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.”

A few observations about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No real spoilers but spoiler sensitive fans should stay away.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in production for more than two months. But there’s been a bit of publicity this week. So here are a few observations:

It may be time for some new talking points: Actress Lea Seydoux, in Empire magazine, desecribed her character in SPECTRE thusly: “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, Seydoux’s character is like, among others, Agent Triple-X (agent who was “Bond’s equal in every way” as director Lewis Gilbert described her in The Spy Who Loved Me), Holly Goodhead (CIA agent *and* a trained shuttle rocket pilot in Moonraker), Melina (revenge driven woman who’s deadly with a crossbow in For Your Eyes Only), Pam Bouvier (CIA agent and pilot in Licence to Kill), Wai Lin (Chinese agent in Tomorrow Never Dies), Jinx (NSA agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) and Camille (another secret agent in Quantum of Solace).

Thus, the notion that a woman character is Bond’s equal isn’t unique or even unusual in the 21st century. It might be time to retire that talking point.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”: Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli told Empire that only “a very old version” of SPECTRE’s script leaked out because of the Sony hacks.

That depends on what you mean by “very old.” To the lay person, a very old script might be the first draft that John Logan turned in around March of 2014. Or it might be a draft before veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST (warning: spoilers), described a draft that existed after Logan’s story had been revised as well as memos from studio executives suggesting changes and that rewriting was happening in November, while filming began on Dec. 8.

On the other hand, if you define “very old” as something other than the version the crew has right now (dialogue if often tweaked during shooting), that would be accurate.

The Eon co-chief IN APRIL 2012 denied Ben Whishaw had been cast as Q in Skyfall and IN NOVEMBER 2012 that Logan had been hired to write two Bond movies. Both turned out to be true, though Logan’s scripting effort was judged to need rewriting.

The publicity machine is gradually revealing details: Broccoli acknowledged the title of SPECTRE refers to the organization featured in early Bond movies, but this is a new take. Normally, that’d rate a “duh,” but nobody wanted to say that much when the title was revealed in December.

Director Sam Mendes, in a video released by the official 007 website gave a bit of information about the movie. He even said that SPECTRE has more information about Bond’s childhood. Meanwhile, Whishaw’s Q was seen out in the field. Just like Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in Licence to Kill? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): Adding a question to the mix.

What was the story when Sam Mendes signed on to direct SPECTRE? Sam Mendes, in a video released by 007.com this week, says the reason he opted to direct a second 007 film, or any film, has “all to do about the story.”

But what story? Mendes’s signing as SPECTRE director was announced in JULY 2013. At that point, there even wasn’t a first draft script. John Logan didn’t deliver one until early 2014.

There had to be some kind of treatment, or detailed outline. The announcement also said the movie (then just called Bond 24) had a release date. We know through the reporting of Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail and the Sony hacking that Logan’s story was found insufficient and that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to revamp the script and it greatly changed.

Mendes spoke in a promotional video intended to sell the movie. But it would be interesting the next time an entertainment journalist gets an interview to pursue questions like these: What was appealing about that initial story? Are those elements still there? Was the scripting process tougher for SPECTRE compared with Skyfall?

SPECTRE’s script: a recap of twists and turns

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers in this post

Some of the drama about SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has concerned its script.

The computer hacking at Sony Pictures caused more attention than normal as versions of the story were among the materials posted by hackers.

What follows is how the story line — and the accompanying behind-the scenes drama — developed.

October 2012: Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr. PUBLISHES A STORY saying John Logan, who had done the later drafts of Skyfall, had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Fleming writes that “the franchise’s producers have quietly made a deal with John Logan to write not one but two 007 films.” (Emphasis in original.) He continues, “I’ve been told that Logan pitched an original two-movie arc to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson while they were shooting Skyfall, and that he has already begun writing the scripts.”

November 2012: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announces on an investor call that John Logan indeed had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. By the time of the call, Skyfall is on its way to becoming the first 007 film to have worldwide box office exceeding $1 billion.

The announcement confirmed the gist of the Deadline story, although later events would call into question how far Logan had really gotten by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, after working on the scripts of five 007 films, later confirm they’re not returning to work on Bond 24.

February 2013: BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL reports the two-film story arc plan is no more and Skyfall’s Sam Mendes may return as director for Bond 24.

The scribe also reported that “Logan’s thoughts for Bond 24 are in the form of two treatment papers outlining a rough idea of the plot.” According to Bamigboye’s story, the only ones with access to the materials are Eon co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Mendes, star Daniel Craig and “a handful” of executives at MGM and Sony.

July 11, 2013: In a PRESS RELEASE, Eon, MGM and Sony announce Mendes will indeed return “to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.”

Broccoli and Wilson are quoted as saying they’re “really excited to be working once again with Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and John Logan.” Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal are quoted as saying “EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL.”

At this point, there isn’t even a draft screenplay, which everyone learns in…..

March 2014: John Logan TELLS EMPIRE MAGAZINE that the first draft of Bond 24 “is almost done.”

The scribe tells the magazine he has been “working very closely” with Sam Mendes. (Emphasis in original.) He also says Daniel Craig “is very involved” in the scripting process. “It behooves no-one to write a character the lead actor doesn’t want to play.” Logan says Bond 24 “continues the themes of Skyfall.”

June 2014: Trouble in paradise. THE DAILY MAIL’S BAMIGBOYE reports writer Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are in the 007 fold once more.

Bamigboye asks “an executive associated with the Bond films” if there’s turmoil with the production “Let’s call it ‘polite turmoil,'” Bamigboye’s source (who isn’t further identified) replies. “People are getting on with their work but we have to wait for the script.” Purvis and Wade were brought in to “punch up” the script, according to the story.

July 2014: Bamigboye produces ANOTHER STORY saying Purvis and Wade have delivered a draft that’s “substantially different” than the Logan script.

“There was an awful lot of work to do,” Bamigboye quotes one of his informants as saying. “It was a big job.” Production is to begin by early December, according to the story.

November 2014: The New Yorker, IN A PROFILE OF PLAYWRIGHT JEZ BUTTERWORTH includes the tidbit that he’s been working on Bond 24’s script and had also contributed to Skyfall’s.

December 2014: A media event is held at Pinewood Studios ahead of the start of production of the film, which is now titled SPECTRE. The natural question is whether this means the film will have a rebooted version of 007 arch foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The PRESS RELEASE says the movie is written by “John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” marking the first official confirmation that Purvis and Wade had returned.

Later in the month, stories are written by entertainment and news sites about SPECTRE details in hacked Sony documents. THE GAWKER WEBSITE on Dec. 12 has a post with most details of the plot of a version of the script. (If you click on the link there are many spoilers.)

According to the story, filmmakers and executives at MGM and Sony were still grappling with the last third of the story and that revisions were going on into November.

On Dec. 13, Eon put out A STATEMENT saying “an early version” of SPECTRE’s screenplay had been stolen by the Sony hackers. It says MGM and Danjaq LLC will protect their rights to the script.

Our U.N.C.L.E. memo to Mr. Warner

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer with props that won't be in the U.N.C.L.E. movie (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer with props that won’t be in the U.N.C.L.E. movie
(Art by Paul Baack)

Updates and corrects to say the almost identical image appeared in Empire magazine.

To: Mr. Warner of Warner Bros.

From: The HMSS Weblog

Subject: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

According to THE COLLIDER WEBSITE your publicity department released what was described as “the very first” U.N.C.L.E. movie image.

The image? Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin relaxing with drinks on a terrace in Rome, looking at the camera while Alicia Vikander looks off to the side.

That’s it? It’s almost identical to an image that appeared in Empire magazine and which was posted on sites such as COMIC BOOK MOVIE in August. The MOVIENEWZ SITE, which originally posted in February about the movie, added the image to its gallery of pictures related to the film .

The “official” still is merely photographed from a (slightly) different angle.

We’d be the first to acknowledge, Mr. Warner, your studio faces some interesting challenges marketing the U.N.C.L.E. movie. While it’s based on the 1964-1968 television series, that show has only been seen sporadically in syndication. That means younger viewers haven’t had the opportunity to get exposed to it compared with other old shows such as Star Trek.

Also, one of the aspects about the original show was it was about a multi-national organization where an American worked with a Russian during the Cold War. But others have latched on to that idea.

For example, Kingsman: The Secret Service, coming out in February, turned MI6 of the original comic book it’s based on into a mysterious international organization. It even has a secret entrance similar to U.N.C.L.E.’s.

Your movie, meanwhile, is an “origin” story, focused on Solo and Kuryakin before forced to work together. It’s more like The Man Without U.N.C.L.E.

In any case, Mr. Warner, your marketing department has to build awareness. That “official” still is a little bland. We know, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly in an issue last year that there’s some intense action. We know through your own PRESS RELEASE when the movie was about to begin filming there’s conflict between Solo and Kuryakin. Heck, press photos that came out during production look more interesting that this first “official” still.

There’s still plenty of time to build buzz before the film’s mid-August release, Mr. Warner. Hopefully, the first teaser trailer will attract tension. With the next “official” image release, you may want to consider something that hasn’t already been seen. Good luck.

(Before writes in to say there is no Mr. Warner at Warner Bros., it’s a joke. There hasn’t been a “Mr. Warner” at Warner Bros. since Jack Warner sold the studio in the 1960s.)

John Logan tells Empire that Bond 24 first draft almost done

Bond 24 writer John Logan

Bond 24 writer John Logan

Bond 24 scribe John Logan tells EMPIRE IN AN INTERVIEW that he’s nearly done with the first draft of Bond 24’s script.

Here’s an excerpt, beginning with a quote from Logan:

“The new movie continues the themes of Skyfall. Some of the characters and themes that we began to introduce in Skyfall will play out, I hope successfully, in the next movie.”

(snip)

A more direct line of questioning was required. Will we see the return of Quantum? “No comment.” Will we see Blofeld in Bond 24? “No comment.” Will there be any other Double-0 agents? A pause, which gave us a quantum of hope. “Ah… no comment!”

While coy, the interview represents the most concrete news the new movie’s script since Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012 that Logan would write Bond 24 and Bond 25. That announcement confirmed media reports that Eon Productions had denied just days earlier.

Logan wrote the later drafts of 2012’s Skyfall, revamping work done by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Logan, so far, is the only writer assigned to Bond 24.

It remains to be seen what Skyfall themes Logan is talking about. The movie’s villain was killed as was Judi Dench’s M. It also introduced a new M (Ralph Fiennes) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris).

For the full Empire interview with Logan, CLICK HERE.