Eon’s new normal: Update

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This isn’t your father’s James Bond film franchise.

Hire a new director? Great! Except, Cary Fukunaga has to deal with a new television project at more or less the same time.

Got your leading man back on board? Great! Except he began filming a movie just a month (or so) before the latest Bond movie originally was to start filming. Thankfully (from the actor’s standpoint, anyway) the Bond film got delayed until March.

Your latest James Bond film project moving ahead? Great! Except we have to get our latest non-007 project (The Rhythm Section) out of the way first.

When Eon Productions started operations, the idea was to make 007 films every year with other project in between. That lasted as far as 1963 (Dr. No, Call Me, Bwana, From Russia With Love).

Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman went off and did non-007 films (the Harry Palmer series, Battle of Britain) on his own. Albert R. Broccoli, the other co-founder, did one more non-007 project (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) while devoting the rest of his life to the Bond film series.

Saltzman, of course, is long gone, having sold his interest in the mid 1970s. Broccoli, before he died in 1996, yielded control to his daughter (Barbara Broccoli) and stepson (Michael G. Wilson).

Now, the main figures of the Bond series juggle 007 among their various projects. Fukunaga, hired in September to direct Bond 25, is only the latest. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have been doing it for years. Writer John Logan juggled various enterprises in 2013 and 2014 before delivering a first draft for SPECTRE.

One reader of the blog pointed out on Twitter that Marvel Studios directors Joe and Anthony Russo are cutting deals for future projects even while the untitled Avengers 4 is in post-production.

That’s true enough. Still, by 2019, the Russos will have directed four movies (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4) in five years for Marvel. During that same period, there will have been just one James Bond film (SPECTRE).

In the 21st century, the 007 film series is like Paul Masson wine. No wine (or film) before its time.

Bond 25 director will juggle another project

Cary Fukunaga, director for Bond 25

Cary Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director, will also be juggling another project, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Fukunaga and David Lowery will write a pilot script for the Paramount Channel cable outlet based on the 1985 Joe Dante-directed film Explorers, the entertainment news website said.

Either will “direct the pilot should it get to that,” according to Deadline.

Deadline referenced how Fukunaga is directing Bond 25, but didn’t specify when the new scripting effort would occur. Bond 25 is scheduled to begin production on March 4 for a February 2020 release.

Daniel Craig, scheduled to return to play 007 in Bond 25, is in a new mystery movie Knives out, directed by Rian Johnson. That will film before Bond 25 starts production. (According to IMDB.COM, filming is underway.)

Eon Productions, meanwhile, has a non-007 spy movie, The Rhythm Section that’s due for a February 2019 release by Paramount.

Marvel’s Feige praises Cubby Broccoli while accepting award

Kevin Feige, the boss of Marvel Studios, had some praise for Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, while accepting an award on named after him.

Feige received the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment at the 2018 British Academy Britannia Awards on Oct. 26, Feige has headed Marvel Studios the past 10 years, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man.

“The gold standard is what he and Eon Productions have done with James Bond, a character who is as popular today as he was nearly 60 years ago, when Dr. No first came out,” Feige said. “That’s incredible and we’ve got a half century more to see if we’re (Marvel Studios) anwhere near capable of filling those shoes.”

You can see the entire acceptance speech below.

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Pruvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.

Bond 25 to film in Canada in March, ex-crew member says

Bond 25 is scheduled to film in Canada in March, a former 007 film crew member told a German-language Swiss newspaper, Berner Zeitung.

The story primarily was a feature story about Stefan Zürcher, 73, who first was involved with the 007 film series with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Deep in the story, however, there was this quote (translated via Google) from Zürcher when asked if might work on Bond 25:

“Recently, a director has finally been found, and shooting in Canada is scheduled for next March.”

He also added: “I do not want to spend too many inches of my remaining life in an ice desert. ”

Last month, Eon Productions announced Cary Joji Fukunaga would direct Bond 25 and that production would begin March 4.

There’s no way to tell how accurate this all is. Clearly, Zürcher’s comment was more of an aside. We’ll see how it goes.

Broccoli tells The Guardian 007 ‘probably’ will remain a man

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian that the cinematic 007 “probably” will remain a man.

“Bond is male,” Broccoli, 58, told the British newspaper. “He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.

“And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”

Over the past few years, various publications have speculated about women who could play Bond. Among them: Vogue (“6 Women Who Would Make a Killer 007”), The Independent (“James Bond: The Women Who Could Play a female 007 When Daniel Craig Steps Down”), Maxim (“10 Amazing Actresses Who Could Play a Killer James Bond”) and Newsday (“Jane Bond: 10 actresses who could play a female James Bond”).

A number of recent pieces along this line were published when Broccoli and her leading man, Daniel Craig, were taking an extended break from the 007 film series. The most recent Bond film, SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015 while Bond 25 won’t be released until February 2020.

Still, the question has come up long before now. In the late 1990s, there was a gathering at Northwestern University near Chicago where 007 continuation author Raymond Benson spoke. One of the questions from the audience was when Bond would be played by a woman or a person of color.

In The Guardian interview, there was also this passage:

Yes, she concedes, Bond cannot be considered a feminist property, but mostly because people tend to “reference those early (Bond) movies. It was written in the 50s, so there’s certain things in [Bond’s] DNA that are probably not gonna change.”

“But look at the way the world has changed. And I think Bond has come through and transformed with the times. I’ve tried to do my part, and I think particularly with the Daniel [Craig] films, they’ve become much more current in terms of the way women are viewed.”

Broccoli previously has taken credit for updating the way the film 007 interacts with women. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she said in a 2012 interview with the London Evening Standard.

Bond 25 may decide Barbara Broccoli’s legacy

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

For Barbara Broccoli, Bond 25 may determine her career legacy.

Broccoli has produced a number of plays and non-Bond films. But being in the driver’s seat of the 007 film series will outweigh that.

Put another way: Her eventual obit will NOT have a headline of “Barbara Broccoli, producer of plays and dramas, dies.” It will read (more or less), “Barbara Broccoli, James Bond producer, dies.”

For the record, Broccoli, 58, is co-leader of Eon Productions with her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 76. In official Eon press releases, Wilson’s name is first, hers second. And, since 1995’s GoldenEye, the title card reads, “Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”

However, the Dec. 1, 2014 press event for SPECTRE made clear it was Broccoli was now in the lead position. Wilson wasn’t present. He would show up at later SPECTRE press events.

Nevertheless, the December 2014 event cemented a narrative that Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. and Dana Broccoli, was the lead figure of the franchise. For example, there’s this April 20, 2017 New York Times story that had this passage:

“…Barbara Broccoli, who runs Eon Productions. Moviemaking is a collaborative process, but Ms. Broccoli and her older half brother, Michael G. Wilson, have final say over every line of dialogue, casting decision, stunt sequence, marketing tie-in, TV ad, poster and billboard.”

Note The Times listed Broccoli first, Wilson second, the reverse of their title cards on 007 films.

However, that control doesn’t extend to financing. Eon has never financed its own movies. Others have always paid the bills. United Artists carried that responsibility in the early years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after it acquired UA in 1981.

MGM financial problems caused the longest hiatus in the 007 film series, 1989-95. An MGM bankruptcy was a major issue in the 2008-2012 gap.

The gap between 2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the franchise. This time, though, MGM financial issues aren’t a reason. Both Broccoli and her preferred leading man, Craig, wanted a break. They took one from Bond while pursuing other projects.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at during an October 2016 event sponsored by The New Yorker. “The producers are just…Barbara (Broccoli) is making a movie. I’m doing (the play) Othello, Barbara’s producing that.”

Contributing to the current gap was how Eon this year pursued Danny Boyle as a director for Bond 25. This occurred after long-time 007 screenwriters delivered a Bond 25 treatment, according to multiple media reports. But Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, supposedly pitch a spectacular idea that Eon wanted. On May 25, Eon said that version was full speed ahead. On Aug. 21, Boyle was gone because of “creative differences.”

Now, a new director (and writer), Cary Joji Fukunaga, has come aboard. “We are delighted to be working with Cary,” according a quote attributed to both Wilson and Broccoli in a press release. “His versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice for our next James Bond adventure,”

(Reminder: Press release quotes are written by those charged with drafting the statement. The principals then approve the quotes or suggest/demand changes. In this case, it’s unlikely either Broccoli or Wilson actually said this. That’s not unique to Eon. It’s true of virtually every corporate press release.)

The thing is, if Bond 25 proves an outstanding entry in the series and/or is a huge financial success, none of this will matter much. Pro-Broccoli fans will say, “I told you so!” The worst-case scenario, likely, is a popular film that fans have second thoughts about (like SPECTRE).

Nevertheless, Broccoli’s legacy does have a lot riding on Bond 25. Her chosen Bond, Craig, will have an unprecedented run as Bond (albeit one with delays).

Nothing succeeds like success. A combination critical and popular success (similar to or exceeding 2013’s Skyfall) will cause most to forget the various bumps. For Barbara Broccoli, a spectacular Bond 25 would put her at the front of the line to take credit.

No pressure.