccoli kept in place many members of his team from For Your Eyes Only: production designer Peter Lamont, director John Glen, director of photography Alan Hume and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Even in casting the female lead, Broccoli stayed with the familiar, hiring Maud Adams, who had previously been the second female lead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Behind the cameras, perhaps the main new face was writer George MacDonald Fraser, who penned the early versions of the script. Fraser’s knowledge of India, where much of the story takes place, would prove important. Richard Maibaum and Broccoli stepson Michael G. Wilson took over to rewrite. The final credit had all three names, with Fraser getting top billing.

As we’ve WRITTEN BEFORE, scenes set in India have more humor than scenes set in East and West Germany. Some times, the humor is over the top (a Tarzan yell during a sequence where Bond is being hunted in India by villain Kamal Khan). At other times, the movie is serious (the death of “sacrificial lamb” Vijay).

In any event, Octopussy’s ticket sales did better in the U.S. ($67.9 million) compared with For Your Eyes Only’s $54.8 million. Worldwide, Octopussy scored slightly less, $187.5 million compared with Eyes’s $195.3 million. For Broccoli & Co., that was enough to ensure the series stayed in production.

Hype about the Battle of the Bonds would gear back up when Never Say Never premiered a few months later. But the veteran producer, 74 years old at the time of Octopussy’s release, had stood his ground. Now, all he could do was sit back and watch what his former star, Sean Connery, who had heavy say over creative matters, would come up with a few months later.

2018 epilogue: Over the past five years, Octopussy has continued to generate mixed reaction.

One example was an article posted this month the Den of Geek website. 

While the site said Octopussy deserves another chance with fans, it also levied some criticisms.

It’s a funny old film, Octopussy, one used as evidence by both Moore’s prosecution and his defense. Haters cite the befuddled plot, an older Moore, some truly silly moments (Tarzan yell, anyone?), a Racist’s Guide to India, and the painfully metaphorical sight of a 56 year-old clown trying to disarm a nuclear bomb (rivalled only by Jaws’ Moonraker plunge into a circus tent on the “Spot the Unintentional Subtext” scale.)

At the same time, Den of Geek also compliments aspects of the movie, including its leading man.

Moore also submits a very good performance, arguably his strongest. Easy to treat him as a joke but the man really can act. Sometimes through eyebrows alone.

Thirty-five years later, Octopussy still has the power to enthrall some and to generate salvos from its critics.

I know someone, now in his 40s, who says it’s his favorite James Bond film. I have a friend who refuses to buy a home video copy of it (and every other Roger Moore 007 film) on the grounds that none of the Moore entries are true James Bond films. So it goes.

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.

007 silly season proceeds

Matthew Goode, 38, appears unlikely to utter the words, "Bond, James Bond," for audiences.

Matthew Goode, 38, may not utter the words, “Bond, James Bond,” for audiences.

The following is presented for entertainment purposes only.

Matthew Goode, 38, who played Henry Talbot in Downton Abbey, has “scuppered his chances” to play James Bond, according to a story in the Daily Mail that cites a Thursday appearance on British television.

On the televised interview, Goode said he wasn’t invited back for a second interview.

Here’s an excerpt:

The actor took a swipe at the 007 film franchise after revealing he had auditioned for the titular job but hadn’t been invited back for a second during a appearance on This Morning on Thursday.

He continued: ‘I think they should half the budget. Reboot it. I don’t think modern Bond is working as well [as old Bond].’

How much of this is fact and how much is fantasy? Your guess is as good as ours. Still, if true, it *might* be worth noting that the actor got push back on the idea that Bond films need to reduce their budgets. SPECTRE’s budget exploded, spurring a lot of concern that became public because of the Sony Pictures hacking.

–Ralph Fiennes has said (ACCORDING TO THE DEN OF GEEK WEBSITE) he signed a three-picture deal to play M but doesn’t know if he’ll be back for Bond 25.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I have no idea”, Fiennes said, unsurprisingly. “I’m poised to do another Bond if they want me, and I don’t know who is going to be next – it may still be Daniel (Craig) – no one knows. I signed up for three, and I’ve done two, but I don’t know what the variants of the contract are except that we’re all waiting to see ‘will Daniel do another, will he not?’ and if he does, I have a feeling I will be M and if he doesn’t, I’m waiting to hear where they’ll take it.”

Let’s face it: at this point, there’s no real news about Bond 25. But we stand by our modest proposals for Bond 25, including worry about story first, worry about your 007 actor second.

The nature of fandom

SPECTRE teaser poster

Fans feel possessive of what they like, whether it be James Bond or something else.

It’s no secret that fans — whether they like James Bond or other characters — can feel a little possessive. But there’s an interesting essay about the hazards of giving fans what they want.

The article appeared on the DEN OF GEEK WEBSITE. But before we provide the details, here’s a passage of James Hunt’s essay that applies to any fandom.

Fandom at its best is a celebration of a shared enthusiasm for something, but it takes only a little nudging to turn it. Fandoms start off based on something good, but they soon start to feel like they own the thing they love, and that the creators employed to write (or draw, or direct) that thing are only stewards who have to feed the fandom beast or meet with disapproval. Things turn toxic.

(snip)

The lesson? Be careful what you wish for. Not because you might get it, but because you risk getting only that and nothing else. It’s fine to think about what you might like to see. It’s fine to criticise developments you don’t enjoy. But once you expect anything more specific than a well-told story, you may have to blame yourself if you don’t even get that.

On related note, years ago a friend who had been actor said something to the effect, “The only thing an actor owes an audience is his or her best performance.”

Yet, if you’ve been on social media or checked out Internet message boards, many fans do feel a sense of ownership. It’s certainly true that fan dollars support the entertainment. Yet, sometimes things go beyond that.

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, some fans severely criticize it as betraying the 1964-68 original series because of alterations to the backgrounds of the lead characters. Clearly, director Guy Ritchie stripped a lot of memes from the series out of his movie to concentrate on the characters, played in the film by Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

Anyway, the Hunt essay is about Avengers: Age of Ultron. It also includes this quote from the late Marvel Comics writer Mark Gruenwald: “The writer’s job isn’t to give the fans what they want. The writer’s job is to give the fans what they didn’t even know they wanted.”

The full essay can be viewed BY CLICKING HERE. While it’s primarily about this year’s Avengers film, it’s worth checking out for any fan of any popular entertainment.

It’s particularly worth reading for 007 fans before publicity for SPECTRE gears up.

Why we guess Bond 24 won’t be out until at least 2015

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

This week, Gary Barber, the CEO of MGM Holdings Inc., the parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said the company is “hoping within the next three years” that Bond 24 will be released.

That’s a much different tune that late 2010 when MGM, in bankruptcy court, said it planned TO GET THE BOND FILM SERIES BACK ON AN EVERY-OTHER-YEAR SCHEDULE. It was even different from November when Barber told investors that MGM was “hopeful” that Bond 24 could come out in 2014. “If not in ’14, certainly in ’15,” he said at that time.

With these week’s comments by Barber, entertainment Web sites such as WHATCULTURE! and FLICK DAILY are taking the MGM CEO literally and saying Bond 24 won’t be out until 2016. That’s probably extreme, but Barber and MGM clearly are backing off the idea of Bond 24 coming out in 2014.

Here are our guesses why:

Eon Productions (which actually makes the 007 films) doesn’t seem keen on a 2014 timetable: Last year, an executive of Sony Pictures (which co-financed Skyfall with MGM and co-financed the movie) said Bond 24 would make a 2014 release date. Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall star Daniel Craig slapped that idea down in an interview with COLLIDER.COM.

(QUESTION:) Last week Rory, the president of distribution of Sony, announced Bond 24 for I guess late 2014…

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it (emphasis added)

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs).

(emphasis added)

Actually, somebody had announced something — an executive of Sony Pictures, an Eon Productions business partner who was acting in his official capacity, had announced that Bond 24 was coming out in another two years. In effect, Broccoli and Craig were saying, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

In an interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Barbara Broccoli had this comment about studios:

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

In the case of MGM, it co-owns the 007 franchise with Eon. But, based on these comments, it would seem as if Broccoli doesn’t view MGM exactly as a partner. At the very least, it doesn’t sound like Broccoli wants to hurry the process along. Meanwhile, Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli’s half brother and the other-co boss of Eon, had this to say in an interview with the DEN OF GEEK! Web site:

Have any preparations been made for Bond 24 yet?

Broccoli: No, no.

How long a space do you think you’ll need?

Wilson: If we’re rapid it’ll be two years, if we’re not it’ll be three. (emphasis added)

It’s not as critical for MGM to get Bond 24 out by 2014: When MGM made that filing in bankruptcy court it was, well, bankrupt. This week, it reported considerably improved financial results for 2012, much of it from Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The Hobbit has release dates for sequels in 2013 and 2014. Presumably, MGM will want Bond 24 sooner than later, but a 2014 release date isn’t a matter of life and death for the studio. Meanwhile, Bond remains an important asset for MGM and CEO Barber talked on this week’s investor call how the company was working with its “partners” (his words) at Eon. If Eon isn’t that keen for a 2014 release, Barber has less reason to force the issue at this point.

To quote M from the film You Only Live Twice, “Mind you, all of this is pure guess work.” But our guess is that a 2015 release for Bond 24 is more likely than a 2014 one.

Gerry Anderson, master of Supermarionation, dies

Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson (1929-2012)


Gerry Anderson, the master of the Supermarionation universe of puppets and elaborate miniature flying (or submerged) vehicles, died Dec. 26 at the age of 83. His Supermarionation programs as well as some of his live-action television shows crossed paths from time to time with James Bond.

Anderson’s children programs were produced in the U.K. and found their way to the U.S., often syndicated to local television stations. The specific situations varied but the likes of Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Stingray and Thunderbirds, among others, featured heroic characters with unusual names such as Mike Mercury, Steve Zodiac and Troy Tempest do battle with menaces of all kinds, whether they be on the surface of the Earth, under the oceans of Earth or in outer space.

One of Anderson’s frequent collaborators was Derek Meddings, who provided the miniatures that were an important part of the Anderson shows, which frequently found their way into toy stores. When Meddings did the elaborate miniatures for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and 1979’s Moonraker, Meddings was an old hand at providing an elaborate product on a budget.

Anderson used actors with ties to the 007 film series to voice characters, including Lois Maxwell on Stringray (as Atlanta Shore, who pined for hero Troy Tempest, not unlike her Moneypenny role in the Bond films) and Shane Rimmer as one of the intrepid Tracy family that ran and operation International Rescue on Thunderbirds.

What’s more, Anderson’s live action syndication UFO series starred Ed Bishop, who, like Rimmer, had small roles in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. UFO, while a science fiction show, had a touch of 1960s TV spy programs. It featured an organization called SHADO, whose mission was to combat invading hostile aliens. SHADO’s secret headquarters was underneath a movie studio. The SHADO logo evoked the logo of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Anderson also had a personal experience with the Bond films. This is how Anderson told the story in a 2009 interview with the DEN OF GEEK Web site:

Could I ask you about your ‘lost’ version of Moonraker, which you lost through no fault of your own when Saltzman split with Broccoli? What was your vision for that film compared to what hit the screen in 1979?

I never got to actually having a vision! What happened was that Harry Saltzman phoned me and said ‘Can you pop in? I’d like to see you’. I went in and he said ‘Gerry, I want you to produce the next Bond picture, Moonraker – here’s the book’. I nearly took off and went into orbit [laughs]! I just thought it was a marvellous, marvellous break.

I read the book, which frankly wasn’t very exciting, and terribly out-of-date, as one would expect. I was initially trying to cement the deal, and at that time I would have put my thoughts together. What happened was that Tony Barwick – the late Tony Barwick, one of my favourite writers – and myself had written a synopsis. Harry had seen the synopsis and that was the reason he called me – he was fired by it.

But a few weeks went by and then…just the worst bit of luck in my life, I think! It was announced that Harry Saltzman was parting company with Cubby Broccoli. And so the thing went down the tubes.

According to ANDERSON’s BIOGRAPHY on Wikipedia.org, the Supermarionation producer started a Moonraker lawsuit but settled for 3,000 British pounds.

To read more about Anderson, you can view his obituaries ON THE BBC’S WEB SITE and at THE DAILY MIRROR’S WEB SITE. Also, you can view THE ASSOCIATED PRESS’S OBIT VIA THE HUFFINGTON POST.

UPDATE (Dec. 28). The Spy Vibe blog has a Gerry Anderson article that includes details about an episode of Thunderbirds very much inspired by 007. To read it, CLICK HERE.

Bond 24 coming in 2 or 3 years, producers say

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions gave an interview to the DEN OF GEEK Web site. In it, they indicate that Bond 24 could arrive in 2014 or 2015.

Barbara Broccoli


Here’s the exchange:

Have any preparations been made for Bond 24 yet?

Broccoli: No, no.

How long a space do you think you’ll need?

Wilson: If we’re rapid it’ll be two years, if we’re not it’ll be three. It’ll be in that time period.

Barbara Broccoli is also quoted as saying, “So I think we just want to open this one, have a bit of a break and get on with the next one.”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that controls half of the 007 franchise, and Sony Pictures, which co-financed and is releasing Skyfall, have indicated they want to get the series back to an every-other-year schedule.

The Den of Geek interview was posted on Oct. 25. One day later, the Deadline entertainment Web site reported that John Logan was hired to write scripts for Bond 24 and Bond 25. The Hollywood Reporter had a story reporting the same thing. Both said Logan pitched an original two-movie story line.