Broccoli, Wilson receive British medals

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson today received Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) medals at Buckingham Palace.

According to a U.K. website, the medal is for “a conspicuous leading role in regional affairs through achievement or service to the community, or a highly distinguished, innovative contribution in his or her area of activity.”

The Eon producers received the Order of the British Empire in 2008, according to the Daily Mail. They have been in charge of the James Bond film franchise starting with 1995’s GoldenEye.

Here was the announcement from Eon’s James Bond feed on Twitter.

Broccoli, Wilson to receive BFI award

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions “are set to receive the BFI Fellowship, the top honor from the British Film Institute,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

An excerpt from the article:

The BFI said it was recognizing the pair’s “extraordinary achievements and enormous contribution to cinema, with arguably the best loved and most enduring film franchise in the world — James Bond — celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.” The two will receive the fellowship at the BFI Chair’s Dinner, hosted by BFI Chair Tim Richards, on June 28 in London.

Wilson turned 80 earlier this year. He has spent the past 50 years in full-time service in the Bond film franchise.

Broccoli, who turns 62 on June 18, has spent 40 years in full-time service for the Bond film franchise. Barbara Broccoli worked part-time in the 1970s writing captions for publicity stills for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Die Another Day’s 20th: Eon discovers CGI is hard

Die Another Day’s gunbarrel, complete with CGI bullet

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Die Another Day, the James Bond film where Eon Productions decided to go all-in on computer-generated imagery.

Eon had dabbled with CGI before, including the title designs of Daniel Kleinman who had taken over for the late Maurice Binder.

But Die Another Day was another matter entirely. First up was a CGI bullet fired at the audience by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in the opening gunbarrel sequence. Evidently, Bond was a better shot than anyone knew. He was able to fire a bullet into the barrel of another person’s gun.

Later, U.S. operative Jinx (Halle Berry) supposedly dives backward into the ocean from a cliff — supposedly being the operative word.

There was also an Aston Martin that could turn invisible. For Bond, it helped that the thugs of villain Gustav Graves didn’t notice the tracks the invisible car was putting in the snow.

But, of course, the movie’s most famously bad use of CGI came as Brosnan/Bond surfs to avoid being swallowed up by a tidal wave. Much of the sequence looks like a mediocre video game with insert shots of Brosnan gamely trying to sell the audience he’s actually concerned about the proceedings.

Director Lee Tamahori was a big enthusiast of what digital imagery would bring to the table of the 20th James Bond film.

The “manipulations” enabled by CGI “are endless and effortless,” Tamahori said. “The high-end action sequences that are done for real are still going to exist.” The rest, he said, might move into entirely digital effects. These comments were once on the Haphazard Stuff website but have since been yanked.

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

Tamahori was indeed correct that digital effects would become more prominent in future Bond movies. Safety cables for stunt performers can be hidden, for example. Also, mice can be created and rail cars can be added to trains. (For the latter two examples, CLICK HERE for a post about CGI use in 2015’s SPECTRE.)

Unfortunately for Die Another Day, the director and production company found out CGI is hard. Better execution of CGI in a Bond would movie would have to wait for another day.

Poor CGI wasn’t the movie’s only problem. For the first time, Eon decided to make a big deal about a 007 film anniversary (2002 being the series’ 40th anniversary). Tamahori & Co. opted to put all sorts of Bond film references that tended to distract from the film’s plot. Look, a set based on a Ken Adam set from Diamonds Are Forever! Look, there’s the Thunderball jet pack! Look, there’s the same electronic noise that accompanied the Dr. No gunbarrel! Look, there’s a Union Jack parachute! And on, and on, and on, and….

At the same time, Die Another Day proved to be the end of the line for Pierce Brosnan.

When the film was released, Brosnan said during talk show appearances that Eon wanted him back for a fifth Bond film and he was looking forward to it. Two years later, Brosnan got a telephone call from Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson informing the actor that his services were no longer required.

Brosnan was the last Bond chosen by Albert R. Broccoli. “The kids” were about to pick their own.

Mission: Impossible 7 (and Bond) questions

The trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is out. For understandable reasons, fans of the James Bond films are interested.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is Tom Cruise’s M:I series ripping off Bond? You might not want to throw bricks from inside a glasshouse.

Live And Let Die evoked “Blaxploitation” films of the early 1970s. The Man With the Golden Gun evoked kung fu films from the same period. Moonraker evoked Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (even using the same musical notes from John Williams’ score from the latter movie). Moonraker also has similarities to the 1966 movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

So how would you phrase it?

It depends on how well the ideas are executed.

Movie audiences, generally, don’t care about what ideas are borrowed from whom. They care about whether they like the movie or not.

What makes Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films different from the most recent Bond movies?

The most recent M:I movies (2011, 2015, 2018) are, for the most part, more fun than the Bond installments of the same period. According to Barbara Broccoli, No Time to Die was a “cinematic masterpiece” (source: No Time to Die official podcast).

No Time to Die enthusiasts would agree. Others may or may not say they had a better time viewing the three M:I films of the 2010s.

That’s all a subject for debate. The seventh M:I film won’t be out for more than a year. We’ll see how it goes.

Bond 26 questions: The MGM shakeup edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Well, the first shoe has fallen after Amazon bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. MGM’s top two film executives are leaving after Eon Productions said it wanted the duo to stay.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this really unexpected?

No. Companies rarely spend billions of dollars to buy a company and just say, “We’re not going to make any changes.” Acquirers simply don’t do that. Ask the staff of CNN + after new owners pulled the plug on the new streaming service just a few weeks after completing the deal.

Are the departing MGM executives angry?

You couldn’t tell it by the statement that Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy put out to their staff. Variety got a copy. It began thusly:

A little over two years ago we came to MGM to help restore its vibrancy among the storied studios of the last century and we are proud to say, thanks to all of you and your efforts, it is mission accomplished.

Are you a little skeptical?

In these situations, departing executives often get a buyout as long as they stay quiet or say nice things. Executives who get in trouble with a company’s board of directors suddenly find they have a hankering to retire, etc.

What does this mean for James Bond movies?

Hard to say for now. But Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson last year gave a statement to The New York Times that they really, really wanted De Luca and Abdy to stay. Presumably, they’re not happy this week with this development.

What should Bond fans watch out for?

Bond is one of MGM’s main assets. Amazon surely knows this. There is a Bond-themed reality show in the works (a sort of Bond version of The Amazing Race). Will there be other attempts to expand the franchise? We’ll see.

MGM film execs favored by Eon to depart studio, Variety says

MGM logo

Two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives favored by Eon Productions are departing the studio, Variety reported.

Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, the top two executives in MGM’s film division, “have both been let go of the company,” the entertainment news outlet said. An excerpt:

De Luca had recently made overtures to David Zaslav about coming to Warner Bros. Discovery, according to an insider. The rumor mill has been swirling in recent weeks about the executives long-term future, with many predicting that he would be headed for the exit soon.

In July 2021, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times after Amazon agreed to buy MGM. “Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this.”

The statement quoted the Eon duo as saying, “Amazon has assured us that Bond will continue to debut” in movie theaters, according to the Times. “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered.” 

De Luca’s title was chairman of MGM’s motion picture group while Abdy was his deputy. Amazon already had its own film operation.

Executive changes are common after corporate acquisitions. Amazon’s $8.45 billion deal for MGM was announced last year and became final in March.

For Eon, the departure of De Luca and Abdy means the company that produces James Bond films will have yet another MGM executive team to deal with. It remains to be seen how this will affect the development of Bond 26. Actor Daniel Craig has exited the role of Bond after five movies from 2006 through 2021.

Broccoli & Wilson to receive award

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are scheduled to receive the 2022 Pioneers of the Year award by the Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneers Foundation.

The 2022 Pioneer of the Year Dinner is set for Sept. 21, according to the foundation’s website. Eon’s official James Bond feed on Twitter also put out an announcement.

Wilson, 80, has been involved with the Bond franchise full-time for 50 years while Broccoli’s full-time involvement goes back 40 years. Both had Bond-related experience before joining Eon full-time.

Wilson is the stepson of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Barbara Broccoli is Albert R. Broccoli’s daughter. Barbara Broccoli turns 62 in June.

Here is a description from the Deadline: Hollywood site:

The Pioneer of the Year Award honors leaders in the movie industry whose career achievements and commitment to philanthropy is exemplary. The award, handed out for more than 70 years, is part of a gala to support the foundation’s Pioneers Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to individuals in need in the distribution and exhibition community.

Here is the Eon tweet:

State of the Bond franchise: Spring 2022

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The James Bond film franchise, consisting of the films made by Eon Productions, has reached 25 movies. What’s next?

The run with actor Daniel Craig is over with 2021’s No Time to Die. That run lasted more than 15 years, extended by financial problems at Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli wants to celebrate Craig and No Time to Die. There’s no sign that celebration is over yet.

Since No Time to Die was made, MGM got a new owner in tech giant Amazon. This week, in the U.K., Eon’s 25-film Bond catalog became available via Amazon Prime. Also, Amazon announced a Bond-themed reality show featuring contestants racing around the globe.

But what is happening with the core of the franchise — future James Bond movies?

Is Barbara Broccoli really ready to move on from Daniel Craig? The actor was her choice. Previous Bond actors were chosen by her father, Albert R. Broccoli.

But again, what happens now?

After six decades, the movie business has changed immensely from Dr. No in 1962. Sean Connery’s original film Bond today is derided as “rapey.” Home video and technology changes have altered how viewers get their Bond entertainment.

Once again, Bond is in a state of flux. The character has entered and exited previous such states.

We’ll see how it goes this time.

You Only Live Twice’s 55th: Mixed legacy

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

Updated and expanded from a 2017 post.

The 55th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, but it also created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seemingly endless number of extras was available when needed.

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted the contract they had with the star. But their inducements were not enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by the acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained. Some fans even refer those changes as among the worst moves Eon ever made. CLICK HERE for a sampling.  One example: “What led the producers to discard the Fleming trilogy (the biggest single gaffe in the series´ history) is inexplicable.”

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

About that John Hodge script for Bond 25

Last month, The Guardian published a story about John Hodge’s scripting efforts for a new television version of The Ipcress Files. But the scribe made a few comments about Bond 25, later to be titled No Time to Die.

Hodge’s comments suggest there was, perhaps, less than met the eye.

In 2018, there was hype, led by Deadline: Hollywood, that Hodge and director Danny Boyle had a spectacularly wonderful idea for Bond 25. So wonderful that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would set aside a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script in development for almost a year.

In May 2018, Eon and MGM announced Boyle was directing Bond 25, with Hodge writing. Previous announcements referencing Purvis and Wade were forgotten. Then, in August 2018, Boyle was gone, departing over “creative differences.”

What happened? Here are Hodge’s limited comments to The Guardian:

“I think it was me they really wanted rid of, but Danny took the bullet, too,” says Hodge. Do non-disclosure agreements cover their departure? “No. Just decent British discretion!”

At the time Hodge and Boyle learned they would not write another day, there were suggestions they had spooked the producers by pitching an incredibly subversive storyline. But the released movie contains a twist at least as dramatic, which seems to disprove the rumour they had gone too far. “My understanding was that that twist had been decided even before we came on board because Daniel Craig wanted it. I think, with us, it was that old cliche “creative differences”. It felt very dramatic at the time but it was just another bump in the road of the Bond franchise.”

The twist, of course, was James Bond would die at the end of the movie. British tabloids carried stories that either Eon wanted Bond to die or Boyle desired it.

Hodge’s comments suggest this was always going to be the case. That doesn’t mean there weren’t differences in the Boyle-Hodge version and the final film. At one point, there were Russian gulag sets being constructed in Canada as well as a mockup of a rocket (as disclosed by production designer Mark Tildesley in a 2020 video interview).

Hodge’s comments also raise the question whether his and Boyle’s idea was all that wonderful. In the end, Eon’s infatuation with Boyle and Hodge cost untold amounts of money as well as several months of precious time.

Had Eon been more efficient in the production process, No Time to Die would have avoided multiple delays stemming from COVID-19. The movie’s original release date was for the fall of 2019.

Admittedly, hindsight is perfect. Still, to cite a World War II slogan, was this trip really necessary?