Manic-depressive days waiting for Bond 25 news

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Nature abhors a vacuum. So in the absence of Bond 25 news, there’s the occasional 007 commentary that can come across as manic-depressive.

On the manic side, Forbes.com contributor Scott Mendelson weighed in with a Jan. 26 post about what a success SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, was at the box office. Part of the introduction read thusly:

So how did James Bond do this time out? Well, pretty darn spectacular, actually…(T)he film earned an obscene $877 million worldwide on a $240m budget, so it’s obviously a huge hit.

Depends on your definition of “obscene,” but SPECTRE did come in at No. 6 worldwide and No. 10 in the U.S. and Canada at $199.3 million. Neither figure was as good as 2012’s Skyfall but clearly SPECTRE was a popular movie.

However, Mendelson (who wrote a review saying SPECTRE was the worst 007 film in 30 years) may have gotten a bit carried away talking about how the film did at the box office.

“The next entry will probably be Daniel Craig’s swan song and will definitely be out by 2017 in order to capitalize on the 55th anniversary of Dr. No,” Mendelson wrote. (emphasis added)

A few things: 1) Daniel Craig is scheduled to be in an off-Broadway production of Othello this fall. The exact schedule hasn’t been announced, according to stories LIKE THIS ONE. But for Bond 25 to be in theaters in 2017, production may need to get started before the end of this year. Will Craig have enough time between Othello and Bond 25?

2) At this point, we don’t know what studio will release Bond 25. Sony Pictures’ contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expired with SPECTRE. It might be a little premature to assume a 2017 release until MGM reaches a new deal, either with Sony or another studio.

3) 55th anniversary? Do people really care about 55th anniversaries? This is the same franchise that passed up a once-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity to have a Bond movie come out in 2007.

Neither Michael G. Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli is anxious to produce movies on an every-other-year schedule (which a 2017 release for Bond 25 would represent). It really seems hard to believe they’d move heaven and earth for a marketing tagline of “the 55th anniversary Bond film!”

On the depressive side, there’s a Jan. 7 commentary on the Cultbox website. The post, by on the artistic side, makes it sound like Bond 25 comes at a critical time.

While entertaining in parts, for many the 24th official Bond adventure was one of the biggest letdowns of 2015. The Blofeld twist was the least surprising reveal since Cumberbatch was Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, and him being Bond’s foster brother somehow added precisely zero depth to the narrative and characters.

Coupled with a fondness for lingering silently on dimly-lit moments of supposed tension for an interminable length of time and Daniel Craig’s unease with playing the lighter moments, audiences were left disheartened with the direction the franchise had taken.

It sounds a little dire. Almost every film generates mixed fan opinion. The post does explore alternate ideas (getting a new Bond, sticking with Craig, making a period piece 007 film) and it makes for an interesting discussion.

Reading the two articles back-to-back makes for interesting reading. With no real Bond 25 news to chew over, we can probably expect more varying interpretations of the state of the franchise.

SPECTRE may pass break-even point this weekend

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE may surpass the break-even point this weekend less than a month after its premiere.

Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie box-office data said in a tweet that the 24th James Bond movie’s global box office “looks to top” the $670 million mark this weekend.

While only studio accountants know for sure, VARIETY ESTIMATED NOV. 4 that SPECTRE needed $650 million in worldwide box office to break even. Here’s an excerpt from that story:

With a price tag of $250 million, plus more than $100 million in marketing and promotion costs, industry executives predict that the picture will have to do $650 million to break even. That’s because “Spectre’s” backers, a group that includes Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer and Eon Productions, will have to split revenues with exhibitors. Fewer than 90 films have ever achieved that gross globally and only one other Bond film, “Skyfall,” has ever surpassed that mark.

Skyfall’s global box office was $1.11 billion. An estimate for SPECTRE’s third weekend in the U.S. and Canada will be released Sunday and the actual figure on Monday.

Here’s the tweet from Exhibitor Relations.

GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.

 

Some questions about Daniel Craig’s SPECTRE interview

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, has its premiere later this month. So it’s time to explore new questions about the 007 movie.

Was Time Out London’s interview with Daniel Craig good P.R. or bad P.R.? 

That depends on your public relations philosophy.

Come again?

The classic public relations philosophy stems from a George M. Cohan quote: “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.”

By that standard, Craig’s interview with Tine Out London was a spectacular success.

How so?

The 007 actor’s quotes to Time Out (“I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists” than make another Bond movie, and “If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money,” among others) were summarized widely.

Among other outlets, VARIETY, ITV,  NBC NEWS,  THE TELEGRAPH, THE DAILY BEAST, THE INDEPENDENT, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and many, many others had stories based on the quotes from Time Out London.

If George M. Cohan were still alive (he died in 1942), he would marvel at how right he was.

Are you saying this was really planned?

Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, the Time Out London interview was done a few days after SPECTRE wrapped principal photography.

Often these types of interviews are done under embargo. That is, the interviews occur with the understanding the resulting stories won’t be released until shortly before a movie is released — often with a specific date and time for release.

Put another way, the major parties responsible for SPECTRE — Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures — shouldn’t be surprised these quotes were coming. Interviews with stars for major movies, generally speaking, are done under very controlled circumstances.

Often such interviews are done with a public relations person sitting in on it. Even if it didn’t happen in this case, Eon, MGM and Sony know the star, know what he often says in interviews. If they weren’t prepared, well, they probably should have been.

Caveat Emptor Part III: More Daniel Craig comments

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Daniel Craig has commented to Esquire and the Daily Mail about his 007 future. Now, it’s Entertainment Weekly’s turn to quote the 007 star.

The entertainment publication has POSTED THIS STORY where the actor comments about his future in the role as Ian Flmeing’s secret agent.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I can’t give you an honest answer at this point,” Craig said, reaching for a double espresso in an opulent London hotel suite. “It’s not that I’m trying to play hard to get. I’ve just given it no thought whatsoever.”

“This movie has taken up two years of my life. And I just need a break,” Craig continued. “I need to get back to normal life. I need to reintroduce myself to my family who are not best pleased with me. The idea of planning ahead — I’m not trying to be coy. People want an answer and I don’t have one.”

Meanwhile, Barbara Broccoli, the co-boss of Eon Productions, once again praised the actor, as she has many times since he was cast as Bond in 2005.

“Daniel has reinvigorated this character,” Broccoli told EW on the set of Spectre at London’s Pinewood Studios in May. “He’s made it contemporary, given it depth and resonance and humanity. The part is his. He’s so great and attracts so many people who want to work with him like Christoph and Lea, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw.”

And the world goes round and round.

When the Esquire interview came out, some fans reading the tea leaves figured Craig was done. When Craig commented to the Daily Mail, some fans figured Craig was a lock to play Bond for years to come.

Again, caveat emptor — let the buyer aware. Meanwhile, audiences in the U.K. and Ireland will see Craig’s fourth performance as Bond later this month. U.S. fans will have to wait a little more than a month from now.

Idris Elba: the 007 debate that’s not going away

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

The debate whether black actor Idris Elba should be the next James Bond isn’t going away, even though there’s no official vacancy for the role.

One of the latest examinations of the topic occurred Friday on Friday during NPR’s Morning Edition program. The story included comments from  Bill Desowitz and Bruce Scivally, who’ve written books about 007 films.

Earlier, a controversy erupted over comments by Anthony Horowitz, author of the new Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis.

Horowitz told the U.K. Daily Mail in a story POSTED AUG. 29 that Elba was “too street” to play Bond.  Here’s the key excerpt from the story:

Neither is Horowitz impressed with the favourite to take over from Daniel Craig.

‘Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better.’

He names Adrian Lester, star of Hustle.

‘For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too “street” for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.’

After the story ran, Horowitz took to Twitter on Sept. 1.

Horowitz’s novel was commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications, which has no ties to the Bond films, which are produced by Eon Productions.

Many fans of the original Ian Fleming novels say there shouldn’t be a debate at all. They say Fleming described him as half-Scot, half-Swiss.

More casual fans who like the idea of an Elba Bond say the actor, who turns 43 on Sept. 6, is suave, good looking and could do the role justice.

Earlier this year, while the new 007 film SPECTRE was in production, Michael G. Wilson, co-chief of Eon, said Elba would “make a great Bond.”

At the moment, there isn’t a vacancy for the role. Daniel Craig, 47, has completed SPECTRE, his fourth 007 film, which comes out this fall. But the debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part I: Dr. No

Dr. No poster

Dr. No poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer
The first film of the James Bond series was released in the middle of the Cold War, the Space Race and one year after Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball was published.

That novel provoked a legal dispute between a severely ill Fleming and producer Kevin McClory. The conflict — not settled until 1963 — prevented Thunderball from becoming the first Bond film made by Eon Productions as originally intended.

1962’s Dr. No followed followed the story line of Fleming’s 1958 book, with Sean Connery as 007 investigating the disappearance of MI6 agent Strangways, who was investigating the activities of the title character.

In the novel, the doctor worked for the Russians. Yet, in the Terence Young-directed film, he is completely apolitical, calling East and West “each as stupid as the other”. He introduces himself as a member of SPECTRE, a criminal organization standing for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

In this way, the great antagonist of James Bond is introduced: an organization that helped to depoliticize the films. At the time, East and West superpowers were rivals in both the Cold War and the conquest of space, a topic that would be slightly associated to the movie’s plot.

Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) proudly endorses the organization’s activities and, as one of its top members, he carries on one of the group’s world domination plans: the toppling of rockets launched by Americans at Cape Canaveral.

Without being the leader of SPECTRE, Dr. No’s modus operandi is pretty much the same of his Number One and the organization itself: he has goons everywhere at his disposal and provokes fear in those who fail. He is based on an island known as Crab Key.

Dr. No even tells Bond there might be a place in SPECTRE for him, which the British agent refuses. Bond says he if joined SPECTRE, he should be in the “revenge department,” and would begin with those responsible for the death of his friends Quarrel and Strangways.

007 spoils SPECTRE’s plan by sabotaging the toppling mechanism and causing Dr. No’s base to explode. Before the explosion, Bond and Dr. No fight on a platform above the villain’s atomic reactor. As the two men are being lowered into the reactor’s boiling water, Bond is able to get away while Dr. No’s metal hands can’t get a grip and perishes.

Audiences would get a proper introduction of the organization in the second Bond film, From Russia with Love. So far, this first Bond film provides us with a strong nemesis and a mention of the people behind him and their sinister activities. What can we surmise? They’re up for world domination, they’re apolitical, they want chaos and brilliant people, like scientist Dr. No, are on the payroll.

The fictional organization would appear in more films including the 1983 non-Eon film, Never Say Never Again and the upcoming SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

Nicolas Suszczyk is the editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

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