Bond 25 questions: Ginormous (?) premiere edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1 before another delay was announced.

U.K. tabloids The Sun and Mirror this month reported about supposed plans for big No Time to Die premiere plans this fall.

The Sun wrote that star Daniel Craig will conduct a “whirlwind tour” of personal appearances of No Time to Die premieres. The Mirror said the movie’s producers are planning for a 10-million-pound (almost $14 million) premiere event in London, possibly in a stadium.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should I take these accounts?

As usual, keep in mind U.K. tabloids have a reputation for cutting coners, overhyping things, etc. But that often doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And there are elements of the stories that pass the smell test.

How so?

Essentially, the two stories are talking about larger, but traditional, ways of promoting movies. Also, bear in mind that Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in 2015 that Eon does the heavy lifting in devising Bond film marketing (“We pretty much run the marketing ourselves.”) while studios merely execute it.

Eon is nothing if not traditional.

What do you mean?

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has said she’s opposed to Bond spinoffs. “We want to make these theatrical films,” Broccoli told Total Film published in the outlet’s 2020 Preview issue published in December 2019. “We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

The movie business is feeling a big impact from streaming. Netflix became a big thing, in some times acquiring movies from studios. Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. are stepping up stepping up streaming efforts.

For Eon, the tagline of 2012’s Skyfall (the old ways are the best) is a way of life.

If true, how practical are these plans?

No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of COVID-19. The current release date is the Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. There are multiple COVID-19 vaccinations available.

By this fall, COVID-19 may be under control enough to permit these kinds of large gatherings. There certainly is “COVID fatigue.” One school of thought is there’s much pent-up demand we may see a new “Roaring Twenties” as COVID-19 gets under control.

It should be noted that COVID-19 progress isn’t taking place in a straight line. In the U.S., the current COVID hot spot is Michigan, where cases have skyrocketed since February. There may be more unexpected developments between now and the fall.

Mirror claims a £10 million NTTD premiere is planned

The U.K. tabloid Mirror claims a £10 million (almost $14 million) premiere is planned for No Time to Die.

The tabloid quotes a source it didn’t identify as saying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) and “the producers” (presumably Eon Productions which makes the Bond films) “are in agreement” for a big, splashy affair.

“They think they can pull off the biggest in-person premiere of the post-pandemic era, and have already put aside a whopping £10million for an event in England that will signal the return of these kinds of flashy movie launches that everybody’s been missing for the last year,” the Mirror quotes its source as saying.

No Time to Die has been delayed five times between fall 2019 and fall 2021. The first two delays were because of production issues (Danny Boyle departing as director and replaced by Cary Fukunaga) and three more times because of COVID-19.

The current release calls for the 25th James Bond film to come out Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

The U.K. has completed another COVID-19 shutdown. Globally, COVID-19 vaccinations are underway, although progress varies by country.

If the Mirror is accurate, MGM (and presumably Universal, which is handling international distribution) wants to do a traditional, pre-pandemic premiere. Some major films (such as Marvel’s Black Widow, now due out in July) have premiered simulantaneously on streaming and in theaters.

Co-author discusses The James Bond Lexicon

No longer coming soon — The James Bond Lexicon is here

The James Bond Lexicon, an exhaustive examination of James Bond in his various forms — movies, books and comics — is now available for sale.

It’s a book that has been in the making for years. Co-author Alan J. Porter, who wrote the book with Gillian J. Porter, talked to blog about it via email.

THE SPY COMMAND: When you last chatted with the blog, The James Bond Lexicon was about to come out. Things didn’t work out that way. Can you give a short summary of the headwinds that came up?

ALAN J. PORTER: Yes, last time we spoke we were on track to publish the book sometime in 2016, but shortly after that interview was published, and one on James Bond Radio aired, Gillian was diagnosed with Stage 3 Gall Bladder Cancer, which hit us pretty hard. As a consequence, we decided to put everything on hold to fully focus on Gill’s surgery and treatment.

By mid-2017 things were going well enough that we decided to get back to working on the book and updating the manuscript. Unfortunately, it was around this time that one of the co-owners of the publishing company we had contracted with suddenly passed away. His business partner decided he didn’t want to continue and shuttered the company, so we were now left with a partially updated manuscript and no publisher. This was a big decision point for us, and to be honest we came very close to just shelving the project. But after some thought decided to carry on and include all Bond material through to the end of 2017 and see if we could find another publisher.

A series of conversations with my On her Majesty’s Secret Podcast co-host Van Allen Plexico in 2018 resulted in him agreeing to publish the James Bond Lexicon via his White Rocket Books imprint and we were back to updating the manuscript for the third time with the intent to cover everything up to the end of 2019 so we could include Danny Boyle’s Bond 25 (or so we thought).

TSC: How was The James Bond Lexicon affected by the long delay between SPECTRE and No Time to Die?

PORTER: Well, we didn’t get to include Bond 25 after all. Once the No Time To Die delays started to happen we had to make a decision of whether we stuck with  “everything up to the end of 2019” or keep waiting so we could include the most recent movie.

At first, we thought about waiting but as the impact of COVID started to result in multiple slip dates we decided to stay with what we had and actually work towards getting the book out. So we fixed it at covering the 271 official Bond stories released between 1953 and the end of 2019. You have to put a line in the sand somewhere on a project like this or you will never finish.

We also decided to launch a companion website (http://jamesbondlexicon.online) where we are posting new entries for material released after 2019, and hopefully, one day that will include the entries for No Time To Die.

TSC: As an author, how do you keep yourself concentrated amid various setbacks?

PORTER: As I mentioned earlier, there was a point where we almost gave up, but we both recalled a piece of writing advice from writer Neil Gaiman: “Always finish what you start.”

So we decided to knuckle down and keep working. One of the best things we did was to talk about the project on social media, especially on the @BondLexicon Twitter account, sharing entries and other items we found during our research reinforced for us that there were other people waiting for the book and encouraging us to keep going.

We also found it helpful to be working on other projects. During downtimes on the Lexicon, I’d started to sell several historical adventure stories, and as part of her recovery process, Gill had written a novel. So being able to alternate between fiction and non-fiction work helped keep us focused and stopped the Lexicon from becoming a chore.

TSC: Now that the book is out, how do you feel? Elation? Relief? A combination?

PORTER: We actually talked about this the evening of the book release. It is something of a combination, very excited to see the book on sale, which still doesn’t seem real in some ways as getting to this point is something we’ve been working towards on and off for almost a decade.

TSC: During research for The James Bond Lexicon, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

PORTER: The first was how many different iterations of James Bond we came across. We expected there to be some, but not the 28 we cataloged. And we are sure the final number is higher than that as we didn’t cover the video games, which have several different versions of Bond in their history.

The other thing that struck us was the seemingly unnecessary minor changes to character names between the books and the movies, often by just changing a single letter. If EON had the rights to the characters from the novels why do things like change the Masterton sisters in Goldfinger to the Masterson sister in the movie? Or Honey Rider (novel) to Honey Ryder (movie)? And that’s just a couple of examples of what was a surprisingly common trait. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it just seemed strange to us.

TSC: At this point, do you even think about what you’d like to do next? Or do you concern yourself mostly with marketing The James Bond Lexicon?

Oh yes, we are both actively thinking about what’s next. We both have novels we are working on, but nothing immediate that we’ll be working together on. Having said that we do have some ideas and there’s another Lexicon project for a different franchise sitting on the shelf with about 60% of the research done – so after a break to get the novels finished who knows.

But in many ways, the work on the Bond Lexicon continues, as you mentioned there is the marketing of the book, but also keeping the companion JamesBondLexicon.online website up to date as new material comes out. As of today, we have already added over 40 new entries covering recent Dynamite Comics releases and the 2021 Comic Relief sketch with Daniel Craig.

We’re not leaving the world of Bond behind. The Lexicon continues to be a long-term commitment to the worlds of 007.

To see Amazon’s listing for The James Bond Lexicon, CLICK HERE.

Bond 25 questions: MGM’s silence edition

MGM’s revamped logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer held an investor call the other day. But the home studio to James Bond had almost nothing to say about its prized property.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What was the context of what MGM did have to say about No Time to Die?

Essentially listing it among various films either awaiting release or in production. Others included Respect, a “biopic” with Jennifer Hudson portraying Aretha Franklin and a sequel to a recent animated Addams Family movie.

MGM executives said its film slate, coupled with its TV business would mean good financial results in the second half of 2021 and going into 2022.

Is that all?

Pretty much.

What is up with that?

Strictly a guess: MGM is trying to project an image of a strong operation where everything is under control. In the past year there have been reports that MGM is seeking a buyer and that the studio explored licensing No Time to Die to streaming services before deciding not to proceed.

Some of the reports indicate that leaders of Danjaq/Eon weren’t initially informed of such discussions and weren’t happy.

From the perspective of a Bond fan, how useful are these investor calls?

Mixed at best. Occasionally, investors ask MGM executives about Bond film projects and if there are any ways MGM can get more out of the franchise. At times, that generates additional comments. But much of the time, MGM executives stick to talking points.

If there was any surprise about this week’s investor call, it’s MGM didn’t even do that. Just a quick mention that No Time to Die is in pipeline — something all Bond fans knew already.

Is there additional context to keep in mind?

No Time to Die’s costs are approaching $300 million. (The studio reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest costs for each month No Time to Die doesn’t come out.) MGM had been counting on a big theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eon’s 007 Twitter engages in revisionist history

The official 007 Twitter feed engaged in some revisionist history. In a tweet today, it referred to “the iconic Skyfall DB5.”

Skyfall DB5? Director Sam Mendes insisted the Aston Martin DB5 be the GOLDFINGER DB5.

Originally, scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had it being the DB5 that Daniel Craig’s James Bond won in 2006’s Casino Royale. But Mendes wanted the Goldfinger car, and the Goldfinger car it was.

That was the entire point. And, when Skyfall went into theaters in 2012, it indeed got a rise from audiences.

You can view the tweet for yourself:

Did MGM change its logo?

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, may have streamlined its logo.

MGM put out a series of tweets suggesting that was the case. Here are the Tweets. MGM also updated its avatar for its tweets:

MGM was formed by the merger of three companies in 1924. But the logo of Leo the Lion with “art for art’s sake” preceded that because it was the logo of one of the merged companies (Goldwyn).

Why should Bond fans care? MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. That gave it half-control of the Bond film franchise.

MGM, currently owned by a group of hedge funds, reportedly is up for sale. Could the logo change be related to that? Hard to say. As of midday New York time, the new logo wasn’t on MGM’s website yet.

UPDATE (2:40 P.M. New York Time): The new MGM logo is now on MGM’s website.

UPDATE II (8:05 P.M., New York Time): Adweek has a story. It makes it sound as if Leo the Lion will remain, but be a bit different. OK.

Jinx spinoff script performs comics homages

Die Another Day poster

This week, @007inLA came across a 2003 script of a proposed Jinx spinoff from Die Another Day. The resulting tweets give a viewer the idea of what Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s ideas ideas of what a Bond film spinoff would have looked like.

For one thing, P&W seemingly went into the comic book world. In a big way.

At one point, in a flashback sequence, Jinx’s parents are killed. This is similar to how Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered by criminals in Gotham City.

Still later, Jinx discovers her parents were spies. This is how (years after his introduction), Peter Parker’s Spider-Man discovers his long-lost parents were SHIELD agents.

The script is dated 2003. In real life, MGM canceled the Jinx project. One suspects Eon has been annoyed every since.

The P&W script also has various other complications. The thread that provide details STARTS HERE.

More affordable merch from 007 Store

“I really don’t care. Do u?”

At this point, complaining about expensive James Bond merchandise is almost beyond the point. It’s clear that Eon Productions has a bias toward expensive licensed merch — outrageously priced backgammon sets, replica Aston Martin DB cars that can’t be driven on the street, etc.

Nevertheless, on social media today, a new Moonraker hoodie (price of 150 British pounds, or more than $205) caught some attention.

The hoodie includes an image of a Moonraker publicity still of Roger Moore in a space suit (never seen in the film). The image includes a garish typeface apparently meant to resemble handwriting. “Am I properly dressed for the occasion?”

It’s tempting to reply: “I don’t really care. Do u?”

Still, the entry on the 007 Store has the usual hype.

Introducing an exclusive 007 collaboration with luxury Italian streetwear brand Throwback.

The 007 x Throwback collection features hoodies and t-shirts paying tribute to iconic moments from Bond on-screen. Each design features original artwork by Italian digital artist Gianpiero, who has reimagined and enhanced classic images from the Bond Archive using iconic movie quotes from the series. A production anecdote from each film is printed on the back of each garment, giving further insight into the 007 world. 

If that’s higher than you care to pay, you may want to buy six pencils with Bond film quotes for just 14.95 British pounds (roughly $20.50). Of course, if you actually write with the pencils, you’ll grind the quotes away as you sharpen them.

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Bond 25 questions: The new delay edition Part II

No Time to Die poster with updated release date

Huh. In the middle of a ranging pandemic, No Time to Die got delayed again, this time to October 2021. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is anybody really surprised?

No. Both the U.S. and U.K. aren’t doing very well coping with COVID-19. Movie theaters in many markets are closed or operating at limited capacity. And various other “tentpole” movies are looking to delay.

Also, movies are hardly alone. There was a report by The Times of London (summarized by Reuters) that the 2021 Olympics in Japan, already postponed from last year, may get canceled altogether. Olympics organizers responded with a statement that they’re “fully focused” on holding the games this summer.

Vaccines have been developed, but at least in the U.S., deployment has been slow.

Anything unusual about the announcement itself?

Very short, very terse. COVID wasn’t referenced. No other reason given. Maybe by this time, the publicity machine at Eon Productions figures everybody knows the score. All Eon needed was to provide the date.

Anything else?

The announcement on Eon’s official website said No Time to Die will be released “globally” on Oct. 8. Typically, Bond films are spread out a bit, often starting in the U.K. but not arriving in the U.S. until days later. We’ll see if a simultaneous release actually happens.

Any reactions of your own?

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, is in a box. MGM reportedly 1) shopped No Time to Die to streaming services but couldn’t get the price it wanted 2) didn’t tell its business partner (Eon) right away. The result was another chapter in a 40-year dysfunctional relationship.

MGM is in a box for another reason. No Time to Die’s cost was approaching $290 million as of mid-2020, according to a U.K. regulatory filing. MGM also reportedly is incurring $1 million a month in interest expenses for the money it borrowed to finance the movie.

MGM and Eon thought they had a $1 billion global box office blockbuster on their hands. That was pre-COVID.

The studio really needs No Time to Die to be a blockbuster at theaters before a home video release. It remains to be seen how quickly people will return to theaters even with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Finally, all of this is taking place as MGM reportedly is up for sale. Bond is the studio’s big asset and having all this uncertainty probably isn’t helping the sales process.