Some questions about a James Bond musical

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

It’s been a few days since stories came out that there are plans for a James Bond stage musical to be produced by Merry Saltzman, daughter of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions.

Since then, there haven’t been any more details about James Bond: The Musical. We can’t offer many answers, but we’re more than willing to pose the questions.

Where did Merry Saltzman get the rights for this project? Stories in BROADWAY WORLD.COM and PLAYBILL said Saltzman had “secured the rights” for a stage production. But where from?

Ian Fleming Publications, run by 007 creator Ian Fleming’s heirs, controls the literary rights. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq (holding company for the Broccoli-Wilson family) control the film rights.

Once upon a time, Harry Saltzman had half of Danjaq. But he sold his share in 1975 to United Artists because of financial troubles. MGM acquired UA in the early ’80s.

Neither Ian Fleming Publications or MGM/Danjaq has publicly commented about Ms. Saltzman’s plans.

Is there any kind of precedent for this? In the 1980s, there was an attempt to mount a non-musical Casino Royale play but nothing happened.

Raymond Benson, who’d go on to write 007 continuation novels published from 1997-2002, was involved in the ill-fated project. He gave an interview in 2007 to the journal Paradigm. Excerpts were published by the MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE as well as the COMMANDER BOND FAN WEBSITE.

According to the interview excerpts, the Fleming literary estate commissioned the play. Benson adapted Ian Fleming’s first novel into a play but the literary estate opted not to continue. By the late 1990s, Danjaq/Eon secured the film rights to Casino.

Benson is quoted in the interview as saying the “stage play cannot be produced without the movie people’s permission…I own the copyright of the play, but the Fleming Estate owns the publication rights and the movie people own the production rights.”

It should be noted that Merry Saltzman’s project is supposed to have an all-new story, rather than adapt any Fleming novel, According to the Playbill story it will have “several Bond villains, plus some new ones.”

Is this a good idea? Decades ago, there were probably some who scoffed that Pygmalion could be made into a musical. Yet, My Fair Lady was made. Then again, some people thought a musical play featuring Spider-Man was a sure winner and things didn’t turn out that way.

For now, color us skeptical. Until we know more, however, here’s a 2012 video that our friends at The James Bond Dossier found a few days ago.

A weird week (at least on the Internet) for SPECTRE

SPECTRE LOGO

This was an unusual week for SPECTRE. The marketing effort for the 24th James Bond film zigged one way but the Internet zagged in an entirely different direction.

The week began with a video blog showing behind-the-scenes footage during SPECTRE’s shoot in Mexico City back in March.

That’s understandable. The Mexico City sequence opens the film (the filmmakers have disclosed this, so it’s not a spoiler). It’s going to be expansive, so the short video sought to give the viewer an idea of that without giving any plot details away.

The Internet, however, refused to be gently guided in that direction. Bookmaker William Hill in the U.K. decided to alter its odds for the actor succeeds Daniel Craig as Bond. Craig said back in 2012 he was contracted for two films. That would mean he’s on board through Bond 25. That would indicate, there won’t be an actual vacancy until 2018 or so.

Nevertheless, the bookmaker moved actor Damian Lewis to 3-1, generating stories in familiar trade publications such as THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and VARIETY as well as outlets such as THE TELEGRAPH and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Even The Atlantic, which normally analyzes weighty and serious matters, DID A STORY that used the William Hill news as a news peg to also examine whether the next 007 should be black.

Referring to SPECTRE star Daniel Craig and his blonde hair and Lewis and his red hair, The Atlantic story concluded, “Ten years removed from his casting, the fuss about Craig seems ridiculous, and it’s hard to imagine a public outcry if Lewis really did sign on to the franchise. “But the same can’t be said for what could happen if the producers defied change-averse Brits to make a truly bold casting decision.”

In any case, Indiewire took the whole thing a step further. It asked readers to PARTICIPATE IN A SURVEY about who should be Craig’s successor. (Indiewire calls it a poll, but it’s not. An actual poll employs statistical methods in selecting its sample of respondents. This is just click on whoever you want to be 007.) Anyway, there were turn out the vote efforts by fans of potential future Bonds.

It’s probably safe to assume the folks at Eon Productions and their studio partners at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures are not real happy about this turn of events.

MGM and Sony are ponying up $300 million or more and, no doubt, would rather have the public concentrate on the upcoming SPECTRE due out in November than the next re-casting of Bond, whenever that occurs. In the 21st Century, the Internet sometimes has a way of not cooperating with movie marketing.

Should 007 and Batman share the same cinema universe?

NOT an actual comic book cover

NOT an actual comic book cover

It was reported this week that Warner Bros. may be in a good position to replaced Sony Pictures as the studio that releases James Bond movies. That got some fans to wonder whether 007 and Batman (and Superman and the Justice League) could share the same cinema universe.

Necessary background: 007’s home studio is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But, after emerging from bankruptcy, it’s a relatively small company and cuts deals with other studios to release its films.

Sony Pictures’ current two-picture deal with MGM for Bond expires once SPECTRE is released in November. Sony wants to strike a new deal, but the studio knows it’ll have competition for post-SPECTRE 007 projects.

Variety reported Warner Bros. is a leading contender because its executives have a good relationship with MGM’s top executive, Gary Barber.

Anyway, on THE SPY COMMAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE, a reader asked if Warners really does secure the 007 releasing deal whether Bond could be included in a planned two-part Warner Bros. Justice League movie, even if it’s just a cameo.

For the uninitiated, the Justice League is a group of DC Comics heroes, headed by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. DC Comics has long been part of Warners’ parent company and the comic book company now is actually part of the studio. Next year’s Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice will help set up the even bigger Justice League project.

It seems like a stretch that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, would go along with such a concept. In AN INTERVIEW WITH COMING SOON.NET, Broccoli and Wilson did not warm up to the idea of Bond sharing a fictional universe with any other character.

Q: The notion of cinematic shared universes are increasingly popular in Hollywood these days. Any chance of seeing the Bond franchise go after something like that?

Broccoli: I think Bond lives in his own universe. I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else.

Wilson: Like Bond and Mission: Impossible? I think that’s the stuff for comic books. More power to them.

Beyond the Eon leadership, there’s the question of 007 fans.

It’s hard to know how many, but — via Internet message boards and social media outlets — there are a lot of vocal 007 fans critical about “comic book movies.” For these fans, Bond is above that sort of thing. For them, “comic book movies” are glorified cartoons. Except, of course, when director Sam Mendes acknowledged that The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, INFLUENCED 2012’s SKYFALL.

Humility is not part of the 007 fan’s DNA. Bond is the best. Any other spy entertainment that has been created since 1962 is merely a “James Bond knockoff.” Bond in the same universe as Batman and Superman, even if it came via a cameo? Untold billions of brain cells around the world would explode.

Meanwhile, a note about the illustration with this post. It APPEARED ON THIS WEBSITE. The actual cover The Brave and The Bold No. 110 LOOKED LIKE THIS.

MGM may end ties with Sony for 007, Variety says

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may seek another studio as a James Bond partner when MGM’s current deal with Sony Pictures expires after the release of SPECTRE, VARIETY REPORTED, citing people it didn’t identify.

Sony has released the last four 007 films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. The current MGM-Sony deal was for two movies after MGM emerged from bankruptcy.

Variety’s Brent Lang’s story includes this passage:

However, insiders speculate that the close relationship between MGM chief Gary Barber and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara could result in the super-spy shifting addresses to the Burbank studio. MGM and Warner Bros. have partnered on several films including the “Hobbit” trilogy, the May box office dud “Hot Pursuit” and the upcoming Rocky Balboa spin-off, “Creed.”

In an exclusive sit-down interview, newly-minted Sony Pictures Entertainment motion picture group chairman Tom Rothman acknowledged that the fight for the Bond rights will be fierce.

“The reality is that Sony’s had a fantastic run with the Bonds,” said Rothman, adding, “Sure we’re going to compete for (the rights), but let’s be honest, so is everybody in the business.”

The deal isn’t as financially rewarding for Sony as fans might suppose. The New York Times, IN A MAY 2013 STORY detailed how Sony was third in line behind Eon Productions and MGM for its cut from Skyfall. According to that story, the Wilson-Broccoli clan took its cut and then MGM got 75 percent of what was left over.

Still, 007 films come as close to a sure thing in the movie business so studios naturally would still be interested.

Marvel Studios and the Cubby Broccoli playbook

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Ben Fritz, takes a look at how Marvel Studios operates. While it doesn’t come up in the story, it sounds like Marvel has read the old Albert R. Broccoli playbook.

Like James Bond movies produced by Broccoli, Marvel makes big, sprawling movies. But, like the Eon Productions co-founder, Marvel doesn’t spend top dollar for everything. Here’s a key excerpt:

But no company has eschewed A-list talent as consistently and effectively in the modern age as Marvel. All but one of its 10 films released so far have been hits, a record rivaled only by Pixar Animation Studios. And none have featured a major star or established action director.

Money is a key reason, say people who have done business with Marvel. The Disney subsidiary’s chief executive, Ike Perlmutter, is notoriously frugal and doesn’t believe that the millions rivals like Warner Bros. spend to get big-name stars like Ben Affleck and Will Smith are worth it.

“They are in the business of hiring the guy who hasn’t had a big success, because they don’t have to pay that guy very much,” said Mr. Whedon, adding that he made more money on his self-produced Internet series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” than he did directing the first “Avengers,” which cost $230 million to produce and grossed $1.5 billion world-wide.

When Broccoli (first with Harry Saltzman and then on his own) produced 007 films, a formula eventually emerged where the actor playing James Bond would be paid well but Eon didn’t usually pay for A-list actors for other roles. “Regulars” such as Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn were paid relatively modestly.

As directors, Eon would hire journeymen such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton. Or, with John Glen, promote from within, elevating him to the director’s chair from the second unit.

Marvel isn’t exactly the same, but there are similarities. The Journal describes how Marvel’s approach to talent is to seek out actors on their way up (who don’t cost top dollar yet) or are making a comeback (such as Robert Downey Jr.). There’s a similar strategy with directors, including Joss Whedon (referenced in the excerpt above) and Joe and Anthony Russo.

As we’ve written before, Eon’s strategy has evolved since the Cubby Broccoli days. Bond movies employ more auteur directors (Sam Mendes, Marc Forster) and more expensive actors for at least some roles (Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes).  Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-leaders of Eon, have been putting their own stamp on the series.

In any case, if you want to read the entire Journal story about Marvel, CLICK HERE.

 

Family model vs. corporate model Part II

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

We’re on the verge of the newest chapter in the family model vs. corporate model of filmmaking. Once more, some big numbers are being discussed.

Weeks before it opens, there are already box office projections for Avengers: Age of Ultron, the latest entry from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, representing the machine-like corporate model of predictability. A story at the DEADLINE entertainment news website says the new Avengers film is “tracking a little better than (2012’s) The Avengers at the same point in the cycle…and is expected to be one of the highest — if not the highest — opening in history.”

Marvel’s The Avengers movie in 2012 had a U.S. opening weekend of $207 million on its way to an eventual $1.5 billion worldwide box office.

The family model is represented by Eon Productions, which makes the James Bond film series. Eon is controlled by Michael G. Wilson (stepson) and Barbara Broccoli (daughter) of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

Eon’s most recent offering, 2012’s Skyfall, scored $1.11 billion at the box office.  Things were closer outside the U.S. where The Avengers had a box office of $895 million while Skyfall had at $804 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

The projections cited by Deadline tend to set expectations within the movie industry. If you meet or exceed the projections, you’re doing great. If you fall short, even if the numbers are still substantial, it’s seen as disappointing.

“Geez, what will Disney/Marvel do if they only open to $200M on this one?” Deadline’s Anita Busch wrote.

Eon’s newest 007 installment, SPECTRE, is due out in November. It will also have high expectations when its tracking numbers begin to appear. That’s because of Skyfall’s success as well as SPECTRE’s $300 million budget, which became known because of the computer hacks at Sony Pictures, which is releasing SPECTRE.

SPECTRE: recovery time from knee surgery

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE star Daniel Craig has had knee surgery because of an injury during filming, THE MIRROR reported. The question is how long it will take him to recover fully.

Reader Mark Henderson passed along THIS LINK from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which includes this passage:

Unless you have had a ligament reconstruction, you should be able to return to most physical activities after 6 to 8 weeks, or sometimes much sooner. Higher impact activities may need to be avoided for a longer time. You will need to talk with your doctor before returning to intense physical activities.

The website of Johns Hopkins presents similar information AT THIS LINK.

It typically takes about three weeks to recover fully for routine daily activities, but it may be two to three months before one can comfortably return to sports.

The Mirror report didn’t have a lot of medical detail about Daniel Craig. It said his injury originally occurred during location shooting in Austria and it was aggravated during an action scene at Pinewood Studios. Here’s an excerpt.

Craig’s operation was carried out last week by specialist medics in New York, where he lives with his wife Rachel Weisz, 45, in a penthouse in Manhattan’s East Village.

He was seen on Monday morning with a weekend bag, apparently ­leaving for the clinic where he was due to have surgery.

(snip)

While he recovers, studio filming and location shots in Mexico City in which he is not involved in are ­believed to have been brought forward.

The co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, recently talked to reporters in Mexico City. According to A TRANSCRIPT BY IGN, Broccoli said most of the movie’s major locations “are pretty much behind us” until a Morocco shoot in June. That’s near the end of principal photography.

In any event,  it appears Craig could do studio work relatively soon. SPECTRE is set for worldwide release on Nov. 6.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.): The BBC QUOTES a spokeswoman it didn’t identify by name as confirming the surgery and saying Craig would be back to work on April 22 at Pinewood.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers