About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Eon’s non-Bond spy film to get a box office test

A poster for The Rhythm Section

In the next week, a non-James Bond spy film made by Eon Productions will be tested by the global box office.

The Rhythm Section, starring Blake Lively, will be released by Paramount (Jan. 31 in the U.S.)

Since the early 1980s, the James Bond film series has been part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s film portfolio. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio home, and has been involved in the Bond film franchise ever since.

Eon has been diversifying from Bond for a number of years. It has made small, indie-style movies such as The Silent Storm (2014), Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017) and Nancy (2018).

The Rhythm Section represents a more commercial project. Once upon a time, Eon wanted to do a movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day (2002). But that never took place.

The Rhythm Section has had some bad luck. Blake Lively suffered a hand injury, which caused production delays. The movie originally was to have been released in early 2019. It was pushed back to the fall of 2019 and now to the end of January 2020.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli gave an interview to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye. While Eon is preparing to release the 25th Bond movie in April, Broccoli indicated she’s still thinking a lot about The Rhythm Section.

‘Why should women have to play men’s roles?’ Broccoli asked when I met her and Morano for tea at the Piccadilly mansion that’s the headquarters of the Eon Productions empire she runs with stepbrother Michael G. Wilson.

For the record, Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are half-siblings (same mother, Dana Broccoli, different fathers).

Regardless, we’ll soon see how The Rhythm Section performs with audiences. I have seen a number of ads for the movie on new outlets such as ads on YouTube and Twitter. We’ll see.

A modest proposal for Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is in pre-production and is scheduled for a February 2020 release. What happens after that?

Here’s a modest proposal: What if the 007 film series becomes a series of one-offs — a series of anthology movies, not a continuing series, per se.

Every time a new Bond actor is cast, the assumption is they have to be around for a decade or longer. But what if that were no longer the case?

Consider this: Eon Productions is taking longer and longer to make 007 film installments. In previous decades, there were stretches when the series went into hiatus. But that was because of legal conflicts or studio financial problems (1974-1977, 1989-1995, 2008-2012).

With the 2015 and counting gap, there is no such external factor. This gap is a matter of Eon’s choice. It has enabled Eon boss Barbara Broccoli to make small-scale, intimate dramas such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool ($1 million U.S. box office) and Nancy ($80,000 U.S. box office).

At the current rate of production, there may be two, maybe three, 007 films a decade. Thus, the question arises whether it’s necessary for a Bond actor to commit to a decade-long stint.

If the one-off model were adopted, new possibilities arise. Perhaps you could do a one-off with Idris Elba to satisfy the market who’d like to see him play Bond. He’d be around 50 when such a movie would be made, but it’s only one and the Eon series has had actors (Roger Moore and now Daniel Craig) in the same age range.

Also, with a one-off model, you could try out a period Bond. a film set in the 1950s or ’60s, when Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories were published. You’d at least see how it plays out. And if it doesn’t work out? Well, you change the format the next film, no problem.

Is this going to happen? Not likely. But it’s worth thinking about given the current reality of the 007 film series.

James Bond: The tired franchise?

Daniel Craig

Happy 50th birthday, Daniel Craig. You’re only the second cinematic James Bond to make it to 50, after Roger Moore, while in the employ of Eon Productions.

(Sean Connery had passed his 50th birthday when he did Never Say Never Again, but that 1983 007 film was not part of the Eon series.)

Still, the blog can’t help but remember Craig’s remarks in October 2016 during an event sponsored by The New Yorker magazine.

“There’s no conversation going on (about Bond 25) because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at that time.

When Craig said that, he had worked on the movie Logan Lucky, was getting ready to do a stage production of Othello and had other projects. Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions, was producing that Othello stage production, was planning the film Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. And she had other projects in the pipeline.

Physically tired? No.

Tired of making James Bond movies?

That’s the question.

Bond 25, in its early stages, didn’t seem to be making major changes.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, writers on six 007 films, were hired for a seventh. This was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 press release that said the movie would be released in November 2019 in the United States. This was weeks before Craig, confirmed in August 2017 he was coming back to Bondage.

At this point, Bond 25 is mostly murky. There is no announced distributor and no announced director,

Supposedly, Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer want prestige director Danny Boyle to helm the movie, according to stories last month in Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. If that happens, the choice of Boyle would follow the selections of “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

The Deadline story said Boyle would direct if a new story he devised with John Hodge is used. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter said March 1 that Boyle may direct another film as early as this summer.

Much of Bond 25 is unresolved. What’s also unresolved is how enthusiastic Eon is regarding the film future of 007.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool has been described as a dream project of Barbara Broccoli. It’s not a big box office hit. But it wasn’t intended to be.

As the sixth film Bond celebrates his half century, there’s still a lot to be determined in the film world of 007. One of the most important questions is what does “everybody’s just a bit tired” really mean.

Eon website reflects how it’s more than just 007

Eon Productions logo

Eon Productions has a new or revamped website that reflects how the production company has a broader portfolio than the James Bond film series.

For example, the site’s film page has entries for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, The Silent Storm, Radiator and Nancy. The 24-film 007 series has a single entry with a link back to the official James Bond film website, 007.com.

The Eon film page does not include an entry for Call Me Bwana, the Bob Hope comedy that, for decades, was the company’s only non-007 film. An advertisement for that movie was included in From Russia With Love, replacing Niagara. An advertisement for that Marilyn Monroe movie was used in the Ian Fleming novel.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, produced by Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli with a number of 007 film veterans on the crew, was made by a separate production company, Warfield Productions. It’s not on the film page either.

Finally, the film page, for now, does not have an entry for The Rhythm Section, Eon’s non-007 spy film where production currently is suspended because of an injury to star Blake Lively.

The new Eon site also has a theater page, reflecting the company’s interest in stage productions.

It has entries for stage productions of Strangers on a Train, The Country Girls, Chariots of Fire, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Love Letters, Once, The Kid Stays in the Picture and Othello.

There is also a news section to the website. The most recent entry is a Jan. 29 story about Nancy winning the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Broccoli says major B25 decisions to be made in 2018

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in a long interview with the THR Awards Chatter podcast, said major Bond 25 decisions won’t occur until sometime in early 2018.

Given it’s mid-December of 2017, that’s not terribly surprising. But the podcast is a chance for fans to hear things for themselves.

Asked if “we know” Bond 25’s title or director, she replied: “I don’t. It’s still to be determined.”

Asked about who will distribute the movie, she said, “It’s exciting to be courted. We’ll hopefully be making that decision early next year.”

Gary Barber, CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “is leading this whole crusade,” Broccoli said, referring to the distributor issue.

MGM is home studio to the Bond franchise. The last four 007 films were released by Sony Pictures. With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony also co-financed but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution seven years after exiting bankruptcy. It formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies. But, for now at least, that joint venture isn’t involved with Bond 25.

Broccoli was asked whether Bond 25’s distribution may be split between the U.S. and internationally. “That’s all to be decided in the future,” she said.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

The producer went into more detail about how went to work for Eon, co-founded by her father, Albert R. Broccoli. Broccoli, 57, doesn’t do a lot of interviews and this one is longer than most. Among the highlights:

Working in her teens on The Spy Who Loved Me: “My job was captioning stills.” She had to do through a lot of film and “you’d have to come up with captions.

Working on Octopussy as an assistant director: “I was basically a runner. I was a third assistant (director).” One of her responsibilities was dealing with a large group of young actresses. “I was responsible for herding them and getting them ready.”

Associate producer Tom Pevsner was “a mentor to me.” Broccoli said she learned the art of production scheduling from Pevsner. “He taught me about breaking down scripts…He was an incredible man.”

Pevsner joined the series with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. With 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill both Broccoli and Pevsner had the title of associate producer. Pevsner’s final Bond film was 1995’s GoldenEye, where he had the title of executive producer. Pevsner died in 2014.

On her working style with half-brother Michael G. Wilson: “Michael and I are very different. Strangely enough, when it comes to Bond, we always agree.”

On 007 actor Daniel Craig: “He brought humanity to the character…making Bond relevant to today.”

Broccoli said she first saw Craig in the 1998 film Elizabeth. “He has the most incredible presence on the screen,” she said of Craig. “He’s lit from within. I remember thinking, ‘What a force.’ I just watched everything he did.”

Craig announced in August he’d return for a fifth film as Bond. Before that announcement, Broccoli said, “My heart was breaking.”

To check out the podcast, CLICK HERE. The Broccoli interview begins at the 40:36 mark and lasts almost an hour. She also discusses her non-Bond movie, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in detail as well as talking Bond.

Eon’s new spy movie gets a February 2019 release date

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Eon Productions’ new spy movie, The Rhythm Section, has been given a February 2019 release date by Paramount, The Wrap and other entertainment news sites reported.

The film, starring Blake Lively, will be released Feb. 22, 2019. The project was announced in July. It’s based on a novel by Mark Burnell.

“Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is on a path of self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash, a flight that she was meant to be on,” according to a plot summary released in July. “After discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible.”

The Rhythm Section is part of a growing portfolio of non-007 films by Eon. Its drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool had its premiere at the 2017 Telluride Film Festival.  It’s being released in December by Sony Pictures Classics, part of Sony Pictures.

Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. Currently, the movie has no distributor.

Broccoli: ‘We’re not there yet’ on Bond 25 director

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, while discussing her new Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool drama, said, “We’re not there yet” concerning a Bond 25 director.

The brief mention came in an interview with Hey U Guys that’s posted on YouTube.

One person it won’t be is Paul McGuigan, who directed Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

In a separate interview with Hey U Guys, McGuigan said he’d love to direct a Bond film. “It’s not going to happen this time around,” he said. “Me and Barbara just love working with each other.”

Earlier this year, the IndieWire website speculated that McGuigan could be a contender to direct Bond 25.

Shoutout to @Bond25Film on Twitter who spotted the videos. You can view them below.

Some 007 notes from the Toronto film festival

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Some 007-related tidbits have come out during the start of the Toronto Film Festival.

Barbara Broccoli: The boss of Eon Productions and producer of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool made a few comments.

“I have a few other lower-budget films in mind and a couple of theatre pieces, too,” Broccoli said, according to THE SCREEN DAILY WEBSITE.

“There are a lot of women working on this production [Film Stars] which pleases me very much,” Broccoli said, according to the website. “It’s incredibly important to support change in front of and behind the camera. I love working with women. It’s a different vibe.”

Daniel Craig: Kings, in which Craig stars with Halle Berry, is being shown at the festival.

Craig mostly has been talking about Kings but had a few comments about Bond 25, according to Toronto’s Globe & Mail:

“The Internet is like a noisy pub on a Saturday night,” Craig is quoted by the newspaper. “Ninety per cent of what’s being said is rubbish. There’s a perception that I’m ungrateful, and that’s so far from the truth it’s laughable. I don’t talk to the press a lot. I say things occasionally that I shouldn’t say, which is stupid of me.

“But the timing was right. I’d done [the stage production] Othello, and Steven Soderbergh’s movie [Logan Lucky, where he plays a bleached-blond safecracker named Joe Bang], and Deniz’s movie [Deniz Gamze Erguven, director of Kings], and I was incredibly creatively satisfied. The question of Bond came round, and I said, ‘Let’s have another go, and see if we can produce something wonderful.”

A bit of a reality check: Craig previously said he and director Marc Forster did most of the writing for Quantum of Solace, even though writer Joshua Zetumer was on set to do rewrites. Craig, in a joint interview with Barbara Broccoli in 2012 (search the word “liars”), denied Ben Whishaw had been hired to play Q in Skyfall.

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.