Questions about that 007 film universe rumor…

Barbara Broccoli

The rumor that Eon Productions has caught “Universe Fever” referenced by Jeff Sneider, editor in chief of Tracking Board,  generates a few questions.

To be clear, this post isn’t an endorsement of the idea. The source of the rumor is vague and unclear. These are questions raised by the rumor itself.

Bond movies are coming out at irregular intervals. How do you add output of additional 007 characters?

Since 1999, Bond movies have come out at intervals of three years, four years, two years, four years and three years. Right now, it’s up in the air whether the interval between 2015’s SPECTRE and Bond 25 will be three years or four years.

Part of this has involved financial instability at 007’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM went through a bankruptcy in 2010. It emerged as a smaller company, without its own film distribution operation.

However, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has also stepped up production of non-Bond movies such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

How would Eon add film production of, say, other 00-agents, or Felix Leiter or Moneypenny? From the outside, it appears production of Bond movies themselves are a handful.

Does MGM have the resources to produce a film universe?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (which began “Universe Fever”) is part of Walt Disney Co. The DC Extended Universe is part of Warner Bros. MGM, meanwhile, is a relative small fry.

Remember, while Eon makes Bond movies, MGM and its partners actually pay the bills.

The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures. Currently MGM has no studio partner to release Bond 25.

If a 007 film universe becomes a reality, would Eon change the way it does business?

Eon is like a big family company. To get a 007 film universe going, would it have to bring in new creative blood?

For example, would you bring in additional creative talent to help get these other movies going? Or is giving additional duties to, say, Gregg Wilson (son of Eon’s Michael G. Wilson) sufficient? Gregg Wilson was credited as assistant producer on Quantum of Solace and associate producer on Skyfall and SPECTRE.

If you were to launch a 007 film universe, do you do it before or after Daniel Craig leaves the role?

Craig, 49, was announced as the film Bond in 2005. Do you do this now or wait until he moves on?

 

Caveat Emptor: New rumor Eon wants a 007 ‘universe’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Jeff Sneider, editor-in-chief of The Tracking Board entertainment news website, publicized a rumor that Eon Productions wants a James Bond film “universe.”

“I’ve heard the Broccolis have caught Universe Fever and would love to explore other corners of the Bond franchise… simultaneously,” Sneider wrote in a June 23 post on Twitter.

It was part of an exchange with another Twitter user.

No other details were provided in the exchange.

Previously, Eon developed a script featuring Jinx, the U.S. spy character played by Halle Berry in 2002’s Die Another Day. But nothing came of that would-be project.

Also, during the 1989-1995 James Bond film hiatus, there was a James Bond Jr. cartoon show (where James Bond Jr. was Bond’s nephew).

However, “Universe Fever” has become a thing since Marvel Studios began establishing its shared universe of characters beginning with 2008’s Iron Man.

Today, that’s formally known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros. has counted with the DC Extended Universe. Universal is using The Mummy, released earlier this month, to launch its Dark Universe of monsters.

There have been 007-related continuation novels and comic books exploring young James Bond, Moneypenny and Felix Leiter.

However, is Eon prepared to crank out a film 007 universe?

The Bond pictures, in part because of financial issues at home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, have come out at irregular intervals. MGM needs other studios to release Bond movies and currently doesn’t have a partner for Bond 25.

Eon has branched out into other films, but they tend to be small dramas such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

Something to ponder for the future. Meanwhile, you can view Sneider’s tweet for yourself.

 

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Roger Moore, 7-time film 007, dies at 89

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Roger Moore, who played James Bond in 007 films in 12 years, has died at 89. His family announced his death via his Twitter account.

Moore died following “a short but brave battle with cancer,” according to the statement.

The actor was the third film Bond, following Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

During his tenure, from 1973 to 1985, the Bond films took a more lighthearted tone. But his films established, once and for all, the series could survive — and more — without Connery, the original film 007.

Moore’s first Bond film, 1973’s Live And Let Die, was an international hit. Its worldwide box office totaled $161.8 million, the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball’s $141.2 million. The U.S. box office was more modest, $35.4 million. That didn’t match the U.S. take for Connery’s Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever ($43.8 million).

Regardless, both Eon Productions and its feuding producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman along with studio United Artists were satisfied. Moore would continue.

The Man With the Golden Gun, released in late 1974, was a letdown with audiences, with the global box office falling 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die. The series, though, faced a larger crisis. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership was about to fall apart because of Saltzman’s financial problems.

UA bought out Saltzman, leaving Broccoli in charge. But the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me, would tell the tale whether 007 still had a future in the cinema.

The answer was yes. Spy had magnificent sets designed by Ken Adam, an Oscar-nominated score by Marvin Hamlisch and photography by the well-regarded Claude Renoir. Director Lewis Gilbert determined to play up the actor’s strengths. With Moore as the headliner,  James Bond once again was an undisputed hit.

The actor remained 007 for four more films. Eventually, Moore negotiated his Bond movies one production at a time. Broccoli would test screen potential replacements, including American James Brolin in 1982.

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

But Broccoli kept returning to Moore, long after the actor turned 50.

Moore returned for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. It was a much more grounded Bond outing following 1979’s Moonraker, which saw 007 go into outer space. The pre-credits sequence was filmed as if it the movie was intended to introduce a new Bond, with 007’s face not initially revealed.

Eyes was the first film in years to extensively use Ian Fleming story lines, utilizing two short stories from the author’s 1960 For You Eyes Only collection. While things beccame more serious, Moore showed himself up to the task.

Two years later, Moore was back again for Octopussy. Sean Connery was starring in a rival Bond film, Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball. Broccoli eventually went with Moore.

The 1983 movie was more uneven than Eyes. But Moore gave off a “I know exactly what I’m doing” vibe. The “Battle of the Bonds” generated big publicity but the actor appeared as if he were unfazed by it all.

Many fans felt Moore, now nearing 60, stayed for one 007 adventure too many with 1985’s A View to a Kill. Fans who never warmed to Moore — and there are some who’ve spent decades decrying the actor — felt vindicated. For those who enjoyed Moore’s performances, it felt like the end of an era.

For more than three decades, Moore continued to be the Bond franchise’s best ambassador. He expressed support for his Bond successors, Daniel Craig in particular. 

Moore lived to a ripe old age. So long, he outlived and said good-bye to a number of colleagues. Among them: director Guy Hamilton (who helmed his first two 007 films), Ken Adam and fellow actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee.

The actor, of course, did much more than Bond. He had become a star playing The Saint on television in the 1960s. He followed that up with another television project, The Persuaders, with Tony Curtis as his co-star. And he was a goodwill ambassador for years for UNICEF.

From a 007 perspective, he helped establish the longevity of the Bond franchise. As late as 1972, people could ask in all seriousness whether Bond could survive Connery’s departure. After Moore’s 12 years as Bond, that wasn’t a question anymore.

Here is the Twitter post from the Moore family:

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Barbara Broccoli busy on non-007 projects, NY Post says

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli remains busy on non-James Bond projects and friends say “she’s not sure when the next 007 film will shoot,” the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column said.

The gossip column quoted unidentified sources as saying the producer “is not waiting around” for actor for actor Daniel Craig to “get off his arse.”

Page Six didn’t specify Broccoli’s movie projects. The movie Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is scheduled to be released later this year. Variety reported in February Broccoli is involved with another drama titled Nancy. The MI6 James Bond website said in March that Eon also is working on a historical war movie.

The gossip column also referenced how Broccoli is producing a play based on the life of movie producer and executive Robert Evans.

Appropriate caveat: Page Six and the Post are known for their gossipy, tabloid tone. The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns the U.K. tabloid The Sun.

If Page Six is to be believed, Bond 25 still is in its earliest stages and Craig’s return as Bond hasn’t been nailed down. Page Six said in April that Craig was likely to return as Bond.

The Daily Mail reported in March that scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to work on Bond 25’s story.

UPDATE: IMDb says never mind about Nolan and Bond 25

Christopher Nolan

UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): IMDb has now stripped out Syncopy from its list of companies involved with Bond 25.

ORIGINAL POST: The Internet Movie Database created a buzz the past 24 hours when it listed director Christopher Nolan’s Syncopy production company as being part of Bond 25.

Phil Nobile Jr., a writer for the Birth.Movies.Death website put out a tweet yesterday with a screen capture from the professional (paid subscription) part of IMDb.

He struck a sarcastic tone. “IMDbPro – because this is totally info worth paying for.”

Regardless, the buzz was reinforced this morning when @Bond25Film on Twitter said it received a confirmation from IMDb that the information was correct.

Nobile came out with a follow-up post.

“For the record, I bet this is not true. I also think that, if it’s true, this is a TERRIBLE idea,” Nobile wrote. Nolan’s stamp on Batman “is one of the most asexual in the business, and the world of James Bond is a sensual, sensuous one.”

Nolan’s name surfaced for a time as a possible director of SPECTRE before Sam Mendes returned to the 007 director’s chair.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

The thing about Nolan and Syncopy is you don’t just get a director. You get a group of associates, including Emma Thomas, Nolan’s wife who produces his films.

Eon Productions doesn’t normally do co-productions. Thunderball was an exception because Kevin McClory held the film rights and he became Eon’s partner for the one film.

Nolan also likes to write his own movies. Whatever progress has been made toward hashing out a Bond 25 story would likely be rewritten by Nolan if he were the director.

In January, there was a brief spell of Nolan fever among 007 fans. That took place after actor Tom Hardy (an acting regular in Nolan films) said he’d like to play James Bond with Nolan directing. As usual, we’ll see.

Here are a couple of the tweets from this morning if you want to look.

 

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What’s at stake for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

After the “lost year” of 2016, Bond 25 appears to be actually getting into gear.

The New York Times reported that five studios (four established, one a newcomer) are bidding for a one-picture deal to distribute the next 007 film from Eon Productions.

However that bidding turns out, the stakes are still high for the 25th James Bond film.

SPECTRE was OK financially but didn’t grow the franchise

2012’s Skyfall was (pardon the pun) a quantum improvement over Quantum of Solace in terms of popular and critical reaction. Skyfall almost seemed like a return to the mid-1960s when Goldfinger made 007 a “thing.”

The 007 series followed up Goldfinger with Thunderball, which was even bigger.

The series followed up Skyfall with SPECTRE, which….wasn’t as big. In the U.S. market, SPECTRE sold the fewest theater tickets (23 million) of 007 movies released since 1995 (and the advent of the home video era).

SPECTRE brought back Blofeld but made him Bond’s “foster brother.” Shades of Austin Powers.

Because of information from the Sony hacks, we know other things that could have made it into the movie. M was a traitor. Tanner was a traitor. Bond watches Tanner commit suicide. Felix Leiter calls Moneypenny a “fox lady.”

Veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to perform triage. SPECTRE was no disaster at the box office, but it didn’t match Skyfall.

Where is this franchise going? At the end of SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). The car was seemingly destroyed in Skyfall, but the Eon crew can’t let go.

If Craig comes back, do we go off on another revenge story (as in Quantum of Solace)? If Seydoux is killed by Blofeld (a fan favorite scenario), does Bond fall apart yet again (as in Skyfall)?

Or does Bond 25 mostly ignore SPECTRE, similar to how Diamonds Are Forever for the most part didn’t reference On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? (There are references but very slight.)

In Bond 25, after things don’t work out with Madeline Swann, 007 asks to be reinstated to MI6.

Does Bond 25 cap its production budget? Or does it double down?

 SPECTRE had examples of ridiculous spending. A $36 million car chase (really, a car drive). The “largest explosion in motion picture history” that had no drama because Bond and Swann were well away and safe when it happened.

Does Eon Productions scale back? Or does it try to keep up with the Joneses, i.e. modern movie blockbusters?

We’re a long way off from a movie being filmed. Not a whole lot can happen until there’s a studio to actually release Bond 25. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which exited bankruptcy in 2010, doesn’t have the resources to finance a big-budget Bond on its own.

Here’s the thing. As of now, the Bond series doesn’t have direction. In the 21st century, successful franchises (think Disney’s Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm Ltd.) plan things out years ahead of time.

With Bond, it’s kind of, “Let’s see how it goes.”

For 55 years, since the release of Dr. No, that has worked out. Maybe it will again. Bond 25 will tell us a lot whether that’s still the case.

Still more Bond 25 questions after NYT story

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig: Working together on another Bond movie soon?

Nothing like a story by The New York Times to generate more questions about the future of the film 007.

What’s Barbara Broccoli thinking? Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the Eon Productions boss, had by all accounts a good relationship with Sony executive Amy Pascal. The Broccoli-Pascal relationship was noteworthy in a still male-dominated movie business.

Pascal is gone, losing her job as a result of the Sony hacks in 2014 (though having a producer deal at Sony).

One of the bidders to release Bond 25, according to The Times is Annapurna. It’s an “upstart” (The Times’ words) movie concern that is about to release its first film Detroit, a drama about the 1967 riots in that city.

Annapurna head Megan Ellison, 31, is a tech heiress who has been active in producing dramatic films. Could she forge a bond with Barbara Broccoli, who turns 57 in June, similar to the one Amy Pascal had?

Why is MGM and Eon Productions only seeking a one-film deal? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 a smaller company. It has been rebuilding gradually.

MGM spent much of 2016 negotiating with a Chinese buyer (still unidentified) but those talks didn’t pan out. MGM also has talked about selling stock to the public at some point.

MGM may yet see major changes. Keeping a distribution deal to Bond 25 only provides MGM executives flexibility for the future.

Why isn’t Walt Disney Co. interested in 007, according to the NYT story? Disney tends to think big. It spent billions to acquire both Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars) and is reaping the rewards as both crank out big hits.

Being the Bond film distributor means a lot of cost without a lot of profit. Sony, in its most recent deal, co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM and Eon got more money than Sony did.

Bond fans may object, but for Disney releasing Bond movies would probably be more trouble than its worth. Disney would only get involved with 007 if it could buy everybody out and control it all, the way it did with Marvel and Star Wars.