Happy 90th birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery in a 1960s 007 publicity still

Adapted and expanded from a 2011 post.

Sean Connery celebrates his 90th birthday today. There’s little more than needs to be said about Connery’s contributions to the James Bond film series.

Terence Young, director of three of the first four Bond movies, famously said the three reasons that 007 films took off were, “Sean Connery, Sean Connery and Sean Connery.” Young also tutored Connery in the ways of Bond.

Still, the blog can’t help but wonder if Connery had even the slightest hint of what was about to happen to him after being cast as Bond.

The answer is probably not. Who could?

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were a couple of journeymen producers. Terence Young was a journeyman director. Richard Maibaum, a journeyman screenwriter and occasional producer.

Ian Fleming had written some novels that had gotten attention, including in 1961 when Life magazine listed the author’s From Russia With Love as one of then-President John F. Kennedy’s favorite novels.

Also in 1961, United Artists announced it intended to start a film series based on the novels. Connery would end up with a $16,800 paycheck for the first film, Dr. No. Hardly the makings of a phenomenon.

Life can change in an instant. That was certainly true of a Scot actor who was starting to make an impression with audiences.

Things were never quite the same after that. Connery has been retired for almost two decades. His Bond films perhaps aren’t seen with the same enthusiasm by modern audiences. So it goes.

Then again, without Connery’s Bond films, would there even be a 21st century Bond series?

Like with much of the 1960s spy craze, the Connery 007 films caught lightning in a bottle. Bond was able to remain relevant after Connery’s departure. But you can argue that Connery provided the foundation that others followed.

Broccoli is gone. Saltzman is gone. Young is gone. Maibaum is gone. Even one of Connery’s successors, Roger Moore, is gone. United Artists was bought by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1981. UA exists pretty much only on paper today.

Connery, in retirement, remains.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.

New normal? ‘U.S. Last’ releasing model isn’t that new

Christopher Reeve near the end of Superman II

There has been a lot of buzz this month that the “new normal” for major theatrical releases will be a “U.S. Last” model (the blog’s name for it, nothing official) where the United States will get the movie much later than other regions.

The reason for this is how the U.S. is one of the countries hardest hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). While much of Asia and Europe have managed to contain the virus, there are major outbreaks in highly populated U.S. states such as Florida, Texas and California.

A July 22 story in The Hollywood Reporter describes what may be happening.

In recent weeks, a campaign to begin releasing new Hollywood movies even if it means only launching a title in markets that are able to open safely — whether overseas or in the U.S. — has gained momentum as a global day-and-date launch becomes impossible in the era of coronavirus.

The thing is such a model, if it emerges, is more like the old normal than a new normal.

Back in the day, it took a long time for a movie to reach all global markets. With Dr. No, for example, its U.K, premiere was in October but it didn’t reach the U.S. until the spring of 1963. From Russia With Love came out in the fall of 1963, but didn’t reach U.S. shores until the following year. And Goldfinger didn’t reach the U.S. until Christmas 1964, months after its U.K. debut.

Nor was Bond alone. With Superman II, a highly awaited sequel to Christopher Reeve’s debut as Superman in 1978, the movie was in major markets in late 1980 and didn’t get to the U.S. until the summer of 1981. Some U.S. publications referenced what was in the movie ahead of its American premiere.

In recent decades, studios have grabbed for theatrical release money fast. Movies came out in a relatively short time globally. That enabled quicker home video releases.

All of this may affect No Time to Die. Is it possible a “U.S. Last” releasing model may be used for the 25th James Bond film? We’ll see.

Bond 25 questions: The production designer edition

Rami Malek on a No Time to Die set designed by Mark Tildesley that certainly appears inspired by a Ken Adam set from Dr. No.

Mark Tildesley, production designer for No Time to Die, has gone public with some tidbits from the 25th James Bond film. Naturally, the blog has some questions.

Homages? Again?

So it would seem.

Tildesley, in a Masterclass video interview, said “we’ve heavily lent on previous films and the designers of previous films for some of the shapes and stuff…We went through all the films. Let’s take everything we love.”

It’s not like we haven’t been down this route before. Die Another Day (2002), Quantum of Solace (2008) and Skyfall (2012) all had their share of homages to previous 007 film adventures.

There were already signs it was happening again with No Time to Die.

One of Tildesley’s sets had a circular grille in the ceiling, similar to a Ken Adam-designed set for Dr. No. Stills emerged with Rami Malek’s villain Safin at the set.

And, of course, the Aston Martin DB5 is back, which gave the production designer a chance to tweak its design.

The car is actually a replica of the DB5 (with a carbon fiber body and BMW engine) and the designer moved the placement of the machine guns to the headlights. That’s been a prominent part of No Time to Die trailers and TV spots.

What was Danny Boyle up to?

Tildesley said a rocket and a Russian gulag were among the things being built for a Danny Boyle-directed No Time to Die.

He didn’t give away a whole lot more. But his comments suggesting various reports that Boyle wanted to cast a Russian villain were correct. Also, the MI6 James Bond website reported in February 2019 Bond was imprisoned by the villain for much of the Boyle version of No Time to Die.

So it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that a Russian villain would imprison Bond in a gulag.

Boyle’s hiring was announced in May 2018 and he left because of “creative differences in August 2018. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Fukunaga also is listed as one of the writers of No Time to Die. His version of the movie is a sequel to 2015’s SPECTRE, even bringing back Lea Seydoux as Madeline Swann.

Anything else interesting?

In parts of the interview, Tildesley talks about how having a low budget forces the creative team to be more creative.

No Time to Die doesn’t have a low budget. The estimated production outlay is $250 million.

The designer said the challenge with a large budget film is to stay creative.

“The thing about doing a bigger film is to try and keep light on your feet,” he said. “I’m always trying to think of. like, arresting images that will burn onto your retina.”

Broccoli & Wilson talk up diversity in Bond films

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions have talked up how the James Bond film series has embraced diversity over its almost 58-year history in an interview with the Blackfilm website.

We’ve always tried to have diversity in the films,” Wilson said in the interview.

“We’ve always had international casts, and they’ve all been different ethnicities,” Wilso added. “So it’s nothing new. However, people are more sensitive to what they want to see, and when they see it — they point it out. I think we have a great diverse cast from all over the world. It’s in keeping with the times, but I think we’ve always been a little ahead of the times.”

Barbara Broccoli added the following: “Look at Live and Let Die, which was 1973. It was one of the first interracial relationships, Bond with Gloria Hendry. I mean, it’s crazy.”

Fact check: In Dr. No, Sean Connery’s Bond told Quarrel to “fetch my shoes.” This occurred seven years after the Montgomery bus boycott (a major event in the U.S. civil rights movement) and hasn’t aged well since.

What’s more, Live And Let Die screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz got shot down when he proposed that Solitaire (Jane Seymour in the movie) be played by an African American actress. So Bond films weren’t that ahead of the times. (Soliaire was written as a white woman in Ian Fleming’s novel.)

Broccoli also talked about Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas:

“These women have trained like you can’t imagine. They are absolutely in tip-top, peak condition, and they could take anyone on. It is not just strength; it’s flexibility. Your muscles have to be in good condition, you have to be able to stop and start. So it’s a constant training thing. And then they have weapons training. They have to look like they know how to shoot a weapon, and you want them to be safe, and you want them to look good. It’s been a long, intensive training program for both of them.”

Broccoli also talked up how No Time to Die ties up the Daniel Craig era for Bond films.

“I think the story is really an accumulation of the past four films and this one. So the five-film cycle, and I think the arc of his character — particularly the emotional arc of his character, is completed. We feel it’s a very satisfying conclusion to his movies; hopefully, the audiences will too.”

‘No comment’ trumps a falsehood

Rami Malek

Earlier today, I saw some social media accounts express exasperation that the idea that Rami Malek may be playing a rebooted Dr. No in No Time to Die.

Malek, in a recent interview, said he wasn’t playing Dr. No. Shouldn’t that be the end of it?

Under normal circumstances, yes.

But Malek’s Dr. No denial comes after Eon Productions, and the actors it hired, denied things that were true.

–Naomie Harris denied she was playing a new version of Moneypenny in Skyfall. But she was.

–Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and star Daniel Craig, in a joint interview during the production of Skyfall, denied Ben Whishaw was playing Q in Skyfall. This came after Whishaw’s agent said his client had the part.

“Agents are liars,” Craig said. “You know that.” The actor laughed, according to the transcript.

–Christoph Waltz denied he was playing Blofeld in SPECTRE. But he was.

It may well be true that Malek isn’t playing Dr. No. The timeline for the Malek-is-playing-Dr. No is a bit odd. See THIS DEC. 6 SPY COMMAND POST for some background.

The thing is, once a pattern is established of denying things that are true, you lose the benefit of the doubt. You don’t get to unring a bell. You don’t get a do-over.

Put another way, credibility once lost is hard to get back. With Malek as Dr. No 2.0, fans may be going down a rabbit hole. But Eon Productions and its publicity department have only themselves to blame.

“No comment” is always a better alternative to a falsehood.

Fukunaga talks up ‘the joy of continuity’

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of No Time to Die

No Time to Die director Cary Joji Fukunaga participated in a round of interviews last week after the film’s first trailer was released.

In one of them, with an outlet called Games Radar +, the director talked up the use of continuity in the new James Bond movie.

“Some people might look at it as a burden, and some people might look at it as an opportunity, when you’re inheriting characters or story points,” Fukunaga told Games Radar +.

“The way I saw it was: there’s a lot of rich material to draw from. And then there’s also the joy of continuity.

“So for the people who know the stories, to be able to pick up on some of these things, plus leitmotifs and other references to previous films; it just enriches the experience.”

The Bond franchise has had continuity in varying degrees. From Russia With Love made passing references to the events of Dr. No, for example. The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only referenced what occurred with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

It has been only recently that the series has embraced continuity as a selling point.

In 2011, Skyfall director Sam Mendes said specifically that the 23rd film in the Eon Production series had nothing to do with the two previous entries, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

All concerned, including Mendes, changed their minds with 2015’s SPECTRE. That film’s story did a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity) that established all the Daniel Craig Bond films were all interconnected — including how Silva, the villain of Skyfall, was part of SPECTRE.

That trend continues in No Time to Die with the return of Madeline Swann and the rebooted Blofeld from SPECTRE.

With that move, Bond is taking a page from Marvel Studios, which has made more than 20 interconnected movies since 2008.

About that Dr. No vibe for No Time to Die

Rami Malek in the No Time to Die trailer

There are fan questions whether Rami Malek is playing a rebooted version of Dr. No in No Time to Die. But how did that get started?

Well, back on April 25, Malek appeared on Good Morning America. He was asked if he had a favorite James Bond film.

“I liked Dr. No quite a bit,” Malek replied.

Later in the day, CBS posted an online story that originally said Malek would play Dr. No. However, that reference was deleted and this added to the end of the story: “Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that it is unclear which James Bond villain Malek will be playing.”

Regardless, the idea remained in the background, even after Malek’s character name was revealed to be Safin.

This week, the No Time to Die trailer debuted, providing a first look of Malek in character. The trailer did little to put the Dr. No vibe to rest. For example, Joe Darlington of Being James Bond noted this similarity.

Dr. No: BOND (Sean Connery): Our asylums are full of people who think they’re Napoleon — or God.

No Time to Die trailer: BOND (Daniel Craig): History isn’t kind to men who play God.

However, Malek, during an interview seemed to want to wind back the Dr. No angle. He said he watched previous Bond films but “it was not as if I was going back o play an exact character. I was not playing  Dr. No again.”

You can see it below, starting around the 7:23 mark.

Normally, that would be that.

Except, during production of Skyfall, Naomie Harris denied she was playing Moneypenny while Daniel Craig and Barbara Broccoli in a joint interview denied Ben Whishaw was playing Q (even though Whishaw’ agent had let the cat out of the bag). Also, during production of SPECTRE, Christoph Waltz denied he was paying Blofeld.

As a result, maybe Malek means it. But, based on recent history, maybe he doesn’t.

We’ll see.

Epix, MGM channel, plans Bond marathon

Dr. No poster

Epix, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s premium TV channel, has scheduled a James Bond movie marathon over Thanksgiving.

The marathon begins early Thursday morning with Dr. No, Bond’s 1962 film debut.

The films are run mostly in order through Die Another Day, which will be telecast early Saturday, Nov. 30.

The showings will include Never Say Never Again, the 1983 movie with Sean Connery as Bond that was not produced by Eon Productions. That will be shown early Friday morning, following by Octopussy, the 1983 Eon-made film with Roger Moore as Bond.

In 1983, Octopussy came out first, with Never Say Never Again released a few months later.

The schedule, however, does not include the 1967 Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman. MGM has the rights to the two non-Eon Bond entries, which were originally released by other studios.

To view the Epix schedule, CLICK HERE. There’s a calendar icon toward the top of the screen. You can look up the schedule for specific days.

h/t Steve Oxenrider

No time to drive: Price appreciation of 007 cars

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

A study by 1st Move International looked at how prices have appreciated for various cars that appeared in James Bond movies.

At the top, not surprisingly, was the Aston Martin DB5, which was originally priced at 4,175 British pounds ($11,690 at the 1960s exchange rate of $2.80 to the pound), which now fetches 687,696 pounds (more than $883,786 at current exchange rates.

What follows is  sampling of other cars of note in British pounds. The data is as of Sept. 20.

Toyota 2000 GT (You Only Live Twice): 6,379 pounds originally, now 530,111 pounds.

Aston Martin DBS (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service): 4,473 pounds originally, now 214,950 pounds.

Lincoln Continental Convertible (Thunderball): 475 pounds originally, now 20,336 pounds

Chevrolet Impala Convertible (Live And Let Die): Almost 2,084 pounds originally, now 23,906 pounds.

Bentley Mark IV (From Russia With Love): 2.997 pounds originally, 29,500 pounds now.

Ford Mustang Mach 1 (Diamonds Are Forever): 2,883 pounds originally, 20,000 pounds now.

Sunbeam Alpine Series II (Dr. No): 985 pounds originally, 6,771 pounds now. 

Lincoln Mark VII (Licence to Kill) 8,041 pounds originally, 43,499 pounds now.

Lotus Esprit S1 (The Spy Who Loved Me): 10,791 pounds originally, 39,999 pounds now. 

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Voltaire (The Living Daylights): 54,685 pounds originally, 150,000 pounds now. 

The study also analyzed car appreciation place by actor. Sean Connery cars, for example, averaged an appreciation of 7,134 percent. Timothy Dalton was at the low end at 208 percent. Daniel Craig films weigh in at 1,193 percent, which includes use of the DB5.

For more about the 1st Move International study, CLICK HERE.

Happy 89th birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

It’s Sean Connery’s 89th birthday. The 007 film franchise began with him and his debut as James Bond in Dr. No.

In all, he played Bond seven times (six for Eon Productions, once in the non-Eon movie Never Say Never Again). He played many other characters and was still a popular movie star when he retired from the screen early in the 21st century.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.