About that lack of a Bond 25 distributor

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Some James Bond fans were sure — just sure — that Global James Bond Day would include a significant announcement about Bond 25.

But, like Linus in the Peanuts comic strip looking forward to seeing the Great Pumpkin, those 007 fans were disappointed. The only Global James Bond Day announcement was a one-day sale of 007 T-shirts at 10 percent off.

Denis Villeneuve being announced as Bond 25’s director? Didn’t happen.

Announcement of Bond 25’s distributor? Didn’t happen.

Until that distributor issue is resolved, Bond 25 can only proceed so far. Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in July announced a U.S. release date of November 2019. But neither has a global distribution operation. MGM needs to cut a deal with somebody who has that capability.

Are such entities interested? Of course. But that distributor likely is going to have to supply a lot of the financing. Sony provided half of the production costs of Skyfall and SPECTRE, but only got 25 percent of the profits. Sony only got a small profit for Skyfall and who knows if it got anything for SPECTRE between higher production outlays and a bit less at the box office.

There was one other bit of Bond-related news on Global James Bond Day 2017. MGM extended the contract for CEO Gary Barber to 2022, according to the Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website.

Barber has been gradually improving MGM’s business. But the studio’s biggest asset still remains Agent 007.

As the Twitter feed for the MI6 James Bond website asked, “How about getting on that Bond 25 distribution deal now, Gary?”

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Dr. No’s 55th: A peculiar anniversary

Dr. No poster

This week, the James Bond film franchise celebrates the 55th anniversary of its first entry, Dr. No. However, it’s a bit of peculiar milestone.

Five years ago, for the 50th anniversary, it was a time of celebration. The golden anniversary of Dr. No was marked with the knowledge that a new Bond film, Skyfall, would be out soon.

For Bond fans, it was a “win-win.” They could celebrate the franchise’s past while looking forward to the near future

For the 55th, not as much.

Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in July announced a November 2019 release date for Bond 25. But, as of this writing, there isn’t an actual distributor to get the movie into theaters. Such a distributor likely would provide a significant chunk of the funding for the project.

The incumbent 007, Daniel Craig, said in August he’s coming back for a fifth outing. However, besides the lack of a distributor, there’s no director in place, either.

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on Bond 25 story, according to that July announcement.

But until a director is on the job — and directors are known for bringing in their own writers to re-work a script — things can only proceed so far. One of the reported contenders, Denis Villeneuve, confirmed to The Montreal Gazette, that he has been in talks with Craig and Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. But Villeneuve, coming off Blade Runner 2049, is in demand for other projects.

What’s more, there have been fuzzy, imprecise vibes that Eon Productions might sell off its interest in 007 after Bond 25. Nobody has actually said this will happen but people have said it might happen.

Finally, tech giants Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights or perhaps acquire the whole thing, according to a Sept. 6 story by The Hollywood Reporter. Yet, major news outlets that follow both Apple and Amazon closely (think The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) have ignored the story.

Is there anything to The Hollywood Reporter’s story or not? Who knows?

All this uncertainty overshadows Dr. No.’s anniversary. The first 007 film included Sean Connery introducing the line, “Bond, James Bond. It was a project the followed the unusual circumstances that brought Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman together.

While a modestly budgeted production, the work of production designer Ken Adam made Dr. No look more expensive than it was. And actress Ursula Andress made an impression on audiences. Director Terence Young, not the first choice of either the producers or distributor United Artists, got the series off to a rousing start.

Some Bond fans fans are sure a major announcement about Bond 25 is coming on Oct. 5, Global James Bond Day and also the anniversary of Dr. No’s premiere. Maybe they’re right. We’ll see.

In any case, the 55th anniversary of Dr. No has an uncertainty that the 50th anniversary didn’t.

Hugh Hefner, who helped popularize 007, dies

George Lazenby’s 007 reading a copy of Playboy

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy and who helped popularize James Bond for American audiences, has died at 91, according to CNBC, citing a statement from Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy published the Ian Fleming short story The Hildebrand Rarity in 1960, beginning a long relationship between the magazine and the fictional secret agent.

At the time, the literary Bond has his U.S. fans but the character’s popularity was far from its peak. Things changed a year later when the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, listed Fleming’s From Russia With Love as one of his 10 favorite books.

As Bond’s popularity surged in the 1960s, Playboy serialized the novels You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun.

The relationship spread into the Bond movies produced by Eon Productions. In 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond (George Lazenby) kills time looking at an issue of Playboy while a safe cracking machine works away. Two years later, in Diamonds Are Forever, the audience is shown that Bond (Sean Connery) had a membership card at a Playboy club. Also, over the years, Playboy published Bond-related pictorials.

In the 1990s, the Playboy-literary Bond connection was revived. Playboy published some 007 short stories by continuation novelist Raymond Benson, including Blast From the Past as well as serializations of Benson novels.

One of Benson’s short stories published by Playboy, Midsummer Night’s Doom, was set at the Playboy Mansion. Hefner showed up as a character.

During the 21st century, Playboy “has struggled in the face of tough competition from the available of free pornography online,” CNBC said in its obituary. The magazine experimented with no nude photos “before returning to its previous formula,” CNBC said.

Bond 25: Reading between the lines edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There hasn’t been much hard news since Daniel Craig said more than a month ago he’d be back for Bond 25. But some reports suggest things if you read between the lines. And so…

Still no director yet: In July, entertainment news websites identified three Bond 25 director front runners (Denis Villeneuve, Yann Demange and David Mackenzie). Variety said Demange was the top ranked contender.

All was quiet until Thursday night when Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye (who has a record of scoops being proven correct) tweeted that Craig was “keen” on Villeneuve as Bond 25 director.

How much influence Craig will have on the voice is subject to debate and conjecture. But if Bamigboye is correct this time, it certainly sounds as if the decision hasn’t been made yet.

Still no distributor yet: On July 24, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of November 2015. It was interesting given that MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation and relies on cutting deals with other studios to get its films into theaters.

Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter broke a story saying tech giants Apple and Amazon were now in the hunt for Bond 25 film rights in addition to traditional movie studios.

Not much since then. Interestingly, news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which follow both Apple and Amazon closely, haven’t weighed in yet.

So some fans are undoubtedly asking, “Why should I care?” 

Here’s the best the blog can come up with: That November 2019 release date can’t be considered solid until a distributor is in place. Also, just because a release date gets announced doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.

To be clear, there’s no reason for panic. To be honest, there’s not enough information at this point to panic about. But, viewing it from the outside, Bond 25 has some peculiar aspects. Or, as Birth.Movies.Death scribe Phil Nobile Jr. (a big Bond enthusiast) put it on Twitter in response to Bamigboye’s tweet:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

UPDATE: 7:55 p.m. New York time: It turns out Baz Bamigboye wrote about this as part of a column in the Daily Mail.

“Bond star Daniel Craig is rooting for thriller film-maker Denis Villeneuve to direct him in his final 007 movie,” Bamigboye wrote.

Villeneuve “has spoken with Craig and Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson about making what is currently known simply as Bond 25….There are several other directors on the ‘wanted’ list, but I’m hearing that Craig is most interested in Villeneuve.”

For Your Eyes Only script: M goes undercover

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Screenwriter Richard Maibaum returned to the 007 fold with For Your Eyes Only. He hadn’t been involved with Moonraker, which took James Bond into outer space.

For the 12th James Bond film, he was paired with Michael G. Wilson, stepson of Eon Productions founder Albert R. Broccoli. Their intent was for a more-grounded outing. Roger Moore returned as Bond but things would be much different.

An Aug. 12, 1980 draft, late in the scripting process, is very similar to the final film viewed by audiences in the summer of 1981. But there are notable differences.

Among them: M, who had been played by Bernard Lee in the 11 previous films, was still present. M shares some scenes with Bill Tanner, the chief of staff.

M also goes undercover briefly. It is the MI6 chief who dresses as a Greek priest and meets Bond in a confessional. “That’s putting it mildly, Double-O Seven,” M replies after Bond says he has sinned.

With the M version, there’s a subtle change in one of Bond’s lines. “I’ve contacted a well-informed person about that, sir –” (emphasis added) Bond says, referring to the many St. Cyrills in Greece. It’s the main clue Bond has about the whereabouts of villain Kristatos, who will supply a British device to the Soviets.

Lee, who died in January 1981 at the age of 73, wouldn’t be up to participating in the movie. Desmond Llewelyn’s Q would get the church scene. Tanner would end up with much of M’s other dialogue in the August 1980 script.

What follows are some of the differences in the script vs. finished film as well as additional information. In general, the script is a bit chattier than the film.

“MAN WITH CAT” menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

Pre-credits sequence: The script specifies that Tracy’s headstone reads, “Teresa Bond, 1943-1969, Beloved wife of JAMES BOND.”

The scene between a vicar (telling Bond his office is sending a helicopter) is mostly the same as in the film. But the stage directions have some interesting points.

BOND
(subdued mood)
It usually is.

He places flowers on grave. CAMERA IN on his brooding face. SOUND OF APPROACHING HELICOPTER.

Bond soon in peril from “MAN WITH CAT.” As in the film the helicopter pilot is electrocuted.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bond,” the not-so-mysterious villain tells Bond over the helicopter’s radio. “I thought we should celebrate the tenth anniversary of last meeting. Don’t concern yourself with the pilot — one of my less useful people.”

At the time, Kevin McClory, claimed ownership of the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE. Blofeld had last appeared in Eon’s 1971 Diamonds Are Forever and this was a reference to that. The line was cut from the finished film but appeared in the Marvel Comics adaptation of For Your Eyes Only.

Well, it’s a James Bond movie, so Bond gets the upper hand, gaining control of the helicopter and uses the aircraft to spear the villain’s wheelchair.

In the script, however, Bond flies over the Thames and dumps the villain in it, rather than the smokestack seen in the movie. “The party’s a washout,” Bond says “grimly,” in the script.

For Your Eyes Only poster

Murder of the Havelocks: The Havelocks (Sir Timothy Havelock and his wife Iona) are secretly working on trying to find a sunken British spy ship equipped with ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator) has sunk. They’re visited by their daughter Melina, who has been flown out to them by Gonzales.

The latter actually is a hired killer. He’s described in the script as “a pudgy amiable Cuban in his late thirties with curly hair and several gold teeth.”

The script includes an exchange between Sir Timothy and Max the parrot.

“Get up in there, Max,” Havelock says.

“Can’t get it up, can’t get it up,” Max replies.

“Watch your language, Max,” Sir Timothy says. “Melina’s coming.”

Gonzales, as in the film, kills the Havelocks with machine gun fire from his plane. ”

Opening MI6 scene: The Bond-Moneypenny exchange is very similar to the film. However, when Moneypenny uses the mirror in a filing drawer to apply lipstick, the stage directions say, “Obviously the vanity is a gift from Q.”

The briefing is conducted by M and Tanner. The dialogue is very similar to the film, except in the movie it was delivered by Tanner and the Minister of Defence.

Bernard Lee (1908-1981)

Gonzales villa: Stage directions describe Loque as, “Tall, lean, late thirties, he has a cadaverous impassive face with hooded eyes behind incongruous steel-rimmed spectacles. He wears black hat and suit.”

Bond initially wears “a business suit” while driving. Later, he “now wears a camouflage recce jacket.”

At the pool inside the villa, one of the women there is nude, according to the script.

Bond and Melina make their escape. Her car is specified as “a small dilapidated DEUX CHEVAUX COMPACT.” Melina wants to know what 007 was doing at the villa. “I’m a kind of detective, too.”

Second briefing scene: Upon his return to London, Bond is in a meeting with M. Tanner and the Minister of Defence.

Q Branch: In the script, Bond enters Q branch, watches one of Q’s assistants demonstrate the phony arm cast that can strike an enemy.

“Sneaky,” Bond says. “Have you got one for a leg?” The assistant responds: “We’re working on it.”

“The KGB should get a kick out of that,” Bond says.

Bond meets Kristatos: Kristatos says skater Bibi Dahl is, “An American girl from a broken home. I have taken her as my ward.”

Also, in the script, Bond says, “I have heard of Jacoba Brink,” Bibi’s teacher. In the movie, Bond says he has seen Brink skate.

Ferrara’s Death: Ferrara, an MI6 agent based in Italy, is the movie’s sacrificial lamb. In the script, Bond doesn’t immediately realize Ferrara has been killed. “We’ve got a lot to sort out. Where can we get a drink?” Bond asks, not realizing his fellow agent is dead.

Corfu Casino: Milos Columbo is described as “a tanned, well-groomed, well-tailored man in his middle fifties.”

In the script, the bug Columbo has placed to record the conversation between Bond and Kristatos is in a chair. The chair is removed by the Maitre D.

Bond’s showdown with Loque: Loque’s car, as in the movie, is precariously situation. The killer is wounded after being shot by Bond.

007, according to the stage directions, “gives car gentle push. CAMERA FOLLOWS IT DOWN DEEP TO THE BOTTOM.” Bond quips, “He never looked better.”

Bond and Melina join forces: Bond and Melina have this exchange:

MELINA
I’m not interested in your sex life, Mr Bond

BOND
I didn’t come here to discuss it. I need your help. It’s time we joined forces. Where can we — ?

Climax: Bond, Melina, Columbo and a few man confront Kristatos and his forces at the abandoned St. Cyril monastery. Columbo and Kristatos, in this script get in an exchange they didn’t have in the movie.

KRISTATOS
Let us see who cuts whose throat, Milos!

COLUMBO
I should have cut yours forty years ago!

Also, Bond sets a trap for Kriegler, the athlete who’s really a Soviet operative.

INSERT — KRIEGLER’S FOOT
hitting end of sprung board.

NEW ANGLE — BOND AND KRIEGLER
as board comes up and wacks him in the crotch. The weight of the font throws him off balance, backward and he falls against the window, crashing through it.

Bibi asks Bond what happened. Bond replies, “He just stepped out.”

The End: No Margaret Thatcher. Bond and Melina are skinny dipping near the a cutter” where M, the Minister of Defence, Columbo, Bibi and Brink are.

“Don’t dawdle out here too long, Double-O Seven,” M says. “You’re needed on active service. So get on with it!”

Bond and Melina get to the Triana (the Havelock boat).

“For your eyes only, darling,” Melina says while wearing only a towel.

Max the parrot gets in the last word. “Darling, darling — “

1990: Bond 17 treatment attempts a new direction

Timothy Dalton

In the spring of 1990, Eon Productions attempted to begin a new direction with its James Bond series.

Veterans such as screenwriter Richard Maibaum and director John Glen were gone following 1989’s Licence to Kill.

Michael G. Wilson, co-scripter of the previous five Bond films and stepson of Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli, worked with Alfonse Ruggiero, a television writer-producer whose credits included the crime drama Wiseguy.

For some, Licence to Kill came off as a bit drab. Locations were Key West, Florida, and Mexico. Its villain, Franz Sanchez, was a drug lord. A particularly powerful drug lord, but still a drug lord.

For Bond 17, Wilson and Ruggeiro appeared to want to make things more exotic, for what was intended as Timothy Dalton’s third adventure as Bond. Locations included Japan and Hong Kong.

Also present were robots.

At beginning of a treatment dated May 1990, there was this note: “The robotic devices refered (sic) to in this outline are complex and exotic machines designed for specific tasks and environments. They are to be designed especially for the film for maximum dramatic and visual impact.” More about that later.

The villain of the treatment is Sir Henry Lee Ching, “a brilliant and handsome thirty year old British-Chinese entrepreneur.” His plot is take over Hong Kong from the British and Chinese. His extensive business empire supplies key components for missile guidance, communications, navigation and weapon systems.

The female lead character is Connie Webb, “a beautiful American adventuress in her early 30’s.” She’s a former CIA agent who has gone free lance.

The robots involved primarily are industrial robots that malfunction, causing great calamity. Then, there’s the most sophisticated robot.

Sir Henry has a mistress named Nan. At one point, he emerges from a lovemaking session. “Through the open door Connie spots Nan laying prostrate on the bed behind a curtain of white flowing gauze.”

Later, Bond is reunited with Connie. But Nan appears “in form fitting corset and spandex shorts.” They decide they need to tie Nan up. However, Nan knocks Bond across the room. Connie tries her luck at subduing Nan. It is revealed….

“Nan is a lethal security robot!”

Of course, The Avengers television series had John Steed and Emma Peel deal with the Cybernauts in the 1960s. A few years later, the Austin Powers comedy films would have the International Man of Mystery coping with fembots.

This particular plot would not be produced and financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contributed to a 1989-1995 hiatus for the 007 series.

However, the 1990 treatment shows that Eon was growing nostalgic for the Aston Martin DB5. Bond ends up driving one that has been revamped by Q. Bringing back the car was an idea that Eon retained.

The DB5 would show up later in the decade in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. It appears to be the personal car of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond.

Daniel Craig’s Bond would win a left-handed drive DB5 in a poker game in 2006’s Casino Royale. He drives a right-handed drive DB5 (supposedly the Goldfinger car) in Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Welcome to tech ‘disruption,’ 007 fans

Daniel Craig

Technology companies like to disrupt. Newspapers (Google and Facebook have sucked up advertising) and retail (Amazon.com) are among the sectors that have been disrupted.

The cinema world of James Bond may be next.

Apple Inc. and Amazon.com are pursuing James Bond film distribution rights, The Hollywood Reporter said. And, the entertainment news website reported, it’s possible they could go beyond that to possible control of the 007 franchise.

What has gone from a relatively simple question (who will distribute Bond 25?) may instead transform 007 from a movie series into a multi-media endeavor.

The Reporter estimates the franchise is worth anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion. Apple may be looking to produce content while Amazon already does. Each can afford it.

If either took control, it’s certain that things wouldn’t remain the same. You don’t spend billions of dollars to keep things exactly the same.

Walt Disney Co. acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd., originators of Star Wars. Disney gives management at both a lot of leeway, but under Disney ownership both are ramping up film production. Marvel now is up to three films a year. Lucasfilm has resumed the regular Star Wars saga, with one-off films in between.

It remains to be seen how this turns out. It’s possible Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, cuts a distribution deal with a traditional studio such as Warner Bros.

Still, keep in mind that MGM mostly is owned by hedge funds. They’re looking to make a profit. Also, does the Broccoli-Wilson family, which controls Danjaq and Eon Productions, have its price? If offers priced in the billions get made, anything is possible.

That’s what they mean by disruption.