Bond 26, etc.: The real question going forward

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

A Forbes.com article out today says that James Bond still is popular and relevant. That really isn’t the correct question.

The real question is whether the series can continue to grind out new entries at $300 million a pop.

There is certainly a market for James Bond films. Even if the audience is aging, fans turn out for Bond. But at what price?

In 2012, there was a market for a movie featuring John Carter (another character from the creator of Tarzan). But not one that cost $200 million or more to make. Walt Disney Co. had to report a big charge against earnings.

In 2013, there was a market for a Lone Ranger movie (even a Tonto-centric one). But not one that cost $240 million to make. With the Lone Ranger, the special effects budget should have mostly been for squibs to simulate gun shots. But the makers of the movie went way beyond that.

Back in the day, Cleopatra (1963) was a very popular film. Financially, not so much. As big as the audience was, 20th Century Fox couldn’t earn a profit on its theatrical release.

I’ve seen some fans say they have no personal stake in how No Time to Die does at the box office. So it doesn’t matter to them.

Maybe so. With No Time to Die, it’s doing better in the U.K. and Europe than in the U.S. The final numbers remain to be seen. But spending $300 million (or so) makes it harder to earn a profit.

The question facing Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the studio’s future owner, Amazon (assuming Amazon’s planned acquisition of MGM gets regulatory approval) is whether it’s time rethink and re-evaluate Bond film budgets.

Presumably, Bond 26’s leading man won’t be paid $25 million (Daniel Craig’s reported salary for No Time to Die). Perhaps Eon’s Barbara Broccoli will remember how her father did business and negotiate harder than she did with Craig. Presumably Bond 26 won’t have pandemic-related delays that added to the tab.

Perhaps. Presumably. We’ll see.

Non-spoiler NTTD review

No Time to Die logo

This is intended as a very quick review of No Time to Die. No spoilers here but I’m preparing a post that deals with the No. 1 spoiler.

After all this time, was it worth it? Yes, very much so. I am going back and forth whether it’s a B-Plus or A-Minus.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Craig/Bond, you’ll love it. If you don’t care for Craig/Bond, it won’t change your mind.

No Time to Die was in a position to take liberties knowing it would be the last movie featuring Craig, who is adored by Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. Knowing that, you can take more chances. That’s all I will say until later.

The movie is mostly executed extremely well. The score by Hans Zimmer (and Steve Mazzaro) is better than I thought it would be. They even found a way to get Mazzaro into the main titles.

It weaves bits from the title song by Billie Eilish and Finneas throughout. We haven’t experienced that so much since 2006’s Casino Royale, where David Arnold did the score and co-wrote the title song.

As I get older, I tend to appreciate the more talkative scenes more. One of my favorite scenes is when Bond, gone from MI6 for years, goes to M’s office. It’s quite good, with both sides of the conversation getting in their points.

And, for those who were concerned Bond was emasculated in this movie? Well, it didn’t happen. The trailers didn’t give away everything.

The movie mostly moved faster than a film running 163 minutes. It could have tightened some action scenes. But, these days, you can say that about most movies.

Hours after I saw the movie, I began to think about plot holes, questions, etc. But it’s a success when you don’t ponder that during the movie.

My main concern, if you want to call it that, is the movie is too self-referential. To examine that in more detail requires spoilers.

The blog will get to a more spoiler post soon.

Jerry Juroe, one-time Eon publicity man, dies

Cover to Jerry Juroe’s recent book

Charles “Jerry” Juroe, a long-time publicity man whose career included a stint at Eon Productions, has died at 97.

Friends of Juroe, including Doug Redenius of the Ian Fleming Foundation, and Raymond Benson, former Bond novel continuation author, published tributes this week on social media.

Juroe published a book about his career in 2018. Besides Bond, he worked with many others as a publicist including Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles.

In addition, Juroe was a presence on home video documentaries about the Bond film series produced by Eon Productions. His career also included time at United Artists where he worked on non-Bond UA movies such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Jerry Juroe in 1963 working on the UA-released It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

UPDATE: Eon’s official James Bond feed on Twitter acknowledged Juroe’s passing.

Bond 26 questions: The (eventual) search for a new Bond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions were interviewed on a BBC Radio show on Sept. 27. The duo indicated they weren’t in a hurry to find a successor for Daniel Craig as James Bond.

“We’re not thinking about it at all,” Broccoli said, according to a Variety summary of the interview. “We want Daniel to have his time of celebration. Next year we’ll start thinking about the future.”

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should we take these remarks?

In general, a CEO always is supposed to be thinking about the future. Barbara Broccoli certainly qualifies as a CEO.

On the one hand, there are signs that Broccoli has at least thought about a post-Craig future for Eon’s Bond film series.

No Time To Die director Cary Fukunaga told Total Film that he had a meeting with Broccoli before he was named to helm the 25th James Bond film.

“At that point Daniel said he wasn’t doing another one, so we spit-balled all the potential new Bonds – that was exciting,” Fukunaga said in that interview.

On the other hand, there are signs that Broccoli is really, really reluctant to let go of Craig. “I’m sort of in denial,” she said in the BBC interview. “I would love for Daniel to continue forever.”

Personally, I take her at her word. She is not anxious to move on from Craig.

Will the search (whenever it starts) be complicated?

Searching for a Bond actor is never easy. The next search will have additional complications.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, has agreed to be acquired by Amazon. But that deal hasn’t been completed and is subject to regulatory review.

It remains to be seen what Amazon will do with MGM assuming the deal goes through. Eon likes some current MGM film executives and has lobbied for Amazon to keep them on board.

Regardless, assuming Amazon completes the deal, that will be an additional piece of complication.

What’s more, Eon has its own issues. Wilson turns 80 next year. There are popular fan theories that he may retire after No Time to Die. Who knows whether that’ll be the case. Still a new Bond isn’t the only succession issue facing Eon.

No Time to Die becomes reality this week

No Time to Die teaser poster

After an almost six-year wait, the 25th James Bond film made by Eon Productions becomes a reality this week.

No Time to Die, after many, many hiccups (to put it kindly), will be seen by its first audiences this week.

The official premiere is Sept. 28 in London. There will be other showings in other countries. At long last, Daniel Craig’s Bond farewell will be seen by audiences.

The project was announced on July 24, 2017, with no distributor, no director, and even no star. The only creative crew attached were writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Daniel Craig, who had starred in the previous four Bond films, finally said on the Aug. 15, 2017 telecast of The Late Show on CBS that he was coming back. Earlier in the day, in radio station interviews, he claimed nothing had been decided.

“No decision has been made at the moment,” Craig told Magic 106.7 at the time. “There’s a lot of noise out there. Nothing official has been confirmed. I’m not like holding out for more money or doing anything like that.”

Since then, the radio stations took down the original links to the interviews. Evidently, radio stations are low on the media totem pole and there are no problems with lying to them.

No Time to Die (as the movie eventually would be titled) went through many rewrites. Besides Purvis and Wade, the likes of Scott Z. Burns, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director Cary Fukunaga took a whirl at the script.

Also don’t forget for a time that John Hodge was supposed to be the main writer. He and Danny Boyle, the first announced director, had pitched an idea. A script in development for a year was set aside when Boyle and Hodge (supposedly) had a great idea that wowed Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

Then, all of a sudden, the Boyle-Hodge take was found wanting. Members of FOE (Friends of Eon) tried to reassure fans everything was still on track.

Except it wasn’t. The original fall 2019 release date got pushed back to February 2020 and then April 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused further delays. Fall 2020. Spring 2021. Finally, the impending fall 2021 dates.

Nevertheless, Bond is a hard man to put down. Bond never conquered COVID. But he’s coming out this week in the U.K. (and elsewhere) as well as North America next week.

No Time to Die was conceived during the pre-pandemic era. That’s when expensive movies were brought out by studios. If audiences liked them, a box office of $1 billion was possible. No Time to Die, which had production spending approaching $300 million, sought that target.

The new Bond film is coming out in a new world. Maximum movie box office achievement is well below $1 billion.

Maybe Bond can change that. But, personally, I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Regardless, Bond fans are excited. And they should be. The gentlemen agent is back after a long hiatus.

Will this be a “cinematic masterpiece” in the words of Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli? That’s up to the audience.

The fact is, the audience finally gets a chance to judge. The hype is over. Let’s see how it goes.

Bond 25 questions: THR’s Fukunaga story edition

No Time to Die’s back story is often opaque

The Hollywood Reporter has come out with a big feature story about Cary Fukunaga, the director of No Time to Die.

But there are elements that don’t square up previous tellings of No Time To Die’s back story. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Whose idea was it to bring aboard Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer for the 25th James Bond movie?

According to THR, it was Fukunaga’s, of course.

At Fukunaga’s suggestion, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in to work on the draft he wrote with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have worked on every Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Except, supposedly it was the idea of star Daniel Craig. For example, there’s this story from IndieWire in February 2020:

 The “Fleabag” creator, whose Amazon Prime Video series picked up six Primetime Emmy Award wins last year, was brought onto the film back in 2019 at the behest of star Daniel Craig.

Oh. Well, the winners get to write the history. Both Fukunaga and Waller-Bridge were among the winners of the No Time to Die saga.

How big a factor was #MeToo in No Time to Die’s development?

Apparently, a lot. We won’t really know until the movie comes out shortly. But THR’s story has some clues.

A quote in the THR story from Lashana Lynch: “Cary had big discussions with Barbara (Broccoli) and Daniel about how to give the female characters equity, how to keep them in charge of themselves, how to give them solo moments where the audience learns who they are.  It was really important to empower the female characters as stand-alones. And I think that he kept that in mind throughout the whole shoot.”

A quote from Barbara Broccoli in the new story:

“I think people are coming around — with some kicking and screaming — to accepting that stuff is no longer acceptable. Thank goodness. Bond is a character who was written in 1952 and the first film [Dr. No] came out in 1962. He’s got a long history, and the history of the past is very different to the way he is being portrayed now.”

Finally a quote from Fukunaga himself in The Hollywood Reporter:

“Is it Thunderball or Goldfinger where, like, basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman?” Fukunaga told THR. “She’s like ‘No, no, no,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That wouldn’t fly today.”

Why did Bond 25 switch from Danny Boyle to Cary Fukunaga as director?

Bond 25 has a complicated history. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time Bond screenwriters, were hired in 2017 to develop a script. They worked on it for months. Then, in 2018, it became known than director Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, made a pitch.

An announcement came out in spring 2018 that the Boyle and Hodge team were hired. The initial script was set aside.

But later that year, they were gone. Fukunaga would soon be hired.

The key excerpt from THR’s story:

With Boyle, there was a deviation of visions. His version was more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical. Broccoli and Wilson wanted something more serious for Craig’s final outing.

This leads to a lot of questions. Did Eon, which at one time loved the Boyle-Hodge pitch, not realize the tone was different? Did Eon not vet Boyle and Hodge?

We’re less than a week before the premiere of No Time to Die. Many fans don’t want to hear about this.

Still, The Hollywood Reporter raises more questions than answers

THR: Boyle’s Bond 25 was more whimsical

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of No Time to Die

Danny Boyle, the original director for Bond 25, had in mind a project that was “more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical,” The Hollywood Reporter said today in a feature story about Cary Fukunaga, who ended up helming the 25th James Bond movie.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson “wanted something more serious” for actor Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, according to the entertainment news outlet.

After Boyle’s departure, Fukunaga told THR, “I emailed Barbara and was like, ‘Is there a chance to talk about this?’ She responded right away, and we set up a meeting the next week. I didn’t have a pitch or anything, just asked them what they’re after and what wasn’t working.”

This raises all sorts of questions. In 2018, Eon put aside a script it had been developing after Boyle pitched a supposedly great idea that wowed Eon and executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In May 2018, it was announced Boyle was directing with John Hodge doing the script.

The main question is did Eon and MGM vet Boyle and Hodge and the great idea? Boyle apparently did not vet how Eon works.

In the article, Fukunaga is credited with suggesting Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer for No Time to Die, Bond 25’s eventual title.

No Time to Die: An eventful week

No Time to Die poster

This week had to be one of the most eventful weeks related to No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film.

The premiere of a 45-minute documentary. The return of an official No Time to Die podcast series. The leader of Eon Productions making an over-the-top boast. The first tickets going on sale.

After five delays (two because of a change of director, three because of COVID-19), the die seems to be cast. Daniel Craig’s finale as James Bond, wrapping up more than 15 years as the incumbent cinematic Bond, is on the horizon.

Here are some highlights:

–Being James Bond, the documentary about Craig’s tenure as Bond, debuted on Apple TV. Many fans got emotional, going to social media to express how they felt.

I read a lot of these testimonials. They were honest and sincere. And it’s not hard to figure out why. Craig was first cast in 2005. For people younger than 35, Daniel Craig is the Bond they know best. Even if you’re not a fan of Craig/Bond, you have to respect something like that.

–The official No Time to Die podcast returned after a hiatus of almost a year. The podcast began in September 2020 but abruptly shut down after another COVID-related delayed.

The first episode was an expanded version of one that first went out a year ago. The revised episode began with a discussion with Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson.

Broccoli didn’t undersell the (not so) new Bond film. No Time to Die, she said, “is a cinematic masterpiece.”

The movie world is full of hype. But “cinematic masterpiece” are loaded words. Broccoli is doubling, tripling (or more) down. She clearly has an attachment to Daniel Craig that goes beyond the normal movie hype.

–Today, Friday, Sept. 10, was a rush for those in the U.K. who sought tickets for the Sept. 28 premiere at Royal Albert Hall. Social media saw testimonials from those who attempted and the few who got tickets.

It wasn’t perfect. For example, the coordination between No Time to Die social media didn’t mesh with a new U.S. NTTD spot that debuted late on Sept. 9.

Still, it was a big week for Bond fans.

NTTD U.S. spot: Now you see it…

Something rather peculiar happened tonight concerning a new U.S. commercial for No Time to Die.

The official Bond Twitter feed posted it around 10:45 p.m. New York time. It was up for about five minutes, then got yanked.

Then, shortly before 11 p.m., the spot aired during NBC’s telecast of the Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers football game.

At 11:04 p.m., the tweet went out again. Here’s what it looks like (assuming it doesn’t get yanked again).

No Time to Die podcast returns

The official No Time to Die podcast returned Wednesday evening U.S. time. The podcast began in September 2020 but went into hibernation after the movie’s release was pushed back into 2021.

The first two episodes are online. The first, Bond in Context leads off with a discussion about how the 25th James Bond film has been delayed three times because of COVID-19. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are interviewed about that subject.

Also, “You can also be the first to hear exclusive score from Hans Zimmer released by Decca Records,” according to the episode’s description. The episode runs 44 minutes.

The second episode is titled A Name to Die for: Allies and Enemies of Bond.

“Led by interviews from Rami Malek, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and Lashana Lynch, we’ll explore what makes a classic supporting character and look back at some of 007’s most iconic nemeses,” according to a description.

James King is the host.

UPDATE: In episode 1, Barbara Broccoli says No Time “is a cinematic masterpiece.” We’ve all heard hype for movies but those are strong words.