Quick recap of Eon non-007 projects

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions

It’s not easy to get a movie made. Studios make fewer and more expensive films.

Even when producers with a good box office record aren’t guaranteed of seeing their projects become reality. That includes Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the co-chiefs of Eon Productions, which makes James Bond films.

The Eon leaders have been working on a number of film projects away from the world of James Bond, even as it continued work on the 007 film series.

Here’s a list of Eon projects that have been formally announced but are still in development.

Remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Referenced in this APRIL 2009 PRESS RELEASE issued by Sony Pictures.

The 1968 film musical, based on an Ian Fleming novel for children, was the final non-007 movie produced by Albert R. Broccoli co-founder of Eon Productions. Technically, it wasn’t made by Eon Productions but another Broccoli production company, Warfield. The movie’s crew included a number of 007 film series veterans.

Dana Broccoli, widow of Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli produced a London stage production that opened in 2002. A Broadway production opened in 2005.

So, Sony, following the release of 2008’s Quantum of Solace, announced that the studio was developing a new film musical to be produced by Eon.

Film adaptation of REMOTE CONTROL NOVEL: The main subject of the same APRIL 2009 PRESS RELEASE. 

Here’s how the press release began:

CULVER CITY, Calif., April 14 /PRNewswire/ — Building on their successful collaboration on the two most recent and highest grossing James Bond adventures in the history of the franchise, Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired the motion picture rights to REMOTE CONTROL, a thriller novel by Mark Burnell, to be produced as a feature film by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli’s Eon Productions, it was announced today by Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, presidents of Columbia Pictures. Ileen Maisel will join Wilson and Broccoli in producing the project. Burnell will adapt his novel into the screenplay.

Edward Snowden movie: Announced in May 2014 and reported widely, including this REUTERS STORY that appeared in The Huffington Post.

Sony acquired the film rights to a book by journalist Glenn Greenwald. The studio said Eon Productions would produce the movie, and that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli would be producers.

A competing Snowden movie, simply titled Snowden and directed by Oliver Stone, and is scheduled to be released on Dec. 25. The Stone movie is based on two other books.

Eon has worked with Sony for the past decade. Sony’s Columbia Pictures has released the last four Bond films, including SPECTRE, due out this fall. Sony’s contract to release the 007 series expires with SPECTRE. Also, Sony executive Amy Pascal was forced out of her job earlier this year following controversies related to last year’s hacking at Sony. Whether any of that affects these projects isn’t clear.

 

1961: Eon’s first try at a Thunderball script

Thunderball poster in 1965

Thunderball poster in 1965

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman formed Eon Productions in 1961 and immediately got to work trying to bring James Bond to the screen.

Their first effort, soon aborted, was to bring Thunderball, the newest Ian Fleming novel, to the screen. On Aug. 18, Richard Maibaum delivered his first draft. We got a copy from 007 collector Gary Firuta.

Maibaum, a veteran of a number of Broccoli-produced movies, went for a straight adaptation of Fleming’s novel. In some places, it bears a close resemblance to the movie that would arrive in theaters four years later. In other ways, it’s quite different.

Maibaum’s draft actually has a pre-titles sequence. However, it’s nowhere near as elaborate as the 1965 movie, which featured Bond with a jetpack.

Instead, it begins simply in Paris. It’s more or less how the 1965 movie plays after the titles. But instead of seeing Emilo Largo going to SPECTRE headquarters, it’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The stage directions state Blofeld is 53 (the age of the literary Blofeld in 1961, not to mention Ian Fleming, with whom the villain shared a birthday) and is “over six feet, weighing 280 pounds, once all muscle.”

The sequence plays out much the way audiences saw in 1965, with some different details. We eventually witness the start of the SPECTRE board meeting. The gathering is larger; there are 20 SPECTRE members gathering.

Blofeld does his fakeout bit (killing No. 12, after putting No. 7 on the spot). The reason: a young woman was kidnapped by SPECTRE, but a member of the organization “conducted himself in a thoroughly unacceptable manner.”

The girl, we’re told by Blofeld, “is presently under intensive medical and psychiatric treatment.” After No. 12 is electrocuted, the main titles begin.

Afterward, we’re still at the SPECTRE board meeting. Blofeld (who apparently loves to talk) tells us SPECTRE has told the treasurer to return $300,000 (half of the ransom) to the girl’s family. We then have the financial reports.

Some of this would be in the movie Thunderball, but with changes. One example: in this script SPECTRE blackmailed  a former S.S. officer living in Havana under an assumed name. The group only got 240,000 pesos, “all the man had.”

We also get an additional detail: Blofeld gets 10 percent of the total take, and the other members get 4 percent each. Now, we’re on to talking about Plan Omega and the hijacking of atomic bombs.

On page 10, we’re introduced to Shrublands and on page 12, James Bond finally puts in his first appearance. Patricia Fearing is almost hit by a Bentley driven by Count Lippi (instead of Lippe as in the 1965 film). Bond “gathers her up by the waist” to prevent her from being struck by the car.

“She gasps as the Bentley skids to a stop and looks up in flurried astonishment into the face of JAMES BOND, whose right hand is momentarily cupped over one beautiful breast.” In other words, 007 copped a feel as he saved her.

Maibaum’s description of Bond is more or less direct from Fleming: “He is in his middle thirties, with dark, rather cruel good looks except for very clear blue-grey eyes. A scar runs down his right cheek.”

Later, Bond gets a rubdown from a masseur, who comments about all the scars on Bond’s chest and back. Bond also spots Lippi’s tatoo and calls Moneypenny as in the 1965 movie. It’s similar but in this script the scene is longer. Instead of “on yogurt and lemon juice? I can hardly wait!” Moneypenny says, “On nuts and youghurt? I can hardly wait!”

Eventually Bond and Lippi get cross ways (including Lippi trying to kill Bond on the traction machine). Bond gets even with Lippi in a slightly different manner. He still turns up the heat while Lippi while he’s in a steam cabinet. But 007 pretends to be an attendant and fakes a Cockney accent.

SPECTRE, of course, does succeed in hijacking the atomic bombs (and killing the crew of a bomber plane), thanks to sellout Petacchi. But instead of Largo doing in sellout Derval (as in the final film), it’s Vargas who kills Petacchi, and with a stiletto while the plane hasn’t yet sunk. Meanwhile, Largo doesn’t make an appearance until page 40.

Bond has a briefing with M. The MI6 chief makes an interesting comment: “The Double O section’s discretion to liquidate has come under considerable criticism. Exercise it with extreme caution. The usual denials of responsibility from The Service will be more emphatic than in the past.”

That’s pretty interesting, but a notion that’s not really developed in this script and wouldn’t come up when Eon made other Bond films. It sounds similar to Mission: Impossible’s “the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

Bond, after a false start or two, is assigned to Nassau. We finally meet Dominetta Vitali, Pettachi’s sister, on page 58 (this would be almost an hour into a movie filmed from this script). She and Bond meet and there’s a lot of chatting.

She drives him out to a restaurant, but after they’re done, she’s going the other way and he’ll have to catch a cab. After she departs, there’s this amusing bit of stage direction.

BOND
(if the censor will permit)
Bitch.

Bond gets back to his hotel room. The agent can tell somebody is in there.

VOICE FROM INSIDE ROOM
(very American)
Don’t shoot 007. This is 000.

Of course, it’s Felix Leiter. “He is an American version of Bond except that a steel hook replaces his right hand,” according to Maibaum’s stage directions.

Here, they’re depicted as being old friends. In a later scene, there’s even a reference to how they’ve both disobeyed orders when necessary.

The duo go out to Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante, with Bond posing as someone interested in taking over the Palmyra — “the property I believe you rent from Mr. Bryce.” Presumably, that’s an in-joke reference to Fleming friend Ivar Bryce.

The rest of the script plays out, more or less as Fleming’s novel did with some flourishes that’d make it into the 1965 movie. Bond kills Vargas (shooting him with a regular gun, rather than a spear gun). There’s an underwater fight, but not as elaborate as the later movie.

Work on this, of course, ground to a halt because it soon became evident there was a dispute about the rights. Fleming had based the novel on scripts and story elements he developed with producer Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. You can CLICK HERE to see our June 6 post about Whittingham’s 1960 first draft script.

Eon would soon change direction and begin developing Dr. No for the screen instead. Nevertheless, reading this first effort, Maibaum had set a direction for “the Biggest Bond of All.” He, along with writer John Hopkins, would take it from there a few years later.

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.

 

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