Bond 25 has new production designer, fan publication says

Bond 25 will have a new production designer, with incumbent Dennis Gassner not returning, James Bond-magasinet said, citing comments made at the opening of the 007 Elements museum in Austria.

“Dennis Gassner is not doing the production design on Bond 25,” the publication said in an Instagram post. “The new production designer is Mark Tildesley. The news was confirmed by art director Neal Callow at the opening for @007elements.”

Gassner told International Cinematographers Guild Magazine last year that he was “about to do my fourth James Bond film.” Gassner took over from Peter Lamont starting with 2008’s Quantum of Solace through 2015’s SPECTRE.

However, that was before Danny Boyle emerged as Bond 25’s director earlier this year. Tildesley has been production designer on Boyle-directed movies such as 28 Days Later and T2 Trainspotting.

When the 007 film series began, Eon Productions had regular crew members such as Ken Adam (production designer), Peter Hunt (film editor) and Ted Moore (director of photography). When Adam was unavailable for From Russia With Love, art director Syd Cain essentially took over.

In recent decades, Eon has deferred selections for key posts to the directors it hired. That has been the case with directors of photography for years. Now, that trend is spreading to other posts. Thomas Newman, for example, scored Skyfall and SPECTRE because he was director Sam Mendes’ choice.

UPDATE (3 p.m. eastern time): Other fan groups have posted on social media while not mentioning the production designer news. Apparently, today was a press event at 007 Elements. The actual opening is July 12.

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Images of Lego Aston Martin DB5 apparently leak

One of the images of the Lego Aston Martin DB5 on Instagram

Images of packaging for the new Lego Aston Martin DB5 appeared to have leaked and are on Instagram.

The images appear on #legoleaks on Instagram.

When the blog looked this morning, there were five postings of the packaging, including special cards. One of the postings quotes a price of $169.99.

The packaging include words “Licence to Build.” The hashtag #LicenceToBuild has been used by Lego, Aston Martin and Eon Productions’ official 007 feed on Twitter to promote the project.

The companies formally haven’t identified the DB5 as the licensed product. However, in recent social media promotions, they have used quotes from Goldfinger, Skyfall and SPECTRE. Lego has scheduled an event at 10:07 a.m., July 18 at its store in London.

Thanks to .@CorneelVF on Twitter for the heads up.

Lego announces 007 event for July 18

Lego logo

Lego plans a James Bond-related announcement in London on July, according to a post on Lego’s Facebook page.

“Something TOP SECRET is happening on July 18th in LEGO Store at Leicester Square, London…” according to the post. “Stay tuned to learn more!”

While the name James Bond wasn’t mentioned, the announcement includes the 007 gunbarrel logo with the words “top secret.”

Also, the event will begin at 10:07 a.m. London time.

Lego, Aston Martin and the Eon Productions official James Bond feed on Twitter have been teasing a 007-licensed product.

The most recent teases strongly imply it will be a Lego Aston Martin DB5, including lines from Goldfinger, Skyfall and SPECTRE that refer to the DB5. No explicit statement has been made, however.

Live And Let Die’s 45th: The post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

Adapted from a June 2013 post with appropriate updates.

For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted 45 years ago this month, would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began. They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint television series. Older than Connery, Moore would eventually employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for the Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both. The song eventually received an Oscar nomination.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect. Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

For Clifton James, the role was just one of many over a long career. But he made a huge impression. When the actor died in April 2017 at the age of 96, the part of J.W. Pepper was mentioned prominently in obituaries, such as those appearing in The New York TimesThe Guardian, The Associated Press and Variety.

Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could possibly continue without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

A 007-licensed Lego Aston Martin is teased

Lego logo

A 007-licensed Lego Aston Martin was teased this week.

It began with a June 14 tweet from Lego:

“We’ve been thinking about creating a special Secret (Service) model that could help an agent out in a tricky situation. Any ideas? @astonmartin #LicenceToBuild.”

Twenty-four minutes later, the official Twitter feed of Aston Martin responded:

“We may have a few ideas for what the special model could be…” The response also had a smiley and the  #LicenceToBuild hashtag.

After another five minutes, the official James Bond Twitter feed of Eon Productions responded: “Licence to build is authorised #LicenceToBuild”

For now, no additional information is available. (It’s classified “Eyes Only.”) Here’s the post from the 007 Twitter account to give you a little flavor.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

So who is going to buy 007’s home studio?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

It seems as if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s days are numbered as an independent studio. So who ends up with 007’s home studio?

A new era of media consolidation is underway. And MGM is a small fry.

AT&T Inc. has completed its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and other media properties. The move comes after a U.S. court approved the deal earlier this week.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, is trying to buy most of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

Comcast is offering $65 billion in cash after 21st Century Fox agreed in December to accept $52.4 billion in stock from Walt Disney Co. An all-out bidding war is expected from the two media giants.

MGM supposedly is trying to go it alone. But, in this new media reality, that seems a long shot at best.

MGM is mostly owned by hedge funds following the company’s 2010 bankruptcy. Hedge funds rarely invest for the long run. They mostly look for a quick turnaround. The fact that the hedge fund owners have held on to their ownership for eight years is remarkable enough.

Given how volatile the situation is, making a prediction about who will buy MGM seems foolhardy. But it seems likely somebody will at some point.

Comcast’s Universal recently won the rights to distribute Bond 25 outside the U.S. So Universal may have a foot in the door. Maybe.

Here’s another question worth asking.

Would a bidder for MGM get out its checkbook and buy out Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions?

After all, if you’re going to go to the trouble of buying MGM, shouldn’t you buy all the James Bond film rights? Especially if media companies are throwing around tens of billions of dollars for acquisitions?

Some Bond fans feel the Broccoli-Wilson family would never sell out. Star Wars fans used to say to the same thing about George Lucas before he sold the franchise to Walt Disney Co.

Interesting days may lay ahead.

MGM pays ex-CEO a lot of money to go away

Gary Barber, former MGM chief, has reason to smile.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has bought shares and options from former CEO Gary Barber essentially to make him go away, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Barber received $260 million for 274,392 shares the former chief owned plus options for almost another 3.9 million shares, according to the entertainment news website.

That was on top of about $15 million in severance compensation that Barber received after being fired in March.

Deadline said in return Barber agreed “not to engage” with MGM for three years. Reuters reported last month that Barber was looking into making a bid for MGM. This new deal would preclude that.

What does this mean for Bond 25? Not much. The main effect is Barber goes away, albeit with a lot more money in his bank account.

Had Barber actually mounted a takeover bid, it had the potential to be a sideshow as MGM and Eon Productions are in the midst of getting Bond 25 off the ground. Sideshow averted.