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.

1966: Roald Dahl finds Twice is the only way to Live

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only Live Twice poster

When Roald Dahl handed in his June 17, 1966, draft of You Only Live Twice, things were getting tight.

The fifth James Bond film produced by Eon Productions would begin filming in a few weeks, on July 4. Dahl, taking over from American writer Harold Jack Bloom, had jettisoned the plot of Ian Fleming‘s 1964 novel. Dahl’s story would try to out-Thunderball Thunderball in terms of spectacle.

The Spy Commander reviewed a copy of Dahl’s draft, thanks to Bond collector Gary J. Firuta. The draft has some pages that were updated in mid-July after the start of filming.

Not surprisingly, the draft largely resembles the final film. But there are still a number of interesting differences. When this draft was completed, there was no helicopter with a giant magnet. The Little Nellie helicopter was present, but it didn’t have all the gadgets it’d have in the movie.

Dahl even included an Ian Fleming-ism that would be stripped from the final film. Both Tiger Tanaka and Japanese agent Suki (renamed Aki after actress Akiko Wakabayashi was cast) address Bond as “Bondo-san” in the draft.

In the novel (Chapter 6, Tiger, Tiger!) Tanaka explains that Bond-san sounds too much like bon-san, or “a priest, a graybeard.” Also, Tiger says, hard consonants aren’t easy for Japanese, so “when these occur in a foreign word, we add an O.” This isn’t included in Dahl’s draft but “Bondo-san” is used anyway. It’d be dropped from the 1967 movie.

In the pre-titles sequence, the most significant change is the American spacecraft is called Gemini (as in real life at the time). Some scenes play longer and there’s more dialogue, but it’s mostly as viewers of the film know it. The sequence ends with Bond apparently being killed.

After the titles, Bond’s “funeral” takes place. Again, dialogue is different. Aboard a submarine, Bond bums a cigarette from M when he says the only ill effect he was feeling was “a slight lack of nicotine.” Bond also uses the lit cigarette to light the paper with his contact address in Tokyo.

Interestingly, Bond only has 10 days to act before the next U.S. space flight, instead of 20 as in the movie. After he’s done with M, Bond gives Moneypenny a kiss. She does not give him a copy of Instant Japanese and 007 doesn’t say he took a first in Oriental languages at Cambridge.

Bond meets up with his contact, Henderson. Bond kicks the shin of Henderson’s false leg to ensure he’s the right person. Henderson makes martinis. “Shaken not stirred? That *was* right, wasn’t it?” Apparently, it wasn’t Dahl’s fault that the film has Henderson stirring the martinis and Bond declares they’re “perfect.”

Sometime later, after Henderson’s death and Bond has been to Osato Chemical, 007 meets Tiger Tanaka. As in the film, he falls down a chute, through a door and lands into a comfortable chair.

Tiger, in this draft, provides more information. Had it not been Bond, computers “would very quickly have redirected the chute and you’d have been in a much hotter seat than that one.”

As in the film, Tiger takes Bond to his house. 007 asks the Japanese Secret Service chief if his wife’s at home.

“Me, a wife?” Tiger replies. “Never! In matters of this sort, I think I am very much the Japanese equivalent of Bondo-san.” Or Derek Flint based on the number of women present in the house.

Bond and Tiger first go to “sweat boxes” before they’re washed by the Japanese women. It’s here that the two men compare notes. Tiger is “offended” when Bond says Mr. Osato isn’t big enough to be behind the hijacking of American spacecraft. When Tiger asks who is large enough, Bond says, “Nobody…unless it could my old friends in the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.” The finished film wouldn’t bother to say what SPECTRE stood for.

Now it’s time to be washed. “It is noticeable that the TWO GIRLS helping TANAKA are unable to keep their eyes off BOND,” according to the stage directions. Shortly thereafter, “all FOUR GIRLS have quietly slid over to BOND, leaving TANAKA alone.”

Tiger bellows for the women to come back. “The FOUR GIRLS ignore TANAKA,” the stage directions say. “They rinse soap off BOND and help him into the bath. TANAKA roars at them in Japanese, threatening them with terrible punishments.” One could only imagine what 21st century audiences would make of this.

As for what it is about Bond that fascinates the women, Tiger says: “It is nothing but your ape-like appearance…All Japanese men are blessed with exceptionally clean smooth skin. We consider hair on the chest to be obnoxious.”

Bond has a nice comeback:

(looking at the FOUR GIRLS lined up at the edge of the bath)
What are they waiting for now?

The next day, as in the film, Bond goes undercover to meet Mr. Osato. When Osato uses the X-ray device in his desk to check out Bond, “BOND’S REVOLVER is very prominent.” Yet, later in the movie, Blofeld says the gun is a Walther PPK, which most assuredly isn’t a revolver. Details, details.

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

Osato orders Bond killed. Suki saves him and the pair get away in her while but are pursued by thugs in a sedan. Suki requests the “usual reception” from Tiger but in this script that takes a different form.

For thing, Suki tells the Japanese Secret Service chief that she’s “heading for Street X as fast as possible.”

Tiger is in his office. He “flicks speak-box switch, and begins to shout into box with great rapidity and urgently in Japanese,” according to the stage directions. We see “TWO JAPANESE MEN” receive orders in Japanese.

Soon after, Suki’s car “swerves into a deserted alley” with the thugs in the sedan still in pursuit.

Suki “begins to SOUND HORN…Suddenly, ONE BUILDING on either side fo the street dislodges itself from the other houses and slides forward. The buildings meet in street centre, forming a brick wall.” The sedan of the thugs “crashes into the wall and explodes in a sheet of flame.”

Much of what happens next mimics the finished movie, though many of the scenes have more dialogue. Little Nellie doesn’t have all the explosive power it’d have in the film. But he mini-copter has other gadgets such as “a kind of wire fishing-net” that fouls the rotor-blade of one of the SPECTRE helicopters menacing Bond.

The deaths of two women characters also are different in this draft than the final film. Assassin Helga walks across a bridge at SPECTRE HQs that’s over a lava pool. Blofeld pulls lever, the bridge drops “like a trap door” and she goes into the lava.

When Suki dies from being poisoned, Bond is more affected than when Aki perishes in the film.

BOND, visibly distressed, stares at the girl he is carrying. Then he holds her close, lays his cheek against hers. He walks away with her, and sits down, still holding her in his arms.”

Still later, on the Ama island, Bond and Kissy (following their phony marriage that’s part of Bond’s cover) investigate a tunnel where an Ama diver died. As in the film, they discover poison gas and dive into the water to save themselves.

The stage directions have one major difference. After reaching safety, “BOND is lying on his back. He has more or less recovered. Much of his Japanese make-up has come off in the water. (NOTE: During the next few scenes, he should revert, as inconspicuously as possible, to being non-Japanese.)”

Finally, there’s the big Blofeld reveal. Dahl’s script attempts to make the most of it.

CAMERA reaches BLOFELD’S FACE. And what a face it is! We see reflected therein all the evil in the world. The eyes, greatly magnified behind steel-rimmed pebble glasses, are like the eyes of an intelligent octopus — all black, with no whites around them at all. The skin of the cheeks is pock-marked. The ears protrude slightly, the jaw is prognathus. CAMERA STAYS CLOSE on FACE.

There’s more, of course, but suffice to say there was still a lot of work to do before You Only Live Twice was ready for theaters in the summer of 1967.

The draft is 142 pages, meaning the movie should have been 142 minutes. The final movie came in at just under two hours, with many scenes considerably tighter than they appear in this draft.


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