A few observations about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No real spoilers but spoiler sensitive fans should stay away.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in production for more than two months. But there’s been a bit of publicity this week. So here are a few observations:

It may be time for some new talking points: Actress Lea Seydoux, in Empire magazine, desecribed her character in SPECTRE thusly: “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, Seydoux’s character is like, among others, Agent Triple-X (agent who was “Bond’s equal in every way” as director Lewis Gilbert described her in The Spy Who Loved Me), Holly Goodhead (CIA agent *and* a trained shuttle rocket pilot in Moonraker), Melina (revenge driven woman who’s deadly with a crossbow in For Your Eyes Only), Pam Bouvier (CIA agent and pilot in Licence to Kill), Wai Lin (Chinese agent in Tomorrow Never Dies), Jinx (NSA agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) and Camille (another secret agent in Quantum of Solace).

Thus, the notion that a woman character is Bond’s equal isn’t unique or even unusual in the 21st century. It might be time to retire that talking point.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”: Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli told Empire that only “a very old version” of SPECTRE’s script leaked out because of the Sony hacks.

That depends on what you mean by “very old.” To the lay person, a very old script might be the first draft that John Logan turned in around March of 2014. Or it might be a draft before veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST (warning: spoilers), described a draft that existed after Logan’s story had been revised as well as memos from studio executives suggesting changes and that rewriting was happening in November, while filming began on Dec. 8.

On the other hand, if you define “very old” as something other than the version the crew has right now (dialogue if often tweaked during shooting), that would be accurate.

The Eon co-chief IN APRIL 2012 denied Ben Whishaw had been cast as Q in Skyfall and IN NOVEMBER 2012 that Logan had been hired to write two Bond movies. Both turned out to be true, though Logan’s scripting effort was judged to need rewriting.

The publicity machine is gradually revealing details: Broccoli acknowledged the title of SPECTRE refers to the organization featured in early Bond movies, but this is a new take. Normally, that’d rate a “duh,” but nobody wanted to say that much when the title was revealed in December.

Director Sam Mendes, in a video released by the official 007 website gave a bit of information about the movie. He even said that SPECTRE has more information about Bond’s childhood. Meanwhile, Whishaw’s Q was seen out in the field. Just like Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in Licence to Kill? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): Adding a question to the mix.

What was the story when Sam Mendes signed on to direct SPECTRE? Sam Mendes, in a video released by 007.com this week, says the reason he opted to direct a second 007 film, or any film, has “all to do about the story.”

But what story? Mendes’s signing as SPECTRE director was announced in JULY 2013. At that point, there even wasn’t a first draft script. John Logan didn’t deliver one until early 2014.

There had to be some kind of treatment, or detailed outline. The announcement also said the movie (then just called Bond 24) had a release date. We know through the reporting of Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail and the Sony hacking that Logan’s story was found insufficient and that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to revamp the script and it greatly changed.

Mendes spoke in a promotional video intended to sell the movie. But it would be interesting the next time an entertainment journalist gets an interview to pursue questions like these: What was appealing about that initial story? Are those elements still there? Was the scripting process tougher for SPECTRE compared with Skyfall?

Empire describes SPECTRE filming

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Mild spoilers, but no plot points. Spoiler adverse folks should just move on.

Empire magazine’s look at SPECTRE is out. While the story isn’t online, fans have been making image scans of the magazine pages.

A few highlights. No plot points discussed in this summary but those the spoiler adverse should stop reading. The magazine itself has more spoiler detail.

–There is a description of a fight involving Bond.

–There is a description of a bigger action sequence filmed in Austria filmed by the second unit.

–In a sidebar, Lea Seydoux repeats a Bond movie talking point going back decades. “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, the same talking points as Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 when describing the Chinese agent working with Bond in that film. Of course, the “Bond’s equal” character goes back to Agent Triple-X in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. In this case, Seydoux says she’s not an agent.

–Eon Productions does admit the title refers to the SPECTRE organization featured in Bond movies before the Daniel Craig reboot that started with 2006’s Casino Royale. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon, says “Okay, now’s the time to explore that (SPECTRE) again in a new and exciting and different way.”

— The film opens in Mexico.

–Barbara Broccoli says the script that got out during the Sony hacks was “a very old version.” The Gawker website on Dec. 12, based on a copy of the script and memos also leaked in the hack, said rewriting continued throughout November. The movie began filming on Dec. 8.

–In SPECTRE, “Bond is on top of his game, top of his form,” Broccoli told Empire.

Rome stressing out over SPECTRE filming, Daily Beast says

SPECTRE LOGO

Slight spoilers. For those who don’t want to read anything about filming of the movie, stop now.

Tensions are high between officials in Rome and Eon Productions over filming of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, according to THE DAILY BEAST.

Here’s an excerpt:

Last week the cast and crew for Spectre—rumored to be costing almost $300 million, making it the most expensive James Bond film yet—descended on Rome. Daniel Craig and Italian siren Monica Bellucci, who will be the oldest ever Bond girl at 50, made their way to city hall to meet Rome’s mayor Ignazio Marino, with whom they posed on his balcony overlooking the Roman forum before he apparently told them to have their way with the city.

The next day, traffic was snarled and snippy security guards who spoke mostly English tried to bat away curious onlookers and angry Italians as the crew filmed a funeral scene in the district of EUR, the most fascist of the city’s quarters. There, they transformed the Museum of Roman Civilization into a crypt.

Then, they had the audacity to close off some of the busiest arteries of the city to shoot a car chase along the lower banks of the Tiber River the following day. Angry Romans who had to divert their paths threatened to boycott the film. “The film should be called ‘disagio,’” Emanuele Costrini told The Daily Beast, referring to a favorite Italian word for discomfort or inconvenience. “You can create all these scenes in a studio. Why do you need to cripple a city like Rome for a film in this day and age?”

Typically, when movies film major action sequences, they first must obtain permits. Some times, lots of permits. You’d think nobody would be surprised at this stage. Still, Rome is a different place. Perhaps this is much ado about nothing.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, due out on Aug. 14 in the United States, also filmed in Rome in the fall of 2013. By comparison, things went quietly. But Bond always is a high profile production. So maybe it’s natural 007 draw more attention.

SPECTRE is filming in Rome for five weeks at a cost of $60 million, Variety has reported previously. Meanwhile, the MI6 James Bond site has run a number of articles about the Rome filming. You can CLICK HERE for a Feb. 19 article, HERE for a Feb. article and HERE for a Feb. 21 story.

Eon vs. Marvel: the sequel

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

In April 2013, we contrasted the corporate model of movie making, as done by Marvel Studios, with the family model, as embodied by Eon Productions, which produces James Bond movies.

Since then, the differences have only gotten sharper and more defined.

Marvel, owned by Walt Disney Co., has laid out a slate of movies for the rest of the decade. It’s a movie assembly line.

Eon, controlled by the heirs of Albert R. Broccoli, isn’t so machine like. After a big hit with 2012’s Skyfall, it delayed production of SPECTRE, its current production, to ensure the participation of director Sam Mendes.

As a result, we’ve updated and expanded that 2013 post. To read the new version, CLICK HERE. It’s archived at the new SPY COMMAND FEATURE INDEX.

That site is a place to find longer feature stories written by Bill Koenig, editor of The Spy Command, that originally appeared on a now-inactive website.

Amy Pascal steps down at Sony

sonylogo

Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, is leaving the studio to be a producer at the studio, THE HUFFINGTON POST REPORTED, citing a Sony statement.

Pascal will take her new position in May, the website reported.

Confidential e-mails by Pascal and other documents — including a draft of the script of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film — were made public last year by hackers. Some of the emails included Pascal making critical comments of actors and racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sony has released 007 films since 2006’s Casino Royale. Pascal has worked closely with Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, and has been viewed as an ally of Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss.

In some of the hacked emails, Pascal sides with Broccoli about SPECTRE’s $300 million-plus budget, the CNN/Money website reported last year. Separately, the Daily Beast last year reported that Pascal suggested Idris Elba be the next Bond after Daniel Craig.

Sony’s contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release Bond movies ends with SPECTRE.

UPDATE: The announcement confirmed a DAILY MAIL STORY that was posted earlier today.

Raymond Benson observations on 007 and other topics

Raymond Benson's Die Another Day remains the most recent 007 film novelization. Photo copyright © Paul Baack

Raymond Benson, circa late 1990s. Photo by Paul Baack.

Raymond Benson, 007 scholar and one-time James Bond continuation novel author, granted an interview to the SIRENS OF SUSPENSE WEBSITE.

Here are a few of his observations.

About writing his 007 continuation novels and short stories:

“I grew up with Bond and (Ian) Fleming. I knew the universe inside-and-out…and I believe that’s why the people at the Fleming Estate hired me.”

On his favorite Bond actor:

Sean Connery will always be my favorite: he’s the iconic Bond, the guy against everyone else will be measured. That said, I feel the most accurate portrayal of Fleming’s literary Bond was that of Timothy Dalton.

On the chances Idris Elba will ever play 007:

As for the Elba discussion, it’s a moot point. Mr. Elba is a fine actor and could certainly do the role, but he’s aleady too old.

When the computers of Sony Pictures were hacked, one disclosure that emerged was that Sony executive Amy Pascal voiced a preference for Elba (born Sept. 6, 1972) to succeed Daniel Craig (b. 1968) in the role. Craig is currently filming SPECTRE, due for release in November and his contract calls for one more 007 film after that.

On whether Benson might every get the chance to do another 007 novel:

The Estate has never re-hired an author, just as the film producers are never going to re-hire Brosnan or Dalton.

Benson’s last Bond novel and 007 movie novelization were both published in 2002.

To view the entire interview, CLICK HERE.

007 Tweets of note from Jeremy Duns, Anthony Horowitz

On Sunday, Jan. 25, two rather interesting posts on Twitter emerged related to the world of James Bond.

The first was from journalist and author Jeremy Duns. He came across a 1963 story in the Daily Express indicating that, at one time, Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman was interesting in having actor-playwright Robert Shaw script a 007 film.

Shaw, of course, played Red Grant in 1963’s From Russia With Love. There are no details about what Bond project this might have been for.

Generally speaking, screenwriter Richard Maibaum was close to Albert R. Broccoli, the other Bond co-producer. Saltzman was always on the lookout for other scribes, including Len Deighton (who did uncredited work on From Russia With Love), Paul Dehn (Goldfinger) and John Hopkins (Thunderball).

Duns previously has detailed the work screenwriter Ben Hecht did for producer Charles K. Feldman’s ill-fated 1967 Casino Royale film. Duns researched how Hecht had a more serious take in mind. Duns has a e-book on the subject, ROGUE ROYALE.

The other Tweet came from Anthony Horwitz, writer of the next James Bond continuation novel coming out this fall.

The author, as it turns out, was watching the 1974 movie on television. On Jan. 15, HE TWEETED he had delivered his Bond novel. On Jan. 22, HE TWEETED that he had seen the cover, calling it “perfect.”

UPDATE: Horowitz later engaged in a dialogue with other Twitter users.

One commented to Horowitz that the Golden Gun novel isn’t one of Fleming’s best novels. Horowitz’s reply: “True. But that rubber nipple? Oh dear.” In a separate response, he said of the 1974 movie’s car jump: “Great stunt. But the sound and the sheriff? Oh dear.”

He was then informed by freelance writer and author Jeffrey Westhoff, “Slide whistle was John Barry’s choice, which he later regretted. But director, etc. could have nixed it.” Horowitz’s reply: “That’s a very interest piece of movie trivia!”

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