Bond 21-25 questions: Assessing the Craig era edition

Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace

The Daniel Craig era of the James Bond films is drawing to a close. A thoughtful reader drew my attention to an August 2020 article by the Screen Rant site assessing Craig’s tenure.

Still, until No Time to Die comes out, there’s only so far you can go. Or is that correct? Naturally, the blog has questions.

Was the Craig era really that different? Absolutely.

Ian Fleming’s Bond novels referenced how his creation had relationships with married women. In the Eon film series, M lists “jealous husbands” as a possibility for hiring $1 million-a-hit-assassin Scaramanga in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun. But 2006’s Casino Royale was more explicit.

Anything else? The tone often was more violent, in particular a killing Bond performs early in 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Quantum also had a more political point of view courtesy of director Marc Forster.

Did the Craig era follow earlier Bond films in any way? Yes. The Craig films, like earlier Eon Bond entries, adapted to popular trends in cinema.

In the 1970s, Bond films followed blaxploitation movies (Live And Let Die), kung fu (The Man With the Golden Gun) and science fiction (Moonraker).

In the 21st century Craig movies, the series followed Jason Bourne films (Quantum, including hiring a Bourne second unit director), Christopher Nolan Batman movies (Skyfall) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (SPECTRE, moving to tie all of the Craig adventures together).

Anything else? Some Bond fans argue Craig is the best film James Bond. No Time to Die (apparently) is the final chapter. No doubt there will be more debate once No Time to Die can be viewed.

Bond 25 questions: The FOE edition

One of Many No Time to Die posters

No Time to Die finished production in the fall of 2019. But the 25th James Bond film made by Eon Productions still isn’t out. The blog has a few questions.

What is FOE? It stands for Friends of Eon. It refers to those who, essentially, say that Eon Productions, the makers of Bond films, can do no wrong.

What does this have to do with No Time to Die? Some James Bond fans suspect star Daniel Craig, the incumbent film Bond first cast in the fall of 2005, and Eon wanted to take a break, which has contributed to long hiatus between SPECTRE (2015) and the present.

So? Well, a recent article from Total Film suggests there’s something to this.

An example from Total Film:

Craig “was so exhausted after” 2015’s SPECTRE “recalls Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli who, alongside her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, runs Eon Productions, and has produced every Bond film since 1995’s GoldenEye. “We’d had our own trials and tribulations on Spectre, and [Daniel] had a massive injury. It was very difficult. So he just needed some time.” While Craig was taking his break, Eon worked on movies such as The Rhythm Section (2020).

Members of FOE over the past several years, chided Bond fans who had reached similar conclusions. (A comment along these lines would begin: “People like you…”)

Yet, if Broccoli’s comments in the Total Film article can be taken at face value, those conclusions were on target. At least, they weren’t off target.

Shouldn’t bygones be bygones? That’s not how members of FOE looked at it once upon a time.

What are you suggesting? Nothing dramatic. Let’s see what No Time to Die actually looks like when it comes out. At the same time, perhaps members of FOE shouldn’t assume a special expertise. Hopefully in fewer than 70 days Bond fans will have a chance to view the new Bond film.

Bond 25 questions: The marketing gears up (again) edition

A slightly tweaked No Time to Die poster

A (not-so-new) 30-second promotional No Time to Die video surfaced online on July 26. So this would seem to be a sign that, once more, the marketing for the 25th James Bond film is starting to gear up.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this a surprise? Not really. If a movie really is coming out for a Sept. 30 release in the U.K. and October elsewhere, it figures it would be starting up around now.

Prior to this week’s video, Bond fans have taken selfies in front of No Time to Die standees at their local theaters. And a tweaked poster emerged recently saying “Only in Theaters October” along with a new MGM font that’s part of a makeover of the company’s Leo the Lion logo.

Is there much new? A 30-second promo doesn’t give you a lot of time. I did see some eagle-eyed analysis by @ShotsBond saying some shots of the DB5 replicas are new. Also, @marketto spotted how a Maserati logo was removed digitally from a henchman’s car compared with previous trailers. (Maserati not being among the car companies involved with the Bond film.)

Is this something to be excited about? Many fans definitely are. But when a movie has been delayed five times (twice related to hiring and then departure of original director Danny Boyle, three times because of COVID-19), there is a natural hesitancy for some. With COVID, there are vaccines but there are also new variants.

Either way, it is something new Bond-related to talk about until the film’s marketing gears up further.

Here’s the video:

De Armas says her Bond woman is — wait for it — different

Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas as photographed by The Hollywood Reporter

Ana de Armas is featured in a July 20 story by Harper’s Bazaar. Most of the article deals with beauty products and hair styling. But she also took some time to say her No Time to Die character is a different Bond woman.

Veteran Bond fans might find this similar to talking points of other James Bond films. But judge for yourself in this excerpt.

“Paloma is actually a really complete character. Cary [Joji Fukunaga, director] created her from zero and he asked me if I wanted to do it. It was very appealing from the very beginning, when he was telling me what he was going to do with the character. I was very excited, and I did feel like she was different, unique. She’s definitely something else that I don’t think we’ve seen in other Bond girls in previous movies. She’s a lot of fun – very active, very badass!” (emphasis added)

This, of course, has been an Eon Productions talking point for decades. Various actresses have said the same thing about their Bond woman characters. And Barbara Broccoli, the boss at Eon, has said much the same thing over the years.

What’s more, de Armas’ remarks aren’t surprising given trailers like this one where she’s fighting and firing automatic weapons in trailers like the one below.

Competing spy franchises make the rounds at the British GP

Tom Cruise

Representatives of the Mission: Impossible and James Bond film franchises made the rounds at today’s British Grand Prix.

M:I’s star-producer Tom Cruise, 59, was present to root on eventual winner Lewis Hamilton. The F-1 telecast periodically cut to the Mercedes team where Cruise could be seen wearing a mask. The Express and the The Sun (among others) had accounts of Cruise’s day.

Also present was actress Naomie Harris, 44, who plays Moneypenny in the Bond films and acts as unofficial ambassador for the Bond films. The official 007 Twitter feed of Eon Productions took note.

Bond 25 questions: The Total Film edition

One of the many No Time to Die posters

This post includes spoilers. Stop reading now if spoilers aren’t your thing.

Total Film this week published a detailed story about No Time to Die. Naturally, the blog has questions

Did Daniel Craig really say No Time to Die’s theme was “love and family”?

He did. Sounds almost like a Fast and the Furious movie, doesn’t it? In this case, Craig told Total Film that Bond’s family is Moneypenny, M and Q with Lashana Lynch’s Nomi “a distant cousin who you’re not sure about.”

One of the most hyped aspects of the movie was how Phoebe Waller-Bridge was among the screenwriters. Any additional details?

Of course. “Phoebe came on, and she injected some brilliance into the situation, and a tone I was really after,” Craig told Total Film.

“What we wanted to do was… not ridicule (Bond). It’s sharing in the fun with the audience,” Craig told the magazine. “But you’ve got to be respectful of what it is.” 

According to Total Film, Waller-Bridge “punched up Ana de Armas’ character Paloma – a fresh-faced CIA field agent who Bond crosses paths with in Cuba – and brought a myth-pricking irreverence to the story.”

What about agent Nomi and her relationship with Bond?

“Bond is going to be Bond no matter what happens,” Lashana Lynch told Total Film. “But it’s about how people react to him. That’s the difference between the earlier films. In this film we are vocal. We are opinionated. We know how to stop [Bond] in his tracks, and to teach him something.”

What about the sets?

“We have really gone out of our way to make some really gorgeous big sets,” says production designer Mark Tildesley. The designer originally was recruited to the film by Danny Boyle, the project’s first director who departed over “creative differences.”

What about Rami Malek’s Safin?

“Safin is pulling all the strings,” Eon boss Barbara Broccoli told Total Film about the character. “He’s controlling all of those megalomaniacs out there. He’s created them.”

What does that mean?

I suppose that in Quantum of Solace that Quantum was BIG. In SPECTRE, SPECTRE was BIGGER. Perhaps Safin is EVEN BIGGER!

Total Film provides a behind-the-scenes look at NTTD

No Time to Die poster from 2020

Total Film is out with an article taking a behind-the-scenes look at No Time to Die.

Here are some non-spoiler highlights:

–Cary Fukunanga, who would eventually direct the movie, wined and dined Eon’s Barbara Broccoli before Danny Boyle was hired as the film’s first director.

“At that point Daniel (Craig) said he wasn’t doing another one, so we spit-balled all the potential new Bonds – that was exciting,” Fukunaga told Total Film. “I just told her what I loved about Bond and what it meant to me growing up. And just that I’d be honoured if they’d consider me for the next one.”

–After Boyle (and his writer John Hodge) exited the project, writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade went back to a script they were working on before Boyle was hired. That’s not terribly surprising but there has been hype that *everything was new* after Boyle left.

“Effectively, we went back to what we’d done,” Purvis told Total Film. “And then we changed things with Cary over several months in the attic at Eon.” Over time, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who got a credit) and Scott Z. Burns (who did not) also worked on the script.

–Michael G. Wilson of Eon describes the Craig era as “a little miniseries within the series.” Broccoli added: ““This film feels like a good bookend to Casino (Royale), because his emotional evolution gets to a place where we’ve never seen Bond before. So that’s pretty exciting.”

–Craig describes the theme of No Time to Die as “love and family.”

–Funkunaga says that only goes so far. “No one’s trying to say some sort of long sentimental goodbye. It’s just another Bond film. The credits still say: ‘Bond will return.’”

There’s a lot more, including some comments about Safin, the villain played by Rami Malek, that get into spoiler territory.

‘Intrigue’ at Amazon, MGM over NYT article, newsletter says

MGM logo

A New York Times story on July 6 has created “intrigue” at Amazon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to a newsletter by a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

The article about MGM film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy generated some “serious eye-rolling at Amazon Studios this week,” wrote Matthew Belloni.

De Luca runs MGM’s film division and Abdy is his deputy. An excerpt from the newsletter:

I’m told Amazon’s famously press-averse executives were “concerned” about the story, mostly because De Luca and Abdy focused on MGM’s theatrical release plans and their strategy of “original ideas and original authorship,” possibly leaving the impression that there will be internal conflict with what Jeff Bezos cited as the primary reason for buying MGM: To “reimagine and redevelop” the studio’s existing I.P. The story also suggested the town might be rooting for De Luca to wrest control of Amazon’s film output from Jen Salke, the current head of Amazon Studios. 

Amazon last month agreed to acquire MGM for $8.45 billion. But the deal is subject to regulatory approval, a process that may take months.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, in a statement to the Times made clear they’re rooting for De Luca and Abdy.

Referring to Amazon, they said in the statement: “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered,” MGM is James Bond’s home studio. Eon controls creative matters with Bond while MGM finances the films.

Belloni’s newsletter said the Times story didn’t go over well with Amazon.

“Amazon and the tech companies that run Hollywood these days absolutely hate this posturing crap,” Belloni wrote. MGM and De Luca declined to comment to the newsletter.

No Time to Die, Eon’s 25th James Bond film, is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. The Amazon acquisition isn’t likely to be completed before then.

Bond 26 questions: The ‘next iteration’ edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No Time to Die still isn’t out but there has been some news related to Bond 26. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you make of recent Broccoli-Wilson comments?

In a July 6 story in The New York Times, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions spoke up in support of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” the Eon duo said in a statement of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy. (emphasis added)

Until late September 2020, Broccoli wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that No Time to Die would be Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie. ““It is the fifth and final one that Daniel Craig is going to be doing,” Broccoli said on an episode of the official No Time to Die podcast that would soon go into hiatus because the movie got delayed.

Evidently, Eon likes how De Luca and Abdy are managing MGM’s film unit. But their future is uncertain with Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon controls creative matters related to the cinema Bond. The Broccoli-Wilson statement looks like a strong suggestion to Amazon to not shake up MGM’s film operation when the Bond franchise is on the verge of another transition and yet another new film Bond.

Did the list of possible new film Bond actors just go down by one?

Over the past few years, entertainment outlets and websites have speculated about who might take over Craig’s shoulder holster. One name that comes up a lot is British actor Henry Cavill.

However, this week, it came out that Cavill will be in a new Matthew Vaughn-directed spy film, Argylle.

Once upon a time, when Cavill was in his early 20s, he tested for Bond. He came in behind Craig.

Since then, Cavill’s ability to anchor film franchises has been a so-so affair. He was in one solo Superman movie and appeared as the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. But his future as Superman looks dicey. Cavill starred in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but that movie didn’t resonate with audiences and no additional U.N.C.L.E. films followed.

Cavill was a supporting player in a Mission: Impossible movie and has starred in a popular streaming show, The Witcher.

The actor is now 38, the same age Craig was when he was cast as Bond. But Cavill’s chances of being cast as Bond may be running out — assuming he ever had a chance in the first place. Would Eon want to cast a Bond actor who has been in two different spy movies? I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Broccoli, Wilson sing Seydoux’s praises

No Time to Die poster featuring Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions praise Lea Seydoux in a Deadline: Hollywood feature story about the actress.

“Léa’s portrayal of Dr. Madeleine Swann explores the complexity of what it is like to be in a relationship with James Bond,” Deadline quoted Broccoli and Wilson as saying. The entertainment news website didn’t specify whether this was in a written statement or an interview.

 “Given the background of her character being the daughter of a SPECTRE assassin, she understands Bond’s world, the dark forces that he is up against, and his psyche. We wanted to challenge Bond emotionally and Léa’s character does this in No Time to Die,” the Eon duo said. “Léa is very committed to her profession and gives 100 percent. She always illuminates the characters she plays and makes you feel the connection with them because she makes them feel real.”

Seydoux, in turn, praised star Daniel Craig. “Because he comes from the theater, I think he wanted to create a more interesting character,” she said. “He’s made him vulnerable and let him show his flaws. By seeing the character’s imperfections, the audience can relate to him.”

Seydoux first played Swann in 2015’s SPECTRE. She returned for the upcoming No Time to Die.