Long-term issues confronting the 007 franchise

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Here are some long-term issues confronting the James Bond film franchise that extend beyond purchased helicopters or even the next 007 film (whenever it comes out).

MGM needs to get bigger or sell out: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, is in a no man’s land in Hollywood.

It’s not big enough to release it’s own movies. In fact, it’s more of a television production company than an actual studio. What few movies it makes annually require cutting deal with another studio to distribute. The last four 007 films were released by Sony, with other MGM projects released by other studios.

Time Warner, which includes Warner Bros., has agreed to be acquired by AT&T. If that deal receives U.S. regulatory approval (not a sure thing), other deals may result.

That leaves MGM to decide whether it’s present strategy is adequate. If a new wave of deals develops, MGM probably has to move one way or another — get bigger or sell off to a buyer.

Eon’s succession plan: Eon is a private outfit that doesn’t discuss such subjects. Maybe it has one, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, it needs a succession plan if it doesn’t have one.

Michael G. Wilson, one of the Eon principals, turned 75 last month. His half-sister, Barbara Broccoli, is only 56. But, as the saying goes, nobody lives forever.

Perhaps Gregg Wilson, one of Wilson’s sons who has been working on recent films, is being groomed to take more responsibility once his father retires. At this point, nobody really knows.

Is it time for new marketing ideas? There are recurring themes in marketing Bond films over the past two decades.

One of the most repeated is having the lead female actor talk about his character is Bond’s equal. It was uttered most recently by actress Lea Seydoux in an interview with Empire magazine in early 2015.

We get it. Bond women are now strong and independent. Maybe it’s time to come up new marketing points. Strong women in Bond films are now a given.

SPECTRE gets 2 awards from Empire magazine

Empire, the U.K. film magazine gave SPECTRE two awards on Sunday.

The 24th James Bond film received awards for Best Thriller and Best British film. Here’s how Empire announced the news on Twitter.

Here’s a reaction:

And another, this one from Chris Corbould, the special effects wizard.

Why Mendes couldn’t direct a FRWL type film

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

There’s a new issue of Empire magazine that’s guest edited by Sam Mendes, the director of SPECTRE. The DIGITAL SPY WEBSITE has a post quoting from that issue.

Specifically, the Digital Spy post includes quotes from Mendes whether, in SPECTRE, Christoph Waltz plays SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The filmmaker also took issue with fans demanding to know if Waltz is Blofeld before seeing the film.

Responding to the criticism over Star Trek Into Darkness’s John Harrison/Khan reveal, Mendes said: “Why was there a backlash? There’s a narrative as well. The naming of a character is part of a story.

The audience cannot and should not be given – and I’m not confirming or denying anything – information that the characters do not have. And preserving tension in the narrative of a story that is a riff or an acknowledgement of the iconography of Bond over the years has been crucial.” (emphasis added)

That’s interesting. Still, while it might not be the best comparison, From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film, may be the exception to what Mendes describes.

In the 1963 movie, the audience is shown most of the conspiracy that James Bond (Sean Connery) will confront. Bond himself doesn’t appear until 18 minutes into the film, although there’s a phony Bond in the pre-titles sequence to hold the interest of the audience.

In Ian Fleming’s 1957 novel, things were even more dramatic. The first 10 chapters show the conspiracy (a Soviet one, while the movie was SPECTRE-driven), and Bond doesn’t show up until Chapter 11. Fleming would attempt something similar in The Spy Who Loved Me novel (where 007 doesn’t put in an appearance until the final third of the story). That novel wasn’t as well received as From Russia With Love.

The point being in the second Bond film, the audience knows a lot that Bond doesn’t know by the time the British agent becomes involved in the case. Still, there was plenty of tension and a number of twists.

Perhaps From Russia With Love is a special case, the exception that proves Mendes’ rule. Still, From Russia With Love was a journeyman director (Terence Young), not the auteurs favored by Eon Productions in the 21st century. Sometimes, there aren’t hard and fast story telling rules.

Will The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie have dash?

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Henry Cavill Online website has TRANSCRIBED ALL OF EMPIRE MAGAZINE’S recent story on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

As a result, there are a few more details compared with other summaries posted recently.

Among the tidbits: director Guy Ritchie says he’s “not really a fan” of the original 1964-68 television series but he liked the basic components. “Just as I did with Sherlock (Holmes), I felt I could reinvent this,” he told Empire. The other main tidbit is that Hugh Grant, the new version of Alexander Waverly, did see the show, to the point of owning an U.N.C.L.E. toy car.

Anyway, Ritchie’s comments, while sharper, are consistent with another interview he gave to Empire last year.

So, with less than three months before the movie’s Aug. 14 premier, there really aren’t a lot of unanswered questions. There’s the detail of whether Jerry Goldsmith’s U.N.C.L.E. theme will be unused. But the far larger question is will the U.N.C.L.E. movie have dash?

Dash was a word Norman Felton, the executive producer of the television show, used to describe the feel of the series. It probably wasn’t so much the dictionary definition (“run or travel somewhere in a great hurry”) as a reference to “dashing” (“stylish or fashionable.”). In any case, it stuck and was something Felton’s colleagues always remembered. CLICK HERE for an interview with Sam Rolfe, the show’s developer, for an example.

Essentially, the U.N.C.L.E. movie has been stripped of its memes. No secret headquarters (Kingsman: The Secret Service utilized a very U.N.C.L.E.ish HQ). No evil organization Thrush (Marvel, in movies and TV shows is using Hydra, created in 1965 and inspired by Thrush).

Instead, the movie strips Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin to their essentials. Even there, some parts have been altered (Solo has a history of having once been an art thief).

In the Empire story, Ritchie says, “I suppose I wanted to make a spy movie of sorts… It was the first thing since Sherlock to which I’ve had a visceral reaction.”

But will it still have dash? We’ll have to see.

Empire magazine previews U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Empire magazine’s July issue has a preview and new stills from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Empire itself hasn’t put the content online. However, sites including COMIC BOOK MOVIE, HENRY CAVILL NEWS and HENRY CAVILL.ORG have run scans of the stills from the magazine.

A few tidbits in the Empire story via a summary in Henry Cavill News:

–The name Thrush isn’t being used for the criminal organization opposed by Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in the Guy Ritchie-directed film. Empire quotes co-writer Lionel Wigram as saying, “I don’t think you can say that with a straight face these days.” Instead, it’ll be a network of ex-Nazis.

–Henry Cavill comments to Empire about his Solo versus how Tom Cruise would have played the part. “Tom would clearly have been playing a very different character to mine, albeit of the same name,” Cavill told Empire. “It’s not that I was replacing Tom Cruise; it’s that the dynamic of the story changed and I happened to fit that better.”

Cruise was in talks in early 2013 to play Solo. He exited the project to star and produce Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. Cavill, who lost out for the role of James Bond in 2005 to Daniel Craig, was signed as a replacement.

–Cavill wasn’t cast as Illya Kuryakin because director Ritchie thought if the actor colored his hair blonde would look too much like Javier Bardem’s Silva villain in Skyfall. Armie Hammer go the role instead.

If you click on the links there are plot details.

UPDATED: Wilson and Broccoli comment about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

No real spoilers, although the super spoiler adverse should probably stay away just in case.

UPDATE (March 31): The COLLIDER WEBSITE quotes Michael G. Wilson differently about the script than IGN does below.

Here’s how Collider quotes Wilson about when the script originated:  “Almost three years ago, two and a half certainly. The first draft of ideas, treatments.”

That would make a lot more sense than the quote from IGN which makes it sound like the first draft was done two and a half years ago. It was first reported in fall 2012 that John Logan had been hired (which MGM confirmed in November 2012). Logan had to have submitted some material by that time. Collider’s quotes of Wilson certainly are more consistent with the known background of the development of SPECTRE’s script.

ORIGINAL POST (March 29): Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, talked to reporters in Mexico City as part of a press junket for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

IGN HAS A TRANSCRIPT of what the SPECTRE producers said.

Wilson said SPECTRE won’t be a two-part movie. “I suppose people feel that — there’s been a lot of films now that seem to not want to stop, and yet they double themselves up to make two movies,” he’s quoted by IGN as saying. “But that’s not the case here.”

The duo were asked when they would starting “thinking about” Bond 25. Wilson deferred to Broccoli. She respoded, “Yeah, I think so much focus is on what we’re doing at the moment that the next movie seems very far away.”

Eventually, the producers were asked about SPECTRE’s script and how long it has been around.”

Wilson’s reply comes on THE SECOND PAGE OF THE STORY: “Almost three years. Two and a half, certainly — the first draft. No idea as far as treatments.”

Using Wilson’s two-and-a-half year comment, the first draft was done around September 2012, or before Skyfall was released in the fall of 2012. The hiring of John Logan, initially hired to write solo what would become SPECTRE, wasn’t even announced until November 2012 (it occurred during a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer investor call). A few days before that announcement, Broccoli, TALKING TO CRAVE ONLINE, denied that Logan had even been hired,

Logan told EMPIRE MAGAZINE IN MARCH 2014 that the first draft was “almost done.” Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

Also, concerning who would perform the movie’s title song, Broccoli said, “We’re still figuring that out. That’s one of the last pieces in the puzzle, but it’s one of the fun things we look forward to. So it’ll be awhile.”

In December, director Sam Mendes he already knew who the title song performer would be. The director didn’t disclose the singer’s identity.

To read the entire IGN transcript, CLICK HERE for page one, CLICK HERE for page two. Other subjects include how 1,500 extras in Mexico City will be “duplicated” to look like 10,000 people, director Sam Mendes, how Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny won’t be “desk-bound,” Idris Elba and that star Daniel Craig’s contract is “open ended.”